Tell us about your Christmas Family Emergency Kit

Published: 2009-12-23
Last Updated: 2009-12-23 01:10:10 UTC
by Johannes Ullrich (Version: 1)
17 comment(s)

If you read this diary, then you are probably one of those people who will be asked to fix various family computer problems [1]. Maybe you avoid it by just telling them that you never graduated and still work as a waiter. But then again, that doesn't work so well once you hit 40.

So what do you take with you when you visit family? Any tools / software / hardware that you like? Leave a comment to this story or let us know via our contact form [2]


Johannes B. Ullrich, Ph.D.
SANS Technology Institute

Keywords: christmas family kit
17 comment(s)


> Knoppix live disk
> Puppy Linux live disk
> Canned air / screwdriver kit
> Flash drive or USB hard drive cards.


Happy Holidays!
Usually depends on the problem but, in general;

1. Toolkit
2. Laptop
3. Linux live CD's (got around 300 of them, some work on older machines, some don't ;o))
4. Flash drive (contains security/diagnostic apps etc)
5. Windows SP CD's (grabbed the SP ISO's from MS for everything from 2000 -> Vista)
Laptop, BB, various LiveCDs, usb drives / sd cards, various cables, torch, 3G modem... claw hammer, valium and beta-blockers. Relying on them (and Sainsbury's) to supply the alcohol.
Malware removal software and Alcohol
None!! this year excuse is that I'm mentally stress recovering from drugs abuse.
Nothing, they know better than to ask during the
holidays. If they mention it i tell them to call me after.
2 CDs (Not USB because of malware issues) containing:

Ubuntu 9.10 live boot
First thing, see if you can find the orginal restoration CDs, as you probably will need them anyway.

Second thing, boot the Ubuntu CD and check the hardware for compatibility.. try to convince your family member to switch. If they refuse, go to step 3.

Third, try to assess the scope of the damage and attempt to clean the PC. This will inevitiably fail. Proceed to step 4.

Step 4, backup data and reload the OS. Spend the rest of the afternoon downloading 80+ updates to Windows.

Second thing,

The address of the local Apple store.

I hate to sound like the stereotypical fanboy, but the people I've convinced to switch from Windows to a Mac have not had problems. And if they did, I would just direct them to the Genius Bar.

Unfortunately, one of my regular clients was an attractive sports massage therapist who used to barter with me for computer services. My back hurts just thinking about it now. I should have told her to upgrade to Vista instead.

Back when I actually cared enough to help Windows users with their home PCs, this is what I carried:

1. Some type of Live CD(s). In the day, I used Knoppix. Nowadays, it would probably be xubuntu and/or <a href="">System Rescue CD</a>. I tried using BartPE, but it never had the network drivers I needed.

2. A laptop. I'm trying to convince my boss, who is also in charge of desktop support, to issue cheap netbooks to everyone in his group. This should allow the technicians to determine if they're dealing with a PC issue or network issue.

3. Some type of router with extra ethernet ports. This was in case I wanted to connect both my laptop and the user's PC to the network at the same time. (Not a problem in a work environment, but home users don't have multiple network jacks, and didn't always have routers back in my day).

4. An extra USB hub, and some extra USB cables. I've been to enough homes where people had several USB devices, but the furniture did not allow for slack in the cables. Did I mention that I really hate desks with back panels that I can't reach over or under?

5. Although they weren't available back in my day, portable USB powered hard drives, in case I have to back up data on the spot.
Helix CD FTW.
Also, Knoppix... Several copies of Each, on business card CDs so I can leave them behind...
Screwdriver kit, BartPE, laptop, and OS X install disk for the relatives with Macbooks

Diary Archives