From The Tips Box: Formatting Drives, Google Scholar, Moving Appliances

Readers offer their best tips for formatting hard-to-recognise drives, searching within cited sources in Google Scholar, and moving large appliances.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons — maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in — the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Email it to tips at

Use Linux to Format Hard-to-Recognise Drives

Photo by jartista.

Ken tells us the only tool that worked for him in formatting his DVR's old hard drive:

I recently read your article on Wii backups being booted from external drives, so I decided to do that for myself. I quickly realised that I needed more storage space than the little 40GB external I was using, so I decided to convert an old 320GB drive that was in a DirectTV DVR that I had. The DVR itself had gone bad, and DirectTV said they were just going to throw it away. Advocating the tearing apart of a DVR that actually belongs to DirectTV, since they rent them out, would probably not be a good idea...

Anyway, I had trouble getting my Windows 7 PC to recognise this drive. I used quite a few programs to see if any would work, and there was no luck. Basically everyone on the internet had the same problem with drives from old DVRs. There is some sort of lockout partition that keeps PCs from accessing them, even to format them.

Anyway, I heard that Linux can recognise almost anything, so I used a Linux Live CD and it recognised the drive! I booted up GParted, the partitioning program pre-installed in most Linux distros and formatted it! Viola! I could then take the disk out of my drive, reboot, and reformat the drive once more with the WBFS manager in Windows to make it suitable for Wii backups.

Search Within Cited Sources in Google Scholar

jcfranke shows us how to use search URLs to work around lacking features in Google Scholar:

Google Scholar is an extremely useful academic tool. One great thing about it is, after running a search, you can click on "Cited by" beneath a result and it will then return a list of all sources that cite that article or book. The new result is itself sorted by citation count, which is usually a useful metric for determining relevance. However there's a problem—you can't search through these results using additional terms! If you enter new terms into the search box and hit enter, it forgets what you were doing and starts over.

Here's how to get around this oversight. First, click on the "Cited by" link beneath the article you're interested in. Then, on the resulting page, look at the URL. It should be something like ""—which is all articles that cite Pinker's "Blank Slate." Select and copy this portion of the portion of the URL, "cites=15426054345747611141". Now do a new search, let's say just for "Dennett." In the URL for this results page, add "&" to the end and paste the portion of the previous URL you copied. The URL should now read, "". Finally, hit enter (from the address bar, not the search box), and the new search should come up—this will be all articles/books that cite Pinker's "Blank Slate" *and* contain the word "Dennett" somewhere in them.

Use Windex to Lubricate Sticky Appliance Feet

russbii shares a tip for moving large appliances:

We had appliances delivered this weekend and the guys showed me a great tip for moving appliances on linoleum. Most appliances have flat plastic feet and they tend to to stick to the floor. A lot of force is required to "break" the appliance free. Instead of pushing with all of your might, get a friend to tip the appliance up on two feet and spray Windex underneath the two raised feet. Set it down, and repeat with the other side. You can now move your appliance with minimal effort. I'll be using this to clean behind the fridge once or twice year.

Use Dry Erase Markers to Remember Your Next Oil Change

Photo by Stephen Cummings.

ospreyguy lets us know an easy way to mark when your car is next due for service:

Here's a tip for you! If you change your own oil and filter (or any regular vehicle maintenance really), use a dry erase marker in the corner of the windshield to keep track of dates and mileage. There are tons of sizes and colours available to suit your needs. They're just as convenient as the little stickers from the mechanic and will wipe right off!


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