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Clone Hard Drive to External USB Drive via CLI

Thumb and USB drives

No matter what OS you’re cloning, using “dd” via command line will still work.  I personally tested while cloning a 1TB Ubuntu hard drive to a fancy new 1TB SSD.

Backstory: I purchased a new Dell 7737 laptop with a 1TB hybrid drive, which turned out to be slower than watching paint dry compared to the old SSD I’d been using for a few years.  Otherwise it is a kickass laptop.  So I purchased a 1TB SSD after finding they are roughly 50 cents per GB these days…very affordable.

First I put the new SSD into USB caddy I had laying around for backup purposes.

Next I created a bootable USB stick with an Ubuntu ISO image following the instructions at:

Windows =
Ubuntu =

With the USB stick created I booted the system to Ubuntu using the USB LiveCD disk image.  It may require a BIOS change to enable the PC/Laptop to boot from USB device.  Doing this will not make any changes to your current hard drive as long as “Install Ubuntu” is not chosen.

Once booted up I was able to use Gparted, which is a standard app on the LiveCD, to create a new partition table on the new drive in the external USB caddy.

I then used fdisk via command line to find all disks and gain their identifiers needed.

fdisk -l

With the new partition and the identifier of the USB drive I was now ready to initiate the copy.  I used the following command to do that:

dd if=/dev/sdc of=/dev/sdb mb=8M && sync

NOTE: ‘if’ = read from and ‘of’ = write to.

It takes a very long time for this to finish up, especially with larger drives, but the end result was a working drive with my data on it.

After completion I simply switched out the SSD from the caddy with the internal HD in the laptop and all worked well.

Good luck!

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Saving a read-only file edited in vi / vim

We’ve all done it…opened a file using vi or vim to inspect the contents, and realize we need to alter it.  Of course we totally ignored the message informing we didn’t have permission to edit, so we’re only allowed to view it as “read-only”.  Then after we find the troublesome spot we hit “i” and happily edit the place needing changed, only to “face-palm” when we realize we cannot save the wonderful edit we just made.

In the past I handled this one of three ways: I either copied and pasted the change after reopening the file using sudo, or I reopened and retyped everything once again, or I save the file as a temp file and then rename it using sudo.  Very stupid, stressful and time consuming.

However, now I know a better way.  Using a combination of ‘tee’ and ‘sudo’ commands I can now save the read-only file rather than jumping through the hoops in the previous paragraph.  Here is how:

Open a file as normal, forgetting to use “sudo”, and therefore viewing a read-only file.

Then mistakenly try to edit the read-only file in the traditional manner.

But when we try to save using ‘:w!’, SHIFT+ZZ, or :qw!, or whatever combination we normally fail with as an alternative.  Here is sample output of what we see:

At this point is where the new magic can happen. Instead of the normal “face-palm” we do not “ENTER” and move on. We can enter a new command and successfully save the file after entering the sudo password:

At this point we will be presented with the content of the file and a prompt to press ENTER or type another command. To simply save the file and move on we just press ENTER, and then press the letter “O” (oh). (NOTE: “L” seems to do pretty much the same thing.)  The file will be saved but remains open in vi/vim for more editing or reading.  We can now exit normally by typing “:q!” since the file is still open as “read-only”.

What the command does:

  • :w = Write a file.
  • !sudo = Call shell sudo command.
  • tee = The output of the vi/vim write command is redirected using tee.
  • % = Triggers the use of the current filename.
  • Simply put, the ‘tee’ command is run as sudo and follows the vi/vim command on the current filename given.
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Tether Android to Ubuntu for free Internet

A couple of weeks ago I was without Internet (thanks to AT&T), and was forced to go to Starbucks to check email and commit work I had done. While I like going to Starbucks, it was not the best working situation for someone who works from home.

Since I have an Android (HTC Evo) I thought about USB tethering the device to my laptop and Internet sharing, but Sprint hits you with a $29.95/month fee to use that option.  Since I am completely able to work locally without a connection to the Internet, I decided to tough it out and wait until AT&T figured out their mess and got me turned back on.

Fast forward a couple of weeks later… (yes, I am back on the net)

I found some neat applications for my phone that enable someone to bypass the tethering options that Sprint charges for.  One popular application is PdaNet, but it is limited to Windows and Mac. (For those who are still limited by those two platforms, give PdaNet a try.)  Another application I stumbled across called EasyTether has Linux support, so I gave it a try. (I am actually writting this blog post while using it)

The application for the Droid was available on the Droid Market Place, and their website has the Ubuntu file available for the PC connection.

I installed the “Lite” version from the Droid Market Place (FREE!!! but limits you to non-SSL pages, unless you pay the $9.99 for the full version) The application walks you through the couple of simple steps needed to use it, and even gives you the address above to get your Windows/Mac/Ubuntu/Fedora up and running.

Once I installed the DEB file on my laptop, after downloading it, all I had to do was connect my phone to USB and open the connection via command line.

The command to link up is:

easytether connect

Now the next time I am without Internet I am ready. 🙂

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Finding a text string inside a file on a Linux server

It never fails that I find myself hunting for a way to search for a particular text string in files.  Usually I know the file, but often times I also find that I am completely unsure what file contains the string.  Or while I am writting some code I need to find how many files use a certain function.

I know that using grep is the best way to search on a Linux server, so I start there.  Here is the command syntax:

grep "text string to search for" /path/to/search

To search for a string called “myFunction” in all text files located in /var/www/html/*.php use:

grep "myFunction" /var/www/html/*.php

To search recursively in all sub-directories you would alter the command by adding the -r option:

grep -r "myFunction" /var/www/html

Now you have probably noticed that grep prints out the matching lines containing your string, but you may also need the filenames of the files containing the string instead. You can use the -H option to narrow the output the filename followed by the line containing your search string, like so:

grep -H -r "myFunction" /var/www/html

This would output something like:

your_file.php: line containing myFunction

To print out just the filename you can cut command like this to clean the output further: (Note the one after the f, not an L)

grep -H -r "myFunction" /var/www/html | cut -d: -f1

The new cleaner out put would be like: