Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 19th Jul, 2006

Disks Gone Mad

Or: keep on going when you've lost sight of your aim. I should know by now. Whenever I think I'm doing pretty well at something, and I think I've got a reasonable handle on it, in about forty-five seconds (on average) something is going to come along and shatter that perception entirely. The more confident that I've been that some technological idea will work, the more likely that I'll be sweating and swearing away in six hours time still trying to fix the broken pieces, having long since forgotten what I changed, what my objectives were, and why it seemed like such a good idea in the first place.

This was brought home to me forcefully yesterday. At 9:15, in my cycling pants ready to go to work, I thought "I'll just switch over the root partition labels and bring the MythTV machine back up". At 9:18 I was looking at a kernel panic, as it failed to find the new root disk, because either LVM and MD weren't started yet or my clever tripartite disk wasn't set to come up automatically. At 9:30 I was burning a copy of the Fedora Core 5 rescue CD. At 11:45 I'd successfully put the labels back but the thing was getting to point where it loads the MBR off disk and stopping. At 1:45 I was going through grub-install options with a patient guy on the #fedora channel. At 2:00, in desperation I pulled all the drive connectors off except the one I was trying to boot off. Success! I felt like curling up in bed. I still had my bike pants on.

Of course, I'd made things more difficult for myself. I have four IDE drives in this system, so I had to unplug one in order to put the IDE CD-ROM drive in. Which meant either the LVM would be down because of a missing disk, or I couldn't access the 40GB drive that I was wanting to restore boot functionality to. What I hadn't thought of was that the CD-ROM was a master device - when I put it in place of another master device that IDE chain would be fine, but when I put it in place of an IDE slave the two masters would get grumpy and not speak to anyone, which was causing the boot lockup. And of course I was being quick-and-dirty and not swapping the CD-ROM out and the correct drive in when I rebooted just in case I needed it again. So I also made a one hour problem into a six hour problem by just not thinking.

I can only assume that there are a couple of readers of Planet Linux Australia out there chuckling away to themselves at my LVM / MD exertions. Because, in hindsight, MD on LVM makes no sense whatsoever. If one of the disks in a VG goes missing, and that disk has allocated blocks on it, the whole VG is considered dead. This then means that the entire MD is dead, and no amount of persuasion is going to bring it back. This is why an MD device needs to go on a raw disk partition - because MD itself is then doing the fault tolerance, not LVM. Lesson learnt.

Just got to keep thinking, I guess... And pull my head in.

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