May 2004

Partitions are numbered from 1, disks from 0

Spent all day yesterday trying to move my primary Win XP boot drive to a larger disk. I tried every partition management and copy tool I have and, while the copy seemed to work flawlessly, I still got an error message that ntoskrnl.exe was corrupt. Nothing I did worked and I couldn’t even boot the Recovery Console I’d installed way back when on my primary disk. I booted my XP Pro installation disk and ran the Recovery Console from there but I couldn’t see anything wrong.

Having converted my system partition to NTFS many months ago, my recovery options are somewhat limited. I explored the world of alternative boot disks, Ultimate Boot CD and Bart’s Preinstalled Environment being the two leaders. The Linux distros on the Ultimate Boot CD appear to support NTFS but I couldn’t tell since my keyboard is a USB model and it looks like their Linux version don’t support that (yet).

Bart’s is a stripped-down XP installation you boot from CD. It’s really quite a remarkable effort — there is no Explorer GUI but you can run the command processor and REGEDIT and edit your services definitions and, since it’s really XP, you can get to all of your NTFS disks.

I also discovered some good resources on the syntasx and options available in BOOT.INI. This one from SysInternals defines all of the options for Windows 2000. And, of course, Microsoft has an excellent description of all parameters in this article from the Windows XP Resource Kit. It includes not only the explanation for the multi() lines but also scsi(), signature() and a section on editing and repairing BOOT.INI. Sure wish I’d known all this ahead of time!

Anyway, after nearly an entire day I decided I’d try BOOTCFG /REBUILD from the Recovery Console and, y’know what? — it worked! I still haven’t figured out why, with an identical partition structure, the old disk’s OS was on partition(1) and the new disk’s OS is on partition(2) but I’m sure I’ll find it.

Just wanted to pass this along.

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Tunneling remote control

Continuing with my May 3 entry, I managed to establish remote control via both VNC and Remote Desktop through my SSH tunnel. It’s pretty simple once you get through the conceptual hurdles and set a new registry key value for VNC.

The process is only a little different depending on whether you’ve got 2 machines in the equation (your controlling machine and your controlled machine) or 3 machines (your controlling machine, a intermediary machine to which you SSH, and the controlled machine).

For the TWO machine case, ssh from your controlling machine to the controlled machine like so:

  ssh -L <localport>:localhost:<remoteport> controlled-machine

For the THREE machine case, ssh from the controlling machine to the intermediary machine like so:

  ssh -g -L <localport>:localhost:<remoteport> intermediary-machine

&ltremoteport&gt for Remote Desktop should be 3389 and for VNC it’s 5900 (or 5901 or 5902, etc., depending on your Display Number setting in VNC’s options).

&ltlocalport&gt is the port number on the controlling machine (the local machine) that you’ll connect to with either Remote Desktop or vncviewer.

OK, so, now you need to connect. Connecting is a little different depending on whether you’ve got the two machine or the three machine case.

In the TWO machine case, for VNC use the following. And if you get an error message about local loopback being disabled, read WinVNC – Advanced Settings and set the registry key appropriately.

  vncviewer localhost:<displaynumber>

Remote Desktop won’t let you connect to localhost so enter in the Computer Name field.

In the THREE machine case, for both vncviewer and Remote Desktop you use the hostname of the machine to be controlled.

Simple, eh? OK, maybe not really simple but it’s not as hard as it looks. Work through it once or twice and everything should become clear. And here’s a link to the RealVNC web page that explains how to use SSH.

BTW, an alternative if the only machines in the picture are running Windows, is UltraVNC.

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Cygwin vs GotoMyPC et al. -OR- Getting to your machine from elsewhere

Cygwin has been high on my list of tools for over 10 years. It’s a *free* Unix environment that runs inside of Windows. It’s not like VMware in that it exists alongside Windows — you don’t boot one or the other. Rather, it’s a set of DLLs and APIs that allows you to run Unix commands from the command line — a DOS box if you will. It has full implementations of X11, GNU Emacs, SSL, OpenSSH, cron … a list too long to go into here.

One of the thuings you can do with this package is run an SSH daemon (SSHD). Why? SSHD provides a secure path to your machine from other machines. No, it’s not a Windows GUI, it’s a Unix command-line UI but you can run X11 if you MUST have a GUI and the whole thing is secured by OpenSSH. With the addition of some of the fine tools from Sysinternals like PsTools you can monitor your event log and see who’s been trying to log in.

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