Category Archives: Administrative

Disk Disaster Update

So I got the estimate from the recovery company.

The good news: They can recover the files.

The bad news: There will be no directory tree or filenames, just numbered files with extensions.

The worse news: They want a minimum of $1700. That’s if I’m willing to wait weeks. More if I want it sooner, up to five grand$2700.

So have to find another solution. I could probably live without the file names, given that I’m primarily looking for mailboxes, and the virtual Windows machine file.

VirtualBox Issues

While I’m waiting to get my disk repaired, I’m trying to get Windows running again as a guest in the machine using VirtualBox. It was working fine until the disk disaster. I have a Windows installation on an SSD, in SATA port 2. But when I try to start the machine, it says no bootable source found. I’d like to tell it /dev/sdc, but there is no way to do so. The manual only talks about pointing to an img file on the host’s hard drive, but not about how to use a physical device (though one would think telling it port 2 would be adequate). This seems like a different procedure than it used to be, when I would have a configuration file telling it where the boot drive was. Has that changed?

[Thursday-afternoon update]

I’m still hoping that my drive will be restored, and that when it does, my virtual Windows installation will work as well, but I’m trying to figure out how to get Windows going in the meantime, because I need it to trade (I’m currently using Patricia’s computer, but she needs it, too). So I thought I’d just install a new machine. Problem is, I don’t have my product key, because it was also in a document on the lost drive. Even though I’ve restored from my notebook from October, and it should be there, I can’t find it. All of the advice I see on line to recover a key requires having the drive that Windows is installed on, so I’m out of luck for that. Do I have any alternative to purchasing another license?


OK, New Problem

I’m going to take the drive to a recovery service in Studio City this afternoon to get an estimate. Meanwhile, I want to boot back into my regular OS, but I doubt if I can do it without sdb1, because the fstab specifies that it overmount /home at boot. So I either have to set up one of the other drives as /home (not sure how to do that, other than mounting it and adding myself as a user) and make it sdb1, or get into the fstab on the SSD to tell it not to do the overmount. I haven’t been able to figure out how to read or write to sda3, which is my Fedora partition, to get at etc/fstab. Any ideas?

[Update a while later]

OK, I’m now booted into my regular system, with one of the new drives as /home. But since I currently have no data, there’s a lot of rebuilding and reconfiguring to do.

Off to Studio City now to drop off the drives.

More Computer Fun

So I finally got most of the data off the failing drive, and I backed it up to a second new drive. But when I attempt to fix the filesystem I get this:

[root@localhost-live home]

# e2fsck /dev/sdd
e2fsck 1.45.6 (20-Mar-2020)
ext2fs_open2: Bad magic number in super-block
e2fsck: Superblock invalid, trying backup blocks…
e2fsck: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to open /dev/sdd

The superblock could not be read or does not describe a valid ext2/ext3/ext4
filesystem. If the device is valid and it really contains an ext2/ext3/ext4
filesystem (and not swap or ufs or something else), then the superblock
is corrupt, and you might try running e2fsck with an alternate superblock:
e2fsck -b 8193
e2fsck -b 32768

Found a dos partition table in /dev/sdd


Are those the actual superblocks it wants me to try, or just potential examples?

[Update a while later]

OK, when I run it on the partition, instead of the drive, it says the file system is clean.

New problem: When I mount it to /home (where it normally lives on my system), I see nothing in it except lost+found. That’s not encouraging.

[Tuesday-morning update]

For anyone curious, who wants to go through the entrails, I’ve posted the entire session in comments. It remains a mystery to me why none of the drives seem to have data, or how I could have done anything to my source drive that I was trying to rescue.

[Update a few minutes later]

Yes, I clearly screwed the pooch. I accidentally formatted the drive I was trying to rescue.

Strange Computer Problem

When I started using the machine this morning, it seemed to be running like molasses in January. I tried rebooting, and it took forever to boot, and then wouldn’t let me log in. I fired up a clean Fedora from a stick, and fscked my drives. The /home hard drive had a lot of errors on it, that got fixed, but there was no problem with the SSD where my OS resides. Then I rebooted. It took a long time, but finally came up. Everything continues to load and run slow. Nothing seems to be bogging down the CPU, and there is plenty of free memory. Any ideas what the problem could be?

Continue reading Strange Computer Problem

Computer Update

Welp, I gave up on rescuing that installation, and built a new one with the latest version on a spare 250G SSD. It only took me a couple hours to reinstall most of the software I need, including my virtual Windows machine, which is a lot less time than I wasted trying to get the other one to boot. I also built a shell script to make it easier next time (and we know there will be a next time).

Computer Problems, Continued

This post and comments were getting to be too much, so I’m starting a new one.

So when we last left our intrepid hero, he couldn’t reinstall grub because the shell wouldn’t talk to the Internet.

So I rebooted the live USB again, and after I did so, I could ping the net. So I went to this suggested page, and tried to do what it said, but his lsblk issues this tree:

Continue reading Computer Problems, Continued

Computer Problem

I’m posting this from Patricia’s machine, because mine died in its sleep last night. When I got up, it had reset for some reason, and was ready to boot. But it wouldn’t. It just spins forever. I tried reverting to previous kernels, but still no joy. It even fails when booting to rescue it. Not sure how to even start to diagnose it. I could try booting her machine with it (very similar hardware), to see if it’s a software issue, but I’d have to figure out how to edit the fstab, because it overmounts a separate drive as /home, and her machine wouldn’t have it.

Anyway, fun times.

[Update a while later]

Definitely not a software problem; I tried booting it from the drive I use to boot my laptop, and the same issue. I looked at the hardware monitor in the BIOS, and not seeing any issues. The CPU temperature seems fine. And the CPU seems to be working well enough to get to the boot menu. I suspect it is a motherboard issue (though it could be memory). I should see if it will boot with memtest.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Per comments, in the BIOS setup, I am seeing all three drives (the SSD that the OS lives on, the hard drive that is /home, and the SSD that Windows lives on for the VM), 32G of RAM. All looks fine from that standpoint. Next step is to find a stick and put memtest on it.

[Update a while later]

OK, I’m posting this from the machine. It seemed to boot fine from a Fedora 33 live USB (i.e., it doesn’t seem to be a hardware problem). Now to figure out why it won’t boot from its own drive, or from the other Fedora drive I tried. Any diagnostic suggestions?

[Update a few minutes later]

So I ran fsck on /dev/sda (my system drive). It said there was a dirty bit set on the first partition, but other than that it found no problems. But it still won’t boot.

[Afternoon update]

So, using the instructions on this page, I tried reinstalling grub2. On the last command, I got this error message:


[root@localhost-live /]

# grub2-install /dev/sda
Installing for i386-pc platform.
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda2”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda2”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda3”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
Unknown device “/dev/sda1”: No such device
grub2-install: warning: ../grub-core/partmap/gpt.c:190:this GPT partition label contains no BIOS Boot Partition; embedding won’t be possible.
grub2-install: warning: Embedding is not possible. GRUB can only be installed in this setup by using blocklists. However, blocklists are UNRELIABLE and their use is discouraged..
grub2-install: error: will not proceed with blocklists.


[root@localhost-live /]

# ls /dev/sda1

So I don’t know why it’s having trouble knowing the device (sda1 is my boot partition). Any ideas?

[Update a few minutes later]

Wait a minute. Why is it installing for an i386 platform? This is a Ryzen. [Off looking up man on grub2-install]

Weird. It says the default platform is the one that the installer is running on. I’m pretty sure that this live USB is x86_64.

Here is the boot partition:

EFI grub2 mach_kernel System

[Update a while later]

OK, weirder and weirder. I’m following the instructions on this page (just the last one to reinstall grub and shim), but when I do the dnf, it times out getting to the repositories. And I can’t ping Google. Yet I’m able to web surf. Riddle me that, Batman.

Very weird. I cannot access the website from this computer. It’s not a route issue, because I can get to it from her Windows machine, but on my Linux machine, it times out. Traceroute output is:

$ traceroute
traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 60 byte packets
1 * * *
2 ( 17.514 ms 17.540 ms 17.560 ms
3 ( 19.775 ms 17.523 ms 19.857 ms
4 ( 19.543 ms 19.665 ms 19.535 ms
5 ( 20.183 ms * *
6 ( 26.906 ms 27.243 ms 27.196 ms
7 * * *
8 * * *
9 ( 57.537 ms 54.337 ms 55.683 ms
10 * ( 54.432 ms 57.155 ms
11 ( 82.146 ms 84.211 ms 85.019 ms
12 ( 72.644 ms 74.857 ms 72.502 ms
13 ( 77.715 ms 74.947 ms 74.869 ms
14 * * *
15 * * *
16 * * *
17 ( 88.314 ms ( 90.802 ms ( 84.928 ms
18 * * *
19 * * *
20 * * *
21 * * *
22 * * *
23 * * *
24 * * *
25 * * *
26 * * *
27 * * *
28 * * *
29 * * *
30 * * *

When I ping it, I get this:

$ ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=233 time=79.8 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=2 ttl=233 time=80.7 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=3 ttl=233 time=79.8 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=4 ttl=233 time=82.8 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=5 ttl=233 time=79.7 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=6 ttl=233 time=78.7 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=7 ttl=233 time=79.2 ms
— ping statistics —
7 packets transmitted, 7 received, 0% packet loss, time 6005ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 78.697/80.101/82.796/1.235 ms

When I try to browse to that IP address, I get this:

Your connection is not private

Attackers might be trying to steal your information from (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards). Learn more


This server could not prove that it is; its security certificate is from * This may be caused by a misconfiguration or an attacker intercepting your connection.


Anyone have any idea what might be going on? This only started in the past day or so.

Note: I have the same problem on my virtual Windows machine. I simply cannot access Amazon from this hardware.

[Update a while later]

None of the proferred explanations so far explain why it’s only (AFAIK)

[Afternoon update]

OK, the problem is with ExpressVPN. When I disconnect it, and put Google’s nameserver in /etc/resolv.conf, it works. So I guess I need to talk to them.

[Late afternoon update]

OK, the problem seemed to be the San Francisco VPN server (the default). When I connected to LA instead, the problem went away.