Thursday, April 26, 2007

And then the rains came down

Today was wet, cold and generally miserable - a typical Cape Town winter's day. Of course, due the ongoing saga of my car's water pump, I had to take the bike in too work, which is not ideal in this sort of weather, especially as the Suzuki seems to have picked up a slight allergy to water somewhere, and tends to get grumpy and difficult after about 15 kms. The whole experience is vastly enlivened by the usual gormless stupidity that passes for Capetonian driving in the wet.

Still, the major rant I have is about Windows XP. On Monday, I had a very distressed email from one of the students saying that she couldn't get WinXP to boot without a blue screen. After explaining that, due to other commitments (watching 2 world cup semi-finals count of commitments, no?) I couldn't look at it before today, I felt I was obliged to pop across in the evening to look. And indeed, the machine complained of an "unmountable volume" (or something like that) fairly soon after kicking into WinXP. I spent some frustrating minutes trying to convince windows to boot into something that would run chkdsk, before giving up and booting into Linux. From there, it was easy to check that, according to smartmon, the actual hard disk, while starting to show signs of aging, was still basically OK. Linux could mount the NTFS filesystem though, so I ran ntfsfix on it to force a chkdsk run the next boot, and voila, chkdsk ran, and Windows was happy. Now, why windows couldn't do this for itself, without my basically hammering home the message with a sledgehammer, is a mystery to me, and, considering how common and annoying such mysteries are with windows, merely more fuel for my loathing of an OS that tries so hard to protect you from the details that it becomes absolutely opaque. And, while I would very much like to understand exactly what happened, the truth is that, due to the vagueness of the error message, the apparent randomness of the fix and the tendency of most windows forums to lack comments from people with a deep understanding of the system, the amount of cruft Google kicks up on my searches has totally put me off the idea of trying. Anyway, at least the problem appears to be solved, which is some gain from the whole affair.

No comments: