Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BYOD - Bring Your Own Device

I'm finding one of things I miss most at my new job at Travelers (more on that soon) is that I am now using a company computer instead of my own laptop. MacWorld had a good article about bringing our own devices into the enterprise. Read it here

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

How to Change a Laptop Hard Drive

Awhile back I replaced a failing hard drive in a friend's laptop and decided to take pictures along the way.

This particular laptop is a Dell, but laptops are generally the same when it comes to replacing components.

Why did I replace the hard drive? Well, the operating system (Windows 7) was acting strange which is a sign of one of two things: 1) The software has corrupted and needs to be reinstalled, or 2) the hardware (hard drive, memory or motherboard) is failing and needs to replaced. As an IT guy, I have different tools I can use to diagnose an unhealthy computer. Most of these tools involve booting to a CD and running some sort of diagnostic test specific to an individual part in the machine. I tested the memory which passed fine, and then the hard drive, which failed. Now the hard drive was still working enough to recover the data saved on it, so that was a bonus. We opted to replace the hard drive for $100 instead of replacing the whole computer.

I've had good luck with Western Digital hard drives, so I purchased one from NewEgg (a great place for computer parts and accessories).

Let's get started!

Step 1: Gather Equipment
We'll need the following:
1) Container for screws so we don't loose them
2) A phillips screwdriver
3) A flat screwdriver
4) A new hard drive
5) A broken laptop

Step 2: The Basic components
Out of curiosity, you may be wondering what all these things are on the underside of your laptop, I labeled a few in the photo below. Go ahead, flip your laptop over and get familiar. 

Step 3: Disconnect power source and remove the battery
Before working on any computer, always, disconnect the power source - this means removing the battery as well. Yes, there are some laptops with internal batteries that cannot be removed, we learn to deal with it. 

A) Confirm laptop is shut down
B) Unplug power adapter
C) Push the release levers to unlock the battery (white arrows in photo)

Step 4: Remove the hard drive cover
A) Use a screwdriver to remove the cover over the hard drive - screws are highlighted below in green. 

B) Set the cover out of the way. (In some cases, the screws are attached to the cover - leave them attached or you won't be able to secure the cover later - see green circles below.)

C) You will notice this laptop actually has room for TWO hard drives but is only using one. 

Step 5: Remove the hard drive caddy
A) Use a screwdriver to remove the screws for the hard drive caddy.

B) Remove the hard drive caddy. Depending the laptop, it may require you to separate the hard drive from the machine by pulling the caddy up or sliding it away from its connector. For this model, pull up on the black plastic tab once the screws are removed and safely place in our screw container. 

Step 6: Remove failed hard drive from caddy, replace with new hard drive
A) Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the hard drive to the caddy.
B) Then taking note of which how the hard drive was positioned in the caddy, replace with the new hard drive. 
C) Screw caddy to the hard drive, just snug, these are delicate electronics folks, no need to go all Hercules on them. 

Step 7: Move the hard drive adapter from the old hard drive to the new drive
Often laptop hard drives will have some sort of adapter to connect the pins on the hard drive to the laptop's hard drive controller. 
A) Carefully, use the flat screwdriver to separate the adapter from the old drive by "walking" it off - a little from each end, then install on the new hard drive. Try not to touch the gold pins with your fingers. 

Step 8: Reassemble hard drive caddy (with new drive) in the laptop, return the hard drive cover, reinstall the battery.
Assembly is the opposite of disassembly - make sure you don't have any spare screws!

Step 9: Start your recovery process
In my case I reinstalled Windows 7 from the DVD, then copied the files from the damaged drive to the new system. 

Best of luck. Posts coming soon: How to Recover Data from a Fail(ed/ing) Hard Drive and How to Upgrade the Memory in a Laptop

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro

My Uncle is looking to purchase his next laptop and is thinking he'll enter the world of Apple computers. As the wise consumer that he his, he asked for input on which model he should get, the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro (the 13" model)

The MacBook Air from Apple.com

For starters, switching to Mac has is an entire post in itself but I'll keep it short with this: If you are used to (and rely on Microsoft Office) in a business environment, be aware MS Office for Mac is not an exact replicate. If you are a fan of Outlook for Windows, I warn you: Outlook for Mac is not nearly as robust as its Windows counter part. I have enjoyed using Mac Mail but it definitely doesn't handle a Microsoft Exchange server (most large companies use Exchange for e-mail) as well as Outlook, but it works well enough. Apple computers also ship with a lot of built-in, free software such a Preview (a great PDF program) and iPhoto (photo library and editor).

I have owned 2 Apple laptops, a 15" PowerBook (2005) and a 15" MacBook Pro (2010) and have been extremely happy with their longevity and the operating system (OSX, instead of Windows XP, Vista or 7).

When comparing the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, the main deciding factor is functionality. If you are looking for a computer to surf the web and check email, the Air is for you. It is extremely light weight, fast (flash hard drive), and a slick machine. Some major drawbacks about the Air are: No CD/DVD drive (i.e. no watching movies on disc or burning discs) and no on board network adapter (no plugging into a network cable at the office). Now, both of these short comings can be overcome with USB accessories, but it is worth noting. If you don't need a CD/DVD drive or a hard wired connection to the network (WiFi only) then these aren't deal breakers for you. The Air's flash hard drive is smaller, so keep that in mind if you are planning on saving lots of photos on your computer.

Now for the MacBook Pro... this machine comes with Firewire and Thunderbolt ports in addition to the USB, mainly for accessories as well as the CD/DVD drive. The Pro also comes with a better processor and larger (but slower) hard drive, of course you can always splurge for the solid state drive for better performance.

These two machine are also quite close in cost, so the features of one may be considered a wash for just $200, that call is up to you.

Well, it is past my bed time and I'm sure this could use a good proof-reading, but I'm wrapping up a server upgrade and going to bed. Best of luck, feel free to post specific questions, I'll try to answer them the best I can.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Good Reminder These Days

Taken from http://powertochange.com/blogposts/2012/01/06/stepping-into-the-unknown/

Stepping into the Unknown

Are you facing an uncertain future? Come talk to a mentor.

“He went without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8b, NLT)
It’s a new year – a new beginning, new unknown territory. It can be a scary journey at times. Will I have the courage to step out into the unknown as Abraham did? Will you?
As I stand here with my toes on the threshold of the new year I know that God knows where He and I are going. Do I then go forward in faith’s victory to possess this new year…or remain frozen in victim’s defeat, allowing it to possess me?
As Jesus once said to a man whom He was about to heal, “Step forward.” (Mark 3:3b NKJV) Will I step forward believing and trusting for the answer to that which I need, remembering what God has done for me in the past? Or will I hang back in the shadows afraid to move ahead, forgetting God’s providence?
Just as God told Isaiah, He says you and me, “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like Me.” (Isaiah 46:9, NLT)
God will again make His provisions available in the new year for it is in His plan for each of us. He says, “I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jer. 29:11 Msg)
As God led every step of the Israelites’ journey to the new land, so He still leads us today. When we take those wobbly steps into the unknown, what will this new land hold for us?
We may encounter…
* joys unspeakable
* smooth paths of guidance
* lush pastures of provision
* hilltop experiences
* spiritual blessings in abundance
However, we may also encounter…
* desert dryness
* valley mists and fogs
* wilderness wanderings
* gremlins hiding behind bushes
* paths with potholes and pitfalls
* steep uphill climbs and dangerous downhill slides
Challenges will meet us at every turn, some easier to handle than others. But God will work in all the ups and downs of those trials, heartaches, and blessings.
He does this for us because of His compassion and mercy. Jeremiah tells us, “Yet there is one ray of hope: His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” (Lamentations 3:21-23, TLB)
Be assured that no matter what happens on your journey this year, He is the source of your fresh mercies every morning. He will never fail you. He will walk by your side along each rocky bend in the road and carry you through each heartache and loss. God will see you through to the end of next year. Will you live as Abraham? “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country.” (Hebrews 11:9a, NKJV)
We live our outward days on earth as in a foreign country, for we abide in God’s Kingdom of promise within us. Therefore, each day brings a new threshold into eternity. How can we not welcome it with willing feet and open arms? I am ready to step into the journey of each new day of this year, greeting each one in faith and with God’s mercy.
Questions: How about you? Are you ready? How will you greet the challenges of your new journey?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ready to upgrade to Lion - Are you sure?

Mac OSX 10.7 aka Lion was recently released and many Mac users jumped on the band wagon and upgraded. It's always wise to wait until the dust settles after major releases, even Apple's extensive testing cannot predict some of the quirks that arise. There are two reasons why I'm glad I didn't jump at loading Lion onto my laptop.

The first reason is several of my programs are not Lion compatible, meaning they use the old PowerPC architecture, which Lion no longer supports. You too can check your compatibility by going to the Apple Menu > About this Mac

Then select More Info...
Then select the Applications list from the left hand column and look for any programs that have PowerPC in the Kind column. Any of the PowerPC applications will not work in Lion (or so I've read from others, haven't actually tried this yet).

The second reason I'm glad I didn't upgrade yet was this article. Apple accidentally re-charged customers for their Lion upgrades of $30 multiple times and in one case 122 times for a total near $4,000! I hope they get this figured out shortly.

Also - always remember to backup your files before upgrading. My next post will be about making a bootable backup of your Mac using the built-in Disk Utility.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking for our next home

Recently Brandy and I have been talking more and more about our next place. We currently rent an in-law apartment from my parents. The space has been great for us while living on my income with Brandy in school, rent is cheap and my parents have been able to help us out in many ways. We are contemplating moving out soon and have waver back and forth on our options. We see several options:

1)We can continue to rent the space until we've put a good dent in college loans and saved up a downpayment on a house. - Looks great on paper but it would take another two years (not sure our, nor my parents' patience is up for that!)

2) We could rent an apartment. - A decent apartment in our area is $900+ a month which is almost a mortgage payment but doesn't require the downpayment.

3) We could try to get mortgage for a small starter house. - Not ideal space but avoidable and would be an asset to resell later in order to purchase our dream home. 

It's hard to make big financial decisions with so many variables. Some things that come to mind are: the housing market is down, I wish we could take advantage of it - or - an apartment seems like counter productive - or - if we bought a starter house, we could get stuck with it later... Ahh so many things to think about. I keep telling Brandy and myself that we shouldn't think or stress over it until she has reliable employment as a dental hygienist, but it is difficult to maintain that mentality.