The Spectre of Math

December 7, 2009

“run fsck manually” … really? WTF ubuntu moment.

Filed under: Linux,Technology — jlebl @ 6:26 pm

This was rather disappointing. Marketa’s computer got somehow hosed by flash. The whole thing froze. It wasn’t trashing, so I don’t think it was a mem leak. I think the display driver hit some bug. In any case, the machine froze completely after a few minutes of me trying to kill firefox. So I let the thing go for a moment, in case the kernel was still syncing to disk. Then I hit the power button.

Ubuntu came up, and the disk checking text started flickering down on the splash screen (not particularly pretty, but … ok I can live with that). What happened next is inexcusable. It dropped to root shell and told me to run fsck manually. One part of me said “WTF!” and the other part of me felt nostalgic. I mean this was something that I would expect from slackware 10 years ago. For a desktop OS, this is inexcusable! Basically, the machine would be dead to marketa, including all the data on it. She doesn’t know what fsck is and she doesn’t know how to run it. Once it would be running, I suppose it would be sort of OK. She’d answer yes to all the questions “foo bar is b0rk, should I try to fix it.” OF COURSE YOU SHOULD YOU STUPID MACHINE, I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. But she would never get to this point.

What should happen in this case should be some warning (can be done in text) dialog that says: “things seem seriously hosed should I try to fix it? If not I’ll assume you know what to do in a root shell.” (not exactly those words, but something like it. Then it should ruin fsck FOR YOU. It should warn you to check that all your data is fine and check backups and all that, but it should try to get you a working machine. A root shell is a dead machine to a non-geek.

Damnit, even I don’t know what all those things fsck is asking me are. Why would I NOT let fsck try to fix whatever it is trying to do. I know what inodes are, but I am not an expert on ext3, just like 99.9% of the population (including 99.8% of the geekdom). So I’ll let fsck do whatever it tells me to.

It turns out that because I was able to run fsck manually, all her data seems fine. But it sucks that she had to ask someone with unix experience. I would have hoped this was fixed a LONG time ago. It is really not that hard to fix. If the people responsible for this part of the boot process tell you “but you need to be knowledgeable to run fsck”, then they are morons. They are working on a server OS not a desktop one. And an obnoxious server OS. The whole point of ubuntu being easy to use is that it should work for people who are not knowledgeable. And it should try its best to recover from being b0rk. Ubuntu doesn’t do its best. It does its worst it seems.



  1. The problem is the concept of fsck. One day we will all be running ZFS, or its conceptual heir.

    Comment by Toby — December 8, 2009 @ 5:58 am | Reply

    • And in the star trek future we will all grow wings and fly, live forever, have two penises, and software will be perfect.

      I heard such arguments a decade ago, yet here we are. Not fixing a bug such as this because in “the perfect future” it won’t be necessary is very shortsighted. Especially since the fix is probably around an afternoons work at most. I assume there is some moronic reasoning for the current moronic behavior. Otherwise it would have been fixed already. I should really find the time and actually file a bug report to see why it will get closed WONTFIX.

      Comment by jlebl — December 8, 2009 @ 6:52 am | Reply

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