Adventures in Reloading Linux

I’ve been wrestling with my file server 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 Slackware, is a manual, not an automatic process. (Since the computer 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 glitches, that, like a dummy, I had mixed the 13.0 CD 2 in with the 13.1 CDs (there are three installation CDs 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 Linux, 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. Debian 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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