Anti-Competitive Software Packaging

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For the purposes of this review, I wiped the entire disk clean and installed Linux. After this testing I needed to reinstall Windows XP and make the system dual boot with Red Hat Linux 7.3 for the owner. This proved to be very problematic due to the nature of the Compaq “Quick Restore” disk. By default it will only wipe out the entire hard drive and install onto a massive NTFS partition using all space. Linux installers like Mandrake or SuSE can easily resize FAT32 partitions, but not NTFS, so this is a problem.

Fortunately, I found instructions from another Linux owner of a slightly older Compaq Presario 700 series model that gives a method of editing the QuickRestore process to allow for multi-partition installations. The QuickRestore CD’s from Compaq uses PowerQuest DriveImage for easy partition restoration. Scripted restoration uses simple instructions within a .SCR script file to direct it to delete the entire partition table and create the NTFS partition. Simple editing of that script can tell it to instead delete the first partition on the disk and recreate it for the DriveImage restoration. Read his page for details on this process. This is exactly what most folks need.

Unfortunately, this newer version of QuickRestore encrypted the DriveImage images on the CD’s, asking for a password when I followed the directions in the link. With limited time I figured my only option was to buy PowerQuest Partition Magic 7.0 for $70 online download in order to resize the NTFS partition. This worked fine, but several days later I now realize that I could have burned a modified QuickRestore CD with an edited .SCR script rather than using the modified boot image floppy recommended by the instructions in the above link.

In any case, this seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through to install Linux in a dual boot configuration with Windows XP, especially when Compaq could have very easily made multiple options in their QuickRestore CD for different partitioning options. I was surprised that Compaq made it this difficult to install Linux onto this machine, especially with HP/Compaq’s generally positive view toward Linux and Open Source Software.

Dear Bruce Perens of HP,

Could you please take a look at the QuickRestore CD’s of your Compaq products? A simple menu option in the QuickRestore CD to redo the First partition rather than the entire disk would suffice to make installation of Linux onto your company’s retail computers much easier.

Sincerely,
Warren Togami

I had similar suspiciously anti-competitive problems with my Sony Vaio. The Sony Vaio FXA36 default partitioning was two FAT32 partitions split 50/50, seemingly Linux friendly, however upon attempting Linux installation it could not read the partition table. After some investigation it seems that Sony shipped the machine with a corrupted, non-standard partition table that only Windows XP could understand. I ended up using the little-known Open Source FIPS partition editor tool in order to fix the partition table without formatting my hard drive. This I consider to be a blatant attempt by either Microsoft or Sony to make it as difficult as possible for people that want to try alternative operating systems.

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