Saturday, 11 October, 2008

Mousilla, tuxpaint and verse

Linux @ Kerala Schools - an impromptu survey

One fine day, a couple of weeks back, I am visiting one of the villages on the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border, as a part of my job, (which is not even remotely connected with IT, BTW).

As is normal in most Indian villages, the village kids surround me, like flies around a lump of sugar. I continue doing my job.

Towards the end of the day, I find a few minutes to make eye contact with them; they are embarrassed.

"What do you do", I ask them. ("Which class are you studying" is what you ask, normally, but that often gives me misleading information - the kid will mumble some thing like "8th standard", while he actually working at some local tea shop for Rs. 8/- a day.

"8th, 9th, 10th" goes the chorus. They are very uncomfortable. "This saar is making seniors of the village uncomfortable, but why is he trying to talk to us?" is what might have crossed their minds.

"Ah. So you learn computers too??" The saar asks. The saar's full attention is now on them.

"Yes"; they say with a sense of pride.

"What do you learn on computers?" asks the saar. Finding some uncomfortable shiftiness, the saar adds helpfully - "games?"

The smile, and silence is self-explanatory. And then one of them nudges the other, and says, "verse".

"Huh?? What is 'verse"?" asks the saar. And then the bulb glows in the saar's head. "You mean 'word'?"

"No" is what their faces say.

Now, the saar is getting a faint idea of the things.

"The school computers run Linux?" asks the saar.

"Where have we heard of linux" is the look on the kid's face.

The saar now looks at the "verse" kid, and asks - "OpenOffice??"

All the kids brighten up, and nod in unison.

"Do they allow you to use the internet?" I ask. They nod. "What do you use to get on the internet?"


The saar is now amused, and the kids sense that the saar is happy for some reason. "What else do you do on the computer", I ask.

"TuxPaint", they say. They realise that limit of their knowledge is close by.

"So the computers run Linux"? I repeat.

The faces are blank. "Windows?, Ubuntu? Debian? RedHat?" I ask. The kids are frightened. They run away.

Last modified: Sat Oct 11 12:44:09 IST 2008

Sunday, 4 May, 2008

Returning from hard disk disaster

Rescuing from near disaster

Posting in hope that the experience may help somebody else.

It is night of 3rd May, around 10 PM. I am just back from a 250 KM journey on a crowded train. Am carrying loads (literally) of INR as part of official duties and am on edge of my nerves. Have to travel total of 1500 KM starting tomorrow, distributing the INR. (sorry, you need to be 60+ to get them)

At home, sister takes me straight to the computer and shows me the dreaded "boot disk failure" message. uh. oh.

I hit the reset key, and now get a grub boot disk error. Darn. I reboot, Go into bios set up, notice that the 2 hard disks are detected. So reboot. Within a couple of milli seconds after ide drives are detected (by the kernel), it is hell on the screen. D***N.

Hit reboot again. Wonder fo wonders, I get too boot screen, and the system boots up normally. Now I know that (a) something is wrong with the disk at primary master - /dev/hda. (b) if I reboot, I may not have a running system. Panic bells start to ring. I feel fire down my neck as biwi and 2 year kid are screaming silently at me. But I need the system - some acccounts info is there on /dev/hdc. Biwi cools off when I tell her that her IT papers are there and may be lost for ever if I get up without fixing the system NOW.

The problem - a failed/failing /dev/hda. Thankfully, only /boot is what is required on that. Most other info is mere data, which I think has been backed up. (Hmmm... not so sure, but was was more important is having a working system).

I need to have a useful /boot on /dev/hdc. A tired body. stressed mind and high bp does not help.

Fire up irssi. Ask for help in a couple of channels, and end up helping others. No help in sight from others. It is 11.30 pm. Voltage in the power system goes up, and the tubelights start burning. (lol).

I edit /etc/fstab and comment out the entry for /boot. Re-install grub on /dev/hdc. Run update-grub to create /boot/grub/menu.lst. Look at /boot shows that there is no kernel image or initrd image. Searches /var/apt/archives to find linux-image-2.6.24-1-686_2.6.24-5_i386.deb. Installs it. run update-grub to put in the required entries.

Hold breath, pray and say "sudo init 6".

Go into bios, and tell the bios to boot from the the other hard disk. Continue booting. Problem solved. Everything works fine.

What would have been the situation if it was the "other" OS? I would have spent more than couple of days reinstalling the OS, then all the applications, configuring them, setting up the security, and all that. Data recovery may still be a problem with both OSes.

Creep into the bed room, and kid is sleeping. Biwi gives a cold glare, turns around and sleeps. Hooo!!!!!