The Death of Sulaco

I have two computers running here at Kaedrin headquarters. My primary computer is a Windows box called Sulaco. My secondary computer is running Ubuntu Linux and is called Nostromo. Yesterday, Sulaco nearly died. I’ll spare you the details (which are covered in the forum), but it started with some display trouble. It could have been the drivers for my video card, or it could have been that the video card itself was malfunctioning. In any case, by this morning, Sulaco’s Windows registry was thoroughly corrupted. All attempts to salvage the installation failed. For some reason, my Windows XP CD failed to boot, and my trusty Win 98 floppy boot disk wouldn’t let me run the setup from the XP CD (nor could I even see my hard drive, which had some files on it I wanted to retrieve).

To further complicate matters, the CD burner on my linux box has always been flaky, so I couldn’t use that to create a new boot disk. However, I did remember that my Ubuntu installation disk could run as a Live CD. A few minutes of google searching yielded step-by-step instructions for booting a Windows box with an Ubuntu Live CD, mounting the Windows drive and sharing it via Windows File Sharing (i.e. Samba). A few minutes later and I was copying all appropriate data from Sulaco to Nostromo.

For all intents and purposes, Sulaco is dead. She has served me well, and it should be noted that she was constructed nearly 6 years ago with turn-of-the-century hardware. I’m actually amazed that she held up so well for so long, but her age was showing. Upgrades would have been necessary even without the display/registry problems. The question now is how to proceed.

I’ve been fiddling with Linux for, oh, 8 years or so. Until recently, I’ve never found it particularly useful. Even now, I’m wary of it. However, the ease with which I was able to install Ubuntu and get it up on my wireless network (this task had given me so much trouble in the past that I was overjoyed when I managed to get it working) made me reconsider a bit. Indeed, the fact that the way I recovered from a Windows crash was to use linux is also heartening. On the other hand, I also have to consider the fact that if someone hadn’t written detailed instructions for the exact task I was attempting, I probably never would have figured it out in a reasonable timeframe. This is the problem with linux. It’s hard to learn.

Yes, I know, it’s a great operating system. I’ve fiddled with it enough to realize that some of the things that might seem maddeningly and deliberately obscure are actually done for the best of reasons in a quite logical manner (unless, of course, you’re talking about the documentation, which is usually infuriating). I’m not so much worried that I can’t figure it out, it’s that I don’t really have the time to work through its ideosyncracies. As I’ve said, recent experiences have been heartening, but I’m still wary. Open source software is a wonderful thing in theory, but I’d say that my experience with such applications has been mixed at best. For an example of what I’m worried about, see Shamus’ attempts to use Blender, an open source 3d modeling program.

My next step will be to build a new box in Sulaco’s place. As of right now, I’m leaning towards installing Ubuntu on that and using one of the various Windows emulators like WINE to run the windows proprietary software I need (which probably isn’t much at this point). So right now, Nostromo is my guinea pig. If I can get this machine to do everything I need it to do in the next few days, I’ll be a little less wary. If I can’t, I’ll find another Windows CD and install that. To be perfectly honest, Windows has served me well. Until yesterday, I’ve never had a problem with my installation of XP, which was stable and responsive for several years (conventional wisdom seems to dictate that running XP requires a complete reinstallation every few months – I’ve never had that problem). That said, I don’t particularly feel like purchasing a new copy, especially when Vista is right around the corner…