Ubuntu Wastes my Time and Money

13 Apr 2009

Original Blogger tags: Linux, System Administration

So, in a previous post I described how I spent the better part of a day replacing a hard drive in my PC because Ubuntu reported persistent disk failures.

It turns out the drive wasn’t bad. There was nothing at all wrong with the drive.

No — what I was seeing was some kind of recently added diagnostic behavior in the FAT32 version of Ubuntu. When my system was booting, if the drive was marked dirty, Ubuntu would run its fsck, which is a script, which would launch the FAT32-appropriate binary. Apparently when that tool runs now, among the checks it does is a check to verify that my backed-up boot sector matches the real boot sector. The problem is that if it doesn’t, which it didn’t, it doesn’t just produce a diagnostic to this effect, it dumps a list of non-matching inodes or block numbers or whatever the hell you call several pages of fsck’s diagnostic numbers. Diagnostic numbers that look exactly like what you see when you have a persistently corrupt directory structure.

Naturally, since the file itself wasn’t bad, repairing the file system repeatedly didn’t fix this problem, so every time I’d boot, I’d see several pages of fsck garbage spew past.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what it looks like when your hard drive is going bad.

So I replaced it.

Yes, I could have found the actual error in the appropriate log. But after using Linux on and off going back to about, er, 1994? I thought I knew what the system was telling me.

Now I’m just pissed. The actual fix involved running the tool with sudo and allowing it to back up the boot sector.

It doesn’t help that my machine also can’t shut down without locking up; I get a hang about half the time after the line “running local boot scripts /etc/rc.local.” And of course there was the time I had to waste to get the system, in 2009, to let me use my dispay’s full resolution.

I might mention that this is about as generic a PC as they come; I built it myself, from an Antec Sonata case, an Intel motherboard with built-in video, an Intel CPU, Crucial RAM, and Seagate hard drives.

Except that now it has one Western Digital drive that I never wanted to buy at all, but it was the only EIDE drive the local Best Buy had in stock.

I could go on a rant about the user interfaces of command-line tools that overwhelm you with useless information while telling you almost nothing you need to know, but perhaps I should save that for another time.

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