Thursday, August 19, 2010

Recovering a Corrupted HP Computer's Hard Drive Using a Third-Party Tool (BartPE)

Perhaps your hard disk has been irreversibly wrecked by viruses and you're ready to reformat and reload all the original manufacturer's preinstalled software.  But you find yourself in a bind: you never did make those Recovery CDs the system nagged you about when you first bought it!  Have no fear: there are still several solutions available to you.  First, you may have direct access to the recovery partition on your hard drive if you press F10 during boot-up.  Next, obviously, you can contact your PC's vendor and ask to receive replacement recovery CDs for your model PC if you'd rather make sure (for once!) that you obtain those.  But what if you're impatient and can't wait the number of days it takes to get your replacement CDs in the mail, or what if that F10 key just won't work?  Well, now you and I are ready to start talking!

This entire blog post is hanging on the possibility that your recovery CD software is actually still intact within your computer's corrupted hard drive.  This is entirely possible (and I've witnessed it!) since the recovery partition usually lies dormant in a locked state.  You may even have seen an H: drive (or some other odd drive letter) while browsing through Windows Explorer at some point in the past.  Its contents may have been displayed on the screen as a lock icon which you couldn't browse into.  Guess what?  That's your recovery software in there.

There is a very obscure tool called BartPE by Bart Lagerweij which you can download for free from his website and tap into that locked partition. But wait!  Don't click on that link until I tell you the whole story!

My goal in suggesting that you use BartPE is to help you gain access to that recovery partition locked away within your computer and run a process to restore all your operating system files and software to their original state.  BartPE will give you, "a complete Win32 environment with network support, a graphical user interface (800x600) and FAT/NTFS/CDFS filesystem support."  With it, you can boot your PC into a mini-Windows XP environment and gain access to the hidden recovery partition's executable files.  You can then literally execute (double-click on) the Restore.exe file found normally in H:\MiniNT\system32 and have your machine back to its original state! What's great about this method is that (because you're restoring directly from the internal H: drive into the C: drive) it cuts down the file restoration time to just a few minutes, as opposed to potentially hours of swapping HP Recovery CDs into your drive bay!

Alright, go ahead and click the link!  You've got the picture.  You will create a boot CD using the simple BartPE instructions on the product page, start the PC using that boot CD, and off you go!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Software Development Life-Cycle (SDLC)

There's much already shared on the Internet and in books regarding the software development lifecycle (SDLC), but the term still frightens even some seasoned I.T. professionals.  Really, it's very simple.  About the only scary part of it for the average Jane/Joe is the part where you have to sit down and actually write.

Any successful software project must be first well thought-out and planned on paper (or some other electronic means, if you'd rather.)  You've already begun following some crude sort of software development lifecycle process at this point.  Beyond this, there's researchers at Carnegie Mellon who've already written up volumes of theory and educational material to guide you to create the most fabulous and most perfect software product ever.  If you'd rather get on with your project, read on.

My simple (and more so fabulous) SDLC process would have you write the following documents (document titles are in bold; proposed contents are bulleted):

Business Requirements
  • Problem Description
  • Organizational Impact
  • Solution Requested

Project Proposal
  • Solution Proposed
  • Technical Details
  • Product Deliverables
  • Additional Features
  • Cost Analysis
  • Project Plan

Functional Specifications
  • Workflow Model
  • User Interface
  • Object Model
  • State Diagram
  • Database Design
  • Flowchart Diagram
  • Glossary

Implementation Plan
  • Algorithm Design
  • Code Samples

Maintenance Plan
  • Tune-up Schedule
  • Change Control
  • Upgrade Plan
  • Disaster Recovery

Verification Testing
  • Acceptance Criteria
  • Integration Testing
  • System Testing
  • Acceptance Testing

User Manual

Validation Plan
  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Documentation Plan
  • Verification Plan
  • Acceptance Qualification

These last two documents really ought to be among the first to get drafted, though I list them last because they generally get edited or even rewritten after the code has been developed.  However, it's the documents themselves that will drive the entire SDLC process.  They are of utmost importance.  I will provide some guidelines on fleshing these out later.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I've programmed systems internals, designed database applications, developed business intelligence software, and set up corporate websites for multiple clients and employers for nearly 20 years. In this blog I want to share with you the expertise I've amassed--everything relevant to a well-rounded Information Technology specialist:
  • tips on several types of computers and hardware peripherals
  • the in-roads I've made into software development on various platforms
  • some complex software engineering tricks
  • simple desktop application software solutions to common problems
  • freeware/shareware and retail product software reviews
  • some business analysis and technical writing helps in support of the Software Development Life-Cycle
  • computer networking and router setup assistance
  • my supervisory experience with both onsite and telecommuting programmers
  • the management of testers and Quality Assurance personnel
  • and even my aesthetic and practical suggestions on how to write good user, testing, and validation manuals.
Knowing how challenging it is to stay on top of today's ever-advancing Information Technology industry, I hope this blog will help some other beginner or intermediate I.T. specialist make sense of his/her often daunting project responsibilities!