How to recover data from your Mac using Ubuntu

I have spent most of today trying to get a MacBook up and running. Before making any drastic changes, the most important task is backing up the user’s data.

Luckily, an x86 based Mac can boot straight into Ubuntu – as in the live edition of Ubuntu, no installation required! Once booted, you can mount the Mac’s hard drive and browse it. The only problem I encountered was being able to access private files.

To do this you need to reset the permissions for those files. The easiest way to do this is to start the Mac in single user mode (hold the Apple key + S when you turn the Mac on). At the prompt, type ‘cd /’ and hit enter, then type ‘chmod -R 777 Users’ and hit enter. It will now reset the permissions for all users.

Boot up with Ubuntu, and you should be able to copy the files to an external hard disk.

My custom Memcached WordPress Plugin

Something that I have found irritating about using WordPress for my blogging needs is its performance – or lack thereof! On a blog like Ideologics (that is mainly information based) rebuilding each page whenever it is viewed leads to an incredible waste of processing power.

Memcached was developed by the authors of LiveJournal, and can be used in many ways to optimise a website. My method is to simply cache an entire page’s HTML the first time it is viewed.

Now this isn’t a traditional plugin, so bear with me. The processing script is called memcache.php, and its content is as follows:

  // note that if you change this variable, the cache restarts!

  // display a 'reset this page in cache' link at bottom of page?

  if (function_exists('memcache_connect')) {
    $memcache=@memcache_connect('',11211) OR $memcached=false;
  } else {

  function getCache($var_name) {
    global $memcached,$memcache,$memcache_sectext;
    if ($memcached)
    return $var_value;
  function setCache($var_name,$var_value) {
    global $memcached,$memcache,$memcache_sectext;
    if ($memcached)


  if ((isset($_GET['recache'])) AND ($allowreset)) {
    header('location: '.$_GET['recache']);

  if ($html!=='caching') {
    if (strlen($html)>100) {
      echo $html;
      if ($allowreset) echo '<p align="center">This page was retrieved'
        .' from our cache. <a href="/memcache.php?recache='
        .urlencode($uri).'" ref="nofollow">Recompile this page</a>.</p>';
    } else {
      if (strlen($html)>100) {
        echo $html;
        if ($allowreset) echo '<p align="center">This page was retrieved'
          .' from our cache. <a href="/memcache.php?recache='
          .urlencode($uri).'" ref="nofollow">Recompile this page</a>.</p>';
      } else {

I include this file in /index.php, like this:

define('WP_USE_THEMES', true);


/** Loads the WordPress Environment and Template */

Any page that is viewed via index.php (that’s posts, category listings, the home page etc.) will be cached and served automatically by memcache.php. Really simple, isn’t it? The cache is reset every day, as to introduce any new content that is dynamic.

It is worth noting that if a cached copy of the requested page is available and served, that WordPress doesn’t even make a connection to the database – NO queries are executed. There is no method faster than this.

The downsides to this method:

  1. When you make a new post or edit an existing post, the changes won’t show up until the next day. To help resolve this, I added an option to reset individual pages in the cache. You can turn the option on and off with the variable $allowreset at the top of the script. The option to reset a page appears at the very end of the page. (I’d recommend disallowing /memcache.php to your robots.txt file too!)
  2. Every page in the cache appears like it would to a guest. Users cannot log in with this method – YET.

I may turn this into an actual plugin, but for now there’s no demand. If you have any comments or suggestions, my ears are wide open!

NOTE: If you were to receive a burst of traffic due to being digg’d or something, I have no doubt that this implementation of Memcached in WordPress would allow your server to take care of it with no problems.

HELP! My laptop won’t charge!

If your laptop isn’t charging, you’re experiencing a problem that plagues many users. To fix this, you might consider finding a reputable laptop repair service.

The top three most common problems: Broken power jacks, broken power adapters and bad batteries.

Follow these steps to diagnose:

  1. If you unplug the battery and plug the power cord in, does the laptop power on?
  2. If YES: it is likely you have a faulty battery, replace it!
  3. If NO: your laptop is not receiving sufficient power – or possibly any at all.
  4. Do you have another power adapter (or one from another laptop with the same voltage)?
    Try connecting it – does the laptop power on now?
  5. If YES, your laptop power adapter is faulty, replace it!
  6. If NO:
    The power jack is damaged, or there is a more severe problem.
    You can try sending your computer into a laptop repair service,
    expect to pay anywhere between $50.00 and $150.00 dollars to
    have your power jack replaced.

(If you feel comfortable, you can also repair your laptop’s power jack yourself.)

How to buy a laptop for dummies

Buying a laptop is not a task to be taken lightly – the laptop that you pick should ideally last you a few years, unless you don’t mind forking out more money in 6 months.

Getting the Best Price for a Laptop Computer

Choosing is what takes the time, buying takes less than 10 minutes. When choosing, here are some things you should avoid doing:

  • Don’t choose by colour! Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s reliable. That’s not to say that a laptop can’t be pretty and reliable – just that there are other factors you need to look at first.
  • Don’t assume that just because it’s a particular brand that it’ll be a good laptop. Many times these laptops are just re-badged.
  • Don’t buy if you’re excited – you’re emotional, and not being rational.

OK, so I don’t want to put a damper on things. If you want to buy a laptop, it’s your money! But here’s what I think you should do if you want a laptop that will be your friend for many years:

  • Narrow down on a selection of laptops that are potential good buys.
  • Look for the processor (Intel or AMD) and how many cores it has. More cores means less heat, which means a longer lasting laptop as heat kills components.
  • Check battery life – a long lasting battery often means an efficient well thought out laptop.
  • Choose a graphic processor that suits your needs! If all you do is browse the web and play FarmVille, don’t buy an NVIDIA or ATI – just go for something standard. Those fancy graphic processors produce lots of heat putting stress on the cooling system and everything else surrounding it. (not to mention eating up battery life)
  • GOOGLE the laptops you are thinking about buying. Check to make sure there are no common problems. Look up some reviews and see what other people say about them. Many brands have released entire series’ of laptops with underlying faults.
  • Remember that expensive is not always better. When you buy something that is more expensive than the cheapest laptops, it might just be the ‘cheap’ version of a more expensive model and could potentially be less reliable than a cheaper laptop!
  • Make sure that you get a restore disc with the laptop. If it goes wrong, a restore disc is invaluable. If it doesn’t come with one – tell them that you won’t buy it without one.

Good luck in buying a laptop that is right for you.

And that’s how to buy a laptop for dummies. ­čśë

How to upgrade your laptop’s RAM

RAM is even more important on a laptop than a desktop machine, as RAM helps a computer run more efficiently. It will reduce heat output and extend the life of the components. You can usually upgrade your laptop’s RAM for less than $50.

How to upgrade laptop RAM

  1. Look beneath your laptop, there should be a flap with a screw with a small diagram of a chip. This is where the RAM is.
  2. Unscrew it and see how many slots you have free.
  3. If you have none free, you’ll have to replace one or both. If you have one free, you can just add RAM to it.
  4. To remove a memory stick, push the clips either side of the stick outwards and the stick should pull out at an angle.
  5. To install a memory stick, push the board in at an angle, then push it down so that the clips lock it in.

To find the correct RAM for your laptop, I recommend using CRUCIAL’s memory selector tool. Search it on Google!

How to cool down a laptop

The nature of a laptop makes cooling a very difficult task. Your laptop cools itself down by circulating air through its cooling vents. Sometimes these get blocked or simply do not provide sufficient cooling due to bad design. But there are solutions!

How can I cool down my laptop?

Laptop Cooling Pad

Try using a cooling pad beneath your laptop, especially if you sit with your laptop on your lap! It will help increase airflow to the bottom of the laptop, which is your laptop sucks air upwards! (If your laptop is on your lap, you might be blocking this vent, which is a common cause of overheating)

Clean Cooling System Vents

Get a can of compressed air from your local hardware store, and blast air through the cooling vents. Expect lots of dust! Do this once every month to maintain the cooling system.

What can I do with 4GB of memory on a 32-bit system?

If you have 4GB of memory on a 32-bit system, you may have realised that some of the memory is inaccessible. Sadly, a quarter of it goes to waste.

However, if you’re lucky, eBoostr (a disk caching service that I recently reviewed) may be able to use it to speed up your computer. It has the ability to access ‘hidden’ memory and use it as a cache.

This stops the memory from going to waste, and as though it was meant to be – eBoostr is only compatible with 32-bit systems.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you!

Bad sectors: How to recover data from your bad hard disk

If your hard disk is working but has many bad sectors due to mechanical malfunction or abuse, it may still be possible to recover your data.

How to recover bad hard drive:

First: you’ll need to make a copy of the drive. This is vital, if your drive is suffering mechanical malfunction it is only a matter of time before it becomes completely inaccessible and the only way you’ll be able to recover it will be in a clean room – and that gets expensive.

I recommend GetDataBack for this purpose, as it kills two birds with one stone. It can make an image of your drive on another drive as a file. (the image creation option is available on the tools menu)┬áRemember to buy the right version – most machines use NTFS, but if you have an older machine it might use FAT.

Second: you’ll have to search that image for file system records. GetDataBack does this also, remember to search the whole drive and not just a partial section.

When the search process has finished, it’ll give you a file system tree. It may be scattered depending on how damaged the file system was. You can search this for your documents. Remember to copy the files to a good drive.

Third: once the recovery process is complete, slip me five bucks and BACK UP YOUR DATA.

Free DVD Codec / Player for Windows

You may have noticed that you can’t play DVDs in Windows Media Player without buying DVD codec software. This is sad, but true. There is no free DVD codec for Windows Media Player, due to licensing issues.

However – there is one free piece of software that can play DVDs.

VLC Media Player by VideoLAN can play just about any kind of file out there, and it also has built in support for DVDs! It has a small memory footprint and is very quick to load.

What I don’t like about Mac OS X

I’m not a Mac fan, but I’m certainly not a Windows fan. Recently I installed an eMachine with a copy of Mac OS X86 to see what I like about it – sadly, it functions the same as Windows for me. There is no improvement, however there are some things I don’t like about it that I think should be improved.

  1. The dock bar below is too big. Given that I use barely any of the applications, it takes up too much of the screen. I don’t like hiding it. Unlike the taskbar in Windows, which has a clock, task bar icons, a Start button etc., the dock just shows applications and hidden windows. When I want to maximise a window, it doesn’t get to use the bottom of the screen.
  2. The window control buttons in the top left are fine where they are, but they are TOO SMALL.
  3. The windows have no borders which makes it difficult to tell where the edges are in some applications.

That’s actually all there is. Mac OS X is a beautiful Operating System that actually runs quite well on an Intel Celeron chipset eMachine. I can only imagine what a real Mac is like. It is quite intuitive to use, but for the price – a PC can do exactly the same thing.