Archive | December 19, 2004

Why NOT to Upgrade Your Linux System

Why NOT to Upgrade Your Linux System. Nathan Willis writes, over on NewsForge, “I’m not upgrading my Fedora Core 2 machine to Core 3, even though the new version has been out for a couple of months. There’s not anything wrong with FC3 itself, it’s just that system upgrades are both a blessing and a curse.” Link via OSNews

True of every operating system out there, machines tend to build up cruft over a period of time, and a clean wipe-and-reinstall are called for. However, the incremental difference between FC2 and FC3 can be addressed by careful upgrades of only those applications you need, rather than a haphazard upgrade from one distribution to another, I think

Bill Moyers retires from NOW

A Journalism Giant Retires. Dan Gillmor’s eJournal Notes “Bill Moyers has completed his last episode of NOW with Bill Moyers, a PBS program that looked in depth at critical issues… Moyers is a hero in journalism. He’s not always right, but he’s been asking the tough questions… He’s been especially tough on the press, which in many ways has abdicated its public trust in recent years. We need more voices like his, not fewer.” 2.0 Preview Reviewed

Quick Review of OpenOffice 2.0 Preview Release. “The Sun-sponsored project based on open sourced StarOffice code has released a preview of the upcoming OpenOffice 2.0 product. This version touts better MS-Office loading and parsing, strict XML compliant output, a new database program that mimics Microsoft’s Access, and much more. The Inquirer took it for a spin.” Link via OSNews

The new version looks pretty sleek. Improved load times are welcomed. And I’ll be interested in their OOBase, a database front end.

The eight-day Windows XP install

While this could be a fun rant on why certain software vendors mistreat their customers, or a screed on how all hardware is out to get us, I just thought I’d post some notes on neat stuff I’ve learned during the process, and some links to cool resrources for those in similar dire straits.

Like most small development shops, we’ve got a clutter of older machines sitting around collecting dust: too slow, broken or buggy to use, too functional to throw away. As part of one software development project, we needed to set up a couple of test machines, clean of our software, to confirm that clean installs would install and configure all the needed components.

We picked an HP Omnibook 7100: PII-266, 192 Mb RAM, 7.5 GB hard drive, PCMCIA 100 Mbps Ethernet. The Omnibook’s a bit poky for day to day use, and the combination CD-ROM and floppy unit flaky (this is the second one, the first having been replaced at great expense. Seems like a failure-prone device). Our goal was to have a repeatable test platform, so we wanted to be able to make a snapshot of a clean and configured operating system image, and then restore to that point when needed. While Windows XP is the primary target market for our application, some clients are using Windows 98, so image of both would be ideal.

The CD-ROM was an older model, and only reliably read 650-Mb formatted CD-ROMs, not the more common 700-Mb extended images. I discovered that in a botched install of Libranet, which needed the extra space and so failed to install cleanly.

I needed to start by blowing away the machine, creating partitions, and installing from there. to the rescue! has images available for most variations of Windows, and some modified disks with very handy utilities on them. A PayPal contribution of $3 will give you access to even more “bonus” material. Check them out.

Win98se boot floppy in hand, I restarted the machine and… failed. Floppy disk was unreadable. A couple of tries, reformatting in different machines, using different media, no joy. The floppy reader was likely history. Didn’t floppy disks used to be more reliable?

Back to, and found the instructions for burning a bootable CD with the contents of he Win98se book disk, using the Nero CD-burning software. Booting from the slightly-more-relaiable CD-ROM, I was able to boot the machine and partition the hard drive: 2 Gb for Win98se, 2 Gb for Windows XP, 2 GB for a backup partition and/or a Linux install, and the remaining 1.5 GB spare. I made the first three partitions identical in size, a fortuitious event that paid off later in the install.

After a few more challenges, I managed to successfully install Windows 98 Second Edition, but without Ethernet support: Win98se recognized the Intel EtherExpress ro 100+ combo card as a modem, but not a NIC. Heedless of this, I jumped into attempting to get WinXP onto the second partition. Very bad idea. WinXP asked if it could access the internet for an update to the WinXP setup, but of course I hadn’t configured it yet. I attempted to bull ahead. WinXP tried to check the second partition, complained that it could not read the disk, then couldn’t read the CD-COM, then died. Restarting, I discovered the “upgrade” had wiped the c:windows folder.

Start over!

Reinstalled Win98, and this time took the time to transfer the drivers for the Intel EtherExpressPro 100+ drivers and drivers for USB drive so I could stop burning CDs. With an internet connection installed, I updated Win 98 to its most recent patched state.

More to write, but my fingers are worn out. Here are notes on the next steps…


  1. Before installing WinXP again, wanted to image drive
  2. Installed Belkin Firewire card and connected to Seagate external 160 Gb drive
  3. Ghost 2003 would not recognize Firewire card when rebooted
  4. Went to’s ProLinux list for advice
  5. Referred to by Carl Karsten
  6. g4u worked by using a NetBSD boot floppy or CD, using a low-level reading program to read the partition contents, and ftp the contents to a remote location.
  7. Make sure you download version 2.0 and not 1.17 – links can be confusing!
  8. Problems finding working NIC compatible with g4u – ended up with Etherlink III (3C589C)
  9. Installed and configured ProFTPd on our internal Linux file server to act as the ftp target. Configuration of ftp server and addition of user easy with WebMin.
  10. Snapshot friday night – started before retiring for the day
  11. Restore (to second partition) on Saturday night – lucky I had chosen identical partition sizes, since g4u doesn’t seem to support resizing, like Ghost.
  12. Reboot, verify partitions identical, install WinXP
  13. Since CD is still questionable, use WinXP options to copy all setup files to second partition (D:) and convert partition from FAT32 to NTFS as part of the install.
  14. Complete Windows XP setup (2 hours)
  15. Install Windows Updates for XP. Critical warnings about disk space by the end – 6 Mb free in the 2 Gb allocated for XP. Running out of disk space meant that System Restore was turned off, just at the time all of the updates were installed. Miraculously, the machine rebooted anyway.
  16. Defragged the volume – what a mess it was!
  17. Image partition to backup ftp server.

Still to be done

  1. Do the testing we configured the machine for – remember the testing?
  2. Restore partition to verify it can be done.
  3. Install Linux in third partition to provide boot loader for all partitions.

Cringely explains IBM, Apple, Sun, Microsoft, HP and Dell

In one of his high-flying and far-ranging columns, Cringely offers his theory for the strategies and tactics of IBM’s move to sell its PC business to Lenova, Microsoft’s plans for xBox2 (is it true you need to develop the games on a G5-based Mac?), why Sun and Apple don’t matter, and how Microsoft will take over the world:

With its continual need for more revenue, Microsoft will by then have already finished its destruction of the world software market, will have sucked all the profit out of the world hardware market, and will discard its hardware OEMs like HP and Dell and compete with them head-to-head.

Sometimes insightful, sometimes delusional, Cringely is always worth a quick read. And a large grain of salt.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.