Archive for January 10th, 2006

1/9/06: David 1, Windows 0

Word count: 5028 | Since last entry: 1503

As readers of her LiveJournal are aware, Kate has been on a decluttering kick lately, and we’ve managed to accumulate four grocery bags of books and one of CDs that we decided we can live without. So yesterday, after I spent most of the morning ripping CDs into iTunes, we headed off with our bags to get the books and CDs back into circulation.

The first place we went was Music Millennium, a fine local music store where we had a coupon good for an extra 15% on any used CD sales. But lots of other people were cleaning out their CD shelves, possibly attracted by the coupon, and we were warned of a two-hour wait for the CD buyer. So we took them to Everyday Music instead, where we amused ourselves with browsing the racks while the buyer evaluated our wares. We wound up spending only $50 over what our CDs brought in. Then we lugged the books to nearby Powell’s, where there were three buyers on duty and we only had to stand in line for a few minutes. After which, of course, we had to hit the stacks. But this time we came out ahead, with $10 in store credit. So we wound up with a net expense of about $40 and replaced five bags of unwanted books and CDs with one small bag of (hopefully) wanted ones. Not that there is any room on the shelves for those.

After we got home from that expedition, I headed right back to Powell’s, because I’d forgotten I had a couple of Xmas presents to return and I wanted to complete the decluttering expedition. (Not presents I’d received; books I’d bought as presents and then learned the intended recipient already had them.) I knew it was dangerous to go to Powell’s again, especially with a card now loaded with another $20 in store credit, but this time I managed to get away with nothing more than a cup of coffee.

Amazingly, that whole expedition took less than three hours, including lunch. I spent the afternoon ripping more CDs and making sure that all three computers had the right music on them. But when Kate and I went to consolidate the music collection on the office computer (which I’ve begun thinking of as “her computer”), we discovered there wasn’t enough free disk space to perform the consolidation.

This led to a deep philosophical discussion about extending the concept of decluttering to the office computer. I’d been thinking for some time that it needed a larger hard disk, but to Kate this seemed like buying a bigger house when what was really needed was to keep the current one tidy. My main concern was that by comparison with the multimedia files that we’ve been adding lately, any space we could reclaim by removing unwanted documents would be just a drop in the proverbial.

But then I thought of a major decluttering option that would free up at least four GB — I could delete the operating system and all the applications.

Okay, I could delete an operating system and its applications. Specifically, when I upgraded this PC from Windows 98 to Windows XP I’d partitioned the hard disk and done a fresh install of XP on the new partition. So the first partition contains our documents directory and an operating system we haven’t booted up in over a year. If I just got rid of Win98 I could make enough space for about 66 more CDs. (Hmm, not all that much. Still substantial, though.)

But I’m not dumb. I immediately began backing up the C: partition to the new fileserver, in case I deleted something I regretted later. Then we went to the Bagdad for pizza and Flightplan, which was rather implausible in spots but still an entertaining two hours of mindless fun. We got home just as the backup was finishing… and the verification phase started, which would take just as long. So I did my writing for the evening, but didn’t post anything to my journal because that would require using the PC (long story).

This morning when I awoke I saw that the backup had completed and verified successfully. I checked that I could successfully restore a directory full of files, then deleted everything on the C: partition other than the documents directory. Despite a couple of warnings about deleting the Program Files directory, the deletion proceeded without error, freeing up large amounts of space and leaving the system still functional. I tried running some programs and all seemed okay.

But when I rebooted… ack! A black screen with “Can’t find NTLDR”! Woe! I had stupidly forgotten that, although the C: drive’s operating system was no longer in use, it was still the boot drive.

After staring and sweearing at the black screen for a while, I tried booting from several emergency boot floppies. None of them worked. But the WinXP install CD did boot, and offered a Recovery Console. But the Recovery Console was nothing more than a DOS prompt. How to recover the lost files, which were gone to wherever files go when you empty the Recycle Bin?

Fortunately, I had a working server with a complete, fresh backup of the C: drive. I ran upstairs and restored C:’s root directory to a temporary folder, then copied key files — including AUTOEXEC.BAT and the critical NTLDR — to a floppy. Then I copied the files from the floppy (one at a time, the Recovery Console version of COPY doesn’t support wildcards) to the C: drive. Cross fingers, press Reset and… it lives!

Amazingly, I made it to work less than an hour later than usual.

A few more files did have to be restored… old apps that were still running from the C: drive, sound files, that sort of thing. But all in all the operation was a success. I was stupid enough to get myself in serious trouble, but smart enough to get out of it. Geek triumph! Never did consolidate Kate’s iTunes library, though.

This evening we ate leftovers, did some grocery shopping, and I also did some writing. Most of the word count above is copied in from the previous draft, but I’m getting to the climax and that’s demanding a serious rewrite. Expect to see slower progress in the next few days. And when I finish, I need to go back and fix up the timescale a bit, and also restore some of the vast scope that the previous draft had — the new draft is more personal and visceral for the main character, but as a side effect it’s also lost some of its sensawunda.