More computer troubles (long, some tech stuff).
Last Saturday, a few hours after posting this, I made a deal with my supplier in which the issue of the memory sticks was resolved, and I got my PC back with a new motherboard and hard drive. I partitioned and formatted the new drive, installed SuSE linux 10.0 on it and started copying my administration and working files to the new drive, from the old 40 Gig drive which was still installed. I also moved my music collection to a data partition on the new drive and started downloading some old Doctor Who seasons just because I had that much space to fill for the first time in years.
Because of the download, I left the PC on overnight for a few nights. When I got out of bed on Tuesday morning, the PC was unresponsive. I rebooted it and was greeted with a large number of file system errors. Because I needed to plan my travel for a workshop in Emmen, I panicked a bit, but eventually I managed to boot the PC from a Kubuntu LiveCD and after a few attempts managed to mount the partitions on the new drive, causing the reiserfs journal entries to get replayed so the drive could be shut down properly. Yes, this is going to be that kind of post. Long and technical.
I ran fsck a few times with different options as well, but I do think it was mainly mounting the disks that caused the problem to go away for the time being. I shut the PC down, rebooted it after my workshops and it worked normally. So I resumed the download and continued to leave the PC on overnight. One might argue that that was irresponsible, but hey, I knew how to solve the problem if it reoccurred, right? And if it did, I might be able to investigate it in my own time, without running in panic mode, and solve it properly.
Well, that didn't turn out that way. I got the same problem again on Thursday, so I rebooted into Kubuntu LiveCD, did what I did last time, and rebooted my normal system again. Only now I got a new set of hard-drive-related I/O errors during SuSE bootup, and when I rebooted again, I got hard drive errors during the BIOS bootup stage. Eep.
Booting into Kubuntu LiveCD again for another look at my disks turned out to be harder than it had been before. The Hard Drive error occurred before the system decides to boot from the CD... luckily, it doesn't occur every time, and upon repeated tries I got the LiveCD to boot. Unfortunately, LiveCD technology isn't all that reliable, and this one had about five different places in the bootup process where it could and would get stuck, including at the end, when it sometimes displays a 1280*1024 pixel desktop on a screen set to 640*380. Now, there are plenty of linux geeks around who can fly blindly and fix problems like that without being able to see what's on their screen. I'm not one of them. If I can't see nearly all the contents of the screen, I can't fix the screen configuration, so in those situations, all that's left for me to do is reboot and try again.
When I did get Kubuntu to run properly, I found I could no longer see the new drive in the Disk/File system configuration screen, so I figured that at the very least, the file system was a goner, and possibly the hardware as well. So I fetched my portable hard drive from the studio, so I could back up the data that was still on the old hard drive. That way, if the new drive was broken, I'd be able to do a fresh OS install on the old drive. But while I was copying over my working files, the old hard drive also began to fail, and it didn't last long enough to copy over my Opera config files (which contain my email and my password). Upon a remount, the system returned similar I/O errors to the ones I remember seeing on Thursday morning. It's very likely now that that drive is also dead. It's like my computer is rotting!
I've called the shop about the problem. They invited me to bring my PC back to them, but mentioned that they were still drowning in repair work. I've mentioned their workload before - it's a big part of what caused the three-week wait before I got the machine back the first time. It may also have been the cause of some less than stirling workmanship; the intermittent nature of the Hard Drive Errors may be a sign that it's actually functional but not connected properly.
So I've decided to take some cooling-off time in which I weigh my options. I could take it back to the shop; I could take it to another shop; I could get a more hardware-savvy friend to look at it. If I get really desperate, I could open it myself and see if someone didn't connect the yellow wire right.
Or I could give this machine up as a bad job, reevaluate my computing needs and start with a fresh system. If the hard drives are broken and the data on them lost, I have no real reason to keep tinkering with this system; I might as well get something new that's more adequate to my needs right now.
When I bought my current system, I had a need to edit high-res comics in mind, and got a decent processor as well as as much memory as I could fit in. As it turned out, I've only ever used that power a handful of times since. All my productive work is done in the studio - on the desktop PC if possible, on the iBook if necessary. The home machine is used for getting online and playing media, and doesn't do the latter all that well.
And while I'm at it consider that:
1) I consider not having to spend time rummaging in the innards of a computer a good indicator of my quality of life;
2) I find tinkering with Operating Systems and getting software to run somewhat interesting, but it's not something I should spend great amounts of time on, which linux tends to make me do too often;
3) I don't trust Windows - I think XP is ancient and unsafe, and don't think Vista was developed with my interests in mind;
4) I don't have a lot of space in my apartment;
5) Me and my iBook, we get along very well...
...what's to stop me from just plonking a Mac Mini in the space where the PC is now, and join the army of computer dimwit graphical artists for a while? Well, apart from the price of the damned things. But maybe if I work a bit harder while there's no PC at home to distract me, I might earn the money soon enough.
Oh, and there's the issue of getting Macs online through @home.nl. But then I'm a bit fed up with them anyway.