Dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu, fix Windows MBR issue [solved]

I went through a heck of a time getting Windows 7 and Ubuntu (actually eeebuntu) to dual boot on my new Asus Eee PC. Either would work fine alone but liked to overwrite the other’s boot loader.

I’ve read that it’s easier to install Windows first and Ubuntu later, but even though I installed Ubuntu later, Windows failed to boot after I installed it.

My first lesson through all of this: Don’t customize, save any documents, or install any software until both OS’s are installed and dual booting. I went through two windows installs and 3 ubuntu installs to get it all to work.

You can use either Windows or Ubuntu’s installer to partition the drive. I formatted 40 GB in NTFS for Windows 7, 10 GB as ext3 for Eeebuntu, 2 GB for Eeebuntu swap, and 5 GB in Fat32 for a shared partition between the two drives.

Even though I was careful not to format, resize or overwrite the windows drive, Windows 7 booted into a startup repair, and failed with the message “startup repair cannot repair this computer automatically”. My additional info was StartuprepairOffline and CorruptRegistry. I ended up having to reinstall Windows.

In hindsight, I would have installed Ubuntu first and then Windows. Windows is more picky when its boot record is overwritten, and ubuntu’s is easier to fix.

I tried a couple of solutions first – this article, “How to fix your windows MBR with an ubuntu live CD”, has been mirrored everywhere, and no longer works. ms-sys is no longer included with Ubuntu, is not available in the Ubuntu software repositories, and when I tried downloading and compiling from source I got missing libraries errors.

My efforts to use Super Grub Disk also failed. Supposedly Super Grub Disk makes it easy to edit your master boot records and boot menu, but it only runs from windows. After I reinstalled windows, and installed Auto Super Grub Disk, when I tried booting and chose it as an option, I simply got to a DOS-based menu screen saying Windows cannot start normally. I’m also finding it hard to uninstall super grub disk.

What finally worked was installing Ubuntu, installing Windows, booting from an Ubuntu live disk, reinstalling grub, booting into Ubuntu, and editing the Grub menu to make Windows 7 active (“makeactive”) again. No special software required, just some command line editing. This tutorial from the Ubuntu site walked me through it.

Finally, the steps:

1. Install Ubuntu (partition the drives first)
2. Install Windows into one of the partitions (format it as NTFS)
3. Boot into the Ubuntu live CD. In terminal (Accessories > Terminal) run these commands:

sudo grub
find /boot/grub/stage1
root (hd0,0) [or whatever the find command listed]
setup (hd0)

4. Reboot back into Ubuntu (not the live CD)
5. Open terminal again, and edit your boot menu:

sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

Add an entry for Windows 7 above this line:


Here is my entry:

title Windows 7
rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

Your (hd0,0) may be different.

Towards the top of the file, I also changed my timeout from 10 to 5, so that it only takes 5 seconds to choose a custom default OS to boot.

I also deleted the other entry at the end of the file, below the lines:


# This is a divider, added to separate the menu items below from the Debian
# ones.

because that entry didn’t work anyway. It’s similar to the Windows entry we added but uses savedefault instead of makeactive; I believe makeactive is what Windows needed to make it work correctly.

That’s it! Now you should be able to boot into both OSes.

Edit: I got super grub disk to stop showing in my boot menu in Windows by running this in a command prompt:

bcdedit /enum

That lists the identifiers in your menu. Then:

bcdedit /delete {super grub disk's super long identifier string with curly braces}

That got Windows to boot normally again.

Back up iPhone SMS messages into an excel database without jailbreaking [solved]

So here’s a somewhat complicated but entirely graphical way of backing up your SMS messages from your iPhone into an excel spreadsheet. I couldn’t get Syphone to work so here is my solution.

The first thing you’ll need is iPhone Backup Extractor. It’s a mac program, but there are other cross platform backup decoders out there such as mobilesync-inspect. You’re looking for the SQLite SMS database (iPhone Backup Extractor calls it SMS.db). iPhone Backup Extractor is not compatible with iPhone OS 3.0 yet but it does work with 2.2.1. Hopefully 3.0 will work soon.

Run iPhone Backup Extractor and select your most recent backup. Scroll down to the bottom of the applications and choose iPhone OS. Choose a folder to save it in.

iPhone Extractor

Then, use an SQLite browser such as SQLite Manager (don’t know why this is a firefox addon, but it rocks) to view the database.


All of the SMSes are stored in the messages table – you can right click on it and export it as a CSV. Alternatively you could export the whole database as an SQL or XML file. But open up the CSV in excel and you’re done! Sweet!

SMSes in excel

Toshiba SD-K860 won’t eject [solved]

My two year old upconverting Toshiba DVD/divx player from wouldn’t eject my rented DVD (I am Legend). I would push eject and it would say “Open”, do nothing, and after a few seconds say “Loading” and play the DVD again. Once the harassing blockbuster calls started coming in I decided to try and fix it.
I found a great site called Fixya, which is similar to this site but focuses on hardware.
This page addressed a similar problem with the Toshiba SD-4990. That page linked to a service manual here ( ) which was similar enough to be extremely helpful.
Some suggested that it was a software issue and unplugging the machine for half an hour to let reset it self. However, after unplugging it all night the problem remained the next morning.
I took the machine apart (6 screws on the outside) and unmounted the drive (4 more screws), unplugging the three cables and remembering their orientation (blue wire faces the back). I unscrewed the top chasis (2 screws underneath soft rubber & glue) and got the DVD out. Then after some finagling I found the eject levers on the bottom (long slide switches) that opened up the DVD tray. I massaged the tray back and forth, and did the same with the laser mechanism on its track. The tray belt was in tact and there were no loose solder joints or wires. So I plugged the drive back in loosely (without reassembly) and plugged the power back in. Carefully, without touching any capacitors I hit the eject button and the drive tray started working again. It must have just been jammed. I unplugged the power, reassembled everything, turned it back on, and it’s back to normal!
This may not be the problem your SD-K850 or other DVD player was having, but perhaps these steps will help you solve your problem.

Make an origami paper CD case [solved]

Great for when you don’t have any CD cases but have access to a recycle bin.

How to fix Venetian Blinds with their own parts [solved]

Here’s a tutorial on how to fix venetian blinds with their own parts. It involves shortening them.

blinds before after

My cats like to look out the window, blinds be damned. They’ve crawled through and destroyed most of the blinds in my apartment.

blinds broken

I went to home depot and asked if they sold the individual plastic pieces to fix blinds, and they didn’t. I would have had to buy full new blinds, but using this method didn’t have to buy anything. Otherwise I’d be out of most of my apartment security deposit.

You’ll need: scissors and something pokey.

There are two plastic pegs on the bottom of the bottom bar. Pull those out.

blinds pegs

Inside is the knot that stops the pull string from being pulled through. Cut it off.

blinds pull string knot

Unthread the pull cords from the bottom bar and bottom blinds up to the last blind that’s broken. Slide out the broken blinds.

blinds pull out broken pieces

Now you have a gap where the blinds used to be. But my blinds were too long for my window – actually most of them were in my apartment.

blinds gap

Grab some of the extra full ones from the bottom. If your blinds aren’t too long, decide if you’re ok with shortening them a little. Also, check around and see if your apartment has any other ‘donor’ blinds that are the same size that you could use.

blinds bottom extras

Now just slide the donor blinds into the missing spots.

blinds slide extras in

Slide the bottom bar into the lowest unused rung of the laddars. Now, this is the only remotely hard part: Thread the pull cord back through the blinds and into the bottom bar. The pokey comes in handy for this.

Then, cut off the excess bottom ladder below the bottom bar.

blinds cut extra

Tie a knot in each of the pull cords inside the bottom bar. Try and make them even with each other, keeping in mind that when you yank on them you pull each drawstring at the top up. Cut off the excess pull cord, stuff the excess cord back into the bar and plug the holes back up with the pegs.

Ta daaaaaaaaaa!

blinds fixed

Now the blinds are probably actually the right size too. Remember to clean them too while you’re at it! :)