Essentials 2010 Edition

See previous:

Inspired by Tim’s 5 open source apps I spend the most time using, here’s my 2010 Essentials. In no particular order:

  1. [School/Home/Work] Chrome – w/ AdBlock Plus, Greasemonkey and Google Mail Checker
  2. [School/Home/Work] Google Docs/Calendar/Reader – several Google Labs extensions
  3. [Work/School] Microsoft Office with OffiSync, Data mining addins for Excel
  4. [Work/Home] PuTTY
  5. [Home] Twitter/TweetDeck
  6. mIRC
  7. [Work] SQL Management Studio
  8. [Work] vSphere Client
  9. [Work/Home/School] Pidgin
  10. [Work/Home/School] iTunes w/ AudioScrobbler plugin
  11. [Work] Microsoft Sharepoint
  12. [Home]
  13. [Work] OpenVPN
  14. [Work] VMware Workstation
  15. [Work/Home/School] Notepad++
  16. [Work] FireGPG/Firefox
  17. [Home] Google Analytics
  18. [Home/Work/School] Facebook
  19. [Home/Work/School] Hacker News
  20. [Home/Work/School] FoxIt Reader

It’s interesting to see the changes to the list over the years. Jobs have changed but so have the tools, now all of the basic collaboration is done over the web.


Quick Post

I’m in two classes this semester, Information Security and Project Management. Both courses are going pretty well so far, but I must say I am definitely ready to finish up grad school this summer!

We had engagement pictures taken this weekend. If you really want to see them, find a way to contact me and I can show them to you when I get them. We also got to see the McCallum family and their newest addition.

A while back I debated on a focus for the bofe blog. I even created another blog where I put my virtualization related postings.

But I’m a technical person, so you’ll probably see some tech focused entries here and there. It’s not the end of the world; I’ll try and make them applicable to most readers.

Windows 7 Backup

“Cloud” backup sites like mozy and carbonite are untrusted & overpriced piles of crap. There are too many layers of complexity in the process and too many places for it to fail.

I can’t stress the importance of backups and TESTING your backups.

You’ve got a couple of options:

  1. Invest some time & money into backups
  2. Don’t back anything up
  3. Don’t put digitize anything that you really care about

Step 1: Install Windows 7, preferably a version with BitLocker capabilities.  (Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions have BitLocker)

Step 2: Get another hard drive.

How big of a drive do you need? It depends. I’m using about 280 GB of space on my two drives, but my backup takes 130GB. I am sure this will grow over time. Most users will not need anything more than a 320GB Western Digital Passport. ($80 from

There are other options that are much cheaper. One is setting up drive enclosures and using normal hard drives, another is using network attached storage. The setup is up to you, but it doesn’t get much simpler than plugging in a Western Digital Passport.

Step 3: Configure Windows Backup and Restore

  • Press the Windows key on your keyboard.
  • Type the word “Backup” into the search bar.
  • Select “Backup and Restore” and press enter
  • Back up your system image and important folders (like your “Libraries” folder, anything else you value)
  • Schedule the backup for a time that you are not at your computer, but you are sure it is turned on. The most common conflict is with a Windows Update configuration. If Windows Update is installing an update or rebooting your system, Windows Backup will not work. Use common sense here.
  • Watch the Action Center – it will inform you when your backups fail. If your backup fails, you can’t restore. That’s a bad thing.

Step 4 (optional): Encrypt your backups

If someone steals your drive your data can be accessed by the thief. Encryption in Windows 7 is simple. Go to My Computer and right click “Turn on BitLocker”. Pick a good key; keep it in yet another location that is protected in case you forget your key. Turning on BitLocker takes a long time (7.5 hours for me on a beast of a PC) so be patient.

After BitLocker is turned on, right click the drive again and select “Manage BitLocker”. You want to “turn on automatic unlocking on this for this drive on this computer”. This means you don’t have to re-enter your key.

What this plan doesn’t protect against: fires and other home-destroying events.  If your data is important enough to you, use this process manually to a drive that you want to place in a fire proof safe or a safe deposit box.

Next post: How to do a restore.

Overdue Update

It’s been almost two months since my last post here.

An update:

  • Work: We launched online enrollment at work. It was one of the last phases of our ERP implementation. Our old phone based registration is over.
  • Geek/Work/Professional Accomplishment: My virtualization site Virtual Andy is now listed on PlanetV12N, a VMware blog aggregator.
  • School: I completed my 4th semester of graduate school. This was the first time I’ve gotten a 4.0 GPA with Murray State. Two semesters left.
  • TMI Alert: In late May, I had a colonoscopy. It was painless. The night before wasn’t pleasant. PS: Everything Is Just Fine. (TM)
  • Geek Update: I got a sweet new machine at work. Some of my coworkers call it “Andy’s Server”. 12GB RAM, 1TB+ Storage, Dual Quad Core Xeon Processors, 2 22″ Dell LCD. I love it!
  • Sad News: My parents are selling their condo at the lake, and I’m not buying it. This Is Not A Good Thing. (TM)

More On My Health:

I’ve been having some health problems, but I’m taking steps to have them fixed. The whole “eating whatever I want” isn’t a sustainable model. Hopefully this ordeal which has been going on since February (and its related costs) will be a wake up call for me. I’ve been doing good (aside from a weekend in St. Louis) and working out on an elliptical machine.

Aside from the change in eating habits, the hardest part of this all is saying “no”. My coworkers go out to eat a lot and so do my friends; I usually have to say no to them. Or I have to just go and have a water. I think most of them are understanding, but I don’t want to lose the social connections.

The Summer Reading List:

I recently finished The Lovely Bones (my GF requested I read it). My summer list:

The Summer Travel Schedule:

  • June 13 – Wedding (Paducah, KY)
  • June 19 – PHISH Concert (Nobelsville, IN)
  • June 21 – Father’s Day (Owensboro, KY)
  • June 23 – Taking a friend to Nashville
  • July 3 – Visiting Friends in Kansas City, MO
  • July 10 – Family Stuff (Owensboro, KY)
  • July 11 – Pool Party (Kevil, KY)
  • July 17-19 – Visit to GF (Gravel Switch, KY)
  • July 26-31 – Vacation (All Around Pennsylvania)
  • August 19 – Graduate school resumes

I’d better get those tires checked and the oil changed! Oh, and a vision check! It’s going to be a packed summer.

This Post Was Sponsored By The Non Existent Blog Of UnNecessary Caps, A Subsidiary Of Apostrophe Abuse, lowercase L, And The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.


Here’s a list of things that have happened since I last posted:

  • We went to Nashville for our 1-year anniversary and visited BB King’s and the mall. It was a great time.
  • I read How To Castrate A Bull. It’s a good book about risk taking and IT management/philosophy.
  • I fired a gun for the first time. Correction: I fired several different types of guns for the first time. The guys at work had a shooting day out in the middle of nowhere.
  • I turned 26.
  • I spent my entire tax refund on a large car payment. It’s bringing me 5 months closer to having it paid off.

In other news, I’m still going strong on the Master’s program. Two more semesters left. I’m considering taking an investment class this summer, just for the hell of it.

Concert Chart

A friend of mine put this on her facebook status:

wishes she had an extra $500 for Elton John/Billy Joel tickets.

$500? Whoa. Then I had a little revelation that I had to put into excel. I couldn’t make a good chart out of it.


* Exception: Phish.

Final VMware Post

…on this site, anyway.

Per a suggestion I’ve opened a new site: Virtual Andy. If you’re interested in the VMware side of things, it’s your place to go. I’ve also updated all of the VMware related posts on here to link to the posts on that site.