Last night a MacBook saved my life!

Actually it wasn’t last night it was the whole of yesterday. Yesterday the worst nightmare of the jet-setting software engineer happened and my work laptop developed a bad fault. The Dell’s hard drive became very unreliable! It wouldn’t boot properly, spent time just thrashing, and generally was show signs of hardware faults an imminent failure.

Combined with virtualization my MacBook came to the rescue. I dislike Fedora as a Linux distribution however, for the current client, I have to use it. On the Dell I run Ubuntu with Windows XP in a virtual machine so it is a simple matter to run Fedora Core 8 in a virtual machine as well.

So when I realised that my Dell would just not boot I set VMWare Fusion and Slax, a lightweight distribution with XFS support, downloading on my MacBook and headed off to Frys Electronics. At Frys I bought a USB2.0 to IDE/SATA cable, a new 200Gb 7200RPM 2.5 inch Toshiba HD, a 320Gb 2.5 inch Maxtor external USB HD and some blank CDs.

When I got back to the office I set up work e-mail on my Mac and Skyped and wrote e-mails until Slax had downloaded. I then burnt that to a CD and used it to boot the Dell and tried to access the failing HD. I did manage to read my home directory so I copied across the virtual machine files and some other data on to the Maxtor USB drive. This took some time so I then set the download of an ISO image of Ubuntu 8.04 going so that I could install it on the new HD I had just bought.

Once the data had been copied on to the Maxtor I installed MacFuse and NTFS-3G on to my Mac so that I could read and write NTFS (by default OS X can only read NTFS). Fired up VMWare, pointed it at the VM files I had copied, and it just worked! I have to say that VMWare on OS X is a delight. I will write more about this in another post. Having the same virtual machine running meant I could start working again. This was some five hours after starting the working day.

In between waiting for builds, CVS and other time consuming processes, I swapped the Dell’s old hard drive with the new one I had bought at Frys. I then set an install of Ubuntu going from another CD burnt using my Mac. Finally I used the USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA cable to connect the old hard drive and recovered more data.

This morning I was back to using my Dell If I had still had my old iBook I would have been held up somewhat more since I could not have run VMWare or the virtual machines on PowerPC architecture. And because it is a Mac it comes supplied with an awful lot of useful software which just made bringing the Dell back up easier. I am so relieved I had it with me.

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