Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free disk partitioning tool - gparted

I've used partition magic in the past, and it's a great tool. But it does cost money, and being able to do the same thing for free is always nice :)

It's called gparted. It's free and open source and runs on top of linux (don't worry it works with windows, and you don't need to install anything).

You can download it from there. Download the stable cd ISO image. At this point you can burn this ISO image to a CD using whatever cd burning application you normally use. Once the disk is finished, just reboot your PC and select the option to choose your boot device and select the CD drive to boot from. Everything runs off the CD so there's no need to install anything to the hard drive.

If you prefer, you can boot gparted from from a usb thumb drive. Its a fairly small boot image, so a 256meg thumb drive will give you more then enough space.

To do this, you can download another open source and free utility called UNetbootin from here: Again, there's nothing to install. Just run the program you downloaded, select the ISO image, choose the gparted iso you downloaded, select your thumb drive and let it do it's thing.
WARNING: doing this will erase whatever is currently on your thumb drive so make sure you've backed up anything on there you might need.

After you do this, plug the thumb drive into whatever PC you want to use this on, reboot the PC and at the start up screen, look for whatever key combo you need to press to select the boot device, and if you are using a relatively modern PC you should have a USB option. Select that and in a few seconds you should be up and running with gparted. It has a fully graphical interface and you can use the mouse and keyboard to shrink, enlarge, move, delete or copy partitions from the same drive or another another drive.

There you go - totally free hard drive partition management (except for the cost of a CD or thumb drive).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Windows 7 - first impressions

So just in case anyone is curious, the next version of windows after vista is called Windows 7. Microsoft decided to go back to just numbering them instead of giving them names.

Anyhow, I've been beta testing it for the last week or so. I have to say so far i am impressed. This is the first beta release and so far I've found no major bugs and only some very minor ones. I even pushed my luck and decided to try doing an upgrade install from vista ultimate to 7 ultimate and .... it worked! So far I've only found two programs that didn't work after the upgrade. one of them i fixed by just uninstalling and reinstalling it. The 2nd one i just haven't gotten around to trying to fix yet since i don't use it that often. Perhaps ironically, one of the problem programs was chrome. although that was fixed with a command line switch: --in-process-plugins

performance seems to be a little better then it was under vista. networking seems to work more reliably then vista. Although the network icon is very uninformative. No indication of if you are no longer connected to the internet like in vista, nor is there any indication of network activity. Hopefully this will change before the beta is over.

Also, i do not like the new task bar in 7. Instead of getting the row of buttons/title bars on the task bar, you now just get a small button with just an icon of the program on it - no text. When you mouse over the icon, you'll get a small window preview of whats running. If it's something like IE or FireFox that has multiple tabs, you'll get a preview window for each tab and clicking the window open the browser up with that tab open. I suppose for someone who has a LOT of stuff open, maybe this would be nicer since you can fit more stuff on the taskbar. And you do have the option to turn off the grouping (like you do in xp and vista) so that if you open a few copies of the same program, each copy gets its own button instead of being grouped under one button. But with just icons and no text, it would be a pain to find the right icon since they'll all look the same. I haven't checked yet to see if you can get the same taskbar look and feel as from xp and vista.

The start menu works basically the same as it does in vista, which i think is better then xp. You can type in a few letters and it will (quickly) find everything that matches. So if you have a lot of things installed, you don't have to scroll through a long program list. you can just click start and type a few letters to quickly get to what you want. Windows explorer though gets a bit different. In addition to the normal things, you now also have 'libraries'. These are just basically quick ways of accessing all your photos, videos, documents etc. It will search for all your files of certain types and then display them in one grouping.

So far it looks good. Although again, just like vista, I'm not sure there's enough there to be worth the upgrade price, especially if you are upgrading from vista. Hopefully MS will offer a hefty discount to upgrade from vista.