Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wrong Time, Wrong Place

I often wonder why I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe it is ordained, or maybe I am just genuinely unlucky.

We had a 'boat load' of computers donated to us a while ago. Part of the 'boat load' was a bunch of the smallest lap tops I have ever seen. They are Toshiba Portege 3100ct models. At first sight they look very cute and exciting.

For a week or so I heard mumblings and grumblings about these lap tops. I am not part of the refurbishing operation other than being the king of the idiot projects, and the undisputed expert at finding drivers for bizarre bits of hardware.

finally I decided that I had to get the scoop on what the problem was. It turns out that the reason the Toshiba Portege is so small is because it does not have an internal CD drive, or floppy drive.

When the units were first purchased they were preloaded with Windows 98, and came with an external floppy, and an external PCMCIA CD ROM. Unfortunately none of the external CD Drives had been included in the donation. As a result the refurbishing crew were at a loss about how to reload a clean copy of Windows.

I could see this project was going nowhere, and the laptops would end up sitting in a large pile in a dark corner of the workshop. So Silly me says "give me one for a few days and let me have a play with it".

These stupid laptops are so tiny that you have to use a funky little add on docking station to even get at a USB port.

Plan A was to build a custom boot disk for Win98 with the USB support included, and the drivers to get a USB backpack CD loaded.

It took about half a nanosecond to figure out that that was next to impossible (actually a couple of hours). The good old Win98 boot disks are just thinly disguised DOS 6.2 boot disks, meaning that they have next to no ability to deal with USB and certainly not USB connected fancy CD devices.

Being the undisputed king of bizarre uses for computers I cracked another beer and decided that I needed to rethink my strategy. Several ideas came to me, but I dismissed them because they did not have the right level of craziness:

Load up Windows 95 from diskette, install the CD driver's and upgrade to 98. This was immediately rejected on the basis that it was far too mainstream, and far too time consuming to do with each machine. Windows 95 came on about 25 diskettes.

Create a bootdisk that got the backpack Ethernet connector running and do an across the network install. This was rejected on the grounds that it was too easy, and why the hell hadn't the referb team done this already?

Then it came to me, something completely off the wall! Lets put the Penguin on the systems!

My first choice of Penguin was Fedora, but alas Fedora does not come with a boot diskette install option.

Debian however does! I downloaded and created the two diskettes (Boot and Root). Booted up the puter, selected an 'Over the Internet' install, and 2 hours later I had a perfectly good working laptop.

Oh my boss is going to hate this hahahahahahahahahahah

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