Hazard's stuff

10 Mar, 2008

The Vista Experience

— Posted by hazard @ 08-03-10 07:02
My old desktop machine had died, so I decided to buy a new laptop to replace it. Even though most of the time it will be sitting in the same place, laptops nowadays are cheap and mobility is a nice option to have.

So, I got an HP Compaq 6710b. Along the way I purchased upgrade to 2 GB RAM and 320 GB hard drive. The laptop by default comes with Vista, which I wanted to keep, just in case I need to run some Windows stuff which wouldn't work in Linux. At first I start the laptop with its factory 160 GB HDD: HP's Vista installer loads from a special partition and in less than two hours I have a running Vista (enough to install Fedora two times). Then I proceed to make recovery DVD, so that I can install Vista on the 320 GB disk. Vista needs only two DVDs and another hour to do that; excellent. I replaced the hard drive and started the whole Vista installation process again from the DVD.

Of course, HP's Vista installer takes over entire disk space without asking, I'm sure only to make the experience more user-friendly for the user (after all, these "Advanced" buttons are way too tricky). The thing is, I want to give only 50 GB to Vista. Anyway, Vista gets installed, and I'm logged in. I start the Disk Management tool - actually, I already got irritated at this point because Microsoft thought it is a good idea to break old ways of using Windows - and whoala, it tells me that I can shrink my disk to 160 GB. To those of you who don't know, actual space used by Vista files is less than 20 GB.

The tool also vaguely mentions that I can get rid of shadow copies and paging file in order to increase available space. Of course it is useless to use built-in Help to find how do I actually do that, but thanks to Microsoft's competitor Google, this information was retrieved and necessary actions were performed. Now, I can shrink my drive by 3-4 GBs more. Fantastic! Just what I dreamed of, to buy 320 GB HDD and leave 155 GB for Vista. Googling around shows that what I got is normal for Windows disk shrinking tool - it frees about 50% of space.

"Screw it!", I think to myself, and proceed to install Fedora 8. As a precaution, I left first partition empty at 60 GB, so that I can try to install Windows again later (of course, I was also understanding that doing standalone Vista/XP install would be painful because it would not have the HP drivers). Anyway, in one hour FC8 is up and running - "nohz=off" was needed to make the Fedora installer work.

However, built-in modem is NOT up and running, as it is one of the softmodems for which Agere has not released drivers. I find a few suggestions on the mailing lists that making a Frankenstein driver by copying .o files from one driver to another might work, but I only get a few OOPS'es as a result and NOT a working modem.

Now, I need the modem, because I have to connect to remote console servers over the phone for troubleshooting of network outages. So, I insert Vista rescue DVD again, hoping that I might have missed an option to install into a specific partition. Nope, not there. And it also overwrote my MBR without asking. How nice.

I look back at my 160 GB drive. What if I shrink that one and then transplant Vista to my 320 GB HDD? In a few minutes my 160 GB is back in the laptop, I run Windows shrinking tool, and whoala, it shrinked it down to a whopping 45 GB. A few minutes more, and 160 GB is in USB enclosure, 320 GB is back inside the laptop, and dd is happily copying first partition from 160 GB drive to 320 GB one. One hour passes; dd has finished, not as quickly as I expected - only 7 MB/s. Anyway, let's try to boot Vista... drums roll (in my head)... Vista's loading bar starts to run around the screen... KABOOM, "winload.exe is missing or corrupted".

Back to Linux, mount the Vista partition. winload.exe is there and MD5 is the same as the original one on the 160 GB HDD. Also I can't find boot.ini anywhere. Hmmm. Time for another visit to Microsoft's competitor Google. Aha - Microsoft is improving at friendly error messages: "winload.exe is missing or corrupted" actually means that disk ID has changed, and just to make it easier for the average Joe to use Vista, Microsoft has started checking that disk ID entered into the bootloader config matches the one on the actual drive. Otherwise it won't boot, even if everything else is in place.

Alright, let's see how we can fix that bootloader config. Another innovation! Finally Microsoft has managed to get rid of that prehistoric way of configuring bootloader using a text boot.ini file! Now we have a shiny new registry-like binary database somewhere else. To edit it, use BCDEDIT.EXE. Cool. My problem is that I don't have a working Vista to run it.

"If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain". Disk ID is written in the MBR. Armed with dd and mcedit in hex mode, I copy the Disk ID from the 160 GB HDD's MBR into 320 GB, then use fdisk to confirm that they match. Reboot, select "Other" in GRUB....

IT WORKS!!!

Looking back, I'm glad at how painless and inspiring my Vista experience was. Such experiences bring more users to Linux.

UPDATE: I later discovered existence of "ntfsresize" tool under Linux, which apparently does much better job at NTFS resizing than Vista's built-in one.

Comments

  1. Ive been a Linux user both in the desktop/workstation environment as well as the corporate environment. I must say I am mostly imrpessed with its stable , mature and solid code. Something windows will never see.

    But....

    Then there's Apple. The day I switched to OSX life became simple. No hassle , no configuration , no overhead to performing a task. Productivity increase is amazing.

    I do still use my Linux boxes at home but at work I found that my macbook is more than efficient. Daily administration tasks , moving around in data centers , configuring , and any other admin's task is playtime with the mac.

    But yeah Vista is appalling :)

    Posted by Mario A. Spinthiras — 10 Mar 2008, 08:37

  2. My normal working environment is Firefox, email client and a bunch of terminals. I'm sure OSX can be used in the same way, but that would neither be a showcase for OSX and neither would satisfy me because I would be using something proprietary. :)

    Posted by hazard — 10 Mar 2008, 09:02

  3. Why would you use a windows shrink tool anyway? I got almost the same laptop (6710s) and installed Ubuntu on it without any trouble. The installer managed my 160 gb HD and all I had to do to get my vista working after is to perform standard disk scan (which is normal after you resize a partition).

    as far as running bcdedit is concerned you could have used any Vista DVD (pressing F9 when selecting destination drive brings rescue console).

    Posted by Sergey — 15 Mar 2008, 20:38

  4. I was installing FC8, not Ubuntu. I learned later about ntfsresize utility, but at that time I didn't know about it.

    HP doesn't come with a Vista DVD, or any DVDs at all for that matter. You can only make HP's Recovery DVDs which do not present any options apart from rewriting the hard drive.

    Posted by hazard — 16 Mar 2008, 03:56

  5. When I installed Win2K on a VBox ntfs virtual disk I made the disk to small. Fortunately, I was able to boot the VM from a GParted LiveCD iso. I was then able to use GParted to copy the Win2k partition to a larger disk and resize it to use the full disk.

    I suspect you could have used it to shrink the Vista partition.

    Posted by John — 07 Jun 2008, 21:09

  6. I like Vista, a lot, but I agree in Microsoft treats everybody like idiots. That's not the problem, the problem is Apple, Adobe, and many others do exactly the same.

    I really don't think OSX is the eight wonder, I think is a good and stable OS, but IT'S NOT BETTER than Vista (not worse either).

    I like Linux, but please don't tell me is easier to use than Windows or OSX...

    I stop using my openSuse for about 1 month, so it said a disk check was needed. After the disk check suse found and error the whole partition was lost!!
    So, shit happens!

    Posted by aleangelico — 11 Dec 2008, 18:28

  7. Yep, aleangelico... Hard drives fail, no matter what OS you use.

    Vista makes the world go 'round. Without Vista the psychologists would go bankrupt. Without Vista, computer repair work would crash. Without Vista, people might not be forced to by new, compatible versions of all their programs.

    I've yet to see anybody, *ever*, go back to Windows from OS X. I have, however, seen almost all of my friends move from Windows to OS X. 'bout 20 of them.

    No complaints from them yet.

    Posted by Joe — 19 Jan 2009, 06:44

  8. For the first time I got acquainted with Vista ( http://file.sh/microsoft+windows+vista+torrent.html ) when bought my laptop, though I've heard much bad about vista, I am working with it for several years already without problems.

    Posted by harry — 13 May 2009, 01:58

  9. Hey, Vladi, You are lucky you can do all this.

    I also bought a new Compaq/HP with Vista and everything is a lot more time consuming and restrive to use.
    With stuff like Vista one starts to think seriously about not having internet at all.

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