Friday, April 29, 2005


It all started when Ryan Air cancelled my flight to Dublin on a Sunday evening. That meant I had to travel on the Monday, and had half an afternoon with nothing to do. "Upgrade my laptop to Fedora Core 3!", I thought. The Devil makes work for idle hands.

Everything went wonderfully until I got to disk 4 of 4, which would not read. I had, of course, skipped the media check as being too time consuming. Mistake number one.

There is no exit from a Linux install, so I had to remove my laptop battery to try to reboot. Except it wouldn't, not even Windows XP (it was a dual boot machine).

So I tried to rescue the hard-disk by reinstalling GRUB (the Linux boot loader), no dice.

So I tried to rescue the hard-disk by booting Windows XP in rescue mode, except I had forgotten Administrator's password (it had been set under pressure a couple of years previously when attached to a client's network, and hadn't been used since).

So I tried to download a password cracker, except my company had blocked such sites.

So I asked someone else to get one for me, except I had not bothered to bring my floppy disk drive to Dublin. Double doh!

So I reinstalled Red Hat 9 and recovered the Linux partitions, but still could not boot Windows XP (although I could "see" them from Linux).

Saturday, back home and on holiday (joke!). Found the Toshiba recovery disk for my machine – wonderful! Except that it blasted everything in sight, including all my Linux and Windows XP partitions.

So I reinstalled Windows XP, and started reinstalling products. (Great assistance from out support guys, I was reading emails within minutes of installing MS Office).

Before I got too far I decided to reinstall Fedora (with a new disk 4). All went OK except it would not boot – Linux or Windows! Triple doh?!

So I tried again, this time the install software crashed with an assertion failure. After much gnashing of teeth I googled the error. Turned out to be a "known" bug in the utility 'parted' (Bugzilla Bug 138419, if anyone is interested). It appears that this bug was the cause of the original corruption. I read up on the bug, and guessed that PartitionMagic might fix it from Windows, except I couldn't boot.

So I found an old MS-DOS 6 boot disk, and did a swift fdisk /mbr. That enabled me to boot Windows XP and run PartitionMagic.

Reinstalled Fedora – third time lucky!

So now it is Friday of my one week's holiday and I have reinstalled most of my software and restored my backups. I lost some Perl 6 work I had been doing, but I should be able to regenerate that fairly easily.

Lesson's learnt:

ALWAYS do a media check before a Linux install.
Do not throw away Windows, it can get you out of a hole.
Linux is not bug free (!).
If you are going to trash your machine, do it when you have a week to spare.

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