A Tale of False Promises and Broken Windows
The Situation: A coworker dropped his
laptop today. Apparently, from phone conversations, the laptop
is working but the monitor is f****d. I advise him to head
to the company office and plug it into an external monitor
to be sure it's OK then try to save his data to a CD-ROM while
we send his laptop off to be repaired. Simple, right?
The Story: For some unknown
reason, he could not get the external monitor to work. Over
the phone we are able to figure out that Windows is working
but he can't see anything. I figured it out by telling him
the keystrokes to shut it down (Windows key, up arrow, enter,
enter). So I tell him to come over to my place where I have
everything we could need - external hard drives, monitors,
Plan A: He arrives shows
me his laptop and, yup, the screen is screwed. I take his hard
drive out and replace my laptop hard drive with his. We have
different laptops but I figure we can install drivers
where needed to use my CD burner to save his files. All seems
to be going well - Windows XP begins start up and all... then
with the Windows activation screen.
forgotten Microsoft's draconian measures regarding one box
per copy of Windows. Well, this is a perfectly legitimate
use so we call the 800 number to get a new number. After
reading in the seven sets of numbers (tedious in itself) the
at the other end of the phone line essentially tells me to
go stuff myself. Now if this were a Microsoft-only world, my
Plan K: (K for Knoppix!)
I pull out my trusty Knoppix CD and boot from there. Quick
enough we have Knoppix booted and are able to browse his hard
drive files. He is visibly relieved. I try to write his critical
files to a USB key but for some reason Knoppix won't let this
happen (anyone know why?). So I plug in my external CD burner
and burn his files
to a CD. We shut everything down, put the hard drives back
where they belong and booted up my laptop in Windows. Yup,
the CD works great.
Conclusion: This is yet
another example of how propietary formats and "closed source"
put you at the mercy of the vendor. If it weren't for Open
Source and Knoppix, my co worker would have gone until at least
tomorrow, when he could call Microsoft and talk to a human
being instead of a computer, to get his data but more likely
would not have had access until his laptop is repaired. We
are consultants who earn money by billing hours for work performed.
Without the files on his laptop, he would not be able to work
for the client - losing money in the process. This is his data,
not Microsoft's. If it weren't for Linux and all
of the wonderful free software that comes of Open Source, he
would have been screwed again by Microsoft.
Totally by coincidence, here's an interesting
and related article published today.