The Dagobah Knight Rises

Sometimes when it comes to technology I am actually rather foolish. Foolish is perhaps not the right adjective. I need something stronger from my limited vocabulary. Senseless would perhaps be the best word to use. The saying goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Sometimes I can just not help myself. My trusty server, Dagobah (all network attached devices on my home network are named after the science fiction opera) has been delivering me excellent service for the past three years. I even managed a full Ubuntu software upgrade on my own, with no assistance from superhero, MightyMouse. My server is headless and I login using Putty, which I can even do from my trusty HTC Desire. For the past few months I had the regular nag message that an update was available to download. I ignored this to begin with but something triggered in me the need to run the upgrade. What was the worse that could happen? Surely I could run an update during a Saturday evening, from my bed.

Firstly I had not anticipated so many screens and attended options but the ultimate result was a dead server. I had left it downloading packages and applying updates overnight. However, after discussion briefly with Hussein over Twitter that my data was safe (a RAID Type I) mirror had been in place which effectively means that each file has copies placed on two different independent drives. I rested easy but the bigger challengers were to come.

My server is headless. To those non geeks out there (99% of my audience) this means there is no screen attached to my box. Generally not an issue if you are going to have web based utilities and login in via a secure shell. However, when things go wrong and you cannot login and web services will not boot up, you need need to know what is happening. I had two options. Bring over a mouse, keyboard and monitor from my parents or just like Mohammed and the Mountain, take the server to my parents to fix there. I opted for the safer option of taking the box away.

I am a relative newbie to the Linux operating system, having been a lover of Microsoft and Windows all my life (it started with DOS back over twenty years ago). (Funny how things pan out!). However I was confident that with the power of Bing Google, I would find the answers I needed and at the very least get my data back. At first I did. I used a liveCD to boot up Ubuntu environment and attempt to mount the RAID then realised I was way out of my depth. However, eventually I was able to access my data and should have been able to rescue the important files. I needed to call for some further assistance. I decided to call on some work colleagues. Who they were, even they didn’t know at that moment in time!

We have a mailing list at work for all things social. I joined soon after I started working at the software manufacturer I mean service and devices company. I have even posted a mail from the group on my blog back in February. I have used the list to offer my hard drive caddy to those people in need of recovering data and advice on web hosting and mp3 players. I now had to call on them for help with my server.

Did I tell you that I work for Microsoft? Some people are still shocked when they find out I work for a global household name. Honestly it makes a big difference when the company you work for actually advertises on TV. Even my relatives in India know the company by name (and reputation). On Wednesday 3rd October, I sent out a mail on MS Social asking for help from the mailing list. Two people responded, one of whom was Myles Grindon, an intern. He was to be my saviour, I just did not know it yet.

He contacted me via Lync (our internal IM client) and also e-mail before then providing me with help via G-Mail. While not to bore you with the technical details, I had gained access to my data but had no ability to transfer it anywhere. Each time, I had everything setup in my parent’s lounge. Therefore I also had limited time at the weekend to try and get everything done. My plan was to get remote access sorted, so I could at least complete the setup in Slough. In the end, it took several trips before everything was sorted out and I even brought home the monitor, keyboard and mouse, to give my server a “head”. Myles provided fantastic support but in the end, there was little chance of me recovering my system in Ubuntu, so therefore he offered to take my hard drive and caddy, recover what he could. (Mirror RAIDs are difficult things to understand let alone fiddle with). Over a weekend, he was able to recover the photos which were my main source of angst in this whole affair. TV shows, music videos and movies can all be obtained again. He recovered what he could and then I had to begin the process of rebuilding Dagobah but this time with a stable release of Debian. Phase two of the project began in earnest over the past few weeks.

Myles provided excellent documentation on the steps I needed to do to complete the installation. Once I had secure remote login via my laptop (or mobile phone) sorted I could complete the installation at home. The only main stumbling block was network access, which in Linux itself is a difficult subject matter to learn and implement. These mails covered everything extremely well and finally on Sunday evening, I had remote access to my data. My Humax PVR could see Dagobah, so I could start watching 21 Guns by Green Day. However, there was a note against one of the screens on my TV (do not delete). You would think after everything I had been through I would understand not to create a new share (using the built in settings) and delete the old one. No, all the data on my server (well the shared directory at least). Had I just lost all my data once again?

The main thing is that I have my beloved server back and can now dance around the lounge watching and listening to my beloved music videos and episodes of Glee. What has changed since last time? Well I was using the internal bit torrent client on my Humax but was running out of space (only 500gb). Plus nothing was ever organised the way I wanted it to be. Now, I was back in control. Have I seen this week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.

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