One of the reasons why I love Macs

Posted on: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 03:02 By: patrick

Click on the "read more" link to see one hell of a convincing reason for loving Macs!

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If you feel uneasy looking at this picture, then you might be ripe for "the switch" - if you haven't got a Mac already :-)

In case you remember - last week I mentioned wanting to add a new SATA hard disk drive to my Linux server. What you see is the result of this harmless seeming endeavour. After I had solved "the power connector problem" (by buying a SATA power connector cable), things started to get interesting...

After the SATA drive was fully connected, it turned out that the SATA controller embedded on the motherboard for some unknown reason was unable to talk to the drive. Unfortunately, the controller, being a persisent type, never gave up trying. The result was that the server never completed its boot process, hanging in an endless loop while SATA controller and drive had a nice chat. I concluded rather soon that I would have to flash the computer BIOS if I wanted to give the SATA controller's old firmware an update so that it would understand the drive's newer "language". There were only two slight problems:

  1. Asus (the motherboard manufacturer) had stopped making new BIOS versions for my motherboard type around August 2004
  2. The server computer did not have a 3.5" floppy drive that I could boot from to perform the BIOS flashing operation - supposing I had the proper BIOS

The first problem I was able to solve by convincing myself that it would not be such a bad idea to flash an unofficial BIOS, hacked together by some unknown individual, posted in a BIOS hacking forum I had never heard of before, stumbling upon it only through a lucky Google search. No, don't ask - I am not interested in buying this incredibly oil-rich piece of land in the Sahara... :-) It's just that I believe in hackerdom and instinctively trust people when they have the "right" aura.

The second problem was a little bit harder. After a few unsuccessful attempts at booting from an USB floppy drive (it may be obvious to some people why it doesn't work to set the BIOS option "first boot device" to "USB FDD"; but not to naïve me!), I remembered my wife's old, defunct PC and the glorious 3.5" floppy drive that it contained. The image above documents how further events proceeded.

To make a long story short, after a couple of minor additional adventures (the most "interesting" of which was the twisted and almost broken pin on the IDE connector of the hard disk drive that contained the root file system) I finally succeeded in flashing the BIOS and - lo and behold! - the SATA drive worked like a charm.

I now had two choices how to conclude this story:

  1. Feeling satisfaction at having mastered a challenge and beaten "the machine"
  2. Wondering if there could not have been a less painful way to do something as simple as adding a bit of additional storage to a system

For mysterious and unexplained reasons, I decided to go for #2 and buy a Mac as my next server system!

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