Revisiting a Word fix and Mac Disk Cloning

Arggggh! I just wasted yet another 20 minutes solving a problem that I thought I had already solved back in March. It was the stupid problem of Microsoft Word losing all of its Autotext entries and offering a non-working link to Microsoft Live Workspace Beta.

Some random bug in Word popped up its head up yet again and undid the fix I discussed in that column, so I had to go through the whole ridiculous exercise all over again. Really Microsoft? We can't have a patch to fix this once and for all?

Anyway, be that as it may, I have a correction to my review last week  of the amazing Parrot AR.Drone quadricopter: Contrary to what I wrote, the control application does work with the Apple iPad. I missed a section in the manual about unpairing the AR.Drone. It turns out that the control application pairs with the AR.Drone (presumably through some kind of key exchange) so you have to tell the device to forget its settings before you can use it with the control application on a different device.

On other fronts: I finally got around to fixing my Mac. I discussed my problem with this machine in Backspin almost a year ago.

The problem was that the start-up disk had bad sectors that OS X wasn't reporting; the operating system was just occasionally slowing down when it accessed that part of the disk but it wasn't actually complaining "out loud", as it were. I tried using various commercial tools after trying Apple's own Disk Utility, but no joy, the disk errors were not a problem that could be easily resolved.

This was one of those things that looked like a lot of work would be needed to cure something that wasn't critical, so after writing the column I took the path of least resistance: I backed up the entire machine and waited for the drive to bork.

Well, after almost a year the drive didn't bork and, indeed, hadn't apparently got any worse, but I found a reason to fix it: The drive being the start-up disk was running out of space. So, I trotted over to Fry's, purchased a 1TB, 5,700 RPM, Serial ATA (SATA) drive for a miserly $110 (I still marvel at how cheap disk drives have become … ah, yes, when I was young …) along with a very useful device: The Aluratek USB 2.0 2.5"/3.5" SATA Hard Drive Docking Enclosure for the princely sum of $30.

This product is really misnamed because it isn't actually an enclosure at all but rather a docking station for naked drives. You plug in the wall wart, connect the USB cable to your target machine, insert your SATA drive straight out of the packaging, and switch on the power.

With OS X (the Aluratek device works with any OS), a new, uninitialized drive causes the operating system to offer to format it. Once that's done, you run a cloner such as the free (donations appreciated) Carbon Copy Cloner and, voilà! After a few hours, you have a cloned copy of the old drive on the new drive. (Oh, and the drives don't have to be the same size.)

This is exactly what I did. I then opened the Mac, swapped the old drive for the new one (I love the way Apple hardware is designed … it doesn't get much easier to get inside the beasts) and rebooted. The new drive has to be set as the start-up drive and then, pow! Back in business.

Both the Aluratek Hard Drive and Carbon Copy Cloner get a rating of 5 out of 5 for making my life easier and being great value.

My next project is to install alternative firmware on my Linksys WRT54GS and WRT55AG wireless access points. But which firmware? Some friends tell me Tomato is the best, while others swear by DD-WRT. Have you used either? Which would you recommend?

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