log (2007/09/21 to 2007/09/27)

So if the (tiny 40GB) hard disk in the little daughter's old inherited iBook (G3, "Dual USB", I think) starts getting all upset while being the sole holder of a few important things like an almost-finished National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist essay, and a cover she did of a Billy Joel song, and a whole bunch of Adium logs covering many of the key events of her young life, what does one do?

Erase huge useless console logs of the sort that something (probably iTunes) likes to fill the disk up with now and then. This apparently buys a bit of time when the little daughter does it, but soon odd things happen again, and now the iBook even refuses to boot.

Try Disk Warrior; we've had good luck with this before, but this time it just hangs forever at like step 5, which is I dunno "locating catalogs" or something. At this point the problem is turned over to Level Two: me.

Try Disk Warrior again; doesn't work any better this time.

Try the Disk Utility from the OS X install disk, by holding down C while the machine boots. This says that, sure enough, some of the keys are in the wrong order in the catalog. The Repair button claims to have repaired it almost instantly, but verifying again says that some of the keys are in the wrong order, and indeed it boots no better than before.

Try to boot in single-user mode by holding down apple-S while the machine is coming up. This takes a very long time, and then fails with the same blinking questionmark as a normal boot fails with.

Try Target Disk Mode by holding down "t" while the iBook boots. This apparently works in the sense that the big Firewire symbol appears on the iBook's screen and moves around, but nothing ever appears on the machine at the other end of the Firewire cable. Presumably it's having a hard time reading the hard disk, and as we've seen before Firewire Target Disk Mode doesn't have much in the way of error checking or reporting.

Poke around in Open Firmware Mode by holding down apple-option-oh-eff while the machine is coming up. This enabled me to issue random commands in a quirky little FORTH environment which isn't very well documented out there on the Web or anywhere else that I could find, but which did allow me to see the machine's device tree, and the directory on the hard disk, including the name of the NMS essay that was the most vital thing to get back. So I had some hope that the file might actually still be there. (I also set boot-args to "-v" at this point, so future attempts to boot got lots of juicy if incomprehensible messages.)

Try to load the file using the Open Firmware "load" word. But this word is intended to load boot-command-file things in certain formats, none of which matched the little daughter's essay, so the machine just said "unrecognized Client Program format" at me, or other words to that effect, and as far as I can tell didn't load the contents into memory anywhere.

Try to boot in single-user mode from the CD. Holding down apple-S-C doesn't do this, but holding down just Option brings up a wordless menu containing only the CD, and clicking on that and then holding down S seemed promising. But after a bit of humming and clicking, the machine sat there saying "still waiting for root" or something like that over and over for a long time. Grrrr!

Go see "Across the Universe"; it's a good movie, and fun to go to with one's family all of whom are more or less Beatles fans. But the iBook is still broken when we get back.

Try to boot in single-user mode from the CD again in just the same way. This time it works! We have a shell prompt! And although we remember very little about the details of 'mount', we have Google!

Mount the frotzed hard drive readonly in single-user mode by typing (naturally) 'mount -t hfs -o rdonly /dev/disk0s5 /tmp'. Or something like that. (I don't know why there's a /tmp on the CD, but it's nice that it's there to use as a mount point.) The several variations on this command that I first tried didn't work, but this one (or something like it) finally did. Don't ask me how I knew that the filesystem I wanted was disk0s5; the string just passed by my eyes at some earlier step, and (Goddess be praised) it stuck in my mind.

Display the file's content on the screen using my elite "cd" and "cat" skills. It appears to actually be there!

Summon the little daughter and verify that these are indeed all and only the lost important words, accept her effusive thanks, and so on.

This took pretty much the whole afternoon and evening, but that smile at the end made it all worthwhile. (Yes, she has me wrapped around her finger; this is not news.)

And effusive thanks to M in turn, for having tolerated my absence from various house-cleaning and box-carrying duties for most of the day. *8)

"Surely this belongs to all the mothers of the world. May they be seen, may their work be valued and raised. Especially to the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait. Wait for their children to come home from danger, from harm's way, and from war. I am proud to be one of those women. Let's face it. If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no god-damned wars in the first place."

So there. Not clear whether one ought to be annoyed with Fox, or the FCC; best to play it safe and be annoyed with both.

Happy Birthday to yet another person! *8)

Pictures from the pretend worlds! Dale an' Ava at the Virtual Artists Alliance Burning Life build:

Dale an' Ava among the wet stuff

Spennix an' Roa at the big cool Dark Portal thing in World of Warcraft:

Spennix an' Roa at the Dark Portal

And speaking of hobbies, go over to the recent changes by anonymous users page on Wikipedia and undo a few acts of vandalism; it's useful and fun! And apparently all too easy to spend hours and hours more or less mindlessly doing.

From at least two different very reliable sources: lolthulhu. I has a Eldritch Sigil!

(Too many exclamation marks today, but what can one do?)

What else? omg lol, I remember. I rolled up a new alt on Second Life the other day, so I'd have someone to use if I need to give an over-the-shoulder demo and don't want to be distracted by the storms of IMs and group announcements and the occasional proposition to which Dale is subject, and when I made this new character he started out of course in the Orientation area, and it turns out that the SL folks have completely redone the Orientation area, and whoa it's just incredibly amazingly bad!

It's kind of nice in principle, sort of, in that you start out with a HUD attached that's supposed to guide you through a series of exercises in four lobes of the Orientation Island. But because of SL's very aggressive and effective Texture Pessimization the actual text on the HUD that says hi and tells you what to do takes like thirty seconds to five minutes to load, and the HUD itself doesn't deal very well with the fact that you've wandered off to do something else because you couldn't read the words.

And the parts of the HUD that are readable from the first are a bunch of little graphic symbols and stars that I'm sure are very meaningful to whoever made the HUD, but were and remain a complete enigma to me.

And during the Communicating course, when I was supposed to find out how and when to hula-dance or something to prevent the volcano from erupting and killing everyone, and the HUD said "press the flashing arrow to continue", and I pressed the flashing arrow, the arrow went away but nothing happened. The HUD didn't advance blurrily to tell me what to do next, and no amount of hula-ing anywhere caused anything more or occur. And using the extremely clear and self-evident "press here to restart this tutorial" or whatever sign didn't help any. So for all I know that part of Orientation Island has now been wiped out by lava.

And over in the Moving About course, the two or three vehicles closest to me when the HUD said "Pick a vehicle you want to ride and click on it" or whatever, didn't work, either as vehicles (they refused to be driven) or as parts of the course (the HUD didn't give me credit for having a ridden a thing when I touched them).

And somewhere in the Clothing course the viewer crashed, and when I logged back in I was sent to a completely random infohub somewhere, because (presumably) you're not allowed to return to Orientation Island once you've left. Or something.

I really feel for the poor newbies. *8)