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So my dad gave me some cash for my 21st birthday and as soon as I was near a store I went to work figuring out what I wanted to spend it on. I floated through the aisles of the local Walmart electronics section, looking at remotes for my PC, shiny new chargeable wireless keyboard/mouse combos, bluetooth dongles and more. I spent so long there that the (bored) associates asked me if I needed help finding something, despite the usual “I know what the fuck I’m doing so move along” look on my face. They really wanted to ask, “sir are you alright?” Undoubtedly half way through the mad search for the perfect gift a hint of desperation could be seen lurking beneath the sure-as-hell geek exterior.

I finally settled on a new portable hard drive. My last portable was a 1TB Hammer moreSpace, a big, clunky drive which required a hefty amount of additional external power to function. It lasted all of 2 weeks, topping out at about 45GB of data before it broke in a terrible coffee table -> floor transfer which I have dubbed “The End Of The Beginning” of my data storage renaissance. Here I am six months later getting another one! But the difference is huge. For one, this new drive (the WD My Passport) does not require external power. Yup, it runs on less than 5V from a USB cable. Second, this drive is very small. It fits nicely in my pocket or backpack and is easy to transport. Finally, its 320G, not 1TB. This is good! Why? How do you even begin to back up a terabyte-grade storage device?? Unless you have the cash to pick up another one, the answer is: you don’t. But a 320GB drive is much more manageable (plus it fit into the amount of money I wanted to spend).

One of the cool things I was looking forward to doing was installing Ubuntu on it. This would enable me to run multiple OSes without dealing with the University tech crew to get a dual boot partition set up (or go it alone and install my own Windows, the only copy of which I currently own is installed on my desktop box). With this in mind, I split up the hard drive into a number of partitions.

Here’s where the Ubuntu Jaunty review part of this post comes in. As always, Ubuntu booted into a graphical desktop from the LiveCD perfectly, with a few caveats. For one, it didn’t bother recognizing the highest resolution when showing the ubuntu boot screen, so it was a little blurry. But X itself did, and all was good. But when Ubuntu played it’s well-known startup sound, I was horrified to hear that Ubuntu overstepped the nominal PCM levels on my Intel HDA card, meaning I heard a terribly-distorted mess of a startup sound.

Then I opened the Ubuntu installer. I made it to where the partition/disk setup page should be and the Ubuntu installer froze. Everything else worked, and the busy cursor was shown fine, but nothing happened. Rebooted and tried again with the same result. Then I rebooted and selected Install from the boot menu. It still took awhile to get to the disk setup screen but it worked this time. Ubuntu told me I had no operating systems (there was, obviously, there was Windows on my laptop HDD), but underneath the “Take over the disk” option it said “Warning, Windows XP Professional will be deleted”. Haha. Anyway I’ll chock that up to an Ubuntu dev forgetting that people have multiple hard drives at all. In any case the install completed and I was able to boot Ubuntu from the drive with no problems. So: only a *very* minor audio problem to get Jaunty installed on this Thinkpad R61.

Now, prior to this I have been having issues with the disk performance on my laptop HDD. Speed has been gradually slowing down- I figured this was a lack of defrag runs. Trying to run the defragmenter yielded “No, there is a disk check scheduled for next boot, do that first.” But rebooting did not make chkdsk run. I ran chkdsk /f from the command line, both in normal and safe mode. “Chkdsk needs exclusive access, would you like to schedule for reboot?” That did nothing as well.

So, with this back story in mind, I went to reboot into Windows. Unfortunately though, I immediately received about 25-30 alert notifications upon logging in that “Such and such file is corrupted. Please run chkdsk”. Riiight. I fumbled with awhile before I found out about chkdsk /x which tries to force unmount a volume, but I didn’t get a chance to use it. I went to bed.

Now this morning I attempted to boot, only to find that Windows would not exit it’s startup screen, both in safe and normal mode. I brought the box to the University help desk so I could use a Windows disk to get at the Recovery Console, so I could run chkdsk. The first one (normal chkdsk) froze at 25%. The second one (chkdsk /r which checks for bad blocks) froze at 25%. I was running out of time and didn’t want to use up the help desk guy any longer so I quickly booted up Ubuntu from my portable and did a quick emergency backup of whatever I could before doing a reimage of the hard drive, which finished without problems.

It seems whenever I upgrade my storage capabilities I am downgraded by fate at about the same time. In this case I didn’t wind up losing any capacity but it was still a hassle, and I probably lost some minor data. Maybe this round was a return on the bad karma I accumulated when I broke my 1TB drive :-\. If so, I hope I’ve paid that all off now because the storage renaissance is far overdue.


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