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Blackout

28 settembre 2003

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Last night Italy suffered a massive blackout, so this morning I came back from the lake Maggiore to find my server dead. The server, which runs all our mail and web sites, was (yes, was) a very old Compaq Deskpro with a Celeron 300 and twin 4Gb disks configured as a software RAID-1 array. I liked it because it was a very silent and low- consumption machine with no CPU fan, and I don’t need more power than that to manage a few mailboxes, a couple of web sites, and my home LAN.

I knew it was in bad shape, but I always managed to reboot it in the past, the very few times I needed to- Today I tried everything, but the bios screen refuses to come up, and no beeps escape from the speaker at boot time.

So I wasted all day trying to let my desktop’s twin machine (an Athlon 750 PC I built three years ago) see my server’s two disks, and remount the RAID array. The new machine’s BIOS screws up the disks geometry, and if I attach both of them on the two IDE channels, I see only the first one. Weird.

So I burned a mini-CD with tomsrtbt, transferred everything on a 20Gb disk, rebuilt the array, hotraidadded one of the two 4Gb disks, reconfigured LILO, rebooted, and LILO started spitting out error messages. Reconfigured, double checked everything, LILO comes up with a checksum error. Hmmm I’m getting old for this, I remember when it was fun but it’s not anymore.

In the end I installed Grub, took the 4Gb disk off the array, fscked to death the 20Gb disk who got corrupted in the meantime, and the server is back up. Tomorrow I will buy a second 20Gb or 40Gb disk and add it to the RAID array.

The only good thing to come out of this is that I learned something more about Grub, and I really like it. If things get tough, Grub is your friend. A few useful links if you want to switch from LILO to Grub, boot a software RAID partition from Grub, convert a running system to software RAID (mainly geared towards Debian users, Slackware users may find this more useful).

My fiber optic link where this site is usually served from is still down, something to do with the Catalyst in the basement who serves the whole building, I have called a few times but all I’m getting is it will be fixed RSN. If I knew how to lockpick the rack, and I had not spent the whole day fighting disks and LILO, I would be tempted to connect my laptop and try to bring it up myself (but maybe it’s not so easy anymore to reboot a Cisco and get enable permissions). Luckily I have still my ADSL link, who promptly resumed service as soon as power came back. I have switched the DNS to the ADSL address, so this site will slowly resurface on the Web, but it will be pretty slow until the fiber optic link is working again.