There are all kinds of programs out there for checking drive integrity. You should have no trouble finding one for any operating system, and there might even be a drive utility on the Ubuntu disk. They basically take a sector, copy it somewhere else (maybe even to RAM these days) and then write a series of tests to that sectory and then compare what they read back with what they wrote. If they find a bad sector, they can mark it off as bad so the drive won't use it again. If a file is scrambled, that would prevent it from booting. And, of course, a bad RAM stick would have the same effect. And, of course, if Ubuntu can't find a file it needs it could hang up as well. Have you been using the verbose boot? If so you should know at what point if died. Maybe you have another type of hardware problem altogether. When I owned a computer store in Gainesville, I used to do work for Nationwide Warranty Corp, who did the warranty work on Comtrade, Pony, and some other mail-order
 computers. The customer called Comtrade, told them the computer had died, there was an error message that the drive controller had failed. They shipped him a motherboard, and I went out to change it out. They had shipped a different board, which required a cache chip, while the cache was soldered on the old board. Meanwhile, I was convinced that the problem lay in the drive itself. IDE stands for Integrated Drive Electronics, and the controller is on the drive board.  There is an interface on the MB, but it is not the actual controller. They told him that the guy NWC had sent out didn't know what he was doing, and that the 15-yr-old kid was going to fix the computer with the help of the phone(y) tech. They spent 45 minutes before they figured out that they had shipped a wrong MB. They shipped a second MB, and I went back out to install that, and of course, the computer still would not boot. This time I had carried my bench drive to the customer's house, and proved to the
 customer that the computer booted just fine with my drive on it. A damned lot of work just because the phone tech did not know that the controller was on the drive board! (Of course, I got paid for three trips at $75 each, so what did I care?) And of course, the first thing to do is remove and reinsert the drive cables on the drive and the MB!

(Some may have noticed the problems I had with the screen on my laptop at the last meeting. I discovered that there is a chip next to the memory sticks, that seemed to be overheating. I pulled it and reinstalled it several times to burnish the contacts, and now it works just fine for a few days at a time. I thought it might be the video chip, but it runs fine on an external monitor every time, so this is probably just a driver for the laptop's screen! I'm going to buy one of those laptop coolers which should completely solve the problem!)

----- Original Message ----
From: Bill Schwab <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sunday, July 8, 2007 7:22:27 PM
Subject: Ubuntu too helpful?

Hello all,

I have been having or associated with an unusual number of computer
failures lately.  My increased interest in Linux is partly due to the
failures, partly because live CDs offered a way to test machines, I
wanted to try some recovery tools, and because I didn't want to pay Mr.
Gates to activate his OS on machines that might very well be junk.  My
real interest in Linux is strategic: I hope to escape from Windows at
some point in the future, and Linux seems the likely landing zone.

But for now, back to the hardware.  One system that I would really like
to keep in service is an older (1.8GHz) P4 that came to me after an
apparent disk failure.  It turned out to have a bad memory stick that I
replaced with a stick from another junker; the problem followed the
suspect module and memory tests passed after the switch.

I put an 80 GB drive from yet another failed box (my friends know where
to go to dump old computers), and promptly built an Ubuntu system on the
resulting Frankensteinware.  It ran great for a week or so, and then
started barking about a file system problem.  The motherboard could be
bad, or the drive could have failed.  I threw an even older 20GB drive
in it, and spent a whole lot less time configuring Ubuntu, and will give
it some exercise.  An actual _new_ hard disk is on the way from newegg,
along with a couple of DVD burners; given my luck lately, I plan to make
lots of backups.

So what's the question?  I am wondering whether Ubuntu's live CD spends
too much effort trying to mount installed drives.  Let's say it does not
boot reliably.  Would that point to a certain hardware problem (either
the motherboard or disk), or would logical damage to the file system
throw Ubuntu into hysterics?  Or, is Ubuntu so solid in your mind that
any hint of trouble suggests defective hardware?

Knoppix is also in my bag of tricks, but I do not have a CD handy, and
it would be just as quick to wait until tomorrow to burn one at work vs.
downloading it tonight.  The 80 GB drive has little of value on it,
though I am curious whether the damage is physical or logical, and of
course about the health of the machine.



Wilhelm K. Schwab, Ph.D.
University of Florida
Department of Anesthesiology
PO Box 100254
Gainesville, FL 32610-0254

Email: [log in to unmask]
Tel: (352) 846-1285
FAX: (352) 392-7029

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