Backups save the day

Marina City, Chicago A few weeks ago I blogged about my backup system. How I have two 1TB Iomega external drives and how one drive is a duplicate of everything on the other drive, and how I backup everything on my laptop and VPS accounts. It sometimes seem excessive but I’m paranoid.

This morning I’m very glad I went to such lengths. I wanted to copy some stuff onto my Macbook, and there’s nothing like the bandwidth available from a directly connected disk. I unmounted my drive, at least I tried. Something was keeping it mounted. Instead of following my own advice and checking what program was keeping the drive busy, I used “umount -l” instead. Turns out it was Rhythmbox, but I didn’t realise that until later.

Anyway, I disconnected the usb cable, plugged in the one connected to the Macbook (BTW – Ext2 for Mac OS X is useful for reading ext2/ext3 filesystems) and kaboom. The light on the external drive went out. Oh oh.

Long story short, the drive refused to mount again on the Linux box for several minutes. Eventually it did, but with errors. I’m running fsck.ext3 on it but it’s giving me tons of errors and won’t run automatically. I need to buy another drive this morning.

So what’s lost? My 8 years of photos? All the family videos shot over the last 2 years? My mp3 collection? Nope. They’re all backed up. Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. This was the worst time ever for a drive to fail as I had just reinstalled the operating system, and my backup system wasn’t running properly yet. Thankfully nothing irreplaceable was moved onto the broken drive in that narrow window of time when things weren’t being backed up.

I now want to get that new drive installed before the second goes belly up! Paranoid? You betcha!


Fixing Ubuntu 8.10

I suppose you could say I’m a long time Debian/Ubuntu Linux user, but the recent upgrade to 8.10 completely messed up my desktop machine.

  • Sound was broken in Flash. That’s happened before and doing an aptitude install flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound fixed that, but from time to time sound would break and I’d have to killall -9 pulseaudio;pulseaudio -D to get it working again.
  • My shiny new Xbox360 controller refused to work correctly in Ubuntu 8.10. Despite assurances on various Ubuntu sites that a fully updated system should now work, it didn’t. Moving the analogue stick moved the mouse pointer.
  • Editing a spreadsheet in Open Office proved impossible as whatever key or action I last took would repeat if I used the cursor keys. Hit “a” and “a” would appear in every cell when the cursor was moved. I used the mouse and TAB a lot while working on my last VAT return.
  • I wrote a DVD+RW just fine on Monday, but 3 days later when I tried to erase it, Gnomebaker complained it didn’t have permission to access /dev/sr0 (I think). I tried to mount another CD and Ubuntu complained it couldn’t read ISO9660 CDs.

I tried recreating my user account in case that helped. It didn’t. The only way to fix my broken Ubuntu 8.10 was to reinstall from scratch. After backing everything up onto one of my external drives the install couldn’t have been easier.

So, now? Any problems? ‘Fraid so.

  • I had to install flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound to get sound working in Firefox and Flash. Yay, Youtube is sounding sweet again! No lockups yet.
  • My joypad still didn’t work, despite the fact I had upgraded everything. Thankfully this bug report came to the rescue. If your Xbox360 controller refuses to work in Ubuntu, try this:

    $ xinput list
    See which device number the Xbox controller has…
    $ xinput set-int-prop THATDEVICENUMBER ‘Device Enabled’ 32 0

    I’ll probably have to add that to the Gnome Session so it’s permanent.

  • works fine thankfully. That was a showstopper bug. I even considered using Mac OS X for a moment.

Backuppc is reinstalled and configured. It now has nice RRD graphs! I’m also blown away by the folder sharing in Nautilus. This might have been available in 8.04 but I never noticed. Sharing folders via SMB has never been so easy!

I haven’t reinstalled everything I need yet, but I’m happy that my desktop is working again.