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Scott's Column
The Best Operating System, Backups, .Net Applications

October 1, 2007
By Scott Lewis

I spent a lot more time then I expected trying to get Mac OS X running on my Toshiba laptop. I also spent some time trying various flavors of Linux. As a precaution I ran an excellent, but effective backup script. Finally I drop a few words about the .Net applications I am working on.

Current Topics:

Which Operating System is Best

I am going to start a war with this one. A war with everyone against me!

What is the best operating system? This is a tough question. I recently tried the near impossible. I tried to get Mac OS X running on my Intel based PC laptop. I say near impossible because plenty of people are doing it. Unfortunately I could not get it to work. I downloaded Mac OS X 10.4.8, Uphuck v1.4i (a hacked version of Mac OS X 10.4.9), Mac OS X 10.4.6, and a Mac OS X 10.4.6 Patched. I don't know exactly what the Uphuck version is supposed to do, nor do I know what is in the patched version. I was able to successfully install the first three, but all would boot into a kernel panic error. The patched version gave me the kernel panic error when the CD booted.

The Uphuck disc did the best job od installing the Darwin bootloader. This is a utility that lets you select whcih operating system to run when yuor computer boot up. It was working quite well dual booting between Windows XP and whatever version of Mac OS X I was trying to run. Unfortunately, when I installed 10.4.6 it wiped out the bootloader left my Uphuck. I tried to re-run the Uphuck CD to get the bootloader back and it took over my entire hard drive... including Windows XP. It wiped out my MBR (master boot record). Oops!

And this is why we tell you to backup everything before trying these nasty tricks. I did backup my machine. Although I thought I missed some stuff. I'll get to that later.

With my MBR wiped out I knew I would have to partition my hard drive from scratch. I have been wanting to get Vista running with newer video drivers for my Toshiba/nVidia combination. This was the perfect time. Back in July I wrote about this on my blog. To recap I mentioned that nVidia has a notice on their web site explaining that they do not provide Forceware drivers for mobile chip sets. You are supposed to get those from your manufacturer. I jumped... too quickly... to Toshiba's web site and downloaded the latest nVidia drivers for Vista.

Well, those drivers were not for my specific model of laptop. I discovered this with a series of e-mails to one of my readers. I took this opportunity to try them out anyway. Sure enough they would not even install. So I was left with the drivers Toshiba posted for my model number back in January 2007. And these are the exact same drivers I tried in February, and did not play games well at all.

Back to the drawing board. After failing to get the drivers working with Vista, I decided to turn my attention to Linux. I have wanted to run Linux on my laptop for a while... just to see what it's all about, nad try to immerse myself with the OS. I wanted to avoid the Ubuntu bandwagon. It seems so easy now-a-days to pick Ubuntu. I have read some good things about Xandros as a good Linux distro (distribution) for people coming from Windows. I was able to install Xandros OC 3.02. However it could recognize my wireless adapter. With no network or internet access it was pointless to continue. Next up was Madriva. This used to be called Mandrake. I don't know why they changed the name, but in the past I had heard that Mandrake was a fairly easy to use Linux distro, and I like easy. Again, no wireless support. Next up was Open SuSE 10.2. This time I thought I was going to get somewhere. When I went looking for my wireless adapter SuSE had properly detected what it was... by model name. Unfortunately, all was not sunshine as dark clouds fell over as SuSE told me I would need to upgrade to a paid version of SuSE to get the drivers for this wireless adapter. It then offered to use some kind of wrapper for my Windows driver. Hmmm. I tried this but I could not get it to see my CD with my Windows wireless drivers. Next!

Linspire and Freespire are supposed to make using Linux so easy you don't need to worry about what you are doing. Freespire is the free version of Linspire. I happen to have a Linspire 5.0 CD, and went to install that. I got an error reading the CD within a few seconds of booting. I don't believe there is anything wrong with the disc, so I moved on. Next up was Freespire. I ran its installation and it went smoothly. Unfortunately it hung half way through booting after the first reboot.

That leaves the defacto Ubuntu. I tried that and I could not access my wireless adapter either. I also was looking at a screen set at 1280x800... not my native 1440x900. I gave up on Linux and reinstalled Windows XP Professional. I have not yet activated it. I have 60 days, and I will probably use all of them. I don't want to burn an activation incase I try all this again.

I posted this information on my blog and received some help form someone that thought Ubuntu should see my wireless adapter "out-of-the-box." Sicne I had Windows XP running fine by the time I got the e-mail I did not want to start over. I decided to load up an old copy of Partition Magic and shrink my main partition and left room for a dual boot experience with Ubuntu.

Per a recommendation I downloaded the Live CD of Ubuntu 7.04. I ran the Live CD and was able to find the wireless adapter. It took about half an hour to find the place where I actually turn on the wireless connection. I proceeded with the install of Ubuntu. I was given the chance to bring over my existing files and settings. I went to the desktop effect part of the big menu bar and selected to use the nVidia drivers. Once the computer reboot I was in 1440x900 resolution. It looked very crisp and clear.

So far the best operating system is still Windows XP Professional.

So that's where I leave off for now. Next month I actually try Kubuntu (Ubuntu uses GNOME, which Kubuntu used KDE for its GUI desktop) and Ubuntu. I also have a Mac story for next month as well. We'll see if I can find something better than Windows XP.

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The Backups

I am a backup maniac. I backup my main computer (laptop) to my server. I backup the server to my laptop (in a temporary directory) to burn the files to DVD discs. I usually keep a lot of files on my laptop and my server... just to be sure. I don't like losing stuff.

So, I mentioned I backed up my laptop before playing around with Mac OS X. And that was a good thing. However, everything was not perfect. I am going to provide to you a simple little backup script for copying files from your computer to a network drive (this can be another computer, a server, or even a removable hard drive).

Before we get to the backup script, lets go over why I was worried I forgot something. My script will backup large chucks of your "profile" in Windows. By profile I mean everything under the "Document and Settings" section of your hard drive. Well, not everything, but we'll get to that.

When I finished rebuilding my computer with Windows XP I went to my server to restore all my files. I restored everything to the "My Documents" folder. Cool! After a while I needed to setup my e-mail. But where were my old e-mail messages. I can't see them. I can't find the ones the server. I would just go nuts if I didn't backup some 1500 e-mail messages. I looked and looked and could not find them. I checked and re-checked where Windows/Outlook Express keeps its files. Yep, under Documents and Settings\Your Name. So why can't I find them. I double and triple checked the exception (we will get to this soon) and it didn't make sense. The files should be there.

Well after about 15 minutes of sweating (actually I was only sweating the last 5 of those 15 minutes) I noticed that I could not see the Local Settings folder. You get to this by navigating to \Documents and Settings\Your Name\Local Settings. Oh, that's because it is a hidden folder. Sure enough I had not yet turned on the option to see hidden and system files in Explorer. Once I did that there was the folder on my server that still needed to be restored. I opened Outlook Express and ran the import messages from an OE6 Store and navigated to the folder on the network. I imported all my saved mail messages.

But my backup was still incomplete. There are two (almost 4) things I missed. First... I almost missed all my contacts. I do not know where Windows stores them, but I periodically export mine to a WAB file and to a CSV file in the My Documents folder. My contacts did get backed up even though I do not account for this in my backup script. I will have to research that. Next up was Firefox's bookmarks. I was lucky here too that I remembered to go into Firefox's Bookmark Manager and export them to a HTML file... in the My Documents folder.

So what two items did not get backed up. First was my mail message rules. I do not know how to back these up. I have looked high and low in Outlook Express for a way to export these rules, but no such luck. I only have three, so it is not a huge deal, but I white list a lot of things that are not in my contacts, so I have to spend a few weeks looking closely at spam to find legitimate mail. The second item missing was the saved games from No One Lives Forever. I should have know better. The last time I wiped my hard drive and loaded Vista and then switched back to XP I forgot to backup this game. So, I would have to go back to a really old backup (assuming I can find it on a DVD disc somewhere) and replay about 1/3 of the game for the third time. The game is not that good. I liked it in the beginning, but having to play part of it over was not much fun. I also was getting bored with it overall. So... I am done with it. I am moving on to Splinter Cell. I started playing this game on my desktop, and never backup its saved game files, so I will be playing this from the beginning. It's for the best, I had a tough time going through the training trying to get used to some of the controls. This was most difficult because some of the default keys mentioned in the training were not really the default keys. I had to remap the keys to get through the training mission.

So, you want the backup scripts. Well, here they are. Create one file called DailyBackup.cmd. In that file you will type these command:

XCopy /y/c/k/s/e/h/m/EXCLUDE:Exclude.txt "c:\documents and settings\your name\*.*" z:\backups
pause

Now create a file called Exclude.txt and keep it in the same location as the CMD file above. In this file you can add these entries:

\Cookies\
\SendTo\
\Templates\
\Temp\
\Temporary Internet Files\
\History\
\.VirtualBox\
\My Recent Documents\
\NetHood\
\PrintHood\
\UserData\
\BitTorrent\
\Mozilla\
\Virtual CD v7\

No just run the CMD file once a day, or once a week. However often you want. You could use Window's Scheduler to run it for you. This would be best anyway. Keep in mind that you have to use passwords to use Window's Scheduler. If you schedule it you will need to remove the pause command. I usually create one last file nameg MonthlyBackup.cmd and put this in it:

XCopy /y/c/k/s/e/h/EXCLUDE:Exclude.txt "c:\documents and settings\your name\*.*" z:\backups
pause

If you look closely you will see that the only difference between the daily backup and the monthly backup is that the daily backup using the /m switch which tells the XCopy command to only copy files that are new or changed since the last time it was run. Leaving the /m switch out forces all files to be backed up. I said I was a backup maniac, didn't I.

You certainly can add more entries/folders to this. Just add additional XCopy lines with any folder full of files you want backed up. This would backup my regular files plus the saved games files form Splinter Cell:

XCopy /y/c/k/s/e/h/m/EXCLUDE:Exclude.txt "c:\documents and settings\your name\*.*" Z:\Backups
XCopy /y/c/k/s/e/h/m "C:\Program Files\Ubi Soft\Splinter Cell\Save\*.*" z:\Backups\SplinterCell
pause

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.Net Applications

My boss has started letting me work from home 1 or 2 days a week. I use GoToMyPC to connect to my workstation at work while I am at home. With the house empty and quite I have been able to make amazing progress in some of my programming.

I started the first Visual Basic .Net application that will definitely go to production. I have written a couple of data transformation utilities and one other program that never made it. The one that never made it had a flaw sealing with one kind of data. And doing my analysis on my current project I stumbled on why that old program had a flaw.

The old program was deleting and re-writing records. It failed on certain records that turned out to have a 0 in one of the primary key fields. When it was re-writing the records it was to recalculate this key field. The recalc was failing on the 0, so the records got messed up. I could easily fix that now.

I am working on two applications. One batches work into an XML file and the second program takes the XML file and builds the files that go into making our Postscript output.

I have a lot to do, but I am finally having fun programming. That has been a long time coming. I'll have more vagueness next month.

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Archive Online

Hey... I finally got the entire archive back online. It took a lot longer than I expected, but now every article is available in the new format. I did not get the chance to proof read each article and correct spelling and grammar as I had hoped. I still want to do that, and I may do a few article a month. I still need to go clean up any broken links as well. The important thing is that you can read everything if you want.

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Conclusion

Well, that's it for this month. I almost included the work I did to get Mac OS X running in VMware Workstation, but decided that would be the prime article next month. Besides, I only have 10.4.8 running this way. I was hoping to play around with iWorks 08, but its system requirements are 10.4.10. I will try to figure that out during the next month. I also want to provide a list of my best, free applications.

See you next month.

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