Disaster and Disaster Recovery

As a veteran of Operating System experimentation, I can personally vouch that I have flubbed things up more often than I have gotten it right on the first time.Windows XP would crash or my Grub bootloader would fail. Stupid of me, I forgot to set a mount point or I wiped a necessary system file for giggles or error. The true test of skills and test of character in any situation in life comes from how we handle defeat. Do we go down in a burning blaze? Run screaming back to our corners? Or do we fight it out and become the victor of the 8th round against OS Ali?

If you ask your average hardware vendor who simply supplies a Restore disk, they usually say backup, wipe, reinstall. This downfall of system support and shirking of responsibility tends to leave the end user in a realm of lost souls and a feeling of questioned value.

It is to this, I say, “Take up your sword and reclaim your streets!” Empower yourself with the tools. Any good hairstylist knows that better hair care goes beyond “Rinse, Lather, Repeat”.

Is in this situation, I discovered a rather odd tool for the game. The Gentoo Linux installation disk. After attempting a dual boot system on my Powerbook G4 with both Gentoo and Mac OS X, I got sort of burned of the need to compile all my packages. I wanted a second system that was working immediately. So, I began a triple boot system of OS 9, OS X, and Yellowdog. I do not know why, but I kept the Gentoo CDR in my case. Boy, I am glad I did. Somewhere along the line, the boot mechanism of Yellowdog when to heck in a hand basket and the ye old trick of reseting the boot ROM did not work.

I thought about it. What did I have in my arsenal to fix the issue? I glanced at the Gentoo disk and a light went on. Here was a disk that I could boot from, mount existing filesystems, partition, reload a bootloader, and the whole nine yards. And that is exactly what I did. I booted in, killed off the blessed boot partition, reformatted, redid the boot loader and in under 15 minutes I was back in the game.

If I could do that, what else could I do? FAT 16, FAT 32, HFS, HFS+, EXT2, EXT3, ReiserFS … The files were mine to control. I was Geek Almighty with omnipotence. Well almost. I could tackle DOS, Mac OS, and Linux boo boos with the disk, but what about the most widely used OS? Microsoft’s flagship, Windows with its NT filesystem (NTFS)? Support in the Linux realm for NTFS has been kind of lack luster, not by fault. Thanks to some hard work from dedicated people in the Open Source community, we have “read” support in the kernel. Well, at least I can drop right into XP-land and take peek at the neighbor to see what the domestic trouble. But, what good does that do? I have no power to fix it.

Just when I thought I found the miracle pill had its flavour, enter a new player to the game, Captive. This jigsaw of a marriage may make a minister cringe, but to the those of us who waited in line to catch the bouquet and garter, it was a match made in heaven. Captive, in the lightest terms, is a synthesis of developments in ReactOS, Wine, NT know-how, and talent. A child of love, it is true. It plays well with other children in the XP neighborhood, giving Linux users their first shot to both READ/WRITE access to the NTFS. Amazing.

Great! I can hit all the major lands and tour a thousand files all in the comforts of my own desk chair. Theoretically.

So far, it seems that the swiss army knife that began as an Install disk for a distribution I decided against for my laptop, is not complete. There are preparations to be made now. How do we take that CDR image and complete the tune? A kernel recompile to add on the necessary filesystem supports, addition of filesystem modifiers (mkfs.ntfs, permissions, etc), and a nice way to do it all in as few steps as possible. Will we get there? Sure. The battle is almost won. We just have to take the few extra steps to ensure the fortress can hold the new flag of “OS War Hero”.


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