Download a la Mode: Part 2a
Copyright 2005 Miguel Guhlin (mguhlin@yahoo.com)

In this next series, you will find a variety of free software tools and tips that should make computing easier.
  1. How do I backup my Windows or Linux computer hard drive?
  2. Before I send my computer off, how do I make sure that the hard drive has been wiped clean of confidential data?
  3. Where can I find Free, Open Source Software in a convenient CD?
  4. What are ISO images and how do I make a CD out of them?
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1) How do I backup my Windows or Linux computer hard drive?
You never know how badly you need a backup until it is too late. That's when you realize that the spyware/virus infiltration overwhelmed your computer and you can't start over without the gut-wrenching feeling you've lost data. While backing up your hard drive can be accomplished in a variety of ways (to be explored in more detail in a future article entitled, Creating a Backup Image of Your Windows Hard Drive Using Free Tools), here is one solution you can try now-- Mondo Rescue.
Mondo Rescue is a free hard drive backup utility. It can backup your computer to tape drive, CD-Recordable, CD-Recordable/Writable (CD-RW), or hard disk partition. In the event of catastrophic data loss, you will be able to restore all of your data [or as much as you want], from bare metal if necessary. According to the Mondo web site, this program is in wide use by a variety of companies, not to mention the US Dept of Agriculture.

Source:
Get ISO* File: http://www.mondorescue.org/download/isos/mondo-install-cd.iso
Tutorial: http://www.chem.vu.nl/~stol/Mondo-Rescue-Mindi-Linux-HOWTO.pdf
*Note: Read tip #4 in this article if you don't know what an ISO file is or what to do with it.


2) Before I send my computer off, how do I make sure that the hard drive has been wiped clean of confidential data?
"I am going to be selling my laptop (ibook)," she began, "However, before I sell the iBook, I want to wipe it clean to get it ready to sell.Now, I know how to do this in Windows -- but alas, I am unsure of how to do it with a Mac and would appreciate your help." As some may not know, it must be noted that 2 of the approaches people take to protecting the confidentiality of their files are ineffective--deleting files and reformatting the hard drive.

Deleting files by dragging them to the Trashcan (or Recycling Bin on a Windows computer) is insufficient. It is too easy to recover deleted files on Mac or Windows computers via Computer Forensics approaches. On Windows, you can use a free undelete program to get files back. A frightening article to read is what happens to the content of computer hard drives discarded, whether by schools or businesses. Read this article on this subject: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2003/diskdrives.html

Reformatting the hard drive, while it may be effective for you and I, wouldn't stop anyone. According to this article, 51 of the 129 hard drives discarded had been reformatted.
Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/16/tech/main536774.shtml

You can take some steps to wipe--a term used to thoroughly erase the information beyond hope of recovery--the hard drive. Several tools exist for this on all platforms, from Mac to Windows and Linux.

Source for Windows tools:
http://www.mguhlin.net/artifacts/writings/2005/erasertutor/index.htm
http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/
Free Undelete Tool: http://www.officerecovery.com/freeundelete/

Source for Macintosh tools:
SafeShredder ($25) - http://codetek.com/safeshred/
Shredder (Unknown price) - http://www.dekorte.com/projects/shareware/Shredder/
AutoScrubber ($60) - http://www.jiiva.com/

Source for Linux Tools
Wipe (free) - http://wipe.sourceforge.net/
Wipe Scripts you can run to wipe hard drive space or free disk space that may contain deleted files. For your convenience, these have been placed for your download online at http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/media/LinuxWipeTools.tar.gz

3) Where can I find free, open source software on a CD?
When I presented at the TCEA Area 20 Conference in 2004, I shared a list of open source and/or free software titles that I'd featured in my Download a la Mode series. However, since I don't have a CD available for easy download of all my favorite applications (hmm, that's an idea!), I thought I'd share this particular Free, Open Source Software (FOSS) CD-ROM. You can burn it using a free software program (read next tip). You can get the CD online at the web site. I especially like their nice library of screenshots. They provide snapshots of what you're getting with explanations. A quote from their web page states the "programs run in Windows and cover the most common tasks such as word processing, presentations, e-mail, web browsing, web design, and image manipulation."

Source: The OpenCD - http://theopencd.org/

4) What are ISO images and how do I make a CD out of them?
When I first encountered ISO images, I had eagerly downloaded a 500 megabyte or more file with a 3 letter extension (e.g. filename.ISO). However, once I had this gargantuan file, I wasn't sure what to do with it. ISO files are simply images of CDs/DVDs, a snapshot of the CD. Using a special program, you can create your own copy of the CD from the ISO file. Unfortunately, some believe--as I did--that they need to invest in an expensive CD-burning program like Nero.

Thankfully, Google came to the rescue. After some searching, I encountered a free Windows friendly utility-- BURNCDCC available from Terabyte Software. It allows you to burn images of CDs/DVDs (also known as ISO files) to CD/DVD. The benefits, of course, are obvious. Now you can download 500 megabyte files (like the CD in items 1 and 3 in this article) and burn them to CD-ROM. Once on CD-ROM, you can run the installation programs off the CD, just as if you had picked up a copy of the CD at the store or received it from a friend.

Source: BurnCDCC - http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/utilities.html