zen.org Communal Weblog

November 11, 2005

Recovering from unknown (laptop) trauma

Filed under: — brendan @ 22:27 GMT

A week ago my wonderful Fujitsu Lifebook P-2046 laptop named lisa died under mysterious circumstances. Its successor, kaylee, is the tiny, fast, and light Sony VAIO VGN-TX1XP. But, I can’t really start to use the replacement laptop until I take care of some unfinished business.

Sidebar: The Sony was in second place to lisa‘s natural replacement, the Fujitsu Lifebook P-7010D. It lost out because in an effort to make the right-side Shift key larger—there were some complaints for the P-2046, though I liked it—they shrank down the comma, period, and slash keys. After only a little bit of typing on one our friend Michael was trying out and I knew it wasn’t meant to be. I suffer from RSI and strain/pain in my wrists and arms after too much typing. Those little keys were going to cause all sorts of trouble for the nerves and tendons in my right wrist and hand, sigh.

But I think it’s gonna do just fine in the market, because I wasn’t using it the way everybody else will. A few years ago, in a tag-team effort with Sven Heinicke and Pat Quairoli, I started to use the Dvorak keyboard layout. It’s absolutely fantastic and has drastically reduced the problems I felt using a computer. (Admittedly, it took me a good month to get used to it; imagine going back to school in your teens or younger to learn from scratch.) So the big problem with the P-7010 won’t be as dramatic for folks who type on “normal” QWERTY-format keyboards. But for my Dvorak, that meant the letters W (on the “,” key), V (the “.” key), and Z (the “/” key) were now on these half-width keys from hell. Trying to type “zen” with my right ring finger trying to hit “/”, or “sven” with my right middle finger having trouble getting “,” instead of “.”, and there was no WAY it would really be usable. It’s a gorgeous laptop and for every other reason was my first choice. Oh well. 🙂

Anyway, the reason for this post…when lisa died she had a lot of stuff on her hard drive that I still need to use for work, for our finances, you name it. (I think the number of people in the world with computers who perform even weekly regular backups of their computers—even just files that changed—is less than 0.001% of its population.) Thus the puzzle of how to fix it. I contacted a place that gets stuff off disks, but it was going to be a bit expensive. Plus, the hard drive in a laptop is usually a 2.5″ disk with a special small set of pins to plug into the inside of a laptop; I couldn’t just plug it in somewhere else.

At a local shop I lucked out and found a external enclosure (Mapower MAP-KC21x) for 2.5″ drives that can plug into your computer using either USB or Firewire cables. It’s perfect! And I could easily take the hard drive out of my laptop and put it with no real effort into this enclosure. Having both ways to connect it also meant that later, if I format it properly, I could find ways to use it on either a Linux system, Windows (cough), or E’s Mac.

I tried the steps below first with it plugged in via Firewire, but it kept stalling or giving me an odd error message about a file having disappeared. On the console were lots of errors like

Nov 11 20:45:16 homer kernel: ieee1394: sbp2: aborting sbp2 command
Nov 11 20:45:16 homer kernel: Write (10) 00 01 df 35 a5 00 00 08 00

so I gave up trying to use Firewire. I plugged it instead into my system homer‘s USB port (catching a theme in the names?), and this worked like a dream:

# lvm vgscan
# lvm vgchange -a y
# mkdir /mnt/boot
# mount -o ro /dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 /mnt/boot
# cd /mnt/boot
# for f in * ; do rsync -vax "./$f" /bigdrive/lisa-recover/ ; done

homer runs SuSE Linux, and I just needed to install the lvm2 package to have the commands available. It’s happily extracting all of the files now. Thank goodness! When it’s done, I’ll be taking out the 20GB disk that was in my Lifebook, and putting in a 80GB drive I got as a replacement/upgrade of the Lifebook—the disk arrived a day after the laptop was dead. This will then be a really easily transported large amount of space. The enclosure comes with a nice small leather carrying case and both USB & Firewire cables. (The USB cable is a Y-adapter version that plugs into your computer’s USB port but lets you chain another USB device off of it. I’d never seen this neat trick before.)

Next comes installing something (Debian? FreeBSD? SuSE? RedHat?) on the Vaio…

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