February 25, 2010

Rrequired reading

Orson Scott Card takes on the education establishment. Excerpt:

As long as a single child grows up to vote Republican, these educators feel that they have failed.

So, here in the great state of North Carolina, they have come up with the perfect solution: Secede from the United States of America, and teach only the history of Politically Correct America.

The way they plan to do this is to stop teaching our 11th-graders any American history prior to 1877. This is not a joke. This is a real proposal from our state Department of Public Instruction.

Let's see ... what does that leave out?

The colonizing of America. The Revolutionary War. George Washington and the creation of a republic that doesn't lead to "presidents-for-life."

The ideas and compromises leading up to the Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton and the creation of our economic system.

The Monroe Doctrine, Andrew Jackson's populism, Manifest Destiny, the Mexican War and the nation's growth to the west coast.

The political struggles over slavery leading up to the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves. The Reconstruction of the South, with the Republican Party forcing the South to accept black voters and office holders.

Yeah, that's all they're cutting out.

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 19, 2010

Quote of the day

He may enjoy a Rottweiler smoothy on occasion, but Glenn Reynolds does know how to turn a phrase:

To me, people’s reactions to Palin — particularly the extreme hatred she’s inspired in the left — are more interesting than Palin herself. She may, someday, be ready to be President, but she isn’t now. Heck, she’s barely more ready than Barack Obama was when he was elected. . . .

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go dry off my keyboard.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 18, 2010

This country is in the best of hands

From the Puppy Blender:

HOMELAND SECURITY AT WORK: Homeland Security reports losing guns. “The nation’s Homeland Security officers lost nearly 200 guns in bowling alleys, public restrooms, unlocked cars and other unsecure areas, with some ending up in the hands of felons.”

If I leave my entry badge on my seat to get a glass of water, I can get written up for a breach of security. What do these jackasses get? Probably a raise and promotion.

Posted by Physics Geek at 09:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 10, 2010

Backing up your data: the computer owner's prime directive

Actually, not pouring Coke into the vent, or not using your CD/DVD drive as a cup holder, might rank higher, but not by much.

Anyway. I assume that you're backing up your My Documents folder and all of its subfolders on a regular basis. If not, please move along and continue driving while blindfolded. Just don't be surprise at the unexpected deceleration certain to occur. However, even if you are anal about backing up your data, restoring a hard drive to the state you like it best can take a while: reinstalling programs; changing system settings and wallpapers; and recreating your email contact list and browser favorites. These things all take time. There are ways around this problem, though, and some of them are free. These methods involve creating an exact image of your hard drive and then installing that image either onto your existing hard drive or, in case of a crash, onto a new one. Boot up and everything looks exactly the same, with all of your programs and settings intact. The only thing missing would be any files or programs added/updated since you last imaged your hard drive.

Now, how do you go about this? Well, I have strong affection for Norton's Ghost, even though it costs money. It not only creates perfect images, it does so quickly. However, Ghost is commercial and some might see that as a negative. Not me, though. It works so well that I find the investment completely worthwhile. Let me state for the record that I'm somewhat less positive on the newer versions of Ghost. They're prettier and the GUIs look fabulous, but I don't find them as easy to use as previous versions. This is why I still run a copy of Ghost v.11. It's an older DOS-based program and it requires you to use some care when installing the image onto a hard drive: if you screw up, you cannot recover.  But it works extremely well and I'm pretty careful with my data. If you are too, then by all means use Ghost.

Let's suppose though that you really don't want to spend any money, but you really like the idea of creating a perfect image of your hard drive. In that case, I recommend Clonezilla. It's Open Source and therefore free, although they do accept donations and you might think about tossing some change in to thank the developers. Up to you, of course.

What is Clonezilla? Well, I'll let the website give you the skinny:

Clonezilla, based on DRBL, Partition Image, ntfsclone, partclone, and udpcast, allows you to do bare metal backup and recovery. Two types of Clonezilla are available, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla SE (server edition). Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla SE is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the harddisk. This increases the clone efficiency. At the NCHC's Classroom C, Clonezilla SE was used to clone 41 computers simultaneously. It took only about 10 minutes to clone a 5.6 GBytes system image to all 41 computers via multicasting!

Features of Clonezilla

  • Free (GPL) Software.
  • Filesystem supported: ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, xfs, jfs of GNU/Linux, FAT, NTFS of MS Windows, and HFS+ of Mac OS. Therefore you can clone GNU/Linux, MS windows and Intel-based Mac OS, no matter it's 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x86-64) OS. For these file systems, only used blocks in partition are saved and restored. For unsupported file system, sector-to-sector copy is done by dd in Clonezilla.
  • LVM2 (LVM version 1 is not) under GNU/Linux is supported.
  • Multicast is supported in Clonezilla SE, which is suitable for massively clone. You can also remotely use it to save or restore a bunch of computers if PXE and Wake-on-LAN are supported in your clients.
  • Based on Partimage, ntfsclone, partclone, and dd to clone partition. However, clonezilla, containing some other programs, can save and restore not only partitions, but also a whole disk.
  • By using another free software drbl-winroll, which is also developed by us, the hostname, group, and SID of cloned MS windows machine can be automatically changed.


  • The destination partition must be equal or larger than the source one.
  • Differential/incremental backup is not implemented yet.
  • Online imaging/cloning is not implemented yet. The partition to be imaged or cloned has to be unmounted.
  • Software RAID/fake RAID is not supported by default. It's can be done manually only.
For most of you, I recommend Clonezilla Live. You can boot from an optical drive or a thumb drive and back up your Windows, Mac or Linux hard drive. Be sure to read all of the documentation before you start. Since Clonezilla is a Linux-based system, the way that drives are named may not be familiar to you. In fact, you might want to print out all of the steps to back up AND restore and image before you begin.  What I'd really like to suggest is for you to test this on a system that you don't use that much, or have outgrown and upgraded. That way, if you screw up, you're still fine. However, that may not be feasible for most people, so I will only suggest -strongly- that you use this software wisely. That way, if your system should choose to crap itself in the future, you're only a few hours away from being up and running again.

One final note: Be sure to create new images on a semi-regular basis, especially if you install lots of new hardware and/or software. Otherwise, you'll spend a lot of time post-restore installing new drivers and updating program settings. Not that that has every happened to me, of course. ::cough-cough:: Also, if you can swing it, alternate the place where you store your images, such as two separate external hard drives. That way, if one dies, you're no more than one image away from the present.

Happy computing.

Update: Based on a comment from VW Bug, I've decided to update this post with backup, rather than mirroring, software. You want scheduled backups? You want incremental backups (only what's changed)? Then I've got some software for you.

First up is SyncBack Freeware V3.2.20.0. Scroll down to the freeware utilities at the 2BrightSparks download page to get it. Be sure to grab the PDF help file while you're at it. I recommend creating 3 folders named Daily, Weekly and Monthly on your external repository and use them accordingly. Read the documentation (caution: PDF) to get more info.

EZBack-it-up looks pretty good, but it hasn't been updated since November 2004. No file compression, just straight data copy. This looks to be a decent choice, but I haven't played with it enough to give it my seal of approval.

Cobian Backup is:

The Cobian Backup software is an advanced utility that can even schedule backup times and backup to other drives in the same computer or to another computer through network connections and even through the FTP. What is interesting about this software is that there are two different versions of it; there is an application version and a service version. It is quite a lightweight program that runs in the background and keeps up with the schedule that you gave it. It will periodically copy your files in an original or a compressed mode with numerous compression types in a secure and encrypted format.
What is ICE Mirror? This:

This utility creates or maintains an exact duplicate of the original directory. ICE Mirror will compare the mirrored directory to the master directory and correct any disparities. ICE Mirror allows ultra fast mirroring because it performs incremental updates. In other words it only copies files that have changed. If only a few files have been updated, it performs very fast.

Also ICE Mirror allows making differential updates. The differential updates are very useful if you are use read-only media (CD-R, DVD-R, DVD+R, etc.). There are two steps in differential updates:

1. Comparison the master directory and the mirrored directory.
2. Copying all new files from the master directory to the secondary mirrored directory.

In other words it only copies files that have changed in the mirrored directory to the secondary mirrored directory.

Well, there are more, but these should get you started. Remember that the time to think about backing up your data is before you say the words, "Oh shit!" Consider yourself warned.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 01, 2010


Received via email:


One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it. The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, 'Good morning Alex.' 'Good morning Pastor,' he replied, still focused on the plaque. 'Pastor, what is this? ' The pastor said, 'Well son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.'

Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Alex's voice, barely audible and trembling with fear asked,


'Which service, the 8:45 or the 11:00?'

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Economics made simple

Misha types slowly and uses small words to illustrate his point.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sad news

James Joyner's father passed away this weekend. James typed a remembrance in his usual thoughtful style. Drop by and offer your condolences if you're so inclined.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funny, but painful

Received via email:

A group of 40 years old buddies discuss and discuss where they should meet for dinner.

Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen restaurant because the waitress's there have low cut blouses and nice breasts.

10 years later, at 50 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because the food there is very good and the wine selection is good also.

10 years later at 60 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because they can eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant is smoke free.

10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because the restaurant is wheel chair accessible and they even have an elevator.

10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen because that would be a great idea because they have never been there before.

No mention of Depends. I'm sure that it's just an oversight.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack