How to Create a Bootable USB Drive Using Command Line

I use this technique all the time so I just stole the instructions for myself here.

  1. Insert the USB drive.
  2. Open a command prompt as administrator and type diskpart
  3. Type list disk Note the number of the USB drive.
  4. Type select disk <x> Where <x> is the disk number.
  5. Type clean << disk will be wiped out!
  6. Type create part pri
  7. Type select part 1
  8. Type format fs=fat32 quick  (or fs=ntfs if needed)
  9. Type active
  10. Type exit
  11. Now copy contents of bootable CD-ROM or other image to the drive.

I’ve used this for multiple Linux CDs as well as Windows 10 installer and more.

A Day in the Life of Small Business IT

8am – Look at scheduled tasks

I have many repetitive tasks scheduled on the calendar in my business email. On a typical Monday morning usually a handful of tasks have become due. Most of these tasks don’t take much time and are related to maintenance chores, housekeeping, backups, etc. I usually tackle these tasks first. Here are some tasks listed this morning:

  • Backups from our cloud server are automatically downloaded to my workstation over the weekend. I simply need to move them to the proper archive location. I do this with a batch script. In the future I really need to send these backups to another cloud service like an Amazon S3 bucket instead of our local network.
  • Report last month’s office bandwidth. This information is only for myself, to look for patterns. If bandwidth use changes dramatically I might look look in to why that is. I record this data from the router into a simple spreadsheet.
  • Backup email newsletter list. There is no way to automate this so usually every two weeks or so I go in to our company newsletter service and backup/download our entire subscriber list.
  • The company let a particular domain expire, so I had previously set a scheduled task for today to remove all references to it from our server and hosting accounts. This also includes DNS entries, archived backups, saved passwords, links in various places, etc.
    (Note: when doing this, it led me down a rabbit trail of cleaning up some other unneeded password entries and server data. Rabbit trails happen often!)
  • Copy collected newsletter emails into newsletter service. This particular marketing channel doesn’t have automation, so I take any new emails and add them to our newsletter service manually. I need to fix this and automate this marketing channel at some point.
    (Note: went on another rabbit trail, updating some company information in our newsletter service, the welcome email, and added a registration form to a new Facebook group the boss created last week. Rabbit trails are fun! This trail took over 30 minutes.)
  • Do some quick maintenance on one of the ecommerce stores. Just some product housekeeping here.

At this point it is getting later in the morning so I begin looking in to my various email accounts, to clean them out and handle any quick tasks, and mark any longer tasks to get done soon.

I always go on some rabbit trails when clearing emails for the morning. In this case I read a couple interesting white papers, followed some headlines, and did quick tasks as needed.

Back to scheduled tasks:

  • Today is the day I update the network diagram. This is a flowchart of all the main computers and network devices in the building. This I schedule for every 3 months. There are usually few changes to the network so this tends to be a quick task to review. I use Edraw Max for the diagram.
  • Today is also my 3 month scheduled firewall audit. I’ve got a report that I update and list any changes made to the firewall settings. This allows me to keep watch, as the router itself doesn’t have a reporting or notification feature for any settings changed or allow for comparison to previous settings etc. This time I recorded a recent change to our WAN IP, all else was unchanged.
  • Gather sales data from both ecommerce stores. Even though these stores are hosted services and have their own internal reporting features, I find it’s best to download our sales data and import it to my own database. I have to do this manually, there is no automation. This personal database allows me to do SQL queries on the data in ways I can’t do with the hosted carts because I don’t have access to their database directly.
    (Rabbit trail here as I needed to adjust Excel’s encoding for a data import operation with CSVs and Russian text. Then I had to adjust my database for UTF8 as well as some columns were locked in Latin1. Hate bugs!)

At this point, my flow through scheduled reminders starts to slow down as office life picks up. People have requests for me, fix something, email issue, customer service etc.

I have a computer on the bench next to me which is getting an overhaul, so I turn my attention to that, fixing things, managing programs, doing updates, cleaning it up.

After a while, it’s lunch time already and I haven’t got a chance to work on any “big” projects, but am mostly caught up on everything from the weekend. Now it’s time for a lunch break!

After lunch I’ve got a few more tasks to complete. Since it is the 1st of the month, I download all our website analytics reports and get them into my own spreadsheets. Mostly this is Google Analytics on a custom dashboard, but also AddThis and server reports from cPanel. Doing this for all our domains takes about 20 minutes but today I needed to add reports for a new domain, so all the reports and files had to be set up, including the auto-email of my Google Analytics Dashboard.

While doing that, I cleared out some more email until my entire email client was clean. I use Thunderbird, so basically this means there are no unread messages across any accounts and folders.

Due to running two ecommerce stores, it also falls on me to edit products sometimes, and this includes photography and Photoshop! Yes, the IT nerd has to take pictures. I grab our old D5100, turn on the flashes and get to work on a few new products. When the shoot is done, I import with Bridge and edit the keepers in Photoshop. The final photos are copied to our network folder and the boss is notified of the new shots available.

Was this a “typical” day? I think so, but it is not “every” day. Sometimes I’ll work on a single project all day, with a lot of catching up to do the next day. Sometimes there is a big upgrade or service change. Sometimes we hook up to a new marketing channel and need to sort out all the details, graphics, adcopy and so forth.

All in all, small business IT is quick-paced and varies a lot in what you actually do. And there is a lot of weird stuff you need to do sometimes! My duties cross over from computer maintenance to web development to data intelligence and reporting to photography and digital editing to vector design to programming.

4:30pm – Time to clock out!

Use Your Bookmarks!

All websites that you use which contain sensitive or personal information, always use a trusted bookmark to navigate to them. The reason being, if you search Google or a search engine for mybank dot com, it’s possible a cyber attacker has somehow gained search engine prominence through sponsored links or other hacking, and put their own website at the top of the search engine, pretending to be mybank. A high-profile example of this was an attack against the Bitcoin exchange site mtgox.com in June 2013. The hijacker got his fake site at the top of Bing and Yahoo, so people thought they were going to mtgox but were really entering a phishing site which stole their user/pass.

Another common error is fat-fingering the URL, if you try to type common URLs and accidentally misspell it, hijackers often own misspelled domain names, like facbook or whatever. So without knowing you misspelled the domain, you enter a fake website that looks like the real deal, and they steal your user/pass when you try to log in.

Again, the safest way to browse to sensitive sites, is to have a proper bookmarks saved for them.

As a bonus tip, most browsers let you save a shortcut to the domain, so for example I have the shortcut "boa" which takes me to Bank of America. I don’t have to open my bookmarks or try to find it, I just type "boa" in the address bar and it inserts the domain. I have shortcuts like this for a couple dozen websites.

Convert Meters to Feet in Your Head

This is one of those "too much time on your hands" things, but can be helpful sometimes.

In the various IT fields, you’ll often come across measurements in meters, and some of us Yanks would rather see feet.

Your first solution is to Google it, if you type "xyz meters to feet" Google will open it’s calculator at the top of the search results.

The second solution is a quick bit of head math that really isn’t too difficult, just a few rules apply. This calc can be off by as much as a half a foot high or low, it it only supposed to get you close, not perfect!

Firstly, 1 meter = 3.28084 feet.

Rule 1:  Multiple the meters by three.

Rule 2: Add one quarter of your original meters onto the product. Because it’s .28, we are rounding down to the easier .25. We do have to account for the missing .03 though, that’s rule 4.

Rule 3: If you cannot divide evenly by four, just add another 1 if there is a remainder. For example take 19. 19 * 3 = 57. A quarter of 19 is 4 with remainder 3, just add one more because of the high remainder. So 57 + 4 + 1 = 62. The real number is 62.336. Works for me. Sometimes this does work if the remainder is small. Take 17 as an example. 4 goes in to 17 with remainder 1, but if I add another 1, I go over. 17 * 3 + 4 + 1 = 56, real number 55.7743. So we are close in a round-up sort of way, but if you’d rather round down, don’t add the extra 1 for a remainder of just 1. In fact, if you want to always be rounded down OR UP for safety’s sake, add or don’t add this remainder as needed.

Let’s see some examples before we move on to rule 4.

If you see 12 meters, you first multiple by 3 to get 36. Then you quickly estimate a quarter of 12, which happens to be 3, and add 3 on to 36, making 39. Thus 12 meters is roughly 39 feet. In fact it’s 39.3701.

If you see 15 meters, that is 15 * 3 + 3 + 1 = 49. Real answer 49.2126.

Rule 4: The last rule is this, at about 33 meters, the unaccounted for .03 adds up to 1. Remember, 1 meter is 3.28084 and we are rounding to one quarter which is .25. That missing .03 is adding up. If we take 1 / .03 we get 33.33333. In other words, at about 33 or 34 meters we’ll need to account for and extra 1 foot.

When calculating 33, 34, and 35, we have a remainder and thus are adding 1 already and this works, but at 36, we can divide evenly again by 9. 36 * 3 + 9 = 117, but the real number is actually 118.11. This is because we’ve left out too many .03s and they have now added up to an extra 1 foot. The basic fourth rule is, at about every interval of 33, throw one more on there to catch up unless there is a remainder. If you have a remainder and are already adding 1, that is one less to add with this rule.

 

The full calc is something like this: "Take meter times 3 plus meter divided by 4. If remainder then +1 (or don’t add if remainder is only 1). For every multiple of 33, +1 again except when adding 1 for remainder."

That sounds convoluted! It’s really not that hard, these rules are only to get a guestimate of the real number to within half a foot or so, it works pretty well actually. Let’s see a big number in action with rule 4:

Take 100 meters. That is 100 * 3 + 25 + 3 = 328. The extra 3 are because we’re roughly in the third multiple of 33. The real number is 328.084. That was a good guess!

However, if we had 101 meters, there will be a remainder, so instead of adding 3 and another 1 for the remainder, we’ll let the remainder cancel out one of the rule 4 additions thus we will still add just 3 instead of 4. 101 * 3 + 25 + 3 = 331. The real number is 331.365.

The next highest number that we have an even division by four is 104. This would be 104 * 3 + 26 + 3 = 341. Real answer 341.207.

 

There you have it. Play around with the concept and you’ll see it’s not too hard to multiple by three, find a quarter of your original number, and throw a quick extra 1 or 2 or 3 in there depending on remainder or multiples of 33, you’ll get the hang of it and can rely less on Google. Then again, if you are a math genius, you’d just multiple the meter by 3.28084 and be done with it. The rest of us are stuck with this.

Uninstall a Windows Update from Command Line

A quick tip to keep in your toolbox. If ever there is a “bad update” from Microsoft and you need to quickly uninstall it, use the wusa tool. If you open a command prompt now and type “wusa” and hit <enter>, a screen will pop up with the various command line options:

wusa.exe options

To uninstall a particular KB, such as the recently defunct KB2823324, you might type wusa.exe /uninstall /kb:2823324 /quiet /norestart.

Obviously you can then use this command in a script or batch file. And even better, combined with psexec from pstools, you can send this command to remote workstations to uninstall from other systems in your care.