I have previously documented my search for a /perfect/ window manager. I now believe that my search is over: for the last 3 months I have been using pekwm, and I think it’s great.

It had good keyboard control, but recently it was modified to include excellent keyboard control. In addition to all the expected window manager features, it also has tabbed windows, which are not as common a feature as they should be.

It’s not an official Debian package (yet) but the source contains all the debian config information, so a dpkg-buildpackage it all that’s required to make your own.

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Reiserfs filesystem recovery

Cleaning up after disk crashing season hasn’t been fun, but I am pleased with what I’ve managed to recover from the worst crash.

I wanted to get the latest data from the dead webserver. It was in MySQL, and stored in /var/lib/mysql. Unfortunately, the /var/lib directory no longer existed.

I didn’t want to try to recover it in place — with so many bad blocks, things can only get worse — so I copied the entire partition to a file on my laptop (the one with the shiny new disk):

ssh deadserver dd if=/dev/hda1 conv=noerror > hda1.img
(You need the conv=noerror or else dd will stop when it hits the first bad block.)

So, then I had most of a corrupt filesystem image. To make it useful I used the loop driver:

losetup /dev/loop0 hda1.img
Now I could try reiserfsck to see what I could recover. I started with
reiserfsck --rebuild-sb /dev/loop0
to rebuild the superblock: even it if hadn’t been affected by the physical disk corruption, it would certainly be confused by it new home in a looped image that probably wasn’t the same size as the original partition. Next step was
reiserfsck --rebuild-tree /dev/loop0
to try to find the contents of the missing directories. I finished it off with
reiserfsck --check /dev/loop0
to make sure it was happy.

Now I can just

mount /dev/loop0 /mnt
and have a look in /mnt/lost+found. The data is there!

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Thanks, IBM

I took my sick ThinkPad to see the IBM doctor yesterday evening. It seems Mr ThinkPad needs a hard-disk transplant. Dr IBM asked if Mr ThinkPad wanted to be infected with Windoze; he seemed pleased when I explained we didn’t need it.

Dr IBM released Mr ThinkPad this morning, with a better-than-new disk: 60GB instead of the original 40GB, and no Windoze infection.

It’s a pity IBM didn’t offer the no-Windoze option when I bought the laptop.

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Hard drive meltdown

My laptop’s harddisk appears to be melting! It seemed fine last night, but I’ve found lots of bad blocks this morning.  During the hot weather over the last few weeks I had noticed the laptop was very hot, so I’m guessing that the heat damaged the drive.

I don’t appear to have lost much.

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Bitten by an Apple

I installed NetAtalk today, and then tried to get some Macs to use the server. Sharing home directories was easy, but the Macs couldn’t see anything in the documentation directory.

It turned out that Macs don’t like read-only folders, like my documentation dir. They don’t mind read-only contents, but they expect to be able to write information to help them draw the folder on screen. This seems a bit insane, but it probably looks good.

It wasn’t a new problem, so the NetAtalk can handle it: if you want to export read-only directories you must provide a writable dbpath for them.

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Debian does Dell

A few days ago I tried to install Debian on a new Dell PowerEdge 1600SC. The PXE Linux boot worked perfectly, but Linux couldn’t find the hard disk! It seems that the new Dell uses a MegaRaid card that doesn’t support RAID yet.

I was happy to discover that this new MegaRaid card is supported by the driver in the 2.4.21 Linux kernel. That hasn’t been released yet, but I compiled 2.4.21rc3 and the disk appeared.

Since I was doing well with pre-release software, I decided to try the new debian-installer. Unfortunately, it only partially worked for my needs. It didn’t appear to support reiserfs, and it failed to make swap. It’s still alpha, or pre-alpha, so I breifly used the older installation system to create the swap and reiser partitions. After that, the debian-installer was happy to continue.

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