Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Picking up the pieces.

Picking up the pieces.

On Tuesday night before going to bed, I started to thaw my Dell XPS M1330 laptop from hibernation, and hard powered it off to abort. Perhaps an ill-advised move, I agree. (The beatings have finally ceased.)

The Dell BIOS (I assume) “helpfully” took this opportunity to survey my disk and realize that I had done away with their Microsoft Windows-based “Dell Media Center” boot system. Yes, it’s true, approximately fifteen seconds after I unwrapped the laptop, that’s exactly what I did. In fact, I only discovered such a feature existed on a Wednesday morning flight, when I booted the system and saw the GRUB shell rather than my beloved framebuffer penguins.

Dell is apparently making use of some BIOS code in cahoots with either the hard disk’s HPA or DCO feature to “fix” a machine that has problems booting. It’s well known that diagnostic partitions are used for this purpose, often hidden at the beginning or end of a disk. The user can start restoration interactively using the BIOS or a special key sequence at boot time. But I wouldn’t have expected it to happen just because a boot failed once.

  • Good: It only took 20 minutes to get the laptop fully working from a cobbler server at home, including wifi and video.
  • Bad: I didn’t have it working on Wednesday while on the road.
  • Good: I make regular backups of my /home partition, and did so on Tuesday night right before leaving work.
  • Bad: I have to go back to the office to pick up the backup disk.

If I’m a little slow getting back to you by email, now you’ll know why. I should have everything back in shape tomorrow night — I can’t stop by the office until late tomorrow afternoon.

By the way, when’s the last time YOU made a backup?

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