Monday, August 05, 2013

Adventures with Windoze: A continuing saga

I am engaged in a continuing battle over personal computer autonomy and independence.

Last week I accidentally unplugged my computer system.  It happens to be running Ubuntu, so I don't really have to reboot all that often, at least compared to Windoze which assumes it's just fine to insist on rebooting whenever it pleases.  I generally use the "suspend" feature most nights when I know I'm not going to be using the system.  The computer then neatly shuts down everything like disk drives and fans.  But it saves a copy of whatever I had been doing, so when I touch the keyboard again, it comes back to life, automagically restoring everything just like it was.

Anyway, the computer doesn't deal all that well with lost power.  It shuts down in a few microseconds, but not quite graceful enough to restore the lost session when the power comes back.

So last week I had started up Microsoft Windoze in a VirtualBox window.  It wanted to download some Windoze upgrades, and I usually tell it okay, go right ahead, I'll just keep doing my Ubuntu thing while Windoze pretends it can monopolize everything with a stern "Do not dare shut down the computer while I'm working!"  I didn't pay much attention to what Windoze was doing.

Turns out, something included in the upgrade package had a little surprise for me - it just decided to erase the Master Boot Record from my primary disk drive.

I didn't discover this for a while, because I don't reboot all that often.  But when my system tried to find the Grub 2 boot loader in the MBR next time, there was only the sound of crickets chirping.  I waited for the system to start the boot loader.  And nothing STILL happened.

Well, I put in my Ubuntu LiveCD to boot up and try to see what was going wrong.  Lo and behold I discovered the now empty MBR.

I should not have been surprised.  I know perfectly well that Windoze always behaves like it should modify any disk contents whenever it pleases.  It doesn't play nice with anybody else.  I have no idea why Windoze thought it was a good idea to wipe out my boot loader.  But it apparently did, without asking permission, in the blink of an eye.

Turns out there is a perfectly wonderful little stand-alone utility at Source Forge called "Boot Repair" that fixes this right up.  I downloaded a copy and was back online in a few minutes.  Just keeping this little program handy for the next time...

Note that Microsoft is worried about their market.  PC sales are lagging behind more high-tech user gear now, things like tablets and smart phones are the biggest sellers today.  Apparently Google Android is the most popular operating environment, with Apple's IOS right behind.  Windoze is now just an also-ran.  I am not at all sad to see the Microsoft market domination and fortunes waning.

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