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Rob Landley

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Sundays are not working out for me recently. [Jun. 11th, 2007|10:28 pm]
Rob Landley
[Current Location |Pittsburgh.]
[mood |irritatedirritated]
[music |Freezepop.]

So last sunday (June 3rd), while visiting Eric and Cathy, I ran over a cat with my car. I'm still kind of upset about that (I am a cat person). I was only doing about 15 miles per hour but it ran from a patch of weeds next to the road right out under the wheels, made two loud ka-thunks, and made it to a yard on the other side of the street before dying of a broken neck. I had about a quarter second reaction time, and just didn't hit the brakes in time. I apologized profusely to said cat on some random stranger's lawn, and made what burial arrangements I could (said random strangers had a box and a shovel), neither of which helped. I had Fade drive for the rest of the day because I just wasn't up to it. I was down for days, and still don't like to think about it. (Feral cat as far as we could tell, so at least I didn't have to face an owner. Not that this made me feel any better, every cat I've ever had has been some variant of adopted feral.)

This sunday (June 10), my laptop didn't boot. I left it doing something and came back half an hour later to a black screen saturday night, hard powered it off to deal with in the morning, and in the morning it got "disk buffer errors" trying to replay the ext3 journal so it could mount hda5, my home partition. And here I am going "ooh, that's not good". Asked Fade to burn a knoppix disk with her computer. Apparently, there's nothing useful a Windows XP machine can do with an .iso image without third party software.) Dug up an old kubuntu install CD (which is also a live CD), boot it up, try to mount hda5 as ext2... No dice. It can read the partition table, and apparently it can read at least bits of hda1. But hda5 is just gone.

Right. My last full backup was right before I left for Austin, about a month ago. I have incremental backups of my web page directory and my email directory that got rsynced nightly (last one was saturday before the big hard drive death). But between those, what's missing? (I used to do periodic rsyncs of the whole of /home to my work machine at TimeSys, but I haven't had a dedicated desktop system since then.)

Sunday afternoon, I bought a cheap 64-bit Compaq laptop. Wrestled with it through monday afternoon, when I decided it had won and returned it, which cost me a 15% "restocking fee" of about $90. (Now I remember why I buy used hardware so much: if it's been out for a year Linux runs great on it. If it's brand new, lspci -v gives you 12 "unknown device" listings and that's if you're lucky enough to have enough drivers driving hardware in legacy compatability modes for Knoppix to boot up to a desktop (which it did, with no network, no hard drive, and the widescreen display at a squashed 1024x768 resolution). Kubuntu hung booting (at five different places on my multiple reboot attempts). The Kbuntu "alternate install" installed fine... and hung booting the result.

I got that far burning CDs from the x86-64 server that's been powered off because it segfaults or panics if you try to do anything major with it. This seems to be a hardware problem. All memtest86 could find was a single bit error that occurred once running overnight and that's AFTER it had turned off Error Correcting Codes in the memory. But Firefox segfaulted after ten minutes of web surfing and doing a Firmware Linux build hangs the machine hard after about five minutes, every time. Sometimes it's a kernel panic, sometimes not.

So I ordered one of the new Dell laptops preinstalled with Ubuntu. (It turns out you CAN get a 64 bit processor from their website, it's in the customization options.)

But that won't be here for 2 weeks. (Possibly not before OLS. EEP!) Meanwhile, I have work to do and have already lost two days to this, plus setup time to get a new system working, plus the work I lost that wasn't backed up. (It also explains why the machine was acting wonkier than usual for the past week. I'd only moderately noticed because I abuse systems into instability anyway, hence "wonkier than usual". My regular software suspend procedure is "killall nspluginviewer; sync; echo disk > /sys/power/state", and half the time it tells me there isn't enough memory because when it died I had over 100 konqueror tabs open and Kmail threading the linux kernel mailing list back to january...)

So I dug up an old 32 bit desktop system from the storage space, and an old 17 inch CRT. It has Ubuntu 5.04 on it, and that's contemporary from when it was mothballed. Burned a 7.04 CD to install on it later tonight.

The rest of the month's going to be fun. I feel like I've gone from cell phones back to a land line, or from having a car to taking the bus. My day job _and_ over half my hobbies go through a keyboard and screen, and now I'm back staring at a CRT on a system with a slower CPU, less memory, smaller screen resolution, and I'm not even sure it has enough hard drive space to decompress my backups. Plus a week or more of lost productivity between lost data and recovery time. Plus a noticeable financial hit I wasn't planning to take until AFTER I got to Austin. I can't work from the coffee shop (or even the Reduced Cat room) until I have a laptop again. I now have to worry about half-second power failures rebooting my machine.

But I'm still noticeably more upset about running over that cat.

Kiggy. :(

[User Picture]From: cathyr19355
2007-06-12 04:41 am (UTC)
Eric told me a bit about your dead laptop blues. I'm sorry to hear it. Not only because of the annoyance, and the financial hit, but because without an effective laptop, you have less incentive to come down here to work with Eric (what will you work on)?

Meanwhile, Eric of course still doesn't have a laptop either, and thus has less incentive to want to come to Pittsburgh to work with you. And I can't let you *both* use my laptop, even if you wanted to defile yourselves by touching a Windows box for any length of time. :-(

I have also become hooked on Wesnoth. Saturday and Sunday I played until dawn. Tonight I only played for 2 hours, but that's because I was smart enough to get through my e-mail and the things I urgently needed to do for work first. :-)

I'm sorry about the kiggy too. I hope it wasn't the one that hung around my front door for a day or two several months ago....

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[User Picture]From: landley
2007-06-13 03:53 am (UTC)
A new laptop is presumably on its way to me via snail mail. Well, ok, being constructed and then on its way to me, which is Dell's way of saying now they have my money they're going to order the parts.

I dug out a 2 year old desktop and hooked it up, and am installing Ubuntu 7.04 on it. It's now installed, but getting it configured to usability is another matter (currently I can read email but not send it yet, although I can queue it to my outbox. That sort of thing.)
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[User Picture]From: cathyr19355
2007-06-13 04:47 am (UTC)
I saw from your LJ post that you'd dug up some old laptop to work with, and I knew you had to have obtained some route to the Internet, or you couldn't have posted to your LJ in the first place. (I doubted that you'd have been able to borrow fadethecat's machine for long enough, somehow. ) :-)
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[User Picture]From: landley
2007-06-13 05:06 pm (UTC)
Actually I dug up an old server from Austin and stuck a monitor, keyboard, and mouse on it.

It is very much nonportable. No tea shop visits with this system.
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[User Picture]From: cathyr19355
2007-06-14 01:21 am (UTC)

The bad part is, if the crash had happened six weeks earlier, you could have shopped for a replacement when you were *in* Austin apartment hunting. :-(
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[User Picture]From: bunrab
2007-06-12 05:41 am (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry about the kiggy.

Hey, sometime in July, before y'all move again, we want to come visit Pgh at least once more, OK?
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[User Picture]From: landley
2007-06-13 02:40 am (UTC)
Sure. I look forward to seeing you.
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[User Picture]From: jerseytude
2007-06-12 02:16 pm (UTC)
If Fade has Windows XP, she can download a program - for free - called "ISO Power Toy" or something like that. It's a free (as in beer) program and it does nothing but allow you to burn ISO files directly from Windows.

Give it a shot. And I'd go with Ubuntu/Kubuntu rather than Knoppix for diagnostics. I believe you can load NTFS-3G on there and start recovering files to flash memory.
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[User Picture]From: stevenehrbar
2007-06-12 06:54 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: landley
2007-06-13 01:13 am (UTC)
Downloading ISO power toy sounds useful on general principles. I dug up a system out of storage that I'm using as a temporary system until my new laptop arrives.

As for diagnostics, I tried Kubuntu first. It hung trying to boot. Five times, at five different places. Never made it anywhere close to a login prompt. Knoppix at least booted and gave me a login prompt, and then went "dude, I have no drivers for ANY of this hardware, what _is_ it?"

(P.S. It went "dude" because it's Knoppix. It's a very "dude" type of OS. Made by Prinnies, as far as I can tell.)

Already sent the Hpaq back ($90 "restocking fee". Ouch,) and ordered a Dell. Which cost about $200 more for the same basic specs, and then I fluffed it out a bit (extra battery and so on), but I could get a 64-bit system with hardware that Linux actually supports. (With open source drivers; It's even got the new Intel 950 3D chipset.)

I'd been meaning to get a new laptop anyway, but I was hoping to hold off until I got back to Austin. And it would have been nice to have a more recent backup of the contents of my laptop rather than "full backup from last month, plus yesterday's incremental backup of two important directories".

(Also, NTFS doesn't apply. I wiped the Vista partition as soon as I got something that could talk to the hard drive. It never booted into it even once. I'm sure they'll use the "recovery disk" to put it back now I've returned it, but that's not my problem.)
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[User Picture]From: jerseytude
2007-06-13 01:43 am (UTC)
Mmm... okay, I have no idea what to tell you. Ubuntu 6.10 would hang when an external USB drive was connected but that seems to have been fixed in 7.04.
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