Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back to blogging

Whew, it was a really really odd month. It took me 3 weeks to fix my computer before I said, "ok, I give up". And another week for me to reconfigure my computer to its former glory. Well, somewhat. Now, here begins my story from the very very beginning:

It all started when I tried to install a new distribution of linux called Fedora Core. I had my computer all prepared and partitioned, so I installed it. That went good, the problem was, my boot loader (which is the thing that lets you select your operating system), that came with my current distribution, Ubuntu, didn't detect the new operating system. So, in the spirit of open source, I went to the internet for help. It was there where I was told to try and reinstall my boot loader from the live cd (which is basically a copy of the operating system, on a CD, pretty cool). So, after I did that, my boot loader broke (figures), so, I sought help for that also. Turned out, there's this file called the menu.lst file, it is the basis of the boot loader, and tells it what to display and what commands to execute. It turned out, when I reinstalled it, it overwrote the existing menu.lst. That was no biggie, luckily, I saved a copy of it on the internet, so that took care of that. But once I got back in my operating system, I did something stupid again.

The official Ubuntu Dapper mascot

So, I went back to the internet, and asked for more help. Someone suggested that I mount the partition of Fedora (basically, temporarily allow myself to access it) and check to see how its boot loader is set up. It seemed like a genius idea to me, except the tutorial I used was not very friendly to me. It was now when I messed up my system for good. But first, a detour:
Now, in linux, there are things known as file permissions. These basically state which users are able to access which files. The most powerful user is the root. The root has access to every file in every way. Now, one aspect of linux is that the human user of the computer is not the root account (in contrast with Windows, where the user is actually CALLED the Administrator, in linux, that's a big no-no). This allows it to be MUCH more secure, and also helps keep you from doing anything stupid to your computer (didn't exactly work on me). Now, because of these more restricted user accounts, file permissions come in. My user is only allowed to write to files in my /home folder (which is basically my personal folder, similar to My Documents). Because of this, if I wanted to change an important file that belonged to root, I would have to basically ask it for permission (with the command sudo, superuser do). Now, most files on the computer can only be accessed by root, and it's not recommended you tamper with them. Now, to get back to my story.
So, I boot from the live CD (you can do that), and mount my hard drive. Now, there is a very easy way to do this, but I took an evil tutorial, and ended up changing the permissions of my entire file system to only be accessed by root. This is a huge problem because most programs can't ask the computer to be root, and base themselves on my /home folder. Now, when I reboot, I find that my desktop won't boot up and I got an error message. As you should always do if something goes wrong, I submitted a bug, because someone told me this had something to do with an application called the gnome desktop manager (gdm). After a long discussion with the guy who debugs, I found out that gdm depends on my /home folder, and that was property of root, so, I changed THAT back to me. When I tried to boot again, my desktop STILL didn't start, and there was a problem with an application called gnome-session. After submitting a bug THERE, I found that there's a folder called /tmp which should be wide open to anything. I then took THAT from root, and was finally able to boot up. But it wasn't the end of my troubles yet.

When I finally got back on my computer, it turned out I had no internet. Now, all the others, I could handle, but internet has been my Achilles heel for most of my life. It always gave me trouble, so, I finally gave up. But before doing so, I learned this valuable lesson about linux, it's never too late to back up. So, remember my previous installation of Fedora core, I put my /home folder in there, just for storage, then reinstalled. Now, after reinstallation, everything worked fine and dandy, actually, even finer and dandier than I expected. When I brought back my /home folder, all my preferences were saved. My RSS feeds, everything. That's one of the reasons why configuring took a lot less time than I expected. Well, I've been rambling on for a long time, and it's about time I go to bed, but I'd like to leave with this note.
Despite this incident, I STILL THINK LINUX IS FREAKIN' AWESOME!!! Just, don't do anything crazy like I did.

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