Adventures in Reloading Linux

I’ve been wrestling with my for most of the past five days.

I decided to upgrade the OS from Slackware 13.0, which was running like a charm, to 13.1, primarily hoping there might be drivers to better support my new 17″ monitor which I picked up for 40 bucks from a fellow who hadn’t even unpacked it from the shipping carton.

First, just for the experience, I tried to do an in place upgrade, which, with , is a manual, not an automatic process. (Since the is a file server that usually just sits there and quietly serves, I usually just blow away the OS and reinstall.) I went through the instructions carefully and rebooted, then realized, after a couple of , that, like a dummy, I had mixed the 13.0 CD 2 in with the 13.1 CDs (there are three and an “Extras” CD), so I decided to fall back to the blow-it-away option.

That’s when I paid the price for that mistake.

The reinstallation seemed to go smoothly, but, when I rebooted, the box froze after the BIOS check; lilo, the Linux Loader, was not loading. I had installed it to the Master Boot Record (MBR), where I normally put it, and the MBR was apparently hosed. Stuff happens.

I couldn’t find my old DOS disks to run fdisk /MBR, so I hunted around for the Linux command to reformat the MBR, which, for the first drive (Drive A) is

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=1

(If the hard drive is SATA or SCSI, substitute “sda” for “hda” in the string for the first drive).

After repartitioning and reformatting the drive, the re-reinstall went smoothly. I was happily reconfiguring the machine to my taste, restoring saved configuration and menu files, when it frizz right up–no mouse or keyboard response.

I tested the mouse and keyboard with another computer (I have two computers connected to a single monitor, keyboard, and mouse with a KVM switch)–they were fine. Nevertheless, about three months ago, the mouse had a temporary attack of the vapors (it got jumpy and slow to respond), so I swapped it for another newer mouse which I knew to be good. After a reboot, the system frizzed again, so I tried to re-re-reinstall. The problem persisted.

I installed Arch, another flavor of , for testing purposes. It worked fine. (One of these days, I’m going to play with Arch, but it’s rather complex to set up the first time and I wanted my server back in action more than I wanted to learn new stuff.)

So now I’m running Debian, which is my second favorite after Slack, at least until the next Slackware release. installed like a charm and is working just fine.

Debian Screenshot

Then, to frost my cupcake, the drive that I used for my backups–the main reason I run the file server in the first place–got the whirries, rolled over on its back, and played gave up. It’s a six year old IDE drive connected through an external USB enclosure and is the first hard drive I’ve had fail.

Since it’s a backup drive, there is nothing important on it that is not also on another drive or on a DVD–no such thing as too many backups–but, even so . . . (I don’t particularly believe in premonitions, but, the day before, I ordered a 2TB external USB drive from Tiger Direct. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider that whole premonition thing.)

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