Top Ten Things I Miss in Windows

There is an old saying that goes “you can’t miss what you never had” meaning that for those who have never had something of these things they will have no idea what they are missing out on.

Typically I use Ubuntu or some Linux flavor as my operating system for every day tasks, however as most techs know using Windows is unavoidable at times. (Whether it be because I am fixing someone else’s machine, at work/school, or queuing up some Netflix watch instantly on my home system)

That being said the following are the top ten features/programs I find myself grumbling about/missing the most when I am working on the Windows platform:

10.) Klipper/Copy & Paste Manager – I use this one alot when I am either coding or writing a research paper for school.
More often than not I find I have copied something new only to discover I need to paste a link or block of code again from two copies back.
Having a tray icon where I can recall the last ten copies or so is mighty useful.
9.) Desktop Notifications – This is something that was first largely introduced in Ubuntu 9.04 and something I quickly grew accustomed to having.
Basically it is a small message (notification) the pops up in the upper right hand corner of your screen for a few moments when something happens in one of your programs (a torrent finishes, you get a new instant message, ect.) or you adjust the volume/brightness settings on your system.
8.) “Always on Top” Window Option – This is something I find useful when I am instant messaging while typing a paper, surfing the net, or watching a movie on my computer.
Essentially what it does is make sure that the window you have this option toggled on is always at the top of your viewing regardless of what program you have selected/are working in.
It is useful because it allows me to read instant messages with out having to click out of something else that I am working on.
7.) Multiple Work Spaces – When I get to really heavy multitasking on a system having multiple different desktops to assign applications to is a god send.
It allows for better organization of the different things I am working on and keeps me moving at a faster pace.
6.) Scrolling in the Window/Application the Cursor is Over – This one again is mostly applicable when some heavy multitasking is going on (but hey – its almost 2018, who isn’t always doing at least three things at once right?).
Basically in Ubuntu/Gnome desktop when I use the scroll on my mouse (whether it is the multi-touch on my track pad or the scroll wheel on my USB mouse) it will scroll in what ever program/window my mouse is currently over instead of only scrolling in what ever application I have selected.
5.) Gnome-Do – Most anyone who uses the computer in their everyday work will tell you that less mouse clicks means faster speed and thus (typically) more productivity.
Gnome-Do is a program that allows you to cut down on mouse clicks (so long as you know what program you are looking to load).
The jist of what it does is this: you assign a series of hot keys to call up the search bar (personally I use control+alt+space) and then you start typing in the name of an application or folder you want to open and it will start searching for it – once the correct thing is displayed all you need to do is tap enter to load it up.
The best part is that it remembers which programs you use most often. Meaning that most times you only need to type the first letter or two of a commonly used application for it to find the one you are looking for.
4.) Tabbed File/Folder Viewing – Internet Explorer finally got tabs! Why can’t the default Window’s explorer for viewing files/folders join it in the world of twenty-first century computing?
Tabs are very useful and are a much cleaner option when sorting through files as opposed to having several windows open on your screen.
3.) Removable Media Should Not Have a Driver Letter – The system Windows uses for assigning letters to storage devices was clearly invented before flash drives existed and I feel it works very poorly for handling such devices. It’s also a problem to use anti virus USB disks like Fix Me Stick.
It is confusing to new computer users that their removable media appears as a different drive letter on most every machine (and even on the same machine sometimes if you have multiple drives attached).
A better solution is something like Gnome/KDE/OSX do: have the drive appear as an icon on the desktop and have the name of drive displayed not the drive letter (its fine if the letter still exists – I under stand the media needs a mount point, just it adds confusion displaying this letter instead of the drive name)
2.) Hidden Files that are Easy/Make Sense – I love how Linux handles hidden files. You simply prefix your file name with a “.” and the poof its gone unless you have your file browser set to view hidden folders.
I think it is goofy to have it setup as a togglbe option within the file’s settings. Beyond that Windows has “hidden” files and “hidden” files to further confuse things.
1.) System Updates that Install/Configure Once – I’ve done more than my fair share of Windows installs and the update process it goes through each time irks me beyond belief.
The system downloads and “installs” the updates, then it needs to restart. Upon shutting down it “installs” the updates again and then proceeds to “configure” them.
Then once it comes back online it “installs” and “configures” the updates one last time. Why? On Ubuntu the only update I need to restart for is a kernel update – even then most times I stick with my older kernel most times unless I have a specific reason for changing to the new one.
0.) Wobby Windows – This one doesn’t effect productivity or use-ability like the other ten, but I must say after using mostly Ubuntu for the last year and a half not having the windows wobble when I drag them around the screen is a huge kill joy.
I’m aware that a few of my above mentioned things can be added to Windows through third party software- however like I said most times when I am using Windows it is at work, school, or for a few moments on a friends system. Meaning I’m not about to go installing extra things on them/changing configurations.
Anyone else have some other key things/features they miss when using the Windows platform when coming from else where?…
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Securely Erasing Your Old Hard Drive Easily with Linux or a Mac

Securely Erasing Your Old Hard Drive Easily with Linux or a Mac

I have been thinking of the easiest way to completely and securely erase a hard drive lately.  I was given two old laptops and was asked by a dear family member to help get some personal effects off of an old laptop.

To keep this short, I was able to do that using an external hard drive case and my own machine.

Since I use Linux, I am immune to windows viruses, I can simply copy the desired data to my computer.  I now have a directory of 1.1 GB of pictures, writings and other information on my desktop which I will burn to a DVD and say “Here you go, enjoy”.

Mac people and other BSD people can rejoice in that as well.

She’ll need to scan that for viruses before she looks at it in detail since she’s on windows.

Ok, that’s all done right, just toss the drive in the nearest secure shredder or sneak it into the trash or….

Not so fast.

You see, data can be forever.

A CD typically lasts 10 years.

A CD that “you” wrote may not last that long, say 5 years.

A DVD will last longer, I haven’t had one that I wrote fail yet, and some are well more than 10 years.

I still don’t trust that removable and optical stuff.

But, if I can get the computer I am looking at now to recognize the drive, the data will still be there.  Useful or not.

Even those old 500 MB drives from the first days of the IDE era can be read if I have a way to convince my laptop to read it.  How?

Get an external hard drive case.   You need to know what kind of hard drive you have in your hands.

IDE External Cases are still available.

Serial ATA or SATA cases are available in USB 3.0 and 2.0 if you want cheap.

I paid under $5 for mine when they were on sale.

Put the drive in question in the case.

Plug the drive case into the computer.

Assuming that your computer can see the drive and the data on it, now what.  You’ve got your data off and you want to securely erase the drive.

Here’s where Linux comes in to play, although a Mac will work as well.

Don’t have a Mac or Linux computer?  The easy fix is to download a copy of Ubuntu and burn that to a DVD or to a memory stick and boot from that.   That is all done via a program called unetbootin and it is available for any modern operating system that I can reasonably think of.   Follow the instructions and you end up with a bootable USB stick.  Boot from that stick.  Plug the external drive in.

Now you’re looking at Linux.

(If you’re a Mac guy, you can to follow this on your Mac.)

Commands from this point forward will be in BOLD
Start Terminal.

Get root with “su” or “sudo su” and give it the system’s password.

Verify the address of the external drive.  “dmesg” will give the device name at the end of the display.  You can also find it in gparted (if installed).  The address will be similar to /dev/sdb.

Verify it again.  “Measure twice and cut once”.

In terminal enter the following command – I am assuming that the operating system thinks that the external drive is on “/dev/sdb”.  You need to know which partition and this will tell you where it is:

fdisk -l /dev/sdb

(Man, I hate Helvetica – That is a lower case -l )

On the Windows drive I have in question, it gave me two partitions – sdb1 and sdb2.  Windows being what it is, will almost always use sdb1 as the boot partition, and it will almost always be the largest one and the one in question with your data.

Since I have cleared out all the data that I would be worried about in an earlier step, I do not have to worry about deleting any partitions.  But I do have to create a space to work with.

Within terminal, mkdir work will make an empty directory to play with.

To access the data on the external drive: mount /dev/sdb1 work

To verify you have connected to the drive, cd work 

To list any data files you left in that directory, ls  will show you.

To create a big file to overwrite all that empty space enter the following command.

    dd if=/dev/urandom of=junkfile.txt

That dd Command will write random garbage out to the file called junkfile.txt until it runs out of space. Out of Space is a bit misleading because certain disk formats have maximum file sizes, so just run it again with a different name on the “of” portion of the command – like “junkfile1.txt” until you are satisfied.

That’s about it.   Your empty space on the drive has been filled with garbage.  You can delete that junkfile.txt and use the drive as a floppy if you like.  Since you previously deleted things that you wanted to be securely deleted, this happened with it was overwritten with random data.

The theory goes that with the “new” and “large” disks we have inside of our computers over the last few years, simply writing garbage out would be sufficient.
The Geek version was that the old drives had enough space between tracks that the data would sometimes, but not always, be mirrored and repeated in the empty spaces.  Some of the information could be “recovered” by reading that space.

You don’t have the technology to do that.  Any “normal” person finding your drive would not either.

New drives over the last few years are so densely packed that that space between the tracks is too small to store extra copies of the data.

If you are super worried (paranoid) about your data, give the drive to a destructive person, and some hand tools, and let them disassemble it for the magnets.  Or run over it with a truck.   Or both.

But this is as far as I go with my own personal data.…

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