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ENVISAGE - dedicated environment storage tool Disclosure Number: IPCOM000022161D
Original Publication Date: 2004-Mar-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2004-Mar-01
Document File: 4 page(s) / 364K

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Method software and apparatus to enable the storage and retrieval of environment variables in the inviolate last sector of a hard drive.

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ENVISAGE - dedicated environment storage tool

A program is disclosed which is a stand-alone software application, ENVISAGE (ENVironment Independent Storage As Global Elements). It is a tool which will capture MS-DOS* environment variable strings and save them in the landing zone (hereinafter described as the last sector) of a PC's primary hard disk drive for later retrieval (Fig. 1).

This concept is an answer to the

Figure 1

problem of storing data (for example, configuration settings) in a secure location on a PC. The hard drive does not necessarily require defined partitions or a formatted storage area in order for ENVISAGE to work.

A significant use of this invention is the ability to capture the configuration or any other user-defined variables of a PC (or PC Server) and store on an unformatted hard disk drive independent of, and not impacting, current or future contents of that disk drive.

Another use is to store data securely between bootstraps, which is especially important in any system that performs a build or automated setup of a PC workstation or PC server. For instance, a user cannot save important data to the hard drive as it hasn't yet been set up (that is, partitioned and formatted). Nor can data be saved (in DOS environment variable space) to memory since PCs/servers will clear memory on reboot as a matter of course. It could be argued that the user can save the data back to floppy disk, but this is not possible when the boot medium is a CD-ROM.

This problem is typified when designing an automated build mechanism which will reside on a bootable CD-ROM. This procedure has the aim of preparing a system (PC or PC server) for an operating system build or hard disk preparation, with the need to store important data (for example, configuration settings, preparatory logon details, hardware information) which will be retained between bootstraps. ENVISAGE, a small DOS executable utility, will retrieve environment strings (Fig. 2) and save them in the last sector of the last cylinder of the hard drive. Since this part of a hard drive is used as a landing zone (and beyond) by PC BIOS's and DOS, the data stored there can be considered inviolate: that is, partitioning and DOS formatting will not erase the data. Therefore, when the PC is rebooted and ENVISAGE is run, the data can be retrieved from the last sector and restored directly to the DOS environment memory. A typical multi-boot process can safely pick up from where it left off, thus retrieving the static data in conditions that do not normally allow such storage (that is, no availability of a non-volatile read-write medium such as floppy disk, formatted/partitioned hard drive or network connectivity).


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Figure 2

The data is written to the last sector in reverse, that is, bytes are stored working backwards from the end of the sector. ENVISAGE copies only those environment strings prefixed with a dot chara...