Sunday, 30 August 2015

Rescuing a Windows 10 failed install using GParted Live on CD

Windows 10 is here, for better or worse. As the family sysadmin, I've been tasked to update the Windows machines: ultimately, failure modes are not well documented and I needed Free software and several hours to recover a vital machine.

The "free upgrade for users of prior Windows versions" is a limited time offer for a year from launch. Microsoft do not offer licence keys for the upgrade: once a machine has updated to Windows 10 and authenticated on the 'Net, then a machine can be re-installed and will be regarded by Microsoft as pre-authorised. Users don't get the key at any point.

Although Microsoft have pushed the fact that this can be done through Windows Update, there is the option to use Microsoft's Media Creation tool to do the upgrade directly on the Windows machine concerned. This would be necessary to get the machine to upgrade and register before a full clean install of Windows 10 from media.

This Media Creation Tool failed for me on three machines with "Unable to access System reserved partition'

All the machines have SSDs from various makers: a colleague suggested that resizing the partition might enable the upgrade to continue.  Of the machines that failed, all were running Windows 7 - two were running using BIOS, one using UEFI boot on a machine with no Legacy/CSM mode.

Using GParted live .iso  - itself based on Debian Live - allowed me to resize the System partition from 100MiB to 200MiB by moving the Windows partition but  Windows became unbootable.

In two cases, I was able to boot from DVD Windows installation media and make Windows bootable again at which point the Microsoft Media Creation Tool could be used to install Windows 10

The UEFI boot machine proved more problematic: I had to create a Windows 7 System Repair disk and repair Windows booting before Windows 10 could proceed.

My Windows-using colleaague had used only Windows-based recovery disks: using Linux tools allowed me to repair Windows installations I couldn't boot

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Poetry for Debconf15 poetry night

Debian's reached the age of 22
I wish I could be there with you
In Heidelberg, fair German city
To share, in person, this my ditty

Rhonda's worked hard - the work is done
With poems now begins the fun
While others play cards or hack new code
Or dream of running down the road

Free software, arguments, warmth, good cheer
Too soon all over 'til next year
 All of the best are there / on 'Net
Here's hope that it's the best Debconf yet



Monday, 27 July 2015

Bye SPARC - for now

So it looks as if it's the end for the Debian SPARC port that is primarily 32 bit, for now at least. Too little available modern hardware, too few porters and an upstream hardware provider emotionally tied to significant licensing and support agreements.

If 64 bit SPARC hardware were more available, I'd be interested again. SPARC has given me two of my favourite moments in Debian. I helped a colleague to duplicate existing software and move architecture from Intel to SPARC mainly by copying across the list of packages. 

It also allowed me in ?? 1999 / 2000 ?? to take a SPARC 20 to London Olympia to a Linux Expo where one of the principal sponsors was Sun. They laughed on their stand when I set up older hardware with minimal memory but were not so amused when I demonstrated Debian, full X Window environment and KDE successfully.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

CI20 - MIPS dev. board - first impressions.

Annoyingly, I've bought one of these just before the form factor changes and it becomes a nice square board.

Up and running immediately out of the box, which is nice.

The kernel supplied on NAND flash is recent enough that it supports CONFIG_FHANDLE which is needed for the upgrade to Jessie.

The instructions for Jessie upgrade are straightforward and appear to be working correctly: they also suggest apt-get autoremove and apt-get autoclean to clean up which is a very nice touch.

The sources.list in apt was already pointing to my country's Debian mirror which was even nicer.

Quite a good experience immediately from unboxing: it also adds to the number of machine architectures I've run Debian on:
alpha, amd64, arm, armel, armhf, i386, sparc - not bad for a start.

It's a bit slow - but it's a SoC, so what can you expect? The PowerVR graphics demos were spectacular  but the drivers are very definitely non-free - you can't have everything.

[I do notice that there is an FSF-friendly Debian variant, though not yet certified as such - presumably not including PowerVR drivers]

(Lots of occurrences of the word "nice" in this post that I've just noticed. It's either understatement or just that I'm British)

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Jessie - very nearly released as I write :) :)

I've spent a chunk of the day testing installs of Jessie on various hardware I have here.

About 8 AMD64 installs later, I've almost done testing many of the variants.

One i586 install done - that's a really old laptop :)

I'm about to re-install the Cubietruck to test an armhf install :)

It's been a really long day - but we're almost there for the final mirror push :)

This is what it's all about - time on IRC, lots of work, lots of fellow feeling: it may only be once every couple of years, but the value is immense.

Also see https://identi.ca/debian  :)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Windows 8.1 / Debian 8 dual boot on Lenovo laptop

Just proved this to be feasible on a new SSD. This was done using Windows bootable media and a Jessie netinst. The Debian netinst was copied onto a USB stick.

1. Switch  Secure Boot to "off" in BIOS / system settings

2. Set machine to UEFI boot.

3. Install Windows 8.1 to first part of the disk in a custom install. On a 128GB disk, I gave Windows 8.1 30GB.

4. Install Jessie from USB: allow Grub efi to install.

It does work and was a useful demonstration for a friend.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Cubietruck now running Debian :)

Following a debootstrap build of sid on one machine to complete the cross-compilation of mainline u-boot, I managed to get vanilla Debian installed on my Cubietruck

A USB-serial cable is a must for the install and for any subsequent major reconfiguration as the stock Debian installer does not have drivers for the video / audio. Various Cubietruck derivative distributions do - but the Sunxi kernel appears flaky

All was fine for a few days, then I decided to try and configure the Wifi by hand configuring /etc/network/interfaces and wpasupplicant files. I managed to break the network connectivity by doing things in a hurry and typing blind. I'd put it into the appropriate closed metal case so was rather stuck.

A friend carefully took the case apart by easing off the metal cover plates, removed two screws holding the whole thing together and precision drilled  the metal cover plates on one side so that four screws can be undone and the entire inner part of the case can slide out as one while the other metal clover plate remains captive. He will follow this procedure with his two later.

Very pleased with the way it's turned out. The WiFi driver has non-free firmware but I now have a tiny, silent machine, drawing about 3W tops and both interfaces are now working.