Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is Microsoft trying to sabotage Linux?

My life has been a technology hell this past month and a bit. I appear to have become one of those people who causes technology to explode when I walk past.

First one of my server hard drives went. The RAID saved my butt and it was then a matter of ordering replacements from the States via eBay. They finally arrived, but to do the capacity expansion (I ordered bigger hard drives) I had to back up all the data, replace the drives and then retsore the data - not a trivial task for a few hundred Gigs of data. This was made more difficult because my DLT drive is still busted (it will cost thousands to fix). However, although time consuming, the drives are in. They are reconditioned drives and two failed on start up - which is where I got lucky because I ordered two extra.

The new laptop I bought to replace the stolen one arrived with Windows Vista for Business. I resized the partition to install a dual boot of Debian Linux, and disaster. Vista would no longer boot. So I've been working exclusively in Linux for the last month while I've tried to sort out the Vista problem. This has allowed me to develop an appreciation of key migration issues. The biggest? For me, tables in Powerpoint. Almost all my consulting documentation ends up in Powerpoint (roll on the consulting jokes). Tables are critical for formatting data on a slide. And Impress (the equivilent) doesn't do them. No. Kidding.

Solving the Vista problem has been a ball-ache of note. The recovery disk will not boot if you have resized the orginal install partitiion and IBM suggested I buy a copy of Vista - at a few thousand rand - to replace the OEM version on my machine. This after much efforty including a trip to the East Rand to the Laptop distribution and support warehouse.

I finally found documentation on the issue here after arriving at a similar conclusion.

The key is being able to run "chkdsk" on the affected Vista partition. You can either boot with a NTFS-capable start disk and run it from there, or you can run ntfsfix from Linux and then boot your Vista partition which will launch "chkdsk".

This a pretty huge issue - most Linux installations now make use of partition resizing in order to turn a Windows machine into a dual-booting machine. This issue results in a broken Windows installation. Sabotage?

As if the above pains were not enough, I dropped my cell phone into some water. With my old laptop stolen, I was contactless! I have a backup on my LDAP server, but with the transition to a new eGroupware this had also got broken. Yup, I certainly have become Karma's bitch (taking over from Devil).

Anyway, much more about all of the above incidents, workarounds and fixes on my technical blog.

After a week of drying out, I tried my phone yesterday - et voila! It works. Together with the Vista fix, the arrival of my new wireless router (after six months of fighting with Digital Planet) and my new UPS, does this mark a change in my techinical fortunes. Please God let it be so.


Sarab Singh said...

Yeah, I am a Linux N00b. They should really come up with a "n00b" terminology for different classes of "n00b"s. For example I could be a "n00b" with high aptitude; or a "n00b" with a strong desire to learn; or a "n00b" with a little bit of experience with the subject matter.

In any case, I am currently focusing on installing Linux on a Windows Vista Partition. I have nervous tendencies about using Partition tools, however, from all I have read, Vista has made the process quite seamless. What I am more concerned now is finding a super NO RISK algorithm for getting a simple GUI Linux on a Dual Boot, with my Native Windows Vista PC.

Got any suggestions?

It is the question said...

I'm told the foolproof way is to start with a clean hard disk, partition it for Vista and Linux and install to the new partitions.

Post having been through my experience, I heard of a Vista utility for resizing the Vista partition from within Vista. This is supposed to be safe, but clearly I have not tried it.

Most importantly though, no matter what you do with respect to resizing, if you have been using the Vista partition for some time, there are likely to be immovable system files towards the end of the disk. If you resize and destroy these files, you will ruin Vista.

The process for resizing is to defrag the Vista drive prior to resizing and get a reading on the location of the last file data on the disk. When you resize the partition, ensure you don't reduce the size beyond this location.

My approach if I had to do it all again would be to boot from a live Linux disk with GNUParted and the NTFS utilities on board, resize, run NTFSFix, then boot back into Vista. This would run chkdsk automatically and fix the Vista problems.

Good luck.