Thursday, January 26, 2006

Dual booting Linux with just a single partition

Dual booting into two different Linux systems when they are installed on different partitions is easy, however since I wanted to switch from Debian to Ubuntu, without losing the Debian install, and there wasn't place on the harddisk to create yet another partition I had to search for another way. The solution was actually quite easy, however it required a tiny bit of C programming. It works like this, first you take your old Linux install and move all its content in / to CHROOT_TARGET, doing that with a live-cd is probally the easiest, then you take the Linux installation disk of the new system you want to install and install it onto the same partition however without formating the filesystem. Once the new system is installed and booting fine you have to install a /sbin/init wraper to get the old system back to live, it looks like this:


#define ROOT_DEVICE "/dev/hde1"
#define ROOT_FILESYSTEM "reiserfs"
#define CHROOT_TARGET "/debian"

int main(int argc, char** argv)
return 0;

Compile it via:
gcc -static chrootinit.c -o chrootinit -Wall

and copy it to /sbin/chrootinit. Once that wrapper is in place and the given ROOT_DEVICE, ROOT_FILESYSTEM, CHROOT_TARGET variables are adjusted to your needs its time to modify the boot loader configuration, todo that all you need is to add a init=/sbin/chrootinit parameter and adjust the kernel location:

title           Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.15-1-k7 (chrootinit)
root (hd1,0)
kernel /debian/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.15-1-k7 root=/dev/hde1 init=/chrootinit
initrd /debian/boot/initrd.img-2.6.15-1-k7
Once done with it you might also want to remove the root filesystem entry from /debian/etc/fstab to avoid some error messages at boot. The old system should now be bootable again, in the case of Debian it even works without any noticable error messages, other distributions might varry here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Halo not holding up to hype

I just recently finished playing Halo for the XBox, I know I am a little late with that, but since I don't care much about the very latest graphics, finished Castlevania on NES just a few days ago, that didn't bother me at all. So here a short review and why I wasn't all that impressed by the game. Review might contain spoilers, but since the game isn't exactly new, that shouldn't be to much of a problem.

Ok, the graphics looked quite ok in the game itself game, in the cutscenes not so much, since there was no motion capture like in other games, but that was ok overall, you get used to it. The enemy design was as expected nice and colorfull, however I have to say that there wasn't much varity of enemies, especially very little new enemies show up over the course of the game, you have almost seen everything after the first few missions. The flood enemies that came around in the second half in the game don't add much varity either, they also give more the feel of a bad ResidentEvil ripoff then really being a great threat. I also have to say that the graphics, which look really good in the beginning, especially those where you are on the coast got a lot more boring later on, especially everything in-door turned out to be quite ugly, not because it was ugly by itself, but simply because the same room layout repeated hundreds of times. For in-door rooms Halo seems to feature like dozen building blocks out of which each and every room gets constructed, really neither pretty and nor helpfull for orienting yourself when each room looks the same. The german syncronisation wasn't much good either. Gameplay itself was ok, got rather boring at the end, since it repeated just a bit to much, especially some of the flood levels are just to long for their own good. I expected some nice assaults with other marines, but for most part of the game, especially the later ones, you are on your own. Marines also don't help you that much, sure they fire and bring you a warthog every once in a while, but I would have liked to be able to go apoart of their ships to refresh health or ammunition. One especially annoying thing about the game for me was the story, sounds kind of nice on paper, but in-game it was annoying, since almost every action you did turned out pointless. In one section of the game you try to help activate Halo, in the next level you try to undo your actions because activating Halo would have destroyed the earth. In another section you rescue the captain, only so he could go lost 5mins later again. In one cutscene you rescue a marine, only to see him die in a plane crash in the next one. Worst of all, this canceling-out of your doing happens on almost every scale, so even the final fight you have in the game doesn't take place on some foreign ship or whatever, but instead on the very first ship you started on, meaning if the game would allow it, you could have avoided the *whole* game, since all you needed todo in the end was to blow up *your* ship to destroy Halo, that was all. That not a single one of the other marines survives was also rather disappointing and pointless, since it again cancels out every kind of rescue operation you might have done before in the game. And last not least I have to say that driving warthog really is annoying as hell, that car drifts arround like crazy and at the same has thhe acceleration of a track. Even worse, the very last mission of the game features you driving the warthog and trying to escape from the soon-to-explode ship under a timelimit, what may sound like a speedy ride on paper, felt like driving a tank through a mousehole, constantly crashing into walls, barrikades and stuff, I have my doubts that it is actually possible to drive that last level in any sane maner, sure, you can make it through that level without to much difficulty, but the outcome is for most part completly random.

So in the end the game couldn't hold up to my expectations at all, sure the coast level does look nice, but its only a single one and it doesn't really play any different then the rest, actually worse, finding out what todo on that level can be a bit to much try&error for my taste. Some of the flood-levels belong to the worst looking levels ever created, the last level is only annoying and neither fun or challange and the story is also rather pointless, just barly enough to give you some places to go to. So why all this hype around this game? I just don't understand, the graphics design of Halo is nice, but mission design and story writing are just average at best. The only good parts I could find in the game was the shild system, since that ment that your life energie would recover automatically if you stayed unharmed for a little while, the weapon system, which only allows you to carry two guns and thus force you to choose wisly and having granate on a seperate button, the rest of the game was just 08/15 first person shooter action, nothing to be seen there which you havn't had seen already in previous games. The polycount and texture resolution of Halo is better then PerfectDark, but the leveldesign was orders of magnitudes worse, which ruined a lot of what Halo could have been.

If I should give Halo a score it might be something like 75% at best, it has some good parts, but the repetition and boringness of some of the levels, some of which easily fit into the Hall of Shame of the worst looking levels ever created, just doesn't justify any higher score.