Protecting Data on a Hard Drive the Hammer Way


I use Acronis Drive Cleanser to wipe out hard drives (it overwrites every bit on the hard drive with 0’s and 1’s several times to stop anyone from recovering the data), but if you have a hard drive that is too borked to be wiped via software, you have a bit of a problem – because if you just toss it out, someone could retrieve it and if they thought the data was valuable enough, remove the platters and take your data. So, to prevent that, use the hammer method.

  1. Take hard drive
  2. Smash with medium to large size hammer
  3. Repeat until hard drive sounds like it’s full of sand when you shake it

Pictured above is the result of said process. The piece of crap Samsung hard drive died 60 days past its one year warranty, but it would still spin up so I knew the data was likely viable. The hammer method solved that!

More Massive Monitor Mayhem

My geek life just got more complicated. Remember I had ordered those three Dell 24 inch widescreen monitors? Well, Dell just released their new 22 inch widescreen monitors – and I got an email promo that says on the 26th and 27th they’ll be offering the monitors for $80 off, making them only $299 CAD each (that’s what the email says, though $80 off the published price of $399 is $319…). $299 for 22 inch widescreens! That’s crazy-cheap. So I’m in a quandary – I could get three of these 22″ widescreen monitors for $897 CAD versus the $2097 CAD for the three 24″ widescreens. And we’re only talking about two inches here. Big change in resolution though: the 24’s run at 1920 x 1200, the 22’s at 1680 x 1050. The 22’s aren’t as bright, and have a lower contrast ratio. But for the difference in price, would I notice? Hrm. Decisions, decisions. The monitor is so new I can’t find any reviews of it…

Geek Paralysis

There’s a certain type of “geek paralysis” that occasionally happens when I buy a new piece of technology, but then I hold off on installing/unboxing it because an issue has come up and I’m not sure I’m going to be keeping it. That lovely Epson R1800 printer I bought a couple of days ago? I’m in geek paralysis over it. As someone very correctly pointed out on Digital Media Thoughts when I posted about it, what about Vista drivers? Will Epson release Vista drivers for the R1800, or will they use this as an excuse to release the R1850 that’s identical but has support for Vista? Back in the pre-XP days, I remember companies doing exactly that: I was running Windows 2000 and went to upgrade to Windows XP and I think it was my scanner that lacked drivers for XP. The company released a near-identical scanner, only with support for XP, and never released drivers for the scanner I had. I’m concerned that the same thing is going to happen with my R1800. The printer was $549 CAD + GST + environmental disposal fee, a complete set of ink for it is about $140 CAD, and the paper…oh man, the paper. 20 sheets of 13 x 19″ glossy paper is $83.99 CAD – over $4 each! Check out Epson Canada’s pricing – I’m gagging on my tongue. Worse yet, it’s really hard to find this stuff – my local stores carry 13 x 19″ paper for HP and Canon printers, but not many for Epson – watercolour and some velvet-finish type. I found a place in town that carries pretty much all Epson papers – The Camera Store – but in my current state of geek paralysis I don’t want to buy any paper until I know if I’m going to keep the printer. I’ve got an email in to an Epson PR person, hoping that he’ll respond with something to indicate to me if I should keep this printer and wait for the Vista drivers (which Epson Canada tech support said were coming for all models of printers – but do I believe them?).

25 Megabit Internet Access Now Offered…

Shaw, my local cable company, is the provider for my Internet access and our home phone (think high-grade VOIP). I currently pay an extra $10 per month to get 10 megabit per second Internet access, but they’ve recently started offering a package the blows everything else I’ve seen away, both in price and in performance. They have a 25 megabit offering that costs $99 CAD per month – the question is, would paying for this actually enhance my day to day Internet activities? As you can imagine, I’m online day in, day out, and am typically doing ten things at once – email, FTP, streaming video/audio, you name it. So I need a lot of bandwidth – but there’s a limit that most servers will be able to kick out at a time. I’m downloading 330 MB of video files from one of my servers now, which isn’t serving up much at all late on a Sunday night, and I’m only getting 600 KB/s of total downstream bandwidth. If you do the math, that’s 0.6 megabytes per second, and my 10 megabit connection can theoretically dish up 1.25 megabytes per second. So would going for the 25 mbps connection benefit me? Not really. I see this 25 mbps offering as a stepping stone for eventual delivery of HD movies on demand. I’d be better off getting a DSL line and figuring out some way to bridge the cable and DSL connections together for added speed and redundancy. I know Robert X. Cringely did the same thing, but I have no idea how…

A Lust-Worthy Printer: The Epson Stylus Photo R1800

A few hours ago I picked up an Epson Stylus R1800 for the great price of $549 CAD, normally $699 CAD. Long story short, I was using my local Wal-Mart to do some holiday greeting card prints, and the colour reproduction was horrific – we’re talking truly pathetic. I couldn’t even find anyone that knew anything about colour to talk to, so I gave up and printed the photos myself at home on my R200, which turned out great. The reinforced my belief that being able to create great-quality output at home was of great importance to me, and being able to do larger prints has always been on my geek lust list. It’s also part of the re-configuring of my work area to better serve my goals of upping the game of my photography.

So, tonight I drove across the city to the one place in Calgary that had this printer that was open late on a Sunday, and picked it up. I was looking for a printer (available locally) that would do 13 ” x 19″ prints, but also printed on CDs and DVDs – and the list of printers that met those requirements was one item long: the R1800 (unless my research was inaccurate). I was initially a bit hesitant on getting this printer because it was released in February 2005, so it’s a bit old, but Epson made no move to replace it with a newer version at Photokina 2006, so it seems it’s still the most modern printer of its type – especially for $549. I haven’t even un-boxed it yet, but I’m really looking forward to it! Much to my dismay, the store was out of Epson 13 x 19″ paper, because someone bought an R2400 the day before and all of the 13 x 19″ stock at the same time. So I’m off to another store tomorrow AM to pick up some big paper to make my first prints.

Alienware Superman Laptop

Ok, this absolutely rocks: a Superman-themed Alienware notebook! The colouring and design of the case is simply awesome. I thought at first the logo was raised plastic or resin, but it turn out it’s flat and airbrushed. Still very cool. The laptop itself is no slouch – the base config sells for $2239 USD, but you can deck it out with a Core 2 Duo processor at 2.33 Ghz, two 200 GB hard drives in a RAID array, 2 GB of RAM and dual TV tuners…for a mere $4206 USD. This would be one fast notebook, and it looks so damn good! I’m not notebook shopping until Q1 2007 when the new Vista models come out, so I won’t even consider this…but it sure looks nice! I’m intrigues by the branding partnership here as well – it’s not something I’ve seen very much of, but I’d sure like to see more. I’d kill for a Wolverine-themed notebook. 😉

I Went a Little Monitor Crazy This Week

Two days ago I did something kind of fun and scary at the same time: Dell had their 24″ wide screen monitors on sale for $699 CAD yesterday, and I ordered three of them. Yes, three – that’s 72 inches of monitor goodness. Why? Well, I’ve had my eye on an upgrade to my dual 20.1″ Dell LCDs for a while now, and I’ve been looking hard at how I use all my computers in my home office, and I think some different hardware will help me get more done, faster. The three Dell monitors are part of the plan…more details to follow later. I also opted to lease them, which is something I’ve only ever done with computer equipment once before. Three of these beauties for $58 per month over four years – I qualified for their best financing rate (9.99%), so it’s not too bad in terms of overall cost of leasing ($490.86). And, yeah, these are the same monitors that I bought back in August ($50 less now) and ended up returning a few days later. Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe. I want big monitors, and I’m really hoping that four months later, Dell has addressed this issue. There aren’t any monitors on the market that compare to these for $699 each. I read up in their forums before ordering, and it seems like the latest batch of revision A03 monitors no longer have the banding problem. How am I going to use such big monitors? Well that’s a tale for another day…

[as a side note, I’m realizing now one of the dis-advantages of having a template with a non-white background…if I end up posting images designed for white backgrounds very often, the background might need to change]

When Software Should Stop Bad User Behaviour

In grinding through the 1614 email messages I had when I opened Outlook this morning, one email in particular stood out to me: it was an email with an attachment that was 31 megabytes in size. THIRTY-ONE FREAKING MEGABYTES. That’s beyond ludicrous, that’s well into the “will crash some email clients even if it happens to make it through and doesn’t kill your entire Inbox and cause all your other email to bounce” category. Now, the person sending it likely didn’t realize it was so big (I sure hope they didn’t), but here’s where smart software should come into play: an email client simply shouldn’t allow a user to send an email attachment that big without a polite warning, stating something such as “The attachment you’re trying to send is very large – it may not be received properly”. The threshold would be set fairly high – likely around 10 MB before it would trigger the warning – and there should be an option for users to ignore the warning if it’s something they do often and know that the person on the other end can accept large files. No one wants a return to irritating Clippy-like helpers, but there’s just no way that intelligent software should let users do something as foolish as send a 31 MB email attachment.

Middle Button Click to Open a New Firefox Tab

On all of my PCs, I have the middle mouse button configured to act as a browser back button, allowing me to quickly go back to the previous page I visited rather than having to click the back button or use the ALT+left arrow key. I spend so much of my life online, saving a few seconds or (more importantly) wear and tear on my mousing arm is important to me. So I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t seem to configure Firefox 2.0 to allow me to use the middle mouse button on my Microsoft mouse to open links in a new tab when I used the middle mouse button to click on a link. At first I thought I needed a Firefox add-on, but after some research it turns out that by default the middle-click button opens links in new tabs – but I never saw it working because my Microsoft mouse software always overrode it. By going into the Control Panel > Mouse > Buttons settings, and selecting the check-box for “Enable Program-Specific Settings”, I was able to select the Firefox executable and set the Wheel Button to Middle Click. Now in Firefox the middle click on the mouse button will open up links in new tabs, while in other programs it will go back. I thought it might have been easier to streamline everything to work the same, so I tried making the left zoom button on my Microsoft mouse function as a middle-click button, thus keeping the real middle mouse click button for the Back function, but ergonomically the zoom button is slightly out of position for easy use – which is why I very rarely use it. So it’s back to the previous configuration: Firefox-specific middle mouse click to open a link in a new tab.

How To Re-name MSN Messenger / Windows Live Messenger Buddies

Ok, this might fall into the “Jason, you didn’t KNOW that?” category of things on this blog, but it’s always been a pet peeve of mine when people on my MSN Messenger (now Windows Live Messenger) list use something other than their real name as their login name. People tend to fall into one of three categories here:

  • They’re using their email address as their sign-in name, usually because they don’t know any better, or how to change it. Since Passport email accounts are often not the email address you use to communicate with them on, it’s hard to remember that [email protected] is really someone I know. Especially if it’s someone I only chat with very rarely, I quite often have to ask “Who is this?” and they act surprised that I can’t figure out who they are from their email address.
  • They’re using their first name only, or a handle. Ok, fine if you have a unique name (Janak, Darius), not so fine if you’re one of four Chris’ in my list.
  • They’re changing their name to change their mood. I actually like the “mini blog” concept where I can glance at a contact’s name and see what’s new, or how they’re feeling, but not when I can’t find them in my list because they don’t use their name at all. So one day they show up as “It’s Raining” and another day they’re in a different part of my list as “Zzzzz”. In older versions of Messenger, I’d do this by changing “Jason Dunn” to “Jason Dunn – so sleepy” or something similar. So I’d keep my name in there, and add my one-line message after it. Now with Messenger Live you actually have a the ability to append a unique message after your name, so it’s much easier to create personal messages.

Way back in the day when I was using ICQ, you could change the name of the person on your list, essentially overriding their choice on your end so you knew who they were. MSN Messenger was missing that feature for quite some time (or maybe I never discovered it at all), and just today I discovered that you can re-name people on your list. You’d think you’d be able to change via a right-click, right? Well, you can, but “Add a Nickname” sure isn’t the same to be as “Rename” (which I just realized today as well – it’s a day of discovery!). You have to click on a contact and press F2 – yeah, that old Windows standby F2. Sure, I’m probably the last one on the planet to figure this out, but in case I’m not, now you know.