Speed up your Windows start up

Clear out the temporary files

I was asked to write a blog-post/guide for my new workplace’s quarterly newsletter, and it had to be something useful for most of our users. I decided to write this post detailing how to speed up your Windows start up and added it onto the site here as it may prove useful to some of you too!

This guide was made using Windows 8.1, so things will differ slightly for those of you using Windows XP or Windows 7, but not by much and I’ll try to point out the differences where I can.

Ubuntu guide – setting up a software RAID with mdadm

Before I left my work in Thailand, I wouldn’t have felt right leaving the system there with a single hard-drive storing all of the businesses important data. With the arrival of my new replacement (the rather brilliant James!), we got talking about potential solutions, and James mentioned that in his previous employment (dealing with mainly Windows based systems) that they were mostly using hardware RAID on a server rack. This got me thinking, how can I get that kind of technology but on a much more basic machine and on a budget? RAID was definitely the answer, but would replacing the motherboard really be necessary?

Rasterise your own wall mural

The evolution of game characters, from blocky 8bit sprites to more 'realistic' 3D versions

Last year I decided to do something about the messy walls of the IT lab at my work place. You can read a blog post I made here about how I did it. The main trick is to ‘rasterise’ the images.

Basically, I measure the wall areas I’m going to cover, create an image in Photoshop to those dimensions, create the collage or image I want (mostly by copying and pasting) and then I use a piece of software called ‘Rasterbator‘ – there are online versions available – to create a ‘rasterised’ (British-English spelling) version of the image. This is produced in PDF with each page representing a ’tile’ of the main image.

Using Xbox Live Gold from Thailand

Xbox 360

After many happy hours using emulators to satisfy my gaming needs, a trip home to the UK offered me an opportunity to get a pre-owned Xbox 360 Slim 250Gb. Bringing this back to Thailand as luggage worked out cheaper than buying a pre-owned machine in Thailand. Not only this, I have a 1 year retailer warranty for the machine, so I could get the machine repaired/replaced through this on a possible future trip to the UK later this year.

I bought the Xbox 360 in GAME, as well as a few good pre-owned games including Lego Star Wars II (Original Trilogy), Forza Motorsport 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. As well as this, I bought a cheapo headset so that I could chat to XBL friends online.

How to… set up a WiFi network

First of the two Access Points waiting to be set up

The school I work at used three WiFi Access Points (APs) when I first arrived. Two of these were very well provisioned with large external antennae and the third was located on a desk in the server room/admin. office. I could see that things were going to have to be improved just a bit!

Upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet

Gigabit Ethernet

As mentioned in the original post about my work’s IT Lab (here), one of the planned upgrades was to bring the older machines on the network up to speed with Gigabit Ethernet. After rebuilding the school file-server with a new motherboard (incorporating Gigabit onboard LAN) and building a Hardware Firewall using the excellent Smoothwall Express (my guide on this available here), I was set to get the original ‘Fast-Ethernet’ or ’10/100′ machines upgraded.

Ubuntu and Serviio – Home Media Server Guide

Serviio

UPDATED 20/02/2014

OK, so I wrote a guide before on how to install Serviio on a Windows machine. This is fine for a lot of people, but living in Thailand means crap TV and extremely expensive Cable TV fees. So, to beat that, I decided to build a dedicated server for the job of looking after my media. I wanted to incorporate my torrenting, media storage, data backup and make a bit of a test platform with the one unit.

Starting out with a donated laptop and a 1TB USB HDD (WD Elements powered unit for those interested) I went about installing Ubuntu and getting Serviio to work with it. This guide will show you how to do it, you’ll see that it’s not quite as simple as it’s made out to be, especially to a relative noob to Linux!

Ventblockers – keep IT clean! PC cleaning advice and discussion

The power supply is probably one of the grimiest places in a PC (after the case fans) and the static around the components (especially capacitors) will mean you either need to take the whole PCB out from the case, or get crafty with a brush like in this photo!

Being an IT administrator means wearing many different hats, especially when working in a school. From being the website editor to administering print queues, many things can fall under your remit. One of the first things I did when I took the job on was PC cleaning in the school’s IT suite. Having asked the person I was replacing whether they had ever been cleaned, it appeared that it had never been done. Well, there were a few horror stories (including large spider nests and even some gecko eggs!), but the main problem I encountered was dust build up around the fans (case, PSU and CPU) and heatsinks. Unfortunately, the school cleaners don’t use vacuum cleaners, so swept up dust ends up mostly just being moved around and back into the PC cases. This is something I hope to address, but it’s a case of take things one step at a time!

How To… Build Your Own Hardware Firewall/Proxy/Cache using Smoothwall Express 3.0

The Smoothwall Express 3.0 Home Page

It has been a little while since I’ve written anything on this blog, which is a shame as it’s something I like to do. There is something therapeutic about writing up the details of a project you have just completed, especially when it created a lot of problems and you managed to (finally) overcome them.

The school I work at had a requirement for the File/Print/Intranet all-in-one server to be upgraded. Previous problems with the electricity supply to the school (including lightning strikes) had caused intermittent problems to appear on certain parts of the motherboard, including the SATA connectors, which is a big issue for any computer.

Serviio – A Quick Start Guide to media bliss! (Windows version)

Available DLNA players showing 2 Serviio servers

Serviio is a DLNA media server, that amongst other things, can transcode video and audio on the fly (meaning your smart TV/DLNA player can play files it wouldn’t be able to play) as well as having a huge library of plugins to extend it’s functionality. This is some very smart software that has definitely changed my approach to viewing my digital media. This guide will show Windows users how to set it up on there machine and get it running.