Fsck It

One nice thing about using Ubuntu is that even when things go a little haywire, it’s usually possible to back up all the important files and then just reinstall. Reinstallation is so fast — at least, compared to the plodding installation process on Windows — that it almost always is like visiting the dentist: great dread before, not so bad once you’re there.

I was trying to get Korean text input working, and ended up reading a walkthrough that someone copied-and-pasted onto his site from a howto somewhere else. I should have checked the link provided: if I had, I would have noticed the howto was from a very old version of Ubuntu. But silly me, I was in a hurry and had a headache. Whatever I did in following those steps resulted in a meltdown. The Xsession-errors file had a simple line it, but one that was not posted anywhere else online, so I gave up hope on fixing it after searching and posting about it. (Very soon after posting, because another attempt to fix it led to Gnome being totally ruined.)

There were a few wrinkles with this one, though:

  • Whether it was because of the meltdown or not, my main backups drive decided it was time to pull its errors out and wave ’em around. Not fun, especially since a lot of important files were on it, including at least one I need for class tomorrow. Thank goodness, I ran fsck on the disk and that seems to have sorted things out.
  • I need to reinstall the Linux Haansoft Hangeul Office software trial. Well, the simple solution I found last time, which involved just adding a new repo and installing, isn’t working now — someone deleted the repo — and now I’ll have to hack my way through some command line stuff, with instructions in Korean, in order to get it installed. I’ll be trying tonight, and if I manage it, I’ll post a translation here soon after. On the upside, once it is working, it’ll be the HWP 2008 application, not the 2005 app that I was previously running.
  • Of course, tons of stuff that I’d slowly gotten working is now back to zero. No Youtube at the moment, unfortunately. No plugins on Firefox.

There are a couple of things I’d like to do once the exam period is over, which is why I’m not necessarily all gung-ho on getting the current install completely perfect:

  1. I’d like to find a way to automate installation of the stuff I always end up reinstalling, like Abiword, like HWP, like all the stuff that gets Youtube working, Korean language input system, all of that. I think there are scripts for it, but I will have to hunt around to find the best solution. Really, optimally, I could just set up everything on a second disc and install from it.
  2. I am getting more and more eager to set up the installation so that my /home directory is on a different partition. I’m not exactly sure how much space I’ll need, though personally, I’m starting to find the 120 gigabytes a tad small for what I’d like. Optimally, I could set up a couple of installs of Ubuntu, one of Linux Mint, and then one of Windows, and have the same big fat partition accessible to all, and holding all my files. I don’t know how practicable that is, but it might be possible.

Ah well, in my hunting around, I discovered that it’s possible to install Ubuntu mobile on an OLPC XO. I tried to do the whole get-one-give-one thing but for some reason the OLPC site rejected my credit card charge, and of course it took so long to notify me that it was too late to try again by the time I knew what had happened. So anyway, I ended up getting one from eBay, and at least most of the proceeds will be going to a local charity. (I’m thinking of donating the remainder of what I would have paid to the OLPC foundation, and also considering donating this model to a kid in Korea, if I find I’m not really using it… there are plenty of kids who don’t have the money for a computer but could make great use of one of these machines.)

All that, however, will have to wait until after final exams. It’s the last week of classes, and I have done a phenomenal amount of grading in the last week — I have a huge pile of homework to return to students, mostly in my “Understanding English & American Popular Cultures” course (aka “Understanding Anglophone Popular Cultures” — but the semester is far from over. There are final projects due this week in several classes, and three considerable final exams next week: one on Monday morning, one on Tuesday afternoon, and one Tuesday evening. I also have a writing-deadline for this Sunday, and some other stuff I need to do this week, like submit my application for a writing fellowship (poetry! I may yet finish writing this book Taiping that has been sitting on my hard drive for so long!) and I’ve got a ghost story (or two) that I want to write, as well, for the call for submissions that Nick Mamatas and Ellen Datlow put out a while back. And I have to send some stuff for the conference by this Sunday, too. So much going on this week — which is, of course, why my installation of Ubuntu chose last night to die on me. Ah well, it’s working again, at least, and mostly functional.

Once all that other stuff is done, I’ll have a chance to get down to OS-hacking, since it looks like I’ll just be writing (more about that soon) and hanging around in Korea for most of the summer.

Oh, by the way, fsck — I love that app name. “fsck” is the command you use to fix broken filesystems. When snarky linux people were giving advice to someone who hadn’t bothered to check his or her filesystem, they would write, “go fsck yourself.” Isn’t that cute?

Er, maybe it’s just me.

8 thoughts on “Fsck It

  1. It only takes me 15-20 minutes to reinstall windows and that includes all of the programs that I regularly use.

    To do this you need imaging software or else make a copy of your o/s and slipstream in the programs you want added. On Windows I use Acronis TrueImage and then store the image on a seperate physical drive (not just partition – though that would be fine too). I’m sure that there is some sort of imaging software for linux.

    And for the record I have almost no need to hack my system – windows just works.

  2. “…it almost always is like visiting the dentist: great dread before, not so bad once you’re there.”

    We have obviously had vastly differing experiences with dentists.

  3. EFL Geek,

    Well, I don’t want to get into a browser war, so I’ll just say that there are tons of things about Windows that don’t “just work” for me. The system hacking, though, is part of the interest for me. Headaches and all, it’s a pleasurable sort of pain. I’m not command-line expert, but I like having a little more idea what’s going on under the hood and all that, as one still to some degree must to use Linux today.

    I’m sure you’re right about Linux having some form of imaging software. I should look into it; but I think the multiple partitions, plus a main home partition, is what I need to get set up. That way I have a stable installation, plus one I can tinker with and wipe clean, test-upgrade, and so on.

    I actually happened across a command for the command line that makes a list of all the packages installed. One can even feed that command into a new installation and have Ubuntu automatically download all the packages, even auto-approving them as one goes along if I remember correctly.


    I admit to having been lucky. If it had turned out I’d needed a root canal a couple of weeks ago, I bet I’d have used a different metaphor. But usually, the pain isn’t anywhere near as bad as the pain I anticipate. Maybe our experiences are indeed similar, but I’m more of a worrywart than you? :)

  4. I must confess to being a wuss as well. Must be my destinsts have anticipated it and anaesthetized me adequately.

    I’m guessing “lawyer teeth” means like British teeth. (Not sure. I’ve never heard it before either.)

  5. Basically. Some people in the legal profession “work so hard” they tend to let things like dental hygeine go. One of the reasons why I signed on with a small firm when I started out as a legal assistant is because the associates looked like they had good dental work. When I found out later that everyone took a perverse amount of pride in the fact that they needed root canals, well, lets just say I opted to find work someplace else when my temp-to-hire term was done. There were other issues, but the state of their teeth was an apt metaphor for the way the office was run.

  6. Wow, I never imagined. That sounds utterly horrible, and somewhat disgusting!

    Well, I take pretty good care of my teeth now. In fact, I suspect that I have been for years, but I had begun to wonder whether I’d slipped or was doing something wrong because one tooth fractured and came apart. Turns out it was probably the grinding, since it’s the same damned tooth that’s bugging me now.

    Which reminds me, I have to get things going on having my dentist fashion me a night guard. I may take good care of them now, but I think I inherited a not-so-great set to begin with, and don’t want to have false teeth when I’m older!

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