June 28, 2009

Damage assessment

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 3:40 pm

I have spent past 24 hours fiddling and messing with ext3grep in hope of recovering the lost data. To the point where I have dozens of papers lying around me with block numbers, inode values, diagrams and histograms spread all over them. To the point where I have a pretty good understanding of how Ext3 filesystem stores stuff — a fact for which on any other occasion, I would have been pretty thrilled about. To the point where every time I go to sleep, my dreams revolve around group descriptors and journal transactions with me recovering the data gleefully before the harsh reality of overwritten inodes gives me a rude awakening.

It’s about time I give up.

And as I look back over the failure for damage assessment, I recall:

  • Videos hunted/downloaded over 5 years.
  • Emails received/sent over 7 years.
  • In total 58.3 gigabytes of personal data.

I pride myself as a geek. And for those 7 years I had been emphasizing to the non-geeks again and again the importance of backups and implications of data loss. The first and penultimate data loss occurred in 2002, when I accidentally formatted my hard drive. Since then, I have been paranoid about the safety of my digital life and own a terabyte of storage space specifically for this purpose. Yet, when disaster struck, it was my own hands that orchestrated it. I could only helplessly feel the goosebumps and tingling sensations in my spine as I grasped the repercussions of my actions.

Right now, as I reminisce about the 7 years, I see lying in front of my the hard disk which perhaps — in plethora of bits containing zeros and ones — still has the data beyond my reach. The deepest onset of nostalgia I have ever had, combined with the gravest sense of loss makes me loathe with a burning passion this piece of machine I am typing on. Effectively I am back to square zero of my geekdom. Effectively, I have nothing now but vague and distressful recollections of what used to be my data kingdom.

“What’s saved affords no indication of what’s lost.” — Edward Bulwer-Lytton


June 27, 2009

The highs and lows of Leonidas — This. Is. Fedora!

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 12:43 am

There is a reason why I never evangelize Fedora much: it’s far from perfect. There is also a reason why I use Fedora for my everyday Linux-ing: it’s good when it starts working. The two seemingly conflicting viewpoints are not mutually exclusive, since Fedora’s instability as well as its appeal can be termed in one word: bleeding-edge.

The biannual cycle of backup-reinstall-reconfigure for each new Fedora release works fine for me. It takes a day or two to get everything back to the way want them to be, but the trade-off is almost always worth it. Consider this, upgrading from a Fedora version to the next will almost never work seamlessly. Nevertheless, the re-installation mantra allowed me to use PulseAudio’s “perfect” setup much before most of the other distros’ users. The fact that I got a clean start for the new sound architecture also explains why I never had any incompatibility issues with it and consequently, my status as one of its huge fans.

Another reason why I’m still hanging on to Fedora is because of the familiarity factor, as I no longer have the ample time for trying out newer distributions just for the sake of it. Linux From Scratch was a mighty fun experience, but keeping it up-to-date was nothing short of a Herculean task. Gentoo sounds very appealing, but I don’t want to download a DVD, go through the hassle of installing and getting familiar with the new distro and then emerge a whole universe of updates on an internet connection as reliable as Fedora on Hurd. The perfect solution would be to install a new release of Gentoo but unfortunately, it’s been over an year now since I started waiting for one.

Which brings us to Fedora 11 — lovingly nicknamed after everyone’s favorite Spartan king.

The predominant aspects of the new release which affect me as a user are the Ext4 filesystem and the Kernel Modesetting feature. So far, I am not even using the former. Yes, yes, I know I bragged about bleeding-edge before, but let me explain why I did not go for it in this particular case:

  • Filesystem is the most critical aspect of a system for me. I can toy around and experiment with everything but this holy grail. If my audio fails, I can try fixing it. If X stops working, ditto. If my data is corrupted, I’m FUBAR.
  • Anaconda crashed when I tried to update the boot-loader configuration for a system with Ext4 partitions.
  • I couldn’t find a way to use Ext4 without using the Logical Volume Manager. I like my partitions as /dev/sdaX and entries such as /dev/mapper/yourmom/blahblahblah/finallythedrive in the fstab file turn me off.

Nevertheless, KMS made up for the Ext4 — or lack thereof.

  • Booting is now prettier.
  • Working in runlevel 3 is so much more efficient because of all the extra space provided by higher resolution.
  • Switching virtual terminals and X sessions is a breeze.
  • Suspend/Resume is a bit more stable.

Other significant changes include Xfce 4.6, Firefox 3.5 and the reworked volume management in Pulse. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with my decision to upgrade, and here’s to the hoping that the next 6 months will go as smooth as the previous ones.

Tags: , , , , , ,