Using an Ubuntu Live DVD to rescue files from a virus-addled WinXP laptop

Two weeks ago, I talked about how I planned to use Ubuntu to rescue friends’ data from a virii-overrun Windows XP laptop on its last legs and move it over to their new Windows 7 Pro laptop (just before my bow at TechGoesWrong).  On Thursday, I put the plan into execution. For those of you ever called upon to help friends, co-workers or clients out with such a problem, here’s how it went:

I managed to get the Dell Inspiron 9400 to boot from the Ubuntu  10.10 Live DVD on the second attempt (the DVD reader is apparently on its last legs). However, the WiFi wasn’t recognized, so we had to plug in Ethernet.  Another challenge: the Live DVD doesn’t include Samba as part of its installed services, so there was no way to mount a shared folder on the Windows machine.  And the volume of files (about 7 gigabytes) defied a USB transfer.

So, I turned on Windows 7’s built-in IIS installation and turned it into an FTP server.  To do that, I had to:

  • Go into Windows’ control panel, to the “add/remove programs”, and then into the Windows features checkbox, and enable IIS Manager and FTP server;
  • Configure a folder (which I called “quarantine”) as an FTP server share;
  • Go back to the laptop running the Ubuntu Live disc, and use the Nautilus file manager to connect over FTP;
  • Drag/drop, and wait.
  • Run a virus scan on the transferred files.

It took a few hours for the files to transfer.  In this case, I was just moving over Outlook Express (!) mail, and the contents of the user’s desktop. Once everything was moved and we did an initial virus scan, we imported the mailboxes into Windows Live Mail without a hiccup.

Next, I tried installing Ubuntu onto the old system to make it usable as a desktop. Unfortunately, Ubuntu 10.10’s install crashed on the system, likely because of the DVD reader (or the fact that it’s a 6-year old Dell Centrino laptop). So I decided to go for a less taxing version of the OS, and burned a Kubuntu 10.04 LTS CD.   Not surprisingly, that went without a hitch —  Kubuntu 10.04 even recognized the WiFi hardware. And the KDE desktop is actually more Windows-like, so it’ll be less disorienting for the users.

In the meantime, I also introduced my friends to OpenOffice, which will save them a few hundred dollars in software licenses for their small business. The next step: My friends want to be able to use the laptop to drive a webcam that can publish images of their store to their website.


Microsoft, Phone apps, Research In Motion, Smart Phones

Rumor Watch 2011: Didn’t We See This Tech Before?


I’ve been sorting through the buzz to get a handle on what’s coming in the new year from the tech world that might have the same sort of impact as some of this past year’s winners. And the harder I look, the more some of the efforts being mounted by the big names in the industry look like things they promised in 2010…or earlier.

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Microsoft, Tech Goes Wrong

Why I Won’t be Buying a Kinect for Christmas


The Kinect is this year’s hot ticket for Christmas. Microsoft’s new add-on device for the XBox 360 offers the promise of getting you up off the couch and engaged, using your whole body to play a variety of games.  And there are other features that might get your interest—such as VideoKinect, the video chat system that uses Kinect’s cameras and microphone to turn your television into a living room video conference with XBox-equipped friends or family.

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Microsoft, Smart Phones

A New iPad for Christmas? How About an IOU

A week doesn’t pass without another Apple rumor. But with Christmas approaching, a lot of the latest rumors may make you want to check to make sure you got a gift slip.

That’s because this week’s batch of rumors indicates a lot more competition for the iPad coming soon, and a confluence of events that might lead to a price cut after the holidays on the existing iPad—as Apple tries to clear the decks of inventory before introducing the next-generation iPad in the early spring.

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Rasmus:”Microsofts Missing the Boat on Kinect for Office”

In his latest post on Internet Evolution  – Microsofts Missing the Boat on Kinect for Office – Dan Rasmus takes Microsoft to task for not thinking in a broader context about the overlap of gaming tech and the enterprise.  Who wouldn’t kill for gesture-based controls in, say, PowerPoint, to get that “Minority Report”  thing going?

Kinetic is becoming the latest favorite toy of interface hackers. The folks at the MIT Media Lab have already done the hack with Google’s Chrome web browser.  So why can’t Microsoft make it happen for Office, or for any number of other application interfaces?

The reason is that Microsoft’s left hand doesn’t talk to its right hand. People have fallen so far down their particular vertical holes that there’s no cross-pollination going on.

This is a familiar problem to people in government, where the wheel gets re-invented with startling frequency from agency to agency–and sometimes from team to team.