Things to Pack When You Travel

I used to carry a sort of emergency kit of digital media. It started out with a few linux disks and one Windows 98 SE disk and eventually progressed to a fairly well thought out array of support tools. Unfortunately I haven’t traveled for a while and I forgot just how important such things were. Until my trip to Boston last week when my Dell system’s hard drive encrypting by WinMagic locked up for no particularly good reason. It just took my username and password and spit out an error 0x00007212 and told me to call Win Magic. I’m supposed to get support today for the problem and I’ll let you know how that turns out.

In the meanwhile I thought I’d list out what I’ve put in my new rescue kit. It’s a miscellany of operating systems and media types. Basically, if I can carry it on a CD, I do. Why? Because many people don’t have DVD drives in their laptops, so the older standard is more useful for rescue utilities.

  1. Solaris x86 install disc. I currently support Sun systems and it’s always useful to be able to boot into the mini-root.
  2. Solaris sparc install disc. Same problem, different chip architecture. There may be a dual boot disc, but for now I have two discs to solve the problem.
  3. knoppix bootable CD. I’ve used knoppix in the past to fix things that were somewhat Windows problems but linux was an easier way to fix them.
  4. Ubuntu desktop 32-bit install CD.  I love Ubuntu, but I have the same criticism here that I have of Solaris.  This disc can help me install or run a liveCD of Ubuntu for my laptop, but if my co-worker has a 64 bit processor, I can’t help him.  Anyhow, for those new to Ubuntu, it’s probably the best attempt at an XP like desktop.  Not much changes (except behind the scenes) so you don’t have to keep learning how to use it every time you upgrade.
  5. BartPE.  It’s a bootable Windows environment.  Good for repairing XP.
  6. Darik’s Boot and Nuke.  This is a disk wiper utility.  If for some reason you need to ship a disk this utility will help destroy the information on it in a way that makes forensics much more difficult.
  7. Gparted and Clonezilla.  GpartEd is a partition editor similar to an old utility called DiskMagic.  If you need to resize your partitions, this is the best way to do it.  Of course, you should run backups first, but if you’re on the road you may have to take a few chances.  Clonezilla is used to make disk images.  It’s good if you need to be able to quickly restore the same system back to exactly the same state quickly.  It’s also good for propagating a disk image to a lot of similar systems.
  8. Puppy Linux.  This is THE THING I WOULD HAVE PAID $100 FOR LAST WEEK!  Puppy linux is so lightweight you can run it off of a USB stick, but you need the disk to create the USB stick(or just carry a USB stick of it).  It’s ultra easy to use, so much so that many call it linux for grandmas.
  9. XP Install media.  It’s old school, but I still try to keep it around if I can.
  10. l0phtcrack.  This is used to get Windows passwords off of systems.  Some consider it a hacker tool.  I consider it a rescue executive tool because I’ve been expected in the past to magically make things work without access to their systems.  I’ve also used it to refine system building techniques so that I never write a good password to the filesystem in a way that l0phtcrack can crack it.  It appears that this product may not be available any more.  I’ll try to see if I can find something new.
  11. Miscellaneous.  Customize this area to tools that you need but will be hard to acquire remotely.  I include my corporate VPN software for multiple OSs and Truecrypt(although fairly available, I prefer to not have to md5sum it every time I DL it.)
  12. Some blank CDs and DVDs.  Useful if you need to DL and use new tools for some things.
  13. Entertainment discs.  Entertainment makes me work better, so I always pack some.  Usually 2 DVDs full of movies ripped to AVI, 1 nonverbal music disk(trance/monks chanting/enya), 1 normal music disk and 1 disk of books on CD.

Please let me know if I forgot something or if you don’t concur.  Now I need to run to work.

Photo courtesy of PSD

Heartland Tree Alliance – Treekeeper Graduate

I’ve always been a big fan of trees. It started with my grandfather. He really loved planting different trees in his yard and he also harvested dead trees to use them to heat the house.

So, as my life has calmed down a bit more, I’ve looked for ways to learn more about trees and to also spend time with groups that take care of trees. Recently I attended a program that is run by the Heartland Tree Alliance. They’re an extension of Bridging the Gap that has a mission of taking care of trees in the Kansas City region. We help plant new trees, plan out how to add trees back into the urban setting while not creating problems like upturned sidewalks or messed up siding, and we help prune young trees.

It was a pretty great program. It consists of 6 night classes that are a few hours long and two field sessions that gave us some hands on with the trees and tools and it only cost $25. They do also ask that you volunteer 24 hours to pay them back for the time they’ve invested in you.

Like any volunteer organization, there are always a few nutcases(hey, I fit right in!) but generally it’s a group of knowledgeable people who care and want to help make the world a better place. If you know of an area in Kansas City that’s on public land and needs some attention, please feel free to contact me. Or if you would like someone to come to your business, church, school or organization and make a presentation explaining the benefits of trees I can also hook you up with someone for that.

If you’re interested in participating, you could also attend a class and maybe we’ll meet up sometime. We’ve got one project that’s going to help fight climate change. In the next 10 years we plan on planting 120k trees in the metro! But we need help locating where to put those trees.

Anyhow, here’s the link for more information: Heartland Tree Alliance