Getting Things Done

Well the last week or so has been quite productive for me.

At work we have been working closely with our EMR vendor to resolve a few issues with interfaces and minor bugs that exist in their program. We also finished rolling out the new machines we received a few weeks ago, and also built two new disk images that we will use to roll out Microsoft Office 2007 to the employees in our building that don’t have it yet. I’ve also setup the new / updated webserver to host our current site and make our auditors happy again.

The Livestrong’s Daily Plate program is going very well. I’ve been logging my exercise and activity everyday and doing a weekly weigh in and I’ve lost just a little over 7 pounds in two weeks. This past week I have picked up my biking habits again so every other day I am out doing 15 to 25 miles which I’m sure is helping. Right now I am limited to about 1800 calories a day, which when making the right decisions at lunch and dinner makes it pretty easy, most days I am closer to 1600 calories. I can even feel that my pants fit better just after two weeks. I also noticed that I am getting used to the lower calories because I can’t eat nearly as much as I used to, but I’m sure that’s a good thing.

After taking a month or two off from biking now I remember why I love it so much. Last night we got some clouds and rain that helped cool down the temperature and made for a bit of a breeze from the north. I worked my from College Station to downtown Bryan and used the breeze and the cool weather to get me up to 25 miles last night which is close to my longest ride of like 32 miles. But just the speed of with the extra wind at my back which just makes it so much easier to maintain my 17-19 mph on the flat and 13-14 mph uphill. Usually my pace is right around 14.3 mph around town, but that probably included a bunch of stops and me just kind getting it done and not really pushing. If I push, I could probably do 16 mph for 10 miles but beyond that my legs start giving up. I hope to work my way closer to 50 miles in a single ride and then I would have to probably upgrade to a true road bike. Right now I have a 2008 Trek 7.2 FX. It does a great job of giving me a good road feel but keeping me upright, the components are of good quality and shift are quick and smooth, my only wish is that it was a bit lighter, but that always costs more.

My Linux+ is coming along nicely, I have completed the CBT Nugget videos I had as well as the entire TestOut training, now I just need to take a few practice tests and see where I am. I think the only thing that will trouble me is remember all the different options to these commands, there seems to be just a ton of them and not all are standardized. Also a few of the detailed configuration files for Samba and sendmail I just can’t seem to wrap my head around, but hopefully they ask enough generic stuff that it won’t be a problem. I will take a practice test sometime this week and probably schedule the test for one afternoon in the next two weeks.

Upcoming for the blog at I will continue to try to figure out what the Galleries things so I can share all the good high quality pictures with all of you out on the internet, and hopefully produce a few more articles about the great IT stuff I do day to day. I still have quite of bit of work to do with adding a profile and what I would call is a portfolio of projects and work that I have done in my IT career. I also hope to write WordPress Plugin that will help integrate SportTracks and the Livestrong’s The Daily Plate into the blog on my site.

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How to Clone Disk Images using G4L in a Windows Environment

There are millions of workstations out in the world and I’m sure you have deployed your fair share of them. I recently received 25 brand new Dell Optiplex 760s to replace our GX270s that are getting close to the six year mark. I thought I would take this chance to document the process and share it.

Hardware Considerations
For the imaging process to work well you need PCs that have the same hardware, this makes it very simple to make an image for one PC and use it over and over again and get the same result every time. You can build an image on one model of PC then load it on a different one but it will most likely be missing drivers, but then if you load drivers and make a new image it will now support both types of computers. This won’t always work but it has with similar hardware like Dell Optiplex 740 / 745 / 755 / 760. I typically just have one type of image for each type of computer that I have, which just makes things simple.

Before getting to far into this you will need to download and install an FTP server. You can put this on just about any workstation but keep in mind you will have to store disk images and it will be busy doing transfers when you are imaging PCs so you may want to make it a box that doesn’t do much. For an FTP server I would have to suggest Filezilla FTP Server, it runs on Windows fast, free and open source. For imaging software you will need to download the latest version of G4L or Ghost for Linux, you will need to burn the ISO image to a CD and use this a boot CD to backup or restore an image. Don’t let the Linux scare you, it has an easy to use menu that can allow anyone to image PCs.

Load PC to User Ready
Now that you have your batch of PCs, go ahead and load one up. Be sure to install software suites like Microsoft Office and any other utilities that may be necessary for you environment. You can join it to a domain however keep in mind it isn’t a good idea to join it to a domain then join it to a different domain depending on the settings you have, they may conflict.

Prepping a Windows Based Image for G4L
Once you have your PC happy with all the settings and software installed, start the clean up process. Go remove all Temporary Internet Files and History by going to Start > Control Panel > Internet Options, on the General Tab under Browsing history, click on the Delete… button, then Delete all.. at the bottom of the dialog box and confirm Yes. This will remove any browsing that you may have done while setting up the computer and loading drivers. Next, go to My Computer, right click on Local Disk (C:) go to Properties. Now on the General Tab, click on Disk Cleanup. Check all the items except Compress Old Files. Next go to the More Options tab and locate the System Restore Section and click on Clean Up and confirm the dialog box. This will remove any System Restore points that you don’t need and should free up some disk space. Press OK at the bottom and it should Clean Up the disk. Next do a defragmentation of the drive. You certainly don’t wanna be passing out new PCs with slow fragmented drives. You can just use the standard windows utility for that, since there shouldn’t be that much to fix. After that completes, you need to wipe the free space, the best tool that I have found for this is called Disk Redactor. Don’t let the cheezy website fool you, this is a good free tool that makes the free space empty. This is key because you don’t wanna backup an entire disk full of free space that has junk in it. It will make your disk image much larger than it needs to be. This part takes a while (depending on the size of your drive) so go find a nice cold beverage so you can be refreshed when it finishes. Once this finishes, Uninstall it, I can recall several times I have made images and accidentally left it installed. Trust me you don’t want your users calling you about it. Now it is Sysprep time, although sysprep is very powerful and can automate the windows setup, that is not the route we are going today. Simple always seems to be key for me. To install sysprep extract the sysprep version to C:\sysprep inside of there run sysprep.exe. I will warn you about SIDs and then give you some options. Click use mini-setup and click Reseal. Once the utility completes it will shutdown the PC.

Backing up an Image Using G4L
Power on the PC and insert the G4L CD and boot to it, either though a change in the bios or most Dell computers you can press F12 and get a boot menu. Once it has booted to CD you should receive a screen asking for which kernel just select the one that is highlighted by default. It should load two files then go in to awesome Linux boot script mode in which it detects the hardware just wait for this to finish. You should next receive some information about this project and the people behind it, just next on though it. A little more detection for network stuff and finally you should be presented with the G4L command line. Simply type G4L this will ask a few more things. Now, select Yes and accept the license agreement. Next, select RAW, this supports all file systems. Select Network Use because we want to copy the image to the FTP server. Lastly, fill out this screen based on your Network, you will need to specify the IP of the server for Config FTP as well as the username and password, Config useridpass, and a filename Config filename, change the compression to your preference I use Gzip but any one of these will do equally well. When naming the image you may want to consider putting parts of the computer model, OS, Service pack, or Hard Drive size, this will help in the future when you have 20 images and want to make sure you get the right one on the right workstation. When you have all your options in there select Backup and it will confirm your options with you one last time and then show you a progress bar. This part can take sometime to finish but once the image is uploaded you can start imaging it to other workstations. I have attached some screenshots of the G4L program so you can get a feel for where these items I talk about are located in the menu structure.

Restore an Image using G4L
To image a workstation boot to the G4L CD and go though the menus except select the Restore menu option instead of backup and it will transfer the image to the new workstation.

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The Past Few Weeks

The past few weeks have been quite busy for me. I spent about a week in Washington DC seeing the sights and enjoying the freedoms that our country provides. While there I found out that I had a ticket to the Indy 500 once I got back. So I took another day off work to road trip it up to Indy, which really wasn’t that bad since we had several drivers. The race was awesome it is just amazing how fast those cars can actually go, we were in turn 4 and watched several cars pound the wall just in front of our seats. Unfortunately, I got back to town to find that my dads lung cancer had made him take a turn for the worst, i didn’t get to share my experience at Indy with him but knowing what a race fan he was i know it wouldn’t have wanted me it on his account. I did get to say my goodbyes and spend a bit more time with him, he passed away early that Wednesday morning. I appreciate everyone’s well wishes the family is doing fine.

I have spend the last week or so working on my studying for my Linux+ certification which I hope to take at the beginning of next month. I hope this will diversify my IT knowledge and allow me not to be lost or have to Google every command when trying to do things on a Linux system. I have already watched the CBT Nuggets videos and now have moved into TestOut in depth study material which I should be able to finish by the end of the week.

Also, I joined’s The Daily Plate program which is a food and exercise journal that will help keep track of what you do and how much you eat so you can hopefully lose weight. My sister has been doing it for a bit and Jen and I decided that we should give it a shot, if nothing else it gives you some statistics of how good you eat compared to what activities you do. So far I have noticed that the food database is quite extensive because I was able to add my Freebirds burrito by size and each component. The activity database is just as extensive which includes sleeping, mowing the lawn, washing the car, working one computer, watching tv and any other activity you can think of. It also uses your height and weight to estimate how much you should eat and includes activities in to it, it is pretty neat you should at least sign up and check it out.

As for the site, I have been trying post pictures from all these great places i have been recently. I have only had moderate success as you can tell from the front page. I will also be putting up a few articles about virutalization and more of the general IT stuff that I have been working on. If you have any ideas for posts i should do just put it in a comment and I will see if I can make it happen.

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