Sunday, June 21, 2009

Praise the lord.. for we have Free Software!

Well, GNU/Linux in particular. (and you can substitute whatever you deem appropriate for 'lord').

I'm sitting in my room with a friend's laptop (no, I'm not blogging using that.. it's in no useful shape, yet!), watching as Fedora 11 is getting installed.
He had Windows Vista pre-installed on it, lots of unpartitioned space (reserved for Linux), and some messed up partition table.

HP/Compaq, in their infinite wisdom, do not provide an operating system install disk (I like Dell better for that). It is the responsibility of the user to use their tool to generate 'rescue disks', should something go wrong with the computer.

The Fedora installer (both F10 and F11) failed to read the partition tables and said the disk needed to be 'initialized', losing all data. So, we tried to fix the tables first. We took backup of all data and decided to re-install Windows first.
I had no clue about what awaited me!

1. The 'restore to factory setup' only restores the C drive. It doesn't do anything with the other partitions!
2. Creating 'rescue disks' requires 2 DVDs (or 12 CDs) and takes an awful lot of time
3. The second rescue DVD failed in the verification step
4. I decided to move on with the disk and started the recovery process. The damn thing threw an error after 45mins and exited
5. I could manage booting in to Windows, but the mousepad wouldn't work. Without the mouse, it's impossible to get past the 'Compaq customer info' setup, thanks to shitty ui design!

Finally, Linux to the rescue! I booted the laptop using Puppy Linux and found that the 'rescue partition' on the HDD had a similar file structure to the rescue DVDs. One file in the second DVD could not be copied, and that was possibly creating the problem.
After googling a while (no, I don't bing!), downloaded two tools called ddrescue & dd_rescue. How's that for confusing names!

Fortunately, both tools provide identical functionality. I recovered the 645MB file, sustaining 445KB of unreadable bits. Manually copied the file to the recovery partition, and started the recovery process again, this time from the hard disk (as opposed to recovering from the DVD).

Voila! Everything seems to be working fine. Windows is installed and now I'm installing Fedora 11.

I must say, such proprietary sh*t is a mess!

PS: Note to self: 'Laptops' are better kept somewhere off your laps, unless you want'em to fry your vitals!

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