Hazard's stuff

IBM-Lenovo X61

— Posted by hazard @ 2008-03-15 09:05
My colleague received an IBM-Lenovo X61 laptop, and we found that built-in Intel 4965 wireless is very slow when connected to 802.11b access point. Same problem persisted both with Fedora Core 8 and Ubuntu (iwlwifi driver).

Usual tweaking of ACPI and APIC parameters didn't help. Googling around showed a lot of people suffering from the same problem with Intel 4965 wireless cards. Eventually I resolved the problem by removing iwlwifi driver files from /lib/modules, and installing ndiswrapper (allows to use Windows network drivers) + Intel 4965 driver for Windows XP.

JulesVerne AutoTransfer Vehicle is in space

— Posted by hazard @ 2008-03-10 12:19
Europe's space cargo carrier, ATV, after many years of work is finally in orbit. It has a problem with some of the engines, but that shouldn't stop it from reaching International Space Station.

One thing I don't like about Russian Space Agency press releases is that everything has "unique characteristics" and is "superior than western alternatives". Well, it seems European Space Agency suffers from the same problem as well. From ESA's article about successful ATV launch:

"The ATV is also the very first spacecraft in the world designed to conduct automated docking in full compliance with the very tight safety constraints imposed by human spaceflight operations. It features high accuracy navigation systems and a flight software far more complex than that used on Ariane 5."

Well, Russia has been flying Progress spacecraft in fully automatic mode since 1970s. And ESA perfectly knows that. They even have a video of Progress docking on their website. :)

The Vista Experience

— Posted by hazard @ 2008-03-10 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....


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.