The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Doing things the easy way

Spring has a computer set aside for the kids to use—the only thing left to do is install an operating system. The Older (at 9) suggested installing Linux on the system, I suspect so he can play even more NetHack since I introduced him to the game last year. But Spring has decided to install an instance of Windows on the system, since most of the software she has for the kids runs under that and not Linux.

One major problem with the system—it doesn't boot from the CD-ROM.

Okay, no biggie. Just make a boot disk and run the install program off the CD-ROM.

Six boot disks later and we're still nowhere close to installing Windows. The boot disk I formatted under my Windows box (Win98) apparently doesn't see the CD-ROM. There was a rescue disk image on the install CD, but for whatever reason my Windows box can't read CDs (it hasn't been able to for months now but I haven't felt a need to fix the situation) and Spring's Windows box (Windows 2000) won't run the special program you need to make a rescue floppy.


Mount the CD-ROM in Spring's machine, make it sharable over the network so my computer can see it, then run the special program on my computer to make the special rescue floppy to boot the machine so we can run the install program.

Only that disk doesn't work either.

Spring finally got a disk with the proper CD-ROM drivers and yes, once booted, we can see the CD-ROM and even get a listing of files from it.

Only we can't actually run the program, or change into any subdirectories on the CD. The bastard version of MS-DOS/Windows that we booted can list the top level directory but can't read any further.

I check the CD out on my laptop—it's not corrupt or anything.

So the problem as I see it is—we need to boot from the CD to install Windows. But the machine won't boot from the CD-ROM. That's easy enough to fix—write a custom boot sector to read in the boot sector from the CD and transfer control to that. Put my custom sector on a floppy and it should work.

Okay, not many people would be able to do that. And yes, for me that is the easy way of doing things. The code itself is specific for this situation but what did you expect for about half an hour of work?

I popped the disk with my custom boot sector into the machine, turned it on and … Cannot load OS2DRV.DLL. What the … I thought. That can't be right … Boot with one of the other floppies, root around for debug (a debugger that is worse than gdb), load up the boot sector to examine it. It didn't look at all like a boot sector to me. It was then I took the CD to Spring's machine, which can boot off a CD-ROM and attempted to boot it.

Yup, the CD itself wasn't bootable.

Nice to know we found out the easy way, huh?

Update on Friday, April 18th, 2003

Rob, who gave Spring the computer in question, says that the computer will boot from the CD-ROM even though the BIOS says otherwise.

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