No Good Samaritan … Something Something

After witnessing several hundred seizures at the rehabilitation center where I worked, I came to recognize the early signs of a seizure.  They may be different for many people, but often there was a glassy look, a slight roll of the eyes, a twitch … some little sign that something major was about to happen.

In the days when the El actually had a conductor as well as an engineer — on a train with no seats available, and a smattering of people standing or leaning around the doors, I stood in the aisle.  In those days, it was common to see people walking between the trains, and it wasn’t unusual for people to pull the emergency cord at every stop.

An old man got in the train and made his way over to the aisle facing me as the train groaned and lurched forward.  He nodded slightly by way of greeting, then winked a little … then winked a bit more, with his eyes rolling back a bit … As he fell stiffly backwards, I took a look at where he was falling, and saw nothing but hard surfaces and metal seat supports everywhere.  I’ve seen people injure themselves with fewer hazards around during a grand mal, so I caught the old man, pulled him toward the doors where there was more room in the car, and held my hand under his head so it wouldn’t bang on the floor.

After a few minutes, the old man had stopped seizing and fallen into a deep sleep.  I checked to make sure he was breathing and stood up.  I now noticed that the train was stopped in the station, and all of the passengers had left the car.  The conductor made a nearly incomprehensible announcement over the PA system that the train would be stopped for a while.

The conductor walked over and I explained what happened.  He mentioned that he had called for paramedics and he’d appreciate it if I explained to them directly.  Within moments, they were carrying away the man on a gurney.  They didn’t ask me anything right there, but one of them said, “come with us” as they carried the gurney down the steps to the waiting ambulance.

It was a short trip to the hospital and they asked me to sit in the emergency room waiting room and they’d be back shortly to get my information.  At this point, I wasn’t entirely clear on what useful information I could provide, but thought they may have some more specific questions about anything I might have noticed that could be medically relevant.  Whatever it was, I hoped they would hurry up, since I was already pretty late for work.

After a while, a nurse came out, and said, “We have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind.”

“Finally!”  I said, “What would you like to know?”

“Well, first, what kind of insurance does your dad have?”

“What?”  I said, slightly off kilter.  “Did something happen to my dad?”  (In addition to being perfectly fine, my father was 800 miles away, so it was a nonsensical question, but it didn’t immediately occur to me why she asked.

“Your dad’s had a seizure.  Didn’t you come here with him?”

“No,” I said slowly.  “I came here with a man who had a seizure on the train, whom I do not actually know at all.  I don’t even know his name.”

At this, the nurse seemed slightly incredulous, as if I were involved in some kind of insurance scam.  “Why would you come all the way to the hospital and wait for somebody you don’t even know?”

At this moment, the paramedic who said, “come with us” walked through the waiting room.  I pointed to him and said, “because that guy asked me to.”

The paramedic gave me a sheepish grin, and explained, “uh, sorry, the conductor figured you must be related since you didn’t just leave the guy there.”

I had a heck of a time explaining why I was so late for work.


BackupPC and Bare Metal Restore of Windows XP

While it’s not well documented, it’s possible to do a bare-metal restore of a machine running Windows XP that’s been backed up via BackupPC (assuming, of course, that some method, such as that documented here, has been used to back up open files, such as the registry.)

Step 1:  Build a local tar file using BackupPC_tarCreate

The alternative, BackupPC_zipCreate, proved problematic; the gigantic archives that it created could not be completely recovered, yet tar archives proved intact.  At any rate, this is best accomplished from the command line, as the backuppc user:

BackupPC_tarCreate -t -n -1 -h borkstation -s C / > borkstation.tar

“borkstation” is the name of the host to recover, “-n -1” means the latest backup, and you’ll obviously need to have enough space where the tar file is going to store the entire backup, which will not be compressed.  Note the space between the “C”, which represents the share to restore, and the “/”, which represents the directory to restore.

Step 2:  Prepare bare XP

Basically, you want to install a working copy of the operating system.  Aside from network drivers, it really doesn’t matter if anything’s installed or working, you’re going to wipe it all out anyway.  The filesystem and the partitions will stay, so configure those the way that you want your system to finally end up.

Step 3:  Prepare Recovery Console

Using the same install CD, you can install the recovery console to speed things up a little versus booting from the CD, although either option will work.  To install the recovery console, use Start->Run, then

d:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons

Where D: is the letter if the CD-ROM.  Whether you choose to install it or not isn’t really important, but what is important is that you open up the permissions for Recovery Console, or some of the remaining steps won’t work.

  1. Start->Run, then type secpol.msc
  2. Go to Security settings->Local policies->Security options
  3. Scroll down to “Recovery console: Allow floppy copy and access to all drives and all folders” and make sure it is enabled.

Step 4:  Install Cygwin

You’ll need a “tar” utility you can rely on for the next step, and experimenting with a plethora of them has shown that unless you build your own, you’ll really need Cygwin.  While installing, be sure to select the gnu tar package.  (Unless your backup contains Cygwin, you can just delete the c:\cygwin directory later to get rid of it all.)

Step 5: Unpack the tar file to the local drive

A prerequisite to this step is that you get access to the tar file created in step 1 — which you’ll have to wait for if it isn’t finished being built yet.  The simplest way to get access to the file is to map a drive to the *nix box that has the tar file. I mapped mine to the Z: drive, which was a pretty arbitrary choice.

Next, create a directory to put the recovered files into, because you do not want them going into the root directory yet.  I created a directory called “recovery.”  Launch Cygwin, then:

cd /cygdrive/c/recovery
tar -xvf /cygdrive/z/borkstation.tar

This part takes a while, but when it’s complete, the entire system as backed up will be in the c:\recovery directory.  N.B.:  this goes a little faster if you leave off the “v” parameter, but then you don’t see anything in the way of progress.  It also helps to occlude or minimize the cygwin window.

Step 6:  Rename and move files

There are three hardcoded paths in XP, that are probably the only folders in root on your minimal installation:  Program Files, Documents and Settings, and WINDOWS.  Within the c:\recovery directory, rename these to something else.  I chose “Program Files.recovery” and so on.

Once these three directories are renamed, cut and paste everything from c:\recovery to c:\.  There’s no need to replace any files in c:\, and there shouldn’t be any overlaps, so if Windows asks if you want to overwrite any files, say “no.”

Step 7:  Boot to Recovery Console and rename key folders

Here’s where Step 3 becomes pretty important.  Once you boot into Recovery Console, you’ll need to allow yourself to work in the root of the drive using the “set” command:

set AllowAllPaths = TRUE

Once that’s done, you can rename the three hardcoded directory paths, moving the originals out of the way for your recovered files.  For the sake of having a fallback position, I rename rather than delete them at this point:

ren "Program Files" "Program Files.delete"
ren "Program Files.recovery" "Program Files"
ren "Documents and Settings" "Documents and Settings.delete"
ren "Documents and Settings.recovery" "Documents and Settings"
ren WINDOWS.recovery WINDOWS

The suffix “.delete” has no inherent meaning, it just gets the folders out of the way and signals that I don’t need them any more.  Once this is done, and you’re sure there were no unfortunate typos, you can type “exit” to reboot to a recovered system.

Step 8:  Clean up

After rebooting, pretty much everything should be as it was, although you’ll have three extra directories with a “.deleted” suffix plus the cygwin directory to get rid of.  It may be necessary to take ownership and grant yourself permission to do so, but there’s really no reason not to wipe them all out, since your original folders and files should be intact.

While the “read only” flag has been preserved for recovered files, the “hidden” and “system” attributes have not.  For most files, this doesn’t seem to matter much, but the “desktop.ini” files that dot the drives can have weird side effects, like launching an editor upon boot and showing up.  It’s easy enough to fix from the command line:

cd \
attrib +h +s /s desktop.ini

This will grind away for a while, since it will reset all the desktop.ini files on the drive.  Once complete, you’re back to where you were upon your last backup.