How Windows helped me fix my Linux May 15, 2008Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, How-To, Linux, Microsoft, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
Last night, my Linux (PCLinux) broke. And this evening I finally fixed it, with some help from Windows.
I’ll be telling the whole story along with what happened in the post below, but before that let me start with a few disclaimers (warnings/cautions etc).
First, it was clearly my mistake in the start the led to the demise of my Linux. I messed around with my partition table. Yes, yes, I know, shoot me!
Also, I’m a linux noob (which means, I’m more than a newbie, but not at all proficient with Linux when things go wrong). So, I’m sure there are easier solutions “IN” linux itself, but I had/have no idea about them… the few solutions I did know, didn’t work out for me… but again… that’s just me. In the same vein, I’m not a windows/Microsoft fanboy (nor a linux fanboy mind you). So my intention is not to start another uneccessary Windows-is-better-than-Linux flame-war!
The distribution in question (the one I was using) was PCLinuxOS (my current distribution of choice). Yet my comments here do not reflect on my views about how “good” or “bad” the distribution is, but this post is more a confessional on how I messed it up (so that someone may prevent themselves from making a similar mistake… or make things easier for us young-ones).
On to the story.
1. Last night I wanted to update my PCLinux (I hadn’t done it for a long time). For those who know PCLinux, they’ll know that one of it’s weaknesses is that it does not have an auto-update function like Ubuntu or openSUSE. You have to manually got to Synaptic and “reload” and then “mark upgrades” and then “apply”. So, I hadn’t done that for a while, and so I decided now is the time.
2. I realised, after seeing the size of the updates that my were too huge, and so I decided to completely wipe out my openSUSE 10.3 partition and use that space for my home directory. (ie. I’d have my programme in one partition, and my documents in another, like I do in Windows).
3. So I went to the PCLinux Control Center, went to Mount Points, and deleted the openSUSE partition. I also, choose to mount the free space with /home and the computer nicely asked me if I wanted to copy my current home folder to the new location. For which I said, “yes.”.
4. Sadly, when I saw the new configuration, I saw that the new /home partition was only the size of the home files (about 1.5 GB) and I had another 3.5 GB free… so I decided to increase the size of my new /home partition.
5. The partitioner didn’t allow it, giving some error that I obviously forgot to write down. Anyway, after a couple of tries, I decided I’d deal with that later (using gparted or something) and I decided to continue with my upgrade.
6. Just before I started my upgrades, I noticed that my new /home partition file size was about 4.5 GB (It should have been about 5) but then I thought, “oh, it did it, cool!” and I continued the upgrade.
7. I had about 700 MB of upgrades to do (yes, yes, I know, long long time). And my slow internet connection took hours and hours to do it.
8. In the process, when it said about 1 more hour to go, I went to sleep, before all the the updates were applied. But my computer battery died out (I thought it would be done within two hours, because I had about 2.5 left). But I think all the updates weren’t applied.
9. When I woke up next morning (today) and started PCLinux, it just wouldn’t let me get into the login or desktop screen. I realised I had done a foolish thing, and didn’t know what to do. (ps. I know at this point I should be able to go into Linux through some text mode thingy and fix things, but that is just too hard. I really prefer the gentle Windows “safe mode” that looks so easy compared to the text-mode Linux).
10. I realised I had failed, and since I had made backups of my PCLinux documents (yipee!) I decided to reinstall. (The great thing about Linux is that it’s so easy to reinstall, unlike Windows, that we can do it more often. Perhaps, that’s a bad thing, actually! :) )
11. Sadly, I had given away my last PCLinuxOS 2007 CD to a friend (I have already given away about 8 PCLinux OS CDs), so I had to download it again (using its metalink which took about 1.5 hrs). (Thank God for metalinks!)
12. Then, my first reinstall attempt failed at the partition time, because it said it couldn’t read my partition, and if I tried to change it I could loose all my data, “Do you want to continue” it asked! What? Obviously NOT!!!
13. I tried again, same response. Realising that something was wrong in the partition, I decided to use Ubuntu LIVE CD to change my partitions, but no luck. It couldn’t go past my partitions.
14. I tried openSUSE oneCD installation (thinking it would be more powerful), still no luck. It told me that it couldn’t change the current settings and would use only existing settings (which I thought was not good).
15. Then I got my gParted out (the Linux partitioning specialist, a really cool/small programme). But even that failed. It just wouldn’t read my partitions, let alone let me edit them.
16. Thankfully, in all this, my Windows was still working, though by then my Windows boot was lost. I used super GRUB rescue (some boot rescue programme that I had lying around, it’s a spanish version that I can’t read, but I know a few buttons are press-worthy and times my windows boot has been restored.). And yes, this time I was able to get back to Windows.
17. And here’s how Windows helped me fix my Linux… I went straightway to MyComputer <right click>, “Manage” and then “storage” and so my partitions. Windows cannot normally read Linux partitions, but it does show that some partition exists (represented by a blank).
18. I deleted the Linux partitions, all of them, including the swap drive.
19. And then I used gParted to format the partitions to ext3 and swap….
20. And then I installed PCLinux, which worked…
21. And then I upgraded… and I’m currently typing on my updated/upgraded PCLinuxOS.
Moral of the story… keep your windows copy handy! No seriously, I was actually surprised that my partitions were so messed up that Linux distributions couldn’t read then. Usually I use Linux to SOLVE my partitioning problems (Especially a programme like gParted) and this was the first time I had to do it the otherway. I wonder what went wrong. Perhaps, my messed up partitioning process (first) and then compounded by my error-red update/upgrade. Whatever, I’m thankful that my computer is now working… bootloader, windows, linux et al.
My Linux wish-list (which obviously is only a wish list because I have no money to give to Linux to get me these things… not even a measly dollar… because I live in the ‘3rd’ world!)… is:
1. I want a system restore in Linux!
2. I want more graphical help in fixing errors in Linux (something like a Windows safe mode).
3. I want better partitioning control, perhaps with more detail… something that actually shows where one partition ends and where one begins (like the good old fragmenting days of Windows 95)… it shows graphically exactly what bytes (sectors) are where and what to move. I’m thinking something that can be moved around like building blocks… so that we can visually see what we’re doing, rather than as lists and numbers.
4. I want automatic backups of the things that need backuping… but that’s the lazy option I guess. But what I mean is that the partitioning control centre said I should backup my partition table, but I didn’t know how to do it (I still don’t). It would have been nice if it asked instead, “do you want me to help you backup your partition table?” and then I could say, yes or no.
5. I want world peace…
ps. Please (linux fans) don’t shoot me for this post. I love Linux you guys, I really do. And I’m just shooting my mouth off, without actually contributing in support forums etc. I know, I know, I’m a bad person. I’m going to Linux hell for this, but can I appeal to linux-mercy and linux-grace.