Linux is Great

It’s been a long time since I’ve used Windows - probably a few years. It’s been even longer since I legitimately cared about fixing Windows problems and didn’t instead opt for wiping the partition and doing a fresh reinstall.

Trust me, I’m a Developer

As a computer scientist, naturally I run into people who confuse “developer” with “IT Professional” and ask me to fix their computers for them. My general catch-all for this is “I don’t fix Windows problems.” In the case they use a Mac, I expect Mac OS to lock them out of doing most harmful things to their system. If they were a Linux user (which, to date, none have been), I would happily hack on their machine until it has recovered some amount of usability. But more often than not, it’s Windows. And I don’t fix Windows problems.

The J3RN Way™

Today it was discovered that if you pester me long enough, you might just get me to at least give it a go. An HP 8570w Workstation Laptop. A powerhouse, on paper. A monstrous thing with a boot loop issue.

Alright, let’s do this The J3RN Way™. I’ll save your important documents, but we’re going to wipe the system and reinstall.

I need to boot from disk or USB and can’t. F10 to get to BIOS settings. Well, they don’t do jack shit unless you disable SecureBoot (according to a forum post) and enable Legacy mode (which I can confirm actually does things).

Alright, we can boot from USB. Let’s boot to a Manjaro Linux LiveCD so I can move all these important files to my external hard drive, affectionately named “DAISI.” Leaping into the file manager (Thunar, I belive it is), quickly mount all available drives.

Five Partitions in Search of an Exit

Wait, all of these just have Linux top-level directories on them… Alright, let’s crack open some GParted - my favorite last-resort partition manager! It complains about the partition table once, and again, and perhaps a third time. Alright, we’re in. /dev/sda appears to have about 5 partitions, mostly in NTFS. Sounds like your general factory install of Windows. On /dev/sda? Weird.

Alright, /dev/sda4 is a big hunk of NTFS. I can only imagine this is where the nice people at HP thought my buddy here would like to store his files. Let’s mount it. “How about ‘No!’,” screams mount, “This is a RAID 0 volume, and I can’t handle that shit!” I like to paraphrase sometimes. Not often. Well, I don’t know much about RAID either, so I can’t do much about that.

So my friend says he has his Windows system recovery CD. Well, the built-in feature tries to load for about five seconds, then just crashes out to a blue screen with a “:(“, then reboots immediately, so it may be worth a try. Good work on the sad face, Microsoft. Classy. I liked it. Now all you need is to make your system less easy to utterly destroy, and we might be friends.

Booting with the disk, a whole lot of nothing happens. Jumping back into the BIOS settings, I search for anything that could be blocking the ability to boot from disk. Not being able to find anything about it is hardly conclusive - who knew you needed to enable Legacy mode to boot from a USB drive?

Anyway, I pop out the disk and have a look at it. It is entitled “Applications and Drivers” and additionally says “This software comes preinstalled.” This disk isn’t Windows recovery - it’s a disk full of manufacturer bloatware, most likely. Thanks, HP. That was real useful.

The OS of Our Discontent

I sit back in my chair and look at this dysfunctional heap of hardware. I tried so save some files, and couldn’t. I tried to reinstall and couldn’t. This machine was at an intersection of evils: No protection against the end-user destroying the system, and no way to service the system once it was broken.

So thus I have been brought to my knees. I beg of you, HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and other PC hardware manufacturers - Just ship Linux! A new machine with an LTS version of Ubuntu pre-installed would simply be a dream.

Oh, and fix your disgusting UEFI interface. It sucks.