NCSU FOSS Fair 2012

Jack Neely of NCSU OIT group has put on a Free and Open Source Software fair each year for the past four years. This year I was fortunate enough to join them. It was a fun day and I was happy to meet other folks interested in Linux and such things, while catching up with some old TriLUG’gers that I don’t get to see very often. They even let me give a talk! 🙂

Click the image above, or on the Documents link up top, to get to the presentation materials. I also got to take some photos and put them on Flickr. See y’all next year!

How to clone your Windows 7 hard drive

Recently I got a nice, new Dell Vostro laptop and wanted to upgrade the standard 250GB hard drive to a 500GB one. I wanted to take the disk image as it existed and clone it to the larger hard drive. This simple task was a bit harder to execute than one might think.

I went Googling on this topic and found a few software recommendations. The top hits included Paragon Backup & Recovery Free, Macrium Reflect Free, and EaseUS Todo Backup. Based upon positive reviews, I tried them one-by-one.

At first, I tried Backup & Recovery Free, but it wouldn’t install on Windows 7. Then I tried Macrium Reflect Free and it said the clone completed successfully. When the disks were swapped, Windows 7 would not boot. I used the Windows backup image (made by Dell Backup and Recovery Manager software) to repair that cloned image, but when it finally did boot properly, the fingerprint reader software wasn’t working and the OS gave several errors while running.

Getting desperate, I did another build directly from the Windows 7 backup/restore media. This worked, but again the fingerprint reader software was not present. Annoying!

Choose "Disk clone" from the Home menu

So I downloaded EaseUS Todo Backup 3.5 software and ran a Sector by sector clone with the source disk in the laptop and destination disk in an external bay. This completed successfully, but then the disk wouldn’t boot when it was installed into the laptop. The Sector by sector option also did not allow me to expand to the full usage of the newer, larger disk.

Select source & destination disks, uncheck Sector by sector clone

As an absolute last attempt before going to Linux, I left the 500 GB drive in the laptop, and used the EaseUS Todo Backup software to clone from the smaller hard drive in an external drive cage. This time I did not select Sector by sector clone and it allowed me to grow the final partition on the newer drive to use all the disk space. This clone completed successfully and the system booted. It seems this final approach worked the best.

Verify settings, drag slider to use full disk, and click Proceed

After several days of testing, everything appears to be working fine. No Windows OS errors, system updates have been successful and system restore point snapshotting is working properly. So I’m finally happy with this end result. This process took way too long and involved too many mistakes. Hope this write up helps you!

If you have advice on ways to improve this process, such as newer/better software to use or other tips, then please leave a comment.

GIAC Rising

The certificate granting branch of the SANS Institute, GIAC, just reached two important milestones. The first one was attaining ISO certification, which I’m not sure about, but I think it means that if an airline pilot has a heart attack and they need someone to fill in, then they will let me safely land the plane. The second big deal was that there are now over 20,000 of us. Twenty-thousand elite hacker, plane flying super geniuses who are all out there protecting your data from that evil CATS character.

“What’s a GIAC?” you may be asking. I wasn’t sure so I had to go look it up myself. Just kidding! If I learned one thing from my GSEC class (and I did) it was what GIAC stands for.

GIAC (pronounced Gee-ACK) = Global Information Assurance Certification
GSEC (pronounced Gee-SEC) = GIAC Security Essentials Certification

I guess they would call that second one a recursive acronym. If you have any idea what ‘recursive’ means. Anyway, this is all good news for SANS (Steven Northcutt) and GIAC (Jeff Frisk). It is good news for me, too, because in 100 years, employers in the technology realm will know what GIAC stands for.

You see, there is this other “certification” (if you can call it that) named CISSP. I have no idea what that stands for either, but it has one more letter in it. This obviously means something really really good to hiring managers because everyone I’ve ever known who got a really awesome job has “CISSP” after their name. I’m sure a simple Google search could unearth this mystery, but honestly who has that kind of time?

Anyway, there are a lot of CISSPs out there. Droves. Like a bazillion or so. And they hog all the headlines when it comes to those slick technology magazines that you all want to be seen reading in the coffee shop. So GIAC wants to dethrone CISSP. Or at least give it a huge black eye. But the playing field is, like, way unfair and stuff. So think back to that incredible theatric release of 2006, 300. It is like that! Dramatic, huh? Except we (the GIACs) are like the Spartans. So now envision me (and a bunch of other pot-bellied dudes) waving GSEC certificates over our heads whilst screaming “THIS IS SPARTAAAA!!!!!” and charging a bazillion nerds wielding CISSP certs.

Whoa. That would rock. And much blood would be shed. But it is all for a good cause. We just want to protect your computers, like, man. And thus was the tale of GIAC Rising.

Call Me GSEC 5730

Woo-haa! I keep those packets all in check!
When you go to write some shell code, best not disrespect!
Woo-haa! I gots you all in check!

GSEC Silver

That’s right, people. My week of buckled down studying has paid off and on Monday I took the two big exams. As Mark phrased it, I “gave those tests the smack-down.” Somehow I was able to pull a 96 on the Networking and Internet Security Technologies exam and a 94 on the Secure Communications and Windows/Unix Security exam. Woo-haa!! (You can verify that by going to the GIAC website and searching for my name.)

By Tuesday my name and scores were posted to the website and I had to go back to check it every hour or so just so the gravity of this accomplishment would set in. I am still surprised that I did so well considering how much material is covered. As you can imagine, I am totally on Geek Cloud 9. Many thanks to my excellent local mentor Doug Brown and to all the friends and family who were so supportive of me all Summer while I had my nose in the books. Yay! I can be social again!! 🙂

(Please note that my use of the GSEC Silver logo in no way implies an endorsement from nor a partnership with SANS Institute or GIAC. The logo is used only to indicate that I have passed the GSEC exams and obtained GIAC Silver certification. Proper permission for logo use has been explicitly obtained.)