Sunset in Redmond WA

Topics about disk partitioning (fdisk, parted, gparted, partimage), Volumes Management (lvm, evms, dmraid), Storage, file systems, ...
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Joined: 20 Nov 2009, 03:45

Sunset in Redmond WA

Post by cosmotopper » 20 Nov 2009, 05:11

This is just an editorial rant, by way of saying 'thank you' to the folks who created and have continued to develop SystemRescueCD into the really superb tool it has become. Fair warning, there is nothing useful to be found here, other than one person's perspective on two business models, one based on greed, and the other based on the pursuit of excellence. It is, however, on topic:

I have an old partitioning tool called Partition Commander, one of the few commercial software packages I have actually purchased over 30 years in this game. Today, after setting up my Gateway, Quad-4 AMD with "Vista Home Premium" occupying the entire 640GB hard drive, I prepared to resize the Vista partition down to something nominal (40GB) in order to make room for Solaris10, FreeBSD, and Sun's outstanding virtual machine controller VirtualBox.

Partition Commander had always been able to handle the resizing chore on previous XP or Vista machines, but today, it reported that one of the NTFS partitions was 'damaged', hence it could not resize any of them. This surprised me, but I decided to make yet another attempt at using the resizing software provided by Microsoft, even though it had never worked in the past. This time it worked (sort of), it told me it would allow me to downsize the Vista partition to around 300GB, but that's the best it could do (because there were a handful of files stuck in the middle of the partition which the OS insisted 'could not be moved').

After disabling system restore, hibernation, and the pagefile, and running Piriform's excellent defraggler on the partition, I squeezed almost all of the 16GB initial distro files down to the front of the volume. But somehow, no matter what I did, Vista found a way to plant a few 'critical' system files dead center in the partition, files it would not allow me to delete. Keep in mind, they weren't the same files every time. I managed to turn off a few system functions here and there, but each time I bashed one of these frogs on the head, another one would pop up.

I can't prove any of this, but I suspect the following: The 'damage' to the NTFS partitions that Part Commander found wasn't really damage, it was just an anomaly inserted by Microsoft to make it more difficult for third-party partition editors to work on 'their' partitioning schema.

As for the odd placement of these supposedly critical system files, I'm sure someone at Microsoft can explain the reason it's necessary to place a system log file in the middle of the volume, rather than just creating it in the next available cluster up at the front of the disk (so as to avoid creating a potential fragmented file later on). But I'd love to hear the rationale for setting up a sort of 'on-call list', so that no matter what we do, there's always an excuse to interfere with the re-allocation of the hard drive space, as is often necessary if an end-user wants to setup a dual-boot system where they can try out Linux, or Solaris, or any number of other alternatives to a Microsoft proprietary desktop operating system.

Like I say, I can't prove these pot-holes in the road were deliberate, but I've been watching Microsoft do stuff like this for over 30 years, ever since I setup my first Trash-80 (Radio Shack, Z80-based PC), running MS-DOS back in early 1980's (approximately). This time, after making a reasonable attempt to do what I wanted to do using Vista, I booted up SystemRescueCD, ran GParted, and in about two minutes, I had "shrunk the tumor" (Vista) down to an appropriately small fraction of the NTFS volume, and configured the partition table so I had plenty of room to install Solaris & FreeBSD, and create the multi-boot options I needed to start building Virtual PC Desktops.

It's taken a long time, but thanks to CPU's that optimize virtual processing in hardware, the relentless advance of Unix over 40 years or so, the highly-evolved and very compelling business model we call "open-source software development", and most of all superb engineering such as that which has produced SystemRescueCD (and the smorgasbord of excellent tools it contains), the three-decades of Microsoft hegemony over desktop computing is beginning to unravel. We no longer have to cede huge chunks of time coping with obfuscated reference materials, a laundry list of defects which we have been required to treat as features, and the deliberate abuse of standards (lynchings in some cases, when they could get away with it), that have sustained the numerous millionaires and handful of billionaires who populate the executive ranks at Microsoft.

As one who grew up and still lives in Portland, Oregon, I have to admit it's been a remarkable story, which started out here, when two guys named Gates & Allen persuaded the city to buy their micro-processor controlled traffic counters back in the mid 70's. They were indeed the pioneers of this industry, and deserve credit for that. I don't fault them for exploiting the gift that IBM handed them in the early 80's, and I don't begrudge them the billions they have accumulated since then. I'm just glad that era is coming to an end. And I would add one additional observation: were it not for Microsoft's success at sabotaging competitor's products, manipulating standards, and ruining opportunities for collaboration, the open-source community/industry that exists today might never have evolved. So we can thank them for that as we bid them 'Adieu'.

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