This is not your average Linux-focused post, I’ m sorry if you were expecting one.
As I said lately, I’m now in Los Angeles, and while my dayjob involves working with a Gentoo-based firmware (and a Flash-written interface), I also have to complete a few tasks for customers at home, one of which requires me to use Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2008, both of which I own a license of … but in Italy.
While my original plan was to use TeamViewer (of which I also have a license — no kidding I know the value of Free Software, given how much I must spend on proprietary software to perform the task that FLOSS is unable to), but unfortunately the same router crash that caused Yamato’s unavailability has caused me to lose access to the laptop I used for this task.
This became even more troublesome considering that while my Dell laptop came with a Windows 7 Professional license, I decided to not install it back last time I decided to repartition it, and even more importantly, when I came here to the US I replaced the 250GB SATA hard drive with a 64GB SSD which is entirely dedicated to my Gentoo installation.
How to solve this situation? Well, seems like I did set me up with the single component to handle this properly: an eSATAp-to-SATA cable, a passive adapter, which can be used in combined eSATA/USB ports, which my laptop has (incidentally, that works just fine if you boot the system with it connected; it also works fine if you resume with it connected… but Linux seems not to have a way to rescan the bus properly, making it unsuitable for hotplug), The other part to this task is of course having the product keys (the Windows 7 one is under my battery, the Visual Studio one is on my NAS, which means a friend of mine can access it), and the discs… luckily, Microsoft’s official ISO files are available, even though you have to hunt for the Windows 7 ones, as they are not public. Visual Studio 2008 and the SP1 are available as downloads, the first as a 90 days convertible trial, which is fine.
My idea was to hope for the best, install Windows on the secondary disk, and then re-install grub2, through SysRescue, to be able to boot from the external drive. Well, it turns out it was much more easy than that. For whatever reason, my laptop can keep booting UEFI and non-UEFI modes without having to reconfigure the firmware every time, just by using F12 to choose the different boot device. So I started the Windows installation in UEFI mode, and watched it progress (I already knew that the firmware can easily boot from the external harddrive, as the eSATA interface only shows it on a different AHCI host, but it’s initialized the same way as the internal one).
After the first installation step was completed, I was honestly surprised to find out that… Windows didn’t even touch grub2! Instead, what it did was create its own EFI boot partition on the secondary harddrive, leaving the main harddrive totally clean… I just have to select “Windows Boot Manager” from the F12 menu, and Windows 7 boots and doesn’t give anything about being on a physically external drive. Even their performance score system is not showing any difference from having it internal (although I’m sure it would show the difference if it was Windows on the SSD).
Of course this is not to say that Microsoft’s software is not the usual stinking stuff… but at least they can leverage UEFI, with all its faults, to make for something… and luckily, they no longer want to be the sole owners of my laptop to just let me use their stuff for one job.