Eureka before the bathtub
Wednesday, January 21 2004
setting: rural Hurley, Ulster County, New York
I figured I needed some sort of bootable mechanical drive for the Vaio, since otherwise it seemed unlikely that I'd ever be able to upgrade its hard drive. So I spent more time than I'd care to admit poking around on Ebay trying to find suitable (and suitably cheap) equipment. I also went to Staples and bought a USB floppy drive, but (as I later learned after an exhaustive web search), a Vaio will not boot from a non-Sony floppy drive.
Later today I had a Eureka! moment just before stepping into the bathtub. What if I swapped in the new hard drive into some other laptop, one with a CD-ROM drive, and installed an operating system on it that way? I could then take it out, put it in the Vaio, and it would probably boot! (Sure, it would bother me about all the devices it was discovering, but that would stop eventually.) This turned out to be the perfect solution to my problem, although I didn't manage to arrive at it quite as elegantly as I hoped I would. I installed the hard drive too prematurely in the process and had to rip the Vaio open yet another time to extract it and begin again
Doing all this opening and closing of the Vaio made me nervous, because of the obvious fragility of all the tiny parts inside. To get the hard drive out requires you to remove all the screws from the bottom, pull off four small pieces of plastic from around the display hinge, remove three more screws from the top surface, and then pull the two halves of the case apart, being careful not to damage four or five sets of fragile cables connecting the two together. I had a real scare this evening with the hard drive's cable (which is one of those transparent plastic membranes with a circuit pattern printed on it) came loose from its moorings. At first I feared I'd ripped it out permanently, but all I'd really done was discover yet another tiny proprietary connector.
I'd been feeling a strange alienation from my laptop ever since I discovered that I couldn't delete crap such as MSN Gaming Zone, Frontpage, Outlook Express, and NetMeeting from my installation of Windows XP. I consider those applications to be unnecessary burdens and insults to my intelligence. I will never use them, so why should I have to carry them everywhere I go with my laptop? They are taking up room for things I do want to carry! Tonight, though, I finally learned how to disable the confounded System File Protection in Windows XP. It's a tricky procedure requiring a hex editor. What you end up doing is replacing some assembly language instructions in an insidious Windows XP dæmon with NOPs, thereby rendering it inert. After that, all those nasty folders in Program Files can simply be deleted - and they never grow back!
In other news, Gretchen and I have been watching lots of the BBC dramatization of All Creatures Great and Small on DVD. I vaguely remember most of the episodes from when they appeared on PBS, but it's fun to see them again. Back when I saw them the first time, I didn't have much understanding of such adult rituals as womanizing, getting drunk, and (perhaps most relevant to my present predicament) making housecalls.
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