Underestimating Debian

I had two issues in the last days that lead me a bit into panic until they got solved. In both cases the issue was external to Debian but I first thought that the problem was in Debian. I’m not sure why I had those thoughts, I should be more confident in myself, this awesome operating system, and the community around it! The good thing is that I’ll be more confident from now on, and I’ve learned that hurry is not a good friend, and I should face my computer “problems” (and everything in life, probably) with a bit more patience (and backups).

Issue 1: Corrupt ext partition in a laptop

I have a laptop at home with dual boot Windows 7 + Debian 9 (Stretch). I rarely boot the Windows partition. When I do, I do whatever I need to do/test there, then install updates, and then shutdown the laptop or reboot in Debian to feel happy again when using computers.

Some months ago I noticed that booting in Debian was not possible and I was left in an initramfs console that was suggesting to e2fsck /dev/sda6 (my Debian partition). Then I ran e2fsck, say “a” to fix all the issues found, and the system was booting properly. This issue was a bit scary-looking because of the e2fsck output making screen show random numbers and scrolling quickly for 1 or 2 minutes, until all the inodes or blocks or whatever were fixed.

I thought about the disk being faulty, and ran badblocks, but faced the former boot issue again some time after, and then decided to change the disk (then I took the opportunity to make backups, and install a fresh Debian 9 Stretch in the laptop, instead of the Debian 8 stable that was running).

The experience with Stretch has been great since then, but some days ago I faced the boot issue again. Then I realised that maybe the issue was appearing when I booted Debian right after using Windows (and this was why it was appearing not very often in my timeline 😉 ). Then I payed more attention to the message that I was receiving in the console

Superblock checksum does not match superblock while trying to open /dev/sda6
 The superblock could not be read or does not describe a valid ext2/ext3/ext4
 filesystem. If the device is valid and it really contains an ext2/ext3/ext4
 filesystem (and not swap or ufs or something else), then the superblock
 is corrupt, and you might try running e2fsck with an alternate superblock:
 e2fsck -b 8193
 e2fsck -b 32768

and searched about it, and also asked about it to my friends in the redeslibres XMPP chat room 🙂

I found this question in the AskUbuntu forum that was exactly my issue (I had ext2fsd installed in Windows). My friends in the XMPP room friendly yelled “booo!” at me for letting Windows touch my ext partitions (I apologised, it will never happen again!). I now consistently could reproduce the issue (boot Windows, then boot Debian, bang!: initramfs console, e2fsck, reboot Debian, no problem, boot Windows, boot Debian, again the problem, etc). I uninstalled the ext2fsd program and tried to reproduce the issue, and I couldn’t reproduce it. So happy end.

Issue 2: Accessing Android internal memory to backup files

The other issue was with my tablet running Android 4.0.4. It was facing a charge issue, and I wanted to backup the files there before sending it to repair. I connected the tablet with USB to my laptop, and enabled USB debugging. The laptop recognized a MZ604 ‘camera’ connected, but Dolphin (the file browser of my KDE Plasma desktop) could not show the files.

I looked at the settings in the tablet to try to find the setting that allowed me to switch between camera/MTP when connecting with USB, but couldn’t find it. I guessed that the tablet was correctly configured because I recall having made a backup some months ago, with no hassle… (in Debian 8). I checked that my Debian (9) had installed the needed packages:

 ii kio-mtp 0.75+git20140304-2 amd64 access to MTP devices for applications using the KDE Platform
 ii libmtp-common 1.1.12-1 all Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) common files
 ii libmtp-runtime 1.1.12-1+b1 amd64 Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) runtime tools
 ii libmtp9:amd64 1.1.12-1+b1 amd64 Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) library

So I had no idea about what was going on. Then I suspected some problem in my Debian (maybe I was needing some driver for the Motorola tablet?) and booted Windows 7 to see what happened there.

Windows detected a MZ604 device too, but couldn’t access the files either (when clicking in the device, no folders were shown). I began to search the internet to see if there were some Motorola drivers out there, and then found the clue to enable the correct settings in the Android device: you need to go to Settings > Storage, and then press the 3-dots button that makes the “Menu” function, and then appears “USB computer connection” and there, you can enable Camera or MTP. Very hidden setting! I enabled MTP, and then I could see the folders and files in my Windows system (without need of installing any additional driver), and make my backup. And of course after rebooting and trying in Debian, it worked too.

Some outcomes/conclusions

  • I have a spare hard disk for backups, tests, whatever.
  • I should make backups more often (and organize my files too). Then I wouldn’t be so nervous when facing connection or harddrive issues.
  • I won’t let my Windows touch my Debian partitions. I don’t say ext2fsd is bad, but I installed it “just in case” and in practice I never felt the need to use it. So no need to risk (again) a corrupt ext partition.
  • Having a Windows system at hand is useful some times to demonstrate myself (and maybe others) that the problems aren’t usually related to Debian or other GNU/Linux.
  • Having some more patient is useful too to demonstrate myself (and maybe others) that the problems aren’t usually related to Debian or other GNU/Linux.
  • Maybe I should put aside some money in my budget for collateral damages of my computer tinkering, or renew hardware at some time (before it definitely breaks, and not after). For example if I had renewed this tablet (it’s a good one, but from 2011, Android 4, and the screen is broken, and it was not charging since one year, we were using it only plugged to AC), then my family wouldn’t care if I “break the old tablet” trying to unlock its bootloader or install Debian on it or whatever. The same for my husband’s laptop (the one with the dual boot), it’s an old machine already, but it’s his only computer. I already felt risky installing Debian testing on it! (I installed it in end-january, right before the full-freeze).
  • OTOH, even thinking about renewing hardware made me headache. My family show advertisements from the shopping mall and I don’t know if I can install Debian without nonfree blobs, or Replicant or LineageOS on those devices. I don’t know the max volume that the ringtone reaches, and the max volume of the laptop speakers, or the lower possible brightness of the screens. I’m picky about laptop keyboards. I don’t like to spend much money in hardware that can be destroyed easily because it falls down from my hand to the floor, or I accidentally throw coffee on it. So I end enlarging the life of my current hardware, even if I don’t like it much, either…


You can comment on this post using this pump.io thread.


About larjona

My name is Laura Arjona, I am a libre software user and fan of the free culture. If you want to contact me you can write an email to larjona [at] larjona [dot] net I am @larjona at identi.ca in the Pump.io social network. --- Me llamo Laura Arjona, soy usuaria de software libre y fan de la cultura libre. Si quieres contactar conmigo puedes escribir a larjona [en] larjona [punto] net Soy @larjona en el servidor identi.ca, de la red social Pump.io.
This entry was posted in My experiences and opinion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.