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Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Personal Reflections ... Technology ...

I spent most of the past weekend in “geek mode”, as I just bought another computer (one of those ubiquitous HP/Compaq DC5000’s coming off five-year leases, which can be had with XP Pro for under $200). Well, I wanted to swap hard drives with an old Dell Dimension L with Windows 98 that I still keep running, mostly for sentimental purposes (the DC5000 comes with a 40 G Seagate drive, whereas I had an 80G Maxtor in the Dell). And of course I didn’t want to have to reload all the applications and the operating systems. My one “ace card” here is that I have Norton Ghost installed on both of these computers. But the handicap is that I don’t have a CD burner or any other convenient way to get a Ghost image out of the Dimension L. That was one handicap, anyway. I also had to repartition the drives, and forgot how to boot to DOS and use G disk. Then I also forgot how to take the hard drive out of the Dimension L (finally found where the screws are), and I had to search to find the hard drive in the HP (small form factor, everything is scrunched in).

This all made for two clumsy days of trial-and-error work. I do have a third computer (yes, another Dimension L, that one with Win2K) with a CD burner and a slow USB wire device to exchange files with the W98 Dell. So I was able to get a spanned image of the C drive over to the Win2K box, and then burned those spans to disk. But guess what? That doesn’t work, you can’t copy an image spanned to a folder onto individual disks and expect it to install correctly. So I had to partition the 40 G hard drive going into the W98, then make a Ghost image of the spanned Ghost images and put that directly to spanned disks, install that image on the extended partition (D drive) and then Ghost those spanned files over to the primary partition (C drive). Yikes! But it all finally worked; both the HP and the old Dell still had their respective “minds” (operating systems and software applications), despite swapping their “brains” (hard drives).

I must admit that without the Internet and Google, I probably couldn’t have done this. The net is a great place to go with a computer crisis. The chances that someone before you has had the same problem is pretty good. I had to look up a number of things over the weekend, and usually got some good pointers on what to do next. I will say, though, that sometimes you really have to sift through a lot of chaff in order to get to the answer. Here are two examples. When using G disk (an old-fashioned unfriendly DOS format), I was getting some discouraging responses to my command inputs, despite copying them from the Norton handbook. One cryptic response was “TOO MANY PARAMETERS”. Another was “UNKNOWN SWITCH”.

Yow, sounds very threatening! But in the end, the problems and the fixes were very simple. As to parameters, the problem was simply that you were to identify the disk with a number (usually “1”), and not “Disk 1” or such. If you spelled out “disk”, this amounted to adding “too many parameters” to the expected disk identification. Similar problem and solution for “unknown switch”es: I left out a blank space at a critical point, and the G disk program refused to recognize the “switch” (command).

Here is the discussion that finally settled this for me:

The first five or six commentators seem just as confused as the guy who was having the “parameter” and “unrecognized switch” problems. FINALLY, the last guy knew that it was just a matter of mis-typing the command.

Another issue involved converting the extended drive on the DC5000 over from FAT32 to NTFS format, as to match the format on the C drive which the XP programming installation forced. (NTFS is supposed to be a better format than FAT32, so I had no objection to it). I did the Google research and learned the XP command to convert an extended drive (i.e., anything on your hard disk that’s not the C drive), and punched it in. And saw an unfriendly response: Format not available for this volume. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA ???? Well, I copied the response and punched it into Google, and read the following technical discussions:

If you check these out, you will have to cut through a variety of guesses and theories until someone finally spots the error: my error, and the people who wrote in to these web sites, simply misspelled “NTFS” as “NTSF”. DUHHHHH!!!!! Thus chastened, I went back, typed in the proper spelling, and the D drive converted over to NTFS without problem.

It was that kind of weekend. Clumsy, humbling, frustrating, way behind schedule; but in the end, the machines were still humming. It was that kind of weekend; for some of us, it’s just that kind of life.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:21 pm      

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