Thursday, June 07, 2007


I have been wondering what my next entry should be about for a few days now. I was kicking around the idea of talking about being half way through my Ubuntu challenge. To sum up, its been going really well, and I've been feeling really great about Ubuntu, and Linux in general. So great that I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with it for the long run.

And as I've mentioned before, I have been running Linux based servers for years, and my home server actually runs (or should I say ran) SME server.

Well, the universe saw that I was loving Linux, and decided to put me in my place. My home server crapped out on me last Sunday. It was giving me some issues connecting to a file, so I rebooted it, and when it tried to start up, it gave me a Grub loading Stage 1.5 - Grub error 25.


This should not really have been a big deal, as I've been looking to replace this box with one running FreeNAS - which by the way is an excellent option for small network file sharing. SME server is a good solution for a small business, but it is overkill for my needs. Plus since it has a really cool/unusual way of running its configuration in a database, it is a lot different than most Linux distros. This configuration is great, if you only want to run SME server, but it can get more problematic if you want it to do different things.

So either I needed a server that I could really screw around with to learn with, or something really simple. The problem for me was that I really only needed file sharing. I have steadily removed every other function from this server, and now only need the file sharing. So SME was too much on one side, but not enough on the other. Plus the hard disk was loud in that box. So I was ready to move off of the SME server, and onto FreeNAS.

The only problem was this - I did not have a current backup.

Its Ironic, that within the last month I purchased and implemented over five thousand dollars worth of backup hardware and software in my office. Just to get the backups there to a level I was comfortable with, and I wasn't even making backups of my home setup.

Its the classic case of the cobbler's kids needing new shoes.

I guess I'm not a complete idiot - I have made weekly backups of my server data (the only data that matters on my home network) for years to my workstation. With the idea of putting occasional copies of that backup in my safe deposit box.


I had to chuck the workstation backups to make room for...

(wait for it)

my new Ubuntu install.

So, I had a non booting server, with no backup (for the last 6 months), and only the hope that I could fix it. My wife even gave me the "you told me to put things on the server, because they were supposed to be backed up" speech. This was bad.

But again, I figured I only needed the data, one way or another. And I figured it would be no big deal to get to it (or at least most of it), as I've been through more than my share of situations like this before. This disk appeared to be accessible, and so I figured it might be in the process of failing, but wasn't gone yet. I figured I would be able to at least get a good portion of the data.

So I put the disk in an external USB caddy, and tried to access it via my Ubuntu - no luck - the file systems were showing as Linux Raid Partition, and would not mount. This was really strange to me as I did not have any other drives in the system, so I wouldn't have set the server up with software raid - but maybe that is just how SME server works, or maybe I made a mistake somewhere along the way. I really did not investigate that too much - I chalked it up to SME being what it is; Linux, but with its own unique way of doing things. Either that or me screwing something up in the 3 years I've run the thing.

OK - whatever. so I tried to run fsck to fix it - but it did not like the file system type.

a few hours of machinations later (trying to trick the sytem into mounting it - running SME rescue mode, etc.), I ended up booting into Knoppix, using cfdisk to change the partition types to 83 (linux). At this point I was still getting some cryptic errors when trying to run fsck. something about how the magic block was wrong - I didn't take notes during this whole mess - but I was able to follow the instructions to run fsck on the boot partition of SME - the data partition would not work following the same procedure - but it was enough. the system then booted SME Server.

Of course I immediately pulled all my data off, and now have re-implemented a backup schedule at home. Luckily I got all my data back. I'm now running happily on FreeNAS

But let that be a lesson - never get too happy with anything in the computer world, and always make backups.

(I should add that this is not a condemnation of SME Server - its a condemnation of my stupidity. SME Server is a fantastic distro, and I think one of the best options for a small business - be sure to check it out here and here)

No comments: