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Sysadmin blues

This should really go to ASR, but since I'm not getting money for being a monk I figure I don't want to go to a place where people lurking will think I am. Computer-heavy, but fuck you if it's too much so. My journal, my rules, dogfucker.

So, picture the situation here. Our current setup is three permanent machines: My laptop (used for online-ness as my desktop needs work that is non-trivial to get the modem configured right), running Micro$loth WinME. My desktop, running Debian (for the important and intelligent stuff) and 98 (for putting documents into forms needed by the university, and for playing games). My brother's machine, dual-booting two forms of XP and one of ME. Used by everyone else, as they know not to fuck with my kit on pain of extreme pain. There's also the XP-based laptop the brother "borrows" from his job a fair bit, but that seems to have vanished these past few days.

Now, the problem: Apparently, these two versions of XP are "broken"[1]. I've kept well away from the pathetic excuse for bloatware and therefore don't know what causes this[2]. The best I can figure is that they reside on two separate HDs, one entirely FAT32, one NTFS, or some shit like that. He figures that this is the cause of the problem, and the only way to solve it and get back to an OS that doesn't demand terabytes of disk space just to log in is to wipe XP from the system. Since he wants to "learn Linux"[3], he figures he'll turn the part of the FAT disk that had XP on it into a Linux partition.

He actually asks for my help installing. Fair enough, I think. He's family[4]. He drags home some kit, and declares that he's going to get started. Boom goes the XP on the FAT disk. Boom goes the XP bootloader, and therefore any way to read the NTFS disk. In goes the DVD drive, replacing his CD drive so he can use my copy of Debian.

Which doesn't boot.

I figure he's either not got it set right in his BIOS or he's got the jumper settings on the DVD drive wrong so it won't boot. He insists that it's the DVD, that my claims that it is bootable are lies. Well, I have proof he's a moron, and proof that it boots when I demonstrate that fact on my machine. He's adamant that it won't, then changes his tune to it being the DVD drive so I lend him the Debian CD that came with the Bible[5], also bootable. He switches back to the CD, tries to boot from it, nothing. Cue more whining about me giving him CDs that don't work. I then talk him through making boot floppies to get everything started.

Now, this Debian CD is an old one. 2.2 kernel, but that's about it. It was released back when the best[6] graphics hardware was a Riva TNT. He's got a TNT2, and despite what I try, I can't get it to recognise the card. At this point, he fucks off to be with his girlfriend, leaving the "little bits that need fixing" to me. Great. So, no TNT2 recognition from XF86Setup. I figure it should at least be able to try something, until I take a look at the back of the machine. He's got the TNT2 (a 32 MB graphics card) plugged through an 8 MB Voodoo 2 accelerator. I boggle, and quit the X setup. Of course, I have to power off with the Big Red Switch as he's not left me the root password in case I need to do, well, any-fucking-thing to the piece of shit he calls a machine. The disk screams as it goes down hard. I allow myself a smile at that, though it later transpired there was no actual damage.

Today, he gets the grand idea of formatting again and installing with the version of DeadRat that he's managed to pilfer from his orkplace. It turns out that it's just right to recognise his video card as cutting edge, and it even sets up Lilo for him (more on this later). For some reason, he installs developer tools for everything from ADA to FORTRAN, full kernel source "just in case", and every window manager and desktop environment he can get his hands on[7][8]. Then, he tries getting the modem to work.

Him: "Why won't it activate my modem?"
Me: "You have one of those cheap, tacky pieces of shit known as a WinModem, that needs Windows to work so they could save half a cent on electronics"
Him: "No, I don't."
Me: "It says WInModem on the box"
Him: "So?"
Me: "Look, drop back to ME, fire up Google and see if you can make it into a normal piece of hardware."
Him: *grumblemutterGoogleGooglechangejumpersbloodyWinModem..."
Me: "What's that? Was I reading the box right? Wonderful skill, that."

At this point my overabundance of cluons must have scared him, as he ran off to be with his girlfriend. I sat back and played </u>Nighthawk</u>[9] for a while. Then, up comes my dad, looking to download the pictures from his phone to my brother's machine[10]. After yelling for him to hit the bloody down-arrow as the LILO prompt (with that horrible DeadRat image on it) takes over the screen -- the damn thing is set to have a 5 second delay as standard -- he connects his camera to ME, after wondering why he doesn't have to log in now.

Me: "Oh, Ben got rid of XP. Now you just all share access to the one generic ME, plus Linux if ever he pays me enough to work with DeadRat to get it working right."
Dad: "Great. Why can't I get to my pictures?"

Turns out the camera had only been installed on the XP portion. The NTFS XP portion, that may or may not boot at some unknown time in the future[11]. After a fun fight with the CDs and the drivers and the lamentations of our womenfolk over the way my brother treats the machine[12], we finally get it to recognise the camera. Then the new fun part, as dad goes to save the pictures.

Dad: "Where's all the other pictures? They're supposed to be in My Documents, and they aren't."

I double-check. Nutsacks, he's right. The damn things have vanished. Either they're on the NTFS partition or they no longer exist. I hurriedly check the disk my brother had been using to back up the picture archive. Nothing added for the past 16 months. At minimum, ten sets of pictures unaccounted for. My dad is not a happy bunny, and gets less pleased when I give him the good news. There's a chance they're still on the NTFS disk, if it was that one he logged into usually. If so, I'll have to use Linux to get to them[13]. I would try, but I don't even have a basic account, let alone the permissions needed to start mounting disks and adding modules into the kernel if he was dumb enough to not install the NTFS driver, assuming that even came with DeadRat 7.2. My brother is out enjoying himself whilst the two of us are stressing chronically over this, and over trying to install some decent photo-manipulation freeware that my dad's used to[14].

So, tomorrow I get root on my brother's box and have to spend ages toying with a bloated distro I know not from VAX (and would rather the situation stayed that way), trying to mount an NTFS disk to see if the pictures are still there, and if they are, I have to find somewhere to put them on a disk my dad can use. The only good part was seeing the look on my brother's face after Dad finished his quiet chat. Apparently his defense was `you weren't supposed to be using it', despite not actually, well, ever saying this. I'd briefed Dad on the "Let the only one of you with a clue about things have access to what he needs" part, safe to say. If it takes up much of my time tomorrow evening and he is not there being cursed by me every second and fetching me Javan coffee, I am charging that freeloading selfpromoting useless clueless ratfucker I am supposedly related to every penny I can screw out of him, with full parental support.

Furr-fucking-fu. I thought I left this shit back in Germany, and there's no vodka in the house. I'm going to go pass out.

[1]: His words and his alone.
[2]: Or notice that it's happening. Or give a shit.
[3]: From me, without paying my usual fee for teaching idiots things they can find out for free. And he's not asked yet.
[4]: I have my doubts...
[5]: The Debian Bible. They haven't started giving away Linux with the Book just yet.
[6]: FSVO
[7]: ObSideRant: No, those are not the same things you braindead fuckers, it is perfectly possible to get by without Gnome or KDE and save acres of resources by just using WindowMaker!
[8]: I think he's been trained to think it's not an OS unless it eats up 2 GB of space.
[9]: A rather beautiful little Paradroid sequel/tribute
[10]: Month and a half ago, parents were in New York. This is the first time it's rained when he's not at work, and thus has had time away from the garden to download pictures.
[11]: And as I still have no password, I can't modify lilo.conf to check.
[12]: Twelve months. Nine installs of Windows. Six uninstalls. All without warning. And bear in mind my parents use this machine at least as much as he does.
[13]: Note careful use of the first person singular.
[14]: Hey, I trained him to not suck totally...

Comments

( 1 informant — We want information! )
amokk
Jul. 1st, 2003 12:53 am (UTC)
[7]: ObSideRant: No, those are not the same things you braindead fuckers, it is perfectly possible to get by without Gnome or KDE and save acres of resources by just using WindowMaker!

WindowMaker isn't bad, been messing with it lately, that and IceWM and Enlightenment.

Mandrake 9.1 install they're buried quite deep and you have to install them after the initial install, they're not given as choices then. Annoying, but hey.

:P
( 1 informant — We want information! )

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