Linux Saves the Day


So here was my day. I woke up and I didn't have DSL in the house, god knows why but SBC must feel like people really need to read morning newspapers or what not. It wasn't a big deal, because as I wrote yesterday, my laptop was dying and I would've had to use my old Dell Latitude, which after years of loving, I now hate with a passion. I thought this was an omen, but it wasn't, just a little reminder what my life would be like without 24-7 connections... I didn't like it! ;-)

Anyways, I stopped by Central Computer on the way to work and picked up a new hard drive for my notebook and an adapter so I could mount it on my desktop as well as a new $19 Logitech UltraX Flat Keyboard which feels *just* like a laptop keyboard (which I'm much more used to typing on - rather than the fugly and huge Microsoft Natural keyboard I was using). I've been going to Central Computer for like 8 years now and it's just awesome. It's like a version of the classic Silicon Valley computer shop, but up in The City. I double parked outside, rushed in with my Toshiba and the guy read off the serial number on the bottom, and instantly knew what type of machine I had and what I needed. For just $85 I was able to get a 40GB replacement for the 30GB that's currently in my laptop. Rock.

So I got to work and immediately started trying to figure out how to salvage the drive's data. It still worked, but it's obvious from the horrible noises it's making that it wasn't going to last for long. With constant help from my coworker Vineet we got things moving. First he got Debian plus Gnome 2.6 up and running on my Linux PC (I wasn't able to get it working last night) and got me integrated with everyone else in the office (who are all developing on Linux. I was on my laptop from when I was contracting here, and thus the last hold out). And then we started messing with the laptop hard drives.

I first had the idea that I wasn't going to be able to copy the data I needed on Linux because of its shaky support for NTFS. So during the morning, I installed a fresh copy of Windows XP on the new drive on my laptop. This turned out to be a good thing, even though I ended up overwriting it, because of the NTFS and WinXP boot information that was installed. Then Vineet showed me how to physically mount the old 2.5" drive in my Debian PC (using the $8 adapter I bought) and we just copied the partition whole off the drive:

cp /dev/hdc1 /var/tmp/hdc1.img

That took a good hour or so to grab all 30GB (8GB of which was "air") off the old drive. The entire time it was just hissing and creaking. Vineet said it sounded like I was making coffee under my desk. Then after it was copied, we mounted it with a loopback to check to make sure it was good:

modprobe loop
mount -o loop,ro -t ntfs /var/tmp/hdc1.img /mnt

And lo and behold, it was all there! Woohoo! So then I shut down the PC, took out the old notebook drive, grabbed the new drive with the blank WinXP install, and mounted that. Then we just copied the partition image back on to the drive:

cp hdc1.img /dev/hdc1

That took *much* less time (I'm thinking the drive is either faster or it didn't have to re-seek as much for the data). And then I mounted the drive to check to see if it was okay and it was, so then I popped it back into my laptop and would you believe it booted right up!?!?!

Okay, but there was a tiny problem: The NTFS partition has 40GB available, but the disk image is only 30GB. Using XP's Disk Manager didn't show how you could make the two match. I thought I'd see that blank bit of unused space at the end, but Windows was confused, so I ended up with a drive that was 10GB short. But ahh! Linux to the rescue again! I had a copy of Knoppix I burnt from the other day, so I booted up off the Knoppix CD on Vineet's hunch that there was "ntfsresize" on the CD ready to go, and he was right. I ran that on the mounted NTFS drive and it detected the difference and resized the partition in 30 seconds.

I rebooted into Windows and after a Disk Check (which found no problems) I'm back online in XP! So I'm out a day or work and $100 or so, but in return I've got a kick-ass Linux install at work and my XP laptop has 10GB extra! Rock!

Let me tell you, if I had played with the latest Linux desktop the other day, I wouldn't have ordered a Mac to play with. Seriously. They have done such a nice job. It's fast, easy to set up (as long as you're using Debian and you have an expert around who can help ;-D) The fonts have anti-aliasing, the windows are usable, the mouse and keys responsd likey they're supposed to, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird run perfectly (just like on my machine), Gaim is as good as Trillian in terms of connecting to all the IMs, Eclipse looks great, Java runs great (this box is a 2.8Ghz P4 with 1GB of RAM, so I would hope so) and in general is just a *really* nice work environment. Here's a screenshot.

I think Linux is really coming a *long* way on the desktop. Even just trying RedHat 8 a few years ago doesn't come close to the user experience I'm currently enjoying. I mean, the code samples above? Copied and pasted from the terminal app into Mozilla. On Linux! Can you believe it? Totally grown up. Yes, there's lots more room to grow and this can't touch the experience of OSX, but put me firmly on the side of the people who believe in Linux on the desktop now.

Woohoo! Linux Rocks!


< Previous         Next >