Dell Inspiron Mini – Adventures in Hard Drive Replacement

So an employee asked me to look at her Inspiron Mini 10 because it wasn’t working. Turning it on showed a possible hard drive crash because there was no boot device, press ctrl-alt-del to reboot, etc. So, no problem, just pop another 2.5″ hard drive in and reload Windows. Unfortunately, this is one of those consumer models that computer manufacturers like Dell don’t want you doing anything to later. No doors on the bottom to remove, but some screws. What to do…

  1. Do it yourself. So I take all of the screws out of the bottom and start trying to pop the white bottom apart from the black top. I work it apart some along the front, then, no dice. With laptops, I was taught long ago never to force things. so, step 2…
  2. Google. Searched replacing hard drive in Inspiron Mini. Wouldn’t you know there were several different types. I looked at two examples, but they were not quite like mine. Time to look for the exact model numer … 1012.
  3. Revised search and found this page from IFIXIT (a staple of Maximum PC) by a nice person named Barrington. HIs short, but sweet, instructions showed me how to remove the keyboard and get to the hard drive (silly Dell, we’re going to get there sooner or later). Once there, nothing to it to put in a working drive, put it back together, and start the loading process. Have a handy external DVD/Blu-Ray drive for this since the laptop doesn’t have an optical drive.

AVG Removal Tool

Sometimes recently when I have removed AVG Free to replace it with MS Security Essentials (less overhead and not free for just personal use) I have run into problems with AVG’s uninstaller failing or stopping. If this happens and you go back to uninstall but the uninstaller fails to start, you need to go to AVG’s website and download their removal tool. As of today I only see 32 and 64-bit tools for 2012-2014 editions, but I think they work on older versions as well. Download and run the tool. It may reboot more than once, but after it is done AVG should be gone including the listing in COntrol Panel/Add Remove Programs or Programs and Features.

No Icons on Gnome Desktop

With my installation of Fedora Core 19, I could not understand why I  was not able to put icons on my desktop. I am using Gnome and could not copy icons to the desktop even though icons were under my user/desktop folder. It became a bigger problem when I installed Unity of Command since you copy the game to Linux without really doing an install. I really wanted to put the alias on my desktop to launch the game.

After some research I found an article on that addressed this issue. Apparently the Gnome team doesn’t think people need a “traditional desktop” anymore so eliminated it. But you can bring it back by installing the Gnome Tweak Tool through the command sudo yum install gnome-tweak-tool. Once installed go under utilities in your applications list and launch Gnome Tweak Tool to add a trash can and computer icon to the desktop as well as any icons under your user/desktop folder.

Unity of Command on Linux

I figured I would write this follow-up post after talking about Linux. Follow the instructions from 2 x 2 Games to install on Linux (basically unzip and copy over to a folder). However, one mistake they made was having you copy the DLCs into the Unity of Command folder. DLCs actually need to go into the DLC folder under the Unity of Command folder to be recognized by the game. When the DLCs are installed correctly and you start the game, you will be asked for your key code.

I also had trouble getting the sound to work. Read the readme file for help. I am using a Dell Optiplex 780’s built-in sound. The sound works fine with other games so I know the sound is not the problem. The music isn’t that exciting in the game and is repetitive so no great loss. The game still plays great.

I recently discovered this cloud-based storage site. I had played around with Skydrive before this and thought about Google Drive, but I am pretty happy with Box. What I like about it is the diversity of client support (Windows, Mac, IOS, Android) and the apps available to use with it (I’ve only tried Box for Office which allows you to open from and save to Box from inside of Office apps, but it sure slows down the apps).

Of course Box includes a sync program (Box Sync) that creates a My Box Files folder that syncs files and folders inside of it across multiple computers and devices. I love being able to open and save files from my desktop, laptop, or phone as needed. Box Sync also allows you to open your Box website with a click and move your “My Box Files” location easily. This is a vast improvement over Skydrive which makes you unlink your computer then link it again to move the Skydrive folder. I don’t have any experience with other services to compare their implementation of this.

Box has a free 5 GB account for personal use and paid personal storage up to 50 GB. For more they offer business accounts with up to 1 TB of storage and from 3 – 500 users at $15 per month per user. Enterprise customers have unlimited users and storage (and probably pay a lot more for it).

Anyway, check out Box at as another cloud storage alternative and see what you think.

Donating Computers but Don’t Have the Original Discs

I have been donating some computers again trying to clean out some old systems that are no longer good enough for the office. Some of these were given to me because the hard drive failed and the owner just bought a new computer or I no longer have the discs that came with the computer. I don’t like to donate something that won’t work because anyone who buys it may not have the skill to get it up and running. So I turn to Linux, in particular Fedora Core.

I have been using Fedora since Red hat spun it off. It works well and is easy to install. I found the easiest method to use, especially on older computers, is the Network Install CD ISO. I was using a DVD burned from an ISO, but some older computers’ DVD drives wouldn’t recognize the disc. The Network Install is smaller so it fits on a CD which pretty much any computer can read. It downloads packages from the Internet during the install. I just do a basic desktop install and make the passwords “password”. I tape this information to the computer so when someone looks at it they know it has Linux and know the login information.

You can find different download formats at the Fedora website.

Difficulty with Server Remote Access

Recently I have had a couple of situations where a server had been setup with remote access, but something changed and the remote access wasn’t working any longer or I couldn’t get it to work again. The first case involved changing out a DSL router at an office. Up until then the remote access worked fine. We configured the new router for remote access. but couldn’t get it working. The second case involved setting up remote access at a new office; the server had previously been setup in a different location. The same thing happened; remote access should have worked after setting changes on the router, but didn’t.

In both cases the problem was with how Windows handles new networks. By default on these servers, Windows saw the new router as a new network and the server move to another office as a new network (which actually was the case). In these situations Windows treats the new network as a public network. Typically office networks will be private networks. In Windows Firewall, there are separate settings for letting applications through private or public networks.

Because I had allowed the applications through a private network but not a public network I could not make remote access work. I had to change the way Windows viewed the network back to private. This can be done in the Control Panel,  All Control Panel Items, Network and Sharing Center. Under “View Your Active Networks” you will probably see just one network, but underneath it will say “Public Network.” Click on that name (it should be in blue as a link).  That will open a new window “Set a Network Location.” Click either Home network or Work network then click close. Now any Firewall rules that apply to private networks will work again. This solved both of my problems.

Change Windows Product Key through Command Line

I just started playing around with Windows 8 (and am not too happy with it, but I’ll save that for another time). I ran into a problem with activation after a fresh install on my netbook. The install never asked me for the product key so activation failed. I knew there was a way to change the product key, but quickly became fed-up trying to find things in Windows 8. After a quick Internet search I found a method for Windows 7 (that happens to work in Windows 8 as well, thanks Darin Smith):

  1. Open a command prompt in Administrator mode.
  2.  Type: slmgr.vbs -ipk <product key>
  3. Try to activate Windows again through the GUI or type: slmgr.vbs -ato

After I put in a valid product key, Windows activated successfully.

Downgrade to AVG Free Edition

I have noticed in the last few months AVG sending a pop up wanting someone to upgrade the Free Edition from 2011 to 2012 or to install a Summer Update. If you are not careful, you will miss during the install that installing a trial version of AVG’s Internet Suite is selected by default. Only later when the trial runs out will you receive a message saying you need to pay to continue to receive AVG updates because your trial period has ended.

When I first received this I was annoyed and was going to uninstall AVG and install something else like Microsoft Security Essentials. However, I found when you go to remove AVG you have the option to downgrade the trial version to AVG Free Edition. Doing this puts you back on the Free Edition and lets you receive updates again.