Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles

Or, the day I felt like Thomas Edison.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that will not work."

Repeat visitors may recall the pledge I made to apply to the next round of the Gnome Outreach Program for Women. You may also recall a major stumbling block was the fact that my (rather old) laptop runs on Windows and lacks the hardware necessary to partition the drive and run Linux alongside it. For many reasons, including the apparent electrical death of the family's main PC over the weekend (I'll come back to that in a minute), I can't just kill Windows on this machine.

Since Friday, I've spent the all of my spar(s)e time attempting to set up a virtual machine. I started with a very helpful article on MediaWiki.org called How to Become a MediaWiki Hacker that I found through OpenHatch.org. I really thought I was getting somewhere!
So I started downloading. The list was short (Vagrant and VirtualBox) but the files were rather large. And I was still trying to make Cygwin work so I could get through the rest of the OpenHatch training missions (pro tip: Patch is not installed by default and you really have to dig to find it.) And Vagrant wants to cut all of your network connections during its install, so it had to wait a bit.

Several interruptions later, I finally finished the downloads and installs and opened up VirtualBox. I spun up an Ubuntu VM and then it demanded the Ubuntu OS which was not included in the install. Of course. So I got Ubuntu, saved it to my little jump drive and ...

VirtualBox apparently will only allow the OS to boot from a DVD. Several more interruptions later (including the whole family hunting down an odd plasticy-burning smell which turned out the be the machine I had downloaded all of this on), I restarted all the downloading and installing on my little laptop.

That's when Windows helpfully warned me that I have only 399 MB left on my hard drive. So I spent a few hours last night deleting and un-installing every bit of cruft that I could find. I successfully freed up about 14 GB. And this morning, I started again. Installing, loading, popped in a DVD to burn a disc image of Ubuntu and ...

I kept getting weird drive errors. The system kept complaining that Error code: 0x80004005 occurred.  A quick Google search led me to a Windows repair tool. So I ran the tool and it couldn't fix the problem. I tried again with a different DVD. Nada. Finally I tried a blank CD. Success! I could feel a little smile starting in the corners of my mouth when I tried again with the DVD. That didn't work. Finally I tried to simply play a DVD. That wouldn't work either. That's when I started to get suspicious.

After some digging around, I found the detailed properties for my drive. (Is that a spoiler?) It's imaginatively named "DVD/CD-RW Drive" but when I looked at the manufacturer's name, it said "CD-ROM Drive." The cute little DVD icon is on the front of it, but it is clearly only a CD drive.

So, here I am. It's now time for me to go to my "day" job. I haven't pushed anything to GitHub. I haven't gotten email working on the Splash page. I haven't even finished that tutorial I was working on (I killed Cygwin, optimistic that I was going to get Ubuntu working in the VM.) But, I have found 10,000 ways that this won't work.

Tomorrow, I may find the 10,001st. I hope not, though.

Edited to add:  And then I found this!!  In short: RTFM! I'll have a sequel to this post shortly. (Ok, long-ly. I'll be honest.)