Fixing my tablet again after a failed solaris install

My tabletPC installing sun solaris 10

I made the mistake of letting SUN install Solaris 10 on my laptop on Tuesday afternoon. The guy did say it would take about 15mins over the network because obviously my TabletPC has no CD Rom. I had to rush off before 6pm and to be fair I didnt turn up till 5pm, so I was always pushing it. And as you'd expect there was problems, solaris wouldnt detect my network card which is essential when your network booting over PXE! By about 5:30pm it was starting to install but the solaris server must have choose to transfer data at 10BaseT instead of 100BaseT. So it was going so slow that I had to switch off half way through the transfer and go. To be fair the Sun guy gave me a DVD of the Solaris 10 with wireless drivers and also instructions and contact details if I get stuck.
I didnt know my TabletPC was screwed till the day after when I switched it on and was given a cryptic message about the Master boot record. Yep, I thought – My tablet is screwed again!

A couple of good things did come out of this mistake. I now know my Sanyo 3G Camera phone supports EXIF metadata unlike a lot of the camera phones on the market which is pretty cool to know. And I also learned how to boot my TabletPC off a compact flash card. Roman swears you can boot the Tablet off a USB key chain but I tried and tried and gave up. But lets step back a second, how on earth do you create a bootable disc in Windows 2000 anyway? I remember in Windows NT and 98 you could click bootable when you format a drive, but theres no option in windows 2000.
In the end I reliased I could fake a PCMCIA CD Rom by using a Compact Flash card and PCMCIA card adapter. I then built a Custom bootable CF card using this nice HP application and this bundle of DOS tools. I then stuck the DOS version of Partition Magic 6 on the same CF card and was able to boot in to DOS by using selecting the PCMCIA CDROM and load up PMagic 6 for DOS. Where it fixed the MBR problem and set the Windows Partition to Active. Then I was sorted! The URL which helped me through all this was this tutorial – Tip: Boot from USB Key Addendum. But the key for TabletPC's is using the CF as the booter not a USB key.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.