March 4, 2004

An experiment

Our notebook’s hard drive failed last week, rendering the only computer in the house that wife and I both share unusable. It was on Windows XP Home. A quick check revealed we couldn’t afford another a computer at short notice.

With the exception of the hard drive, the rest of the system was intact — I checked. So, time for plan B: if I could somehow get the system to recognize a USB storage, then we’d get our crippled computer back. I fished for a linux CD I was trying out to see if I could get persistence. After a couple hours, sweet success!

Knoppix, the linux flavor I am using, is an interesting project. Basically, it resurrected our otherwise dead computer. Now that the hard drive is dead, I boot it via a CD, and use a tiny 128MB USB drive to save my work. This setup appears to work fine. The only problem with live CD is that customizations are not persistent, i.e., on a reboot, you’ll need to set them again. This I overcame by saving my customizations to the USB drive, and run this following instead at Knoppix’s every next boot prompt:

Boot: knoppix myconf=scan

It scans for knoppix.sh, which is a saved preferences file for the Knoppix environment including desktop background, theme, network, xDSL info, etc., on a USB drive or an external hard drive so that preferences need not be set after every boot.

I never thought this nifty little CD-bootable version of Debian Linux would come in handy. Working on Knoppix has been easy, even for my wife, who has never before worked on any flavor of linux. The only thing I don’t have right now is the voluminous space that my failed hard disk provided. On Monday, I thought I wouldn’t last long; now just happy that this is a workable solution.