2006-06-15 My PC got fried

There it is. Today, Claudia’s SlackWare box wouldn’t start anymore. A quick wirr on the harddisk, then silence. No output on the monitor. BIOS wasted?

I decided to buy a Mac Mini!

I thought about it before (2005-02-06 Software, 2006-03-01 Gadgets, 2006-03-06 Gadgets) – and today, as I walked Claudia to her studio, I decided to take a look at the nearby Eschenmooser. I didn’t know that they had 10% off today, so I was lucky.

I bought:

  1. Mac Mini, 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo, but didn’t upgrade to 1GB of RAM. Maybe 512KB 512MB is enough. CHF 1107
  2. Mighty Mouse. CHF 67.60
  3. Keyboard with Swiss-German layout. CHF 35.10
  4. Iomega 250GB external harddisk CHF 287.30
  5. Enclosure so that I can put the old harddisks there and rescue my data. CHF 89.30

Total: CHF 1586.30 (USD ~1300)

Now I need ext2/ext3 drivers for the Mac...

On the ever-helpfull EmacsChannel, I got some info regarding my fried PC:

20:17 alephnull
kensanata: The last time that happened to me, the RAM had fried itself. Special beeps at bootup ?
20:20 kensanata
alephnull: no, it seems to be touching all the discs, but no bios output, the “purring” is right, but then the mbr with lilo is not run...
20:22 alephnull
kensanata: BIOS damage would fail POST, I think. But it does look like something non-trivial.
20:24 schlick
kensanata: Might want to check for a dead power supply (they can be putting out some power, enough to spin fans, but not enough to work properly) or leaky capacitors on the motherboard (brown or black on the silvery tops of the little popcan looking things). Those are my guesses as to the most likely causes.

In the mean time, I’m downloading software upgrades on the new Mini.

Back to my file rescue mission. I installed the Ext2 drivers from the ext2fsx project on my old iBook running OSX 10.3.9, plugged in the external USB drive, and waited. And lo and behold! It mounted the various partitions on the drive!

Unfortunately, it was not possible to simply copy the folders via the network to the new drive connected to the second computer. Permission problems. In the ext2 preferences panel I indicated that I did not want permissions used on these partitions, and started fooling around. I did a sudo su and tried to create a tar file, thinking that it might circumvent the permission problem.

Kernel panic! A little transparent box tells me I have to reboot my Mac!


I do that, and my drives are no longer mounted automatically. The readme just said to run fsck_ext2 on the devices to repair them if they did not automount. At first the disc did not show up in dev, however, so I was confused: What device? After asking around on IRC, I realized that the disc had reappeared in the meantime:

alpinobombus:/usr/local/sbin alex$ ls /dev/disk*
/dev/disk0   /dev/disk0s3 /dev/disk2s1 /dev/disk2s3 /dev/disk2s6
/dev/disk0s1 /dev/disk2   /dev/disk2s2 /dev/disk2s5 /dev/disk2s7

So then I started to run commands such as fsck_ext2 -C 0 -p /dev/disk2s5 – they take forever! The -C 0 makes sure you get to see a progress bar, and the -p makes sure you don’t have to answer questions when fsck encounters problems. Just fix it, man!

I guess this is taking forever because I’m doing this via USB.


I can’t believe that I finally finished checking all the disks, mounted them using disktool -m disk2, opened one of them in the Finder, started browsing, and got another fucking kernel panic!


Now I’m running for p in 1 2 3 5 6 7; do fsck_ext2 -C 0 -p /dev/disk1s$p; done and I’m hating it.

I noticed that all filenames with Latin-1 encoded characters in their filenames got shortened: From the first non-ASCII byte onwards, everything was replaced by a questionmark. (Latin-1 characters result in invalid UTF-8 encoding.) Thus, copying the directories resulted in duplicate files on the target system. Then I produced a file list using find and had no problems doing it. Then I tried to copy the files using cp – and another fucking kernel panic!!!


I’m running for p in 1 2 3 5 6 7; do fsck_ext2 -C 0 -p /dev/disk1s$p; done again. Current mood: ice cold death.

Some time later...

Ok, I think I have all the data now. Luckily enough I didn’t have too many files with Latin-1 encoded names. I also noticed that browsing directories with such files in the Finder doesn’t crash the system, it just truncates the names. Thus, I was able to copy large parts of our home directories going directory by directory, and then skip or rename the truncated filenames – actually if I had several files called ver? I had to copy one, rename it on the HFS drive, then copy the other, and rename it as well. As I said, once I got the knack of it, it wasn’t too much work.

I also got into the habit of mounting the external hard disk, going to the ext2fs preferences, and make sure the partitions were all mounted read-only. That saved me from fsck-via-USB terror on the two or three occasions it still crashed.

I also had to set the jumper for one of the old disc drives to “Master” because “Cable Select” (CS) didn’t work: The drive would not mount.

Let’s see whether I remember any thing else...

Ah yes, I didn’t like the quality of the enclosure’s internal stuff (Pyrogate). The IDE plug and the power plug for the drive didn’t fit well, so it required grippers to unplug the bastards. The damn thing also got very hot, and the fan was always blowing. I can’t believe the 250G Iomega external drive I bought is so incredibly quiet. Well done! (Up until today I’ve been very happy with the Pyrogate “business drives”, however: Very small external drives that worked very well for backing up my iBook.)



Maybe you could use a PPC Live-CD (from Ubuntu, for example), which can read/write both ext2/3 drives and the native Mac drives. Note: I’ve never tried writing to a native Mac drive from GNU/Linux, so I’m not sure whether it’s supported. Can’t hurt to try though.

MichaelOlson 2006-06-16 13:56 UTC

Yeah, I tried to use my Kubuntu Live CD to do just that but failed. The Linux machine wouldn’t mount the external drives.

Anyway, I think I managed to rescue all the data now! There’s just two months of pictures in 2003 that are still lost, but I have them on DVD in the office somewhere. At least I hope I do. :)

AlexSchroeder 2006-06-16 20:53 UTC

I never had luck mounting ext2/3 partitions on my Mac, so all my data exchange goes over an external Firewire/USB drive formatted with FAT32 (brrr).

You definitely should think about upgrading to 1GB of RAM – it’s worth the money. And BTW: 512 kilobyte don’t seem to be enough RAM ;)

Jean Pierre 2006-06-24 17:18 UTC

Hah, you are so right. 512KB? What was I thinking – even our old 286 had more RAM than that! :) It had 1MB, but the memory above 640KB could only be used via a special himem.sys file or something like that...

As for FAT32 – is that the same as VFAT? If so, the 2GB filesize limit has been getting on my nerves a lot lately. I hadn’t realized that at least two of my ISO images have been truncated due to that fact (because I had not understood and therefore ignored the error messages at the time).

AlexSchroeder 2006-06-24 17:42 UTC

Yes, vfat and FAT32 are the same thing.

I also sometimes run into the 2GB limit, mostly when I record some TV shows with my dBox2 and want to cut the ads out, burning the film afterwards on DVD (unfortunately I ordered my PowerBook without a DVD burner).

It’s a pity that Mac OS does not support other file systems than HFS/HFSplus/UFS/vfat natively. Hopefully we’ll have more luck with ZFS in future versions of Linux and OS X.

Jean Pierre 2006-06-24 21:17 UTC

ًWell, for the moment I’m using HFS+ for most of the things. There are enough problems for a guy like in this environment: Case: The system knows that Abba is not ABBA but you cannot have both Abba and ABBA in the same directory. Plus it uses UTF-8 NFD instead of UTF-8 NFC as is the standard on the web. Thus if you take bytes encoding a filename from the web and create the file, or if you go the other way, everything depends on your libraries. I’ve had a problem where I stored an index of such files somewhere, and there the name was encoded in NFC and thus I was never able to open the proper files again. Except for ASCII files. :)

This means that I don’t really like to use HFS+ on a Linux system.

At the same time, the ext2fs stuff is so brittle on the Mac.

There’s no easy way out.

AlexSchroeder 2006-06-24 21:43 UTC

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