a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

i broke my computer in an exciting new way

I was just doing normal computer stuff, when I suddenly got a hard crash reboot. This isn't uncommon; when I've been using my computer long enough, it's bound to happen eventually.

It threw me back into the initramfs screen, which isn't uncommon either. It's seemingly impossible to use linux without constantly corrupting the filesystem. I imagine dozens of robot arms zooming around a complex of hundreds of punch card readers; if you're only manipulating one or two files at a time, it works relatively well. The robot arm can pull a punch card out of one reader and feed it into another reader relatively reliably. But when you've got a few browser tabs open, a video player active, and a torrent client going in the background, etc, things start to get chaotic. The robot arms start bumping into each other and dropping cards. Some of them need their bearings oiled, don't line themselves up properly, feed punch cards into the wrong slots, utter bedlam.

Luckily this has happened often enough that I've memorized the command to clean up the mess: first I type exit (which might not be necessary, but better safe than sorry) then I type fsck /dev/sda1 -y. FSCK is the File System Cleanup Kommando and it puts everything back in the right place. Sometimes it's done in only a few seconds, sometimes it takes several minutes. This was one of the longer fscks, which makes sense, because my computer had been on for awhile at that point.

When I restarted, I got my login screen like normal. But when I put in my username and password, it didn't do anything. It went to a black screen and then just took me back to the login screen.

Well, I spent about an hour googling possible solutions on my phone. I'll spare you all the irrelevant troubleshooting steps and jump straight to the climax: the lost+found folder, which is where the fsck utility dumps file fragments it doesn't know what to do with, was approximately 70GB. My home folder, which was once approximately 70GB, was now 0 bytes. It had nothing in it. fsck had just trashed my entire home folder.

This seems to be the expected behavior if you fsck a filesystem while it's still mounted, but mine wasn't. I had rebooted and done the command from initramfs like I always do, before anything was mounted at all. fsck just decided it didn't know what the fuck a file is anymore and threw everything in the trash.

There does seem to be a long, arduous, painful process of restoring files from lost+found, but step one is navigating into the folder, and I can't get that far. It says I don't have permission, and sudo doesn't know what the command cd is, and I can't find any information about what to do if you can't access the lost+found folder, so I guess I'm hosed.

This sucks. I'm getting so sick of this. I miss having a computer that works. I haven't reinstalled linux yet, I just booted the live CD so I can at least open a web browser and post a blog update. I guess I'll reinstall it tomorrow, cause it's almost midnight, and I love spending my precious limited time off reinstalling linux. I live for it

I will say this: this is the longest I've gotten an installation to survive, and I owe it to not updating anything. When you update, you're just throwing punch cards all over the damn place, shoving stacks of them into very tightly engineered slots, and they get stuck in the gears and servos and grind everything to a halt. So I'm on the right track, I just start needing to be more careful about what I do. No more torrenting,1 no downloading anything I don't absolutely need, maybe doing a manual shut down every night (instead of putting it in suspend mode) and running fsck more to try to prevent the card pile from getting too deep.

Or maybe I just stick with the live CD and accept that an internet typewriter is the best I'm gonna get. idfk 🦝


  1. the thing that set this whole chain of events into motion was noticing that a torrent in my client was giving me an error message and asking me to verify file integrity. So I did, and apparently that's the punch card that caught on fire, so I'm going to be suspicious of torrents from now on↩