Posts Tagged ‘Linux’

There is always a heated discussion on the forums about accessing Windows formatted partitions from Linux, but what if you want to do the opposite? What if you want to access the data you store on a Linux file system from within Windows?

The solution is pretty simple and straightforward, and NO you don’t need to reboot Linux again! You can use any of these free softwares to do the trick for you:

Linux Partition on Windows

Linux Partition on Windows

Both the softwares install file system drivers so that you can access the Ext2 file system just like and other native Windows file system. You get both read write access to the Linux partition and it shows up as a normal drive with a drive letter assigned to it within Windows Explorer.


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USB thumb drives are one of the most commonly used ways to transfer data if you happen to work across multiple computers. Lets just make the USB drives prettier, useful and secure.

1. Add icons and labels to your drive.

usb driveDownload an icon you would want to see appear when you plug in your thumb(pen) drive. Place the icon at the root of the drive. Next open notepad and type the following:


label = "<your name here>"

icon = "yourIcon.ico"

Save the file onto the root of your thumb drive and name it "autorun.inf", be sure to put the quotes or else it will be saved as a text file. Now Safely remove your USB drive and plug back in, the icon and name should appear in Windows Explorer if your did everything right. You can also automatically launch an application. If this is not the way you prefer to work use this neat application to generate the autorun.inf file automatically

2. Add a Start Menu to your USB drive

portable appsDownload and install the Portable Apps Suite on your USB drive, it not only gives you a nice start menu for your USB drive but also gives you the ability to run some of the most popular applications (like Firefox, Putty, OpenOffice, SumatraPDF, notepad++ and many more) right from your USB drive. A must have for your USB drive

3. Use Mojopac

mojopacMojopac gives you your operating environment right on your USB drive. You can be rest assured that you will find a familiar interface with Mojopac on any pc you plug your USB drive into, all the customization will be preserved from computer to computer. Moreover it lets you operate without leaving any trace what so ever on the computer, so you can be rest assured about your privacy and data

4. Write Protect your Drive

My USB drive has a write protect notch that prevents it from being written onto when plugged on a computer, this is important because if the computer you are plugging into is infected than it can readily infect your USB drive. However if your drive cannot be write protected then you can use thumbscrew. It makes anything connected to the USB non writeable until you are sure and want to make it writeable.

5. Make Autorun.inf read only and system file

Thumbscrew may prevent writing on USB devices but it has to be already present on the computer you want to plug your USB drive into, so if its not possible for one reason or the other then you should make sure that you have a custom autorun.inf file and that its read only and has the system file attribute set. This prevents malicious code from writing entries to your autorun.inf and thus even if your USB drive may have a virus it won’t actually run it automatically. So a little bit more protection but not fool proof by any means.

6. Hold down the shift key

If you suspect your USB drive may be infected but still you have to plug it in to scan and remove the infections, then when you plug it in hold down the shift key to prevent autorun if its not already disabled.

7. Encrypt your drive using Truecrypt

true cryptYou can encrypt all the data on your USB drive using Truecrypt. This fives you added security if you have some sensitive data on your USB drive. Simply run it and choose your USB device to encrypt. TrueCrypt is free, Open Source and efficient and gives you extra security, download it here.

8. Sync your drive.

Microsoft offers an excellent application specially to address all your syncing needs. Its called the SyncToy. If you have to work on the same files on two different computers than you want to have the latest version of all files all the time, this can be easily done with synctoy. It offers both oneway and twoway synching. Its also free to download. Download it here

9. Backup your drive

toucanBacking up is always a nice thing to do, specially when you have to use it on different computers. There is a portable app to make this very easy. Its toucan, you can install it on your USB drive and back up, sync and encrypt your data as and when you want. Or else there is this the USB Image Tool that creates an image of everything you have on your drive and saves it as one file.

10. Make it bootable

pen drive linuxYou can install and run Linux from your USB thumb drive, this is an excellent way to recover systems that won’t boot, or to just plug it into another computer and do all of your work using linux applications and surf the net without leaving any history on the host computer. For this try pendrivelinux

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Make use of

As some of you may be knowing that I also write for one of the best tech blogs MakeUseOf.com

In my recent article I talk about WINE, WINE is used to run Windows games and Softwares on Linux. Actually the uses extend far beyond these, although it is popularly used for playing Windows games on Linux. For more check out the article at MakeUseOf, and leave comments on what you think. I am also planning a Step by Step Tutorial on how to play Half Life on Ubuntu so keep checking back or better, subscribe to the feed.

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twitterWorking on a command line has its own benefits and gives you a satisfying feeling! How about twittering from command line? Thats even cooler and yes its very much possible. All you need to have is curl. curl is a command line tool for transferring files with URL syntax, supporting FTP, FTPS, HTTP, HTTPS, SCP, SFTP, TFTP, TELNET, DICT, LDAP, LDAPS and FILE. curl supports SSL certificates, HTTP POST, HTTP PUT, FTP uploading, HTTP form based upload, proxies, cookies, user+password authentication (Basic, Digest, NTLM, Negotiate, kerberos…), file transfer resume, proxy tunneling and a busload of other useful tricks.Check out the following commands:

These are mentioned over at the Twitter API page. However you can take this step further and write your own script so that you don’t have to type the lengthy commands over and over again and perhaps not even the email and password if you are okay with storing them in a script file. Here is an example (feel free to copy and paste):


twitterName="<<<Your twitter username here>>> "
password="<<<Your password here>>> "

$curl –basic –user "$twitterName:$password" –data-ascii \
"status=`echo $@ | tr ‘ ‘ ‘+’`" \

exit 0

Please note that its –basic (2 dashes), –user (2 dashes) and –data-ascii (2 dashes). Give the file a name such as "myTwitterer". Then you can simply type "myTwitterer <Your status update here>" and you status will be updated right from your command line. Be aware that the password will be stored in the script file without any encryption or security measures, however this file will reside on your local machine so its reasonably safe to do this.

Similarly you can use the other URLs I mentioned and get timelines both public and your friends! The whole processes can be down on windows as well all you need is cURL which you can get here.

 Stumble it!   |    Del.icio.us   |    Digg   |    reddit

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question answer

As I promised to include your (the readers’) suggestions, comments and questions into my articles, so here is the first of such requests.
Ram has a question for me here which I quote:

Hi Varun,

I have been reading articles here as well as at makeuseofit …please keep writing interesting and useful tips for non-technical guys like me…

I have a 5 years old laptop (Pentium IV, 512 MB RAM, XP Home). Internal DVD drive is not working. I have an external DVD drive. I dont think this laptop can be booted from USB drive. I would like to install linux and get rid of the XP. Could you please suggest me what linux distribution and how do I install it using external dvd drive or using floppy drive.


Here is what I think and suggest:

First of all Ram mentions he is non-technical but let me thank him for the wonderful description and the amount of information he provided. That really helps. Coming to the problem I have a few suggestions for you Ram:

      Since you are going to use Linux for the first time I would suggest to go with Ubuntu almost certainly. Its easy to use for beginners and is pretty robust like any other Linux distro. As you mature and develop a taste you can try other Distros (flavors of Linux).
      I would like to ask if you have installed another operating system before on your laptop? The reason for this is that laptops generally come with a sort of factory reset functionality where you can use an operating system image to reinstall or restore the operating system to the settings it initially had when you bought it. You would like to make a backup of such a rescue partition if your laptop has one.
      Given the scenario of non functional internal drive and having an external drive(I am assuming its USB) and the inability to boot from USB I would recommend to first Google for BIOS update for your laptop model. If a BIOS update is available you must update your BIOS and see if you can then boot from USB. If it helps your problem is already solved else read ahead.
      You can follow two paths:
      One, If you have taken care of all the above or don’t want to do them for some reason this is the one you are looking for. Download the latest Ubuntu desktop CD (Currently Hardy Heron) and then follow these simple steps I mention in an earlier post. You will have Linux up and running in a matter of minutes from your external drive. Note that this won’t remove XP, but give you a dual boot system (which is better I would say).
      The other path: Since you say that you are a non technical guy so I am not explaining about the ways to install using only a floppy(can be confusing for first timers). But if you are interested check here. Please note you will require the alternate cd(check the checkbox to download the alternate CD) if you follow this path.

    Do let me and the readers know if you want to know something else, remember “Those who are afraid to ask are ashamed of learning”, no question is foolish (specially not here). Also tell if you managed to solve the problem.

    If anyone has a better solution or would like to add to mine so that we can help Ram out do leave a comment!

    And you can also fire up your questions or tech challenges. Do it here for easy organization.

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This is the Step by step tutorial on installing Linux, just as Mova promised. Refer to the earlier posts on Linux Demystified here and here to know the background of this tutorial.


  • About 5GB free hard disk space.
  • Working windows installation.
  • Ubuntu or Kubuntu or Edubuntu cd or a fast Internet connection.
  • Wubi (not required if you have Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Edubuntu 8.04 cd).


Step 1: Put the Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Edubuntu (referred to as Ubuntu from here on) into the cd drive. A screen like the following will appear automatically. If it doesn’t, it means you have autorun disabled, in that case go to My Computer > Double Click on Ubuntu Icon > Double Click on umenu.exe

I am using Kubuntu, if you use Ubuntu it would be all the same just the image and colors will be different.

Step 2: Click on "Install inside Windows". You will be greeted by the following screen.

This is where all the action is!!

Step 3: Refer to the image and the appropriate number to view its details:

  1. Choose the Windows partition where you want to install Ubuntu.
  2. Choose the space you want to allocate to the Ubuntu Installation.
  3. Choose Desktop Environment. More on this later. For starters I would recommend Gnome, but then if you know what you are doing, you can choose anyone here. Its no big deal.
  4. Choose the language
  5. Choose the username. This will be used to log into Ubuntu.
  6. Choose the password for the above username. Both these details are required when you boot into Ubuntu.

Now simply click on install, installation will begin as shown below (make sure you are connected to the Internet if you are not doing this from cd), go fetch a Coffee or two!!

The Installation Begins

Step 4: Have Coffee! You don’t have to do anything!! Wubi is working for you. After the progress on the above screen completes you will see this:

Wubi creating virtual disks

Step 5: Have another coffee! Wubi will soon complete its work and ask you for a restart.


Step 6: You are almost there. Choose reboot now and click on finish. You computer will reboot, but this time its different. You will see an entry named Ubuntu in the Choose Operating System Menu. Use arrow keys to choose Ubuntu ( I often see people trying to use mouse on this screen. It wont work!!) and press enter.

Choose Ubuntu here

Disclaimer: The above shot is of Vista Boot Manager that I found on Google Image Search ( I dont have a camera good enough to post my own shot). With XP the screen looks almost the same. Just wanted to give you an idea.

Step 7: Ubuntu will go through the process of setting up the operating system for the first time. This would take some time depending upon the specifications of your machine. Once its done. You can login into your Linux installation using the username and password you provided in Step 3 above.

This is it. You have Ubuntu running on you system and you didnt have to touch any partition of configure GRUB. Enjoy! Most of the things work out of the box. You might have a minor glitch or two depending on your hardware, this can usually be sorted by searching the Ubuntu Forums or check out the Ubuntu IRC at freenode.


Step By Step Tutorial Details:

  • Time for completion: 30 – 35 minutes depending on your hardware.
  • Difficulty level: Easy – Moderate
  • Karma, Satisfaction or Joy you gain: 10/10 🙂


Feel free to ask any question on any of the tutorials and let me know your experience. Also contribute on what other tutorials you would like to read. I will surely try to include them. Long Live the Ubuntu Spirit!

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Picking up the conversation between Ruby and Mova about Linux Demystified, here is part 2 of the conversation. Apparently Ruby has received cds through ShipIt and is excited to try out Ubuntu. Mova being the ideal helpful guy for the situation again helps her out. So here we go:

Ruby: Hi Mova, I got Ubuntu cds and I m very excited to try Ubuntu, but I am a little skeptical, should I completely remove Windows or can I have 2 operating systems on one computer?
Mova: Well, that is a matter of personal preference. Theoretically speaking you cannot have two operating systems on the same computer, but there is a very commonly used work around to this. Its known as partitioning the Hard Disk.

Ruby: What is partitioning? How can I do it? Please elaborate.
Mova: Try opening My Computer on your Windows machine and see if you can find hard drive icons marked something like C:, D:, E:. These are nothing but partitions on your hard disk. Partitions let you slice your hard disk into smaller units. All this is logical means that you don’t actually have to take saw and hammer to slice your hard disk. lol.. If you right click on any of them (Shortcut key is Alt + Enter) then you can see the properties of each of the partitions which also includes their size. If you add up the size of all the partitions it should roughly sum up to the capacity of your hard disk. I say roughly because some space is unused and kept reserved by the manufacturers.
You can partition the hard disk using a variety of methods, at time of installation or from within Computer Management, or using utility cds like Hiren’s Boot CD.

Ruby: Why do I need partitioning? This seams scary. What if I mess up?
Mova: Using partitioning you trick the operating system to believe that there is no other operating system on the hard disk. Operating Systems are not very friendly you see. They can’t ever exist on the same partition. It is a bit scary for the first time, but once you get hold of it, its a piece of cake. And yes if you mess up partitioning, more often then not you are in a bad bad situation 🙂

Ruby: No no no I am not ready to take any risks with my data, probably I will wait till I get a new Computer and then install Ubuntu on it.
Mova: There is nothing to be worried about. Have you ever installed a software in Windows?

Ruby: Huh? what sort of question is this? Of course I have.
Mova: Then I assure you and guarantee you that you can install Ubuntu without doing any damage to your computer or data. Trust me I wont lie.

Ruby: But I have never done partitioning, and then I have heard that its even more difficult to configure a dual boot system. There is GRUB, there is LILO, MBR, NTLDR and all kinds of words, I don’t know about any of them, I am not sure I want to do this.

wubi installer
Wubi Ubuntu Installer

Mova: As I said, you have to trust me. I have nothing to gain if you install Ubuntu or not so I won’t misguide you. I say its easy then I mean its easy. Okay if you don’t believe me have a look at Wubi at http://wubi-installer.org/

Ruby: Wubi! I like the name, It rhymes with mine! But what is it?
Mova: In one word it is an “installer”. It helps you install Linux inside Windows! Yes I said “Inside Windows”. It doesn’t resize or create new partitions and it doesn’t change your Windows installation. As they say and I quote, “No need to burn a CD. Just run the installer, enter a password for the new account, and click “Install”, go grab a coffee, and when you are back, Ubuntu will be ready for you.”

Ruby: Oh this means my wait for the cd was all futile?

hardy heron
Hardy Heron

Mova: Well not exactly, what Wubi does is that it downloads the files from the Internet, but having them on the cd before hand just makes your work faster and a little more reliable. So you did the right thing Ruby! As of Ubuntu Hardy Heron, Wubi is included in the installation cd. So you wont have to download anything.

Ruby: Ok ok, Just for curiosity’s sake is this another of Linux’s Magic? I mean how Wubi manages to do so?
Mova: First of all, Congrats to Agostino Russo, who came up with this idea of Wubi! I myself Love it. The idea is somewhat similar to what we have been discussing. It actually tricks the Operating System to believe that it has its own hard disk and no other operating system exists on it. However the similarity ends there. While we were discussing partitioning, Wubi actually installs the system as a file (c:\ubuntu\disks\root.disk) inside Windows and Linux sees this file as a hard disk. It uses a loop mount file system but thats getting technical so we leave it for some other time!

Ruby: So how do I proceed with Wubi?
Mova: Although there is no risk but it is always a good idea to back up your important data. You take some time, backup your data, till then I will prepare all the steps for you and write it in a systematic manner. Do check me here soon.

End of part 2. Don’t forget to join us when Mova provides a step by step tutorial on Linux Installation!

Check out part 1 of the conversation here

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Following is the conversation between Ruby and Mova (fictional characters). Ruby is a charming young girl (just in case you would like to picture 🙂) and Mova is random guy who likes to hang out on IRC networks 🙂 Ruby has heard of Linux but she is not clear and confident, with all the confusion surrounding Linux, Mova being a helpful guy (like me) is helping her out.

Ruby: So what is this Linux thing ?
Mova: Hmm.. Nice question. You can much search this question and get pretty much millions of results on Google. However, in plain english: "It is an operating system". Just like Windows is an operating system, similarly Linux is an operating system that is required to be installed on your computer before you can install your favorite music players, media players or any other applications.

Ruby: What is an operating system ?
Mova: Your computer system is a collection of a number of components(like the monitor, processor, cd drive etc). If you have ever lead a team(of any kind) you know that its your responsibility to keep the team together if you want to achieve your goal. An operating system works similarly to a team leader. It makes sure that the components of the computer work together to achieve the goal i.e. to get your work done. So to get any kind of work on your computer you must have an operating system. If you are reading this chances are you have Windows on your computer. Windows is an operating system, so is Linux, Unix and Mac OS.

Ruby: Okay I get that, but why Linux? I have Microsoft Windows(or Mac OS) on my machine and I am satisfied.
Mova: Yes, you are satisfied, but are you sure? Ever heard of something like V… Vir… Virus? Ever installed an expensive AntiVirus Software to protect your computer? only to find out you are not safe enough? Ever had an unresponsive pc, when you had to restart in the middle of your work and lost unsaved changes?
Now what if I say I can give you a "Magic CD" that would take care of all these? Interested??

Ruby: Sounds good but what is on the "Magic CD"? I hope its not too expensive.
Mova: Well you might have guessed the contents. The CD contains high resolution images of mine, that you set as your wallpaper and I will take care of your computer!! Naaa.. just kidding.
Of course the CD has "Linux" on it. And BTW if you are still wondering about the price "ITS FREE".

Ruby: What?? How is that possible? I pay so much for Windows. How can Linux be free? Is it substandard or under development stuff? If not where do the developers get their money from?
Mova: I m not joking on this one, most versions of Linux are indeed free.
Yes all this while you have been paying for Windows. If you are getting your first look on Linux now then, mmm.. you are LATE. Not very late though, because earlier versions of Linux were not very user friendly anyway. And let me get this across to you very very straight: "Linux is by no means substandard, or inferior just because you are not being charged for it", in fact it is much more stable than Windows.

Ruby: Oh yes now I remember I have heard about Free Software earlier also.
Mova: Wait wait wait.. the "Free" in "Free software" is often misunderstood. The "Free" that is mentioned in "Free Software" refers to "Freedom of use". When you think of "Freedom of use" think of "Freedom of speech" as there is in democratic countries. The "Free" in "Free Software" refers to this kind of freedom. It eliminates the restrictions on copying, redistributing, studying and modifying software. Now moving to the use of "Free" in monetary context, the "Free Software" may or may not be free money wise. Although it often is Free Monetarily also.

Ruby: I am confused now(with sad face)
Mova: Well I know its confusing, but I had to make that one clear, we Linux and Open Source enthusiasts don’t like to hide anything(pun intended!!). Just read it again and I am sure it will be clear.

Ruby: Ya I got it I think, but anyway enough of philosophy, I want to try it now, where can I get that "Magic CD" ?
Actually there are hundreds of such Magic CD’s available freely(guess used in which sense) on the Internet. Which one you want is a matter of personal choice. These are called Distributions(Distros) of Linux. But since you are new to all this stuff and looking at the present day scenario I would suggest you go ahead with Ubuntu without a second thought. You can download it here.

Ruby: Ubuntu? that sounds like an African Tribe.
Mova: Yes it actually is an African word meaning ‘Humanity to others’, or ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. The Ubuntu distribution(remember I mentioned Distros?) brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.

Ruby: Hmm.. philosophy again, but its showing that the download is about 700 MB that would take days on my connection to complete. I wish I could get it from stores.
Mova: At many places you can get it from stores also. Or else try ShipIt. They send you cds totally free of cost almost anywhere in the world. No shipping charges, nothing.

Ruby: Wow.. that’s cool.. I m really liking this whole setup, wish I could repay them in some way.
Mova: You surely can, the least you can do is help others around you who may be needing the cds or some help. You are free to copy the cds and distribute to your friends, students, colleagues.

Ruby: I have requested the cds, they say it can take 4 to 6 weeks to deliver. But in case I need more information where can I find it?
There are plenty of resources available on the Internet, try these:


Ruby: I will surely try Linux then and let you know my experiences. Bye for now.
Mova: Bye.. and yes, Welcome to the World of Linux.


End of conversation!! [Applause]

This is my first time writing Fiction 🙂 so bare with it.. And BTW I plan to continue. Comments are invited, let me know if you liked the style and would like to see more of such conversations and about which topics.

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