Computers, Events, Hardware, Linux, Personal, Software, Windows

Back from Catastrophe

What a horrid last few days. Around lunch yesterday I restarted my Windows box at work, and I was greeted with unpleasantness. At the login screen, I got an error informing me that some instruction in memory has performed an illegal operation. After clicking on that, I got the infamous “NT Authority” says you have 60 more seconds with Windows error.

On rebooting the machine, I was notified that “C:WindowsSystem32hal.dll” is missing. I called shins, but sure enough, my entire Windows directory appeared to be empty. On closer inspection, Ubuntu informed me that it wasn’t empty, but instead, it was receiving an Input/Output error when trying to “ls” the contents. I ran a “chkdsk /r” wholly expecting that NTFS has fucked it all up again, and I seem to have been correct – at least in part.

After the chkdsk, I advanced two seconds further than my last attempt to boot Windows, only to be greeted with some cryptic error informing me that my registry looks about like that train over there. Repairing was not an option, so after much fingernail biting, and a few choice words, I decided that my only remaining option was a reinstallation.

Let me take a moment here to talk about the Windows reload process. My problem isn’t that I think its crappy and that I think someone should do something about it. I actually know that its crappy compared to any other Operating System’s standards. I can’t tell you how many damn “Next” buttons I had to click. And then how many preferences I had to change. This would have been much easier if I could have used something like Synaptic to check all the programs I wanted to install in one swoop. Additionally, on a *NIX platform, all of my application preferences would have been saved under my home folder. Windows is a tard in that department so it took me about five hours to get it back to usable.

After that got resolved I fired up my Virtual Machine containing my webserver (cheap hosting solution I know) and found that the MySQL database wouldn’t start. It ended up that the filesystem on my Linux box was corrupted as well. I ran “fsck” and fixed a dozen or so errors, rebooted, and realized that one of the files that was corrupted happened to be the MySQL user’s table. Long story short, I learned alot about troubleshooting MySQL, and got everything restored without losing any data.

Now I am finding other files all over the place that are 0 bytes in size. I have backups, but since the original file still exists when the backup is made, the backup is successfully overwritten with the new (0 kb) file.

John (and I partly) suspect VMWare may be the culprit. This is an incomplete theory however, and the entire process has left me visibly shaken. We run financial systems on these things. We run nuclear power plants with these things. My net worth is just a number sitting on some hard drive in a basement Wachovia owns somewhere. What happens when that dissappears?

Computers, Hardware, Linux, Open-source, Personal, Software, Thoughts, Windows

Ubuntu – How I Have Missed You…

Since I started working in Administrative Systems, I have been tasked with supporting a myriad of Windows-only applications. I assumed that it would be close to impossible to try and continue running any form of Linux on my work machines – especially with my boss popping in my office and telling me to pull up application X at any given second.

However, now I am tasked to work with Solaris about 90% of my day and I have to say that despite how great Putty can be – it just isn’t the best solution. Nothing beats a native terminal connection. Especially given that Windows doesn’t know jack about any filesystems other than its own. This makes editing files on the Solaris machine difficult and slow.

Slowly Linux started creeping back into my mind, and it made me homesick everytime I would go visit Scott and Chris over in VS (Well that problem took care of itself…). I have had much time to ponder how feasible a switchover would be (and what I would need to take care of as prerequisites) and I came up with a list of issues I would have to resolve first:

  1. Where can I place files that would be common to both Windows and Linux?
  2. How could I synchronize my email clients, and web browsers (history, bookmarks, passwords)?
  3. How can I access Windows applications if there is no other alternative?

These issues required some research on my part, but I finally found the following solutions:

  • ntfs-3g:  This particular piece of software is the read/write driver for NTFS partitions for Mac/Linux.  am counting on this to read/write data on the NTFS partition. It has matured so much recently that the latest version of Ubuntu can be installed inside the Windows NTFS partition. Condition #1 satistied – the files can stay where they are.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird / Mozilla Firefox: The Mozilla corporation did something so clever I have to applaud them (*clap clap clap*) – they made all application data, as well as settings reside in a profile folder. On Windows, Firefox is located at “C:Documents and Settings<user>Application DataMozillaFirefoxProfiles<profile instance>”. In Linux, this is located at “/home/<user>/.mozilla/firefox/profiles/<profile instance>”. Mozilla Thunderbird is essentially the same. The applause is becase the settings are the same on any OS! I placed the folders on the Linux partition by symlinking them to the Windows partition. Condition #2 satisfied – Email and Web browsers are always in sync because it is the same instance.
  • VMWare Server: No surprises here – this kind of software is a dime a dozen today. However VMWare offers a feature where with a bit of configuration the Operating System you can run can be the physical partition of your existing Windows partition. Pretty slick – that is after Windows throws a bitch fit that its configuration has been change and you absolutely positively must activate it again. The solution for that is to create a seperate hardware profile for Windows (a configuration that Windows made mandatory because of its bitch fits). Condition #3 satisfied – if I need Windows I can just flip over to Workspace 4 (I named it hell) and Windows is waiting for my input.