Power-Outages, My Mother-In-Law, and FSCK…

A couple weeks ago, my mother-in-law (M.I.L.) — who runs Opensuse 11.3 on her desktop — had a power outage.  After the power came on, she called me to describe a weird error she was getting during boot-up.  And the second NFL pre-season game for my team had just kicked off….

She described some stuff about it asking for the root password for maintenance, and the messages right above that about initializing the swap on /dev/sda2 and /dev/sdb2.  Ah, it was all coming back to me;  this box has two hard drives, and I bet one of them is damaged or dead.  But, the worst part is that I could not remember the root password on that machine (yes, I built it).

So, I gave her the choice of either bringing it over to my house (excuse to see the grandkids, and I could fix it at halftime), or I could talk her through the process of “cracking” into the Opensuse and attempting to repair all the partitions until we either fix them all or find them totally dead.  She was game for the phone-based support, so we began (remember that all of this was over the phone so I was flying blind)…

  1. First, I pre-instructed her that we were going to reboot, and when she would see the list of “kernels”, to just press the down-arrow to stop the clock count-down.  So, she did the Ctrl+Alt+Del, and upon reboot hit the up arrow then back down to the previously-selected PAE kernel.
  2. Next, I told her that she was to begin typing the next line I told her, and it should automatically start filling in a line/box near the bottom.  I had her begin, but after the first couple characters I asked if there was a space before the first character or if she needed to add one, and the space was already there so we continued:  init=/bin/bash  (this line causes the boot process to forgo the normal initialization process, and just run a shell for you to use for maintenance.)
  3. Once at the “pound sign” prompt, it was time to start hammering away at the repairs.  I told her to type in mount -o rw,remount /dev/sda3 (I always use a standard disk layout for home-based boxes, so I knew sda3 would be the / partition), and she got a message that it mounted with errors.  Ah-hah!
  4. Next I had her un-mount the partition we just mounted with umount /dev/sda3 and move to aggressively repairing it with fsck -y /dev/sda3 (yes, I know, I know; you’re wanting to post a message about how I should never use the “-y” flag…  But we were moving through the first quarter of the game…).
  5. Amazingly for me and M.I.L., the repair completed successfully!

So, she did another Ctrl+Alt+Del, and she was logging in before the second offensive series was done in the game.  So we have a happy M.I.L., and I barely missed anything in the game (well, it is pre-season, so there isn’t much to miss anyway, but there you go…)


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