Tuesday, June 20, 2006

360's and Re-Partitions

Picked up my iPod's USB cable from work before heading into the field. I completed my data to CD burns tonight and all went well.

If you didn't catch the title of my last post--it was a play on this. Funny how the weirdest small things you learn in school kinda pop out on you.


So, I had the scare of my life today.

I was driving the 610 Loop over by the Astrodome. A heavy downpour had broken out and the rain was coming down hard. I had dropped my speed down to about 55 mph as I worked my way over to make my upcoming exit. It's about 4 lanes here (per freeway side). Out of the corner of my eye I see a white blur as a Suburban passes me two lanes over at more like 65-70 mph (posted speed was 60 mph). It changes lanes and instantly starts to do this slow-motion pirouette--at forward speed right in the middle of all the surrounding cars and trucks. I immediately begin to slow down not knowing where this thing is going to end up.

It continued to do its mad ballet spin over into the right two lanes. Then it made more 360 turns over into the far left lane. All the while my brain is grimly calculating the possibilities of any evasive action I might need to take yet still calmly admiring the beauty of the full-speed spinout. It swayed left and right like a small boat caught in a vicious sea, Physics fighting to determine if it was a candidate for rollover, or eventually leading by hand to a violent rest into one of the concrete retaining barriers.

I passed it as it Physics suddenly tired of the game and left it at rest halfway on the left shoulder and halfway in the fast lane--right in front of a vehicle and a semi, 90 degrees to the lane-flow.

By some sort of miracle, the Suburban had missed the pack of cars that were around it when it went into the wild spin and also as it came to rest before it hit any barriers. Wow. It seemed pretty clear to me that a small flow of water was running down the freeway decline and the Suburban had hydroplaned. Because it was changing lanes, that may have been enough to send it into the spin.

I felt like I was in the middle of a NASCAR event. It was terrifying and beautiful at the same time. Fortunately no one appeared hurt and no damage occurred to anyone's vehicles. All in all, I estimate it did about 8 full 360's.

Sheesh, people. If it rains on the freeways...you have to slow down! Even here in Texas!

Re-Partitioning an "Active" Windows Drive

Mike over at The Japan Years blog asked me about partitioning an active drive--like when you don't want to start from scratch. Let's see what I can quickly share:

First, (very simply) a partition is set of space specifically allocated on your hard-drive. A hard drive can have just one partition (C:) or many (D:...Z:). It is pretty much limited to how big your hard-drive is and how you divide up your partitions.

Why would you even care to partition your drive? Lots of reasons. I personally use them like "super" folders. My system has 4 partitions of equal sizes. C:=System and program files, D:=pictures, E:=music, F:=archive/storage/on-drive backup copies. Also, if my system needs to be reinstalled, I can do so without worrying too much about harming my user-data (assuming the drive itself isn't bad). Some people "dual-boot" their pc's so each different operating system may want its own partition to install the system (Linux or Apple).

Personally, I like to set my (XP) partitions up at the very beginning when I am doing a fresh install of Windows. It will prompt you to create partitions if you would like. Great time to do it. However, if you buy a pc/system from a OEM company, you will often not get an XP system disk, but a "system-restore" disk that just puts an original image back on your drive--like it was shipped from the factory. Not usually helpful in setting up a different partition structure.

But (like Mike asked) how do you partition a disk if you already have your system on it and don't want to (or can't) reload your entire system from scratch?

I suppose everyone has their own method and software to do this, but here are some options to look into:

One of the best known programs I am aware of to do this fairly easily is Symantec's PartitionMagic. It isn't very expensive and is a pretty dependable program. I recall it being "wizard-based" so should be usable even by "non-techies". If I had to tell someone what to use, I'd most likely recommend this one first and foremost. It can handle all current Windows file-system formats.

Ranish Partition Manager is a powerful freeware tool. It also lets you run a simulation mode. One drawback is that it is more "geeky" and it does not support NTFS partitions. In Enterprise class deployments, most Windows 2000 and XP systems use NTFS partitions for various reasons. I set my home pc's C: to be a NTFS partition, but my others are FAT32.

(How do you find out what file system your Windows system uses? Double-click "My Computer" then, starting with your C: find each hard-drive icon listed and right click the icon. Left-click the "properties" item listed. Under the "general" tab it will list what file system is set up on that drive partition.)

If you are Linux minded, there is a Linux application called QTParted. FAQ here. The best way to use it on a Windows system would be to download a burn a Linux Live CD that has it installed. Then you can (usually) boot your system with the Linux CD run the QTParted application. This is also a fairly technical procedure. I believe the Knoppix live CD comes with this app as does the SystemRescueCd. Other distros likely do as well.

Finally, the always resourceful Lifehacker site has two articles on re-partitioning Windows drives as well with suggestions.

I know I have some other tech-heads out there as well. Feel free to kindly drop your suggestions and insights into the comments as well for our friend. (It's almost midnight and I might not be communicating as clearly as I think I am.)

Lastly...and MOST IMPORTANTLY (tm), back up all your important data first to another hard-drive, iPod, CD's/DVD's, all of the above, etc. before setting out to re-partition an active hard-drive. Why? Well, it's kinda like brain-surgery. Yeah, if you follow the directions--nothing bad "should" happen, but if it does, most likely it will be "very bad" maybe even non-recoverable. So keep that in mind. Read the guides, do some Googling on your choice of poison and get your backups done first.

Then...dive in and operate!

Riding the skies with fear and wonder,

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