Two little months with no hardware failures. It's not so much to ask for, really.
Just a week or two ago it was the motherboard on the main Linux machine, now it's either one or both disks, or maybe the IDE channels on the motherboard, of the XP + Linux machine. *sighs*
So, as always in these tales, there were some "should have"s involved.
I should have taken backups sooner.
I should have paid more attention to the little warning messages.
I should have started backing up straight away when I noticed hundreds and thousands of warning messages in the log files instead of rebooting to Windows to get some images off my digital camera.
It began with the attempted reboot to Windows - the computer couldn't find the disks. Uh-oh, thought I, this is not a good sign.
I tried the obvious - reboot again, but still no luck. Checked BIOS settings, opened the case and checked the cables. Cables were fine, but the BIOS was not very happy - either detecting the two 80 Gb disks as one 77 Gb and one 3 Gb, or not at all.
Much fiddling has ensued. First, I booted from my Mandrake Linux Installation CD, which has a rescue mode (let's hear it for rescue mode !). Unfortunately, that couldn't even find the other disks.
I think I've tried every possible thing now :
Disconnecting both HDs and just having the CD-ROM present works, as long as its on the 2nd IDE channel.
Connecting the HDs on the second IDE channel didn't work, though, no real idea why.
Tried connecting just the Windows disk, but it can't boot because it needs the boot loader on the Linux disk.
Can't boot the Linux disk by itself because it needs the MBR from the Windows disk.
Couldn't boot from CD-ROM with either disk connected singly on the 1st IDE channel, reason unknown.
Couldn't boot from the Windows disk with that disk and the CD-ROM on the 2nd IDE channel.
But, finally, got a useful boot with the Linux disk and CD-ROM both connected on the 2nd IDE channel.
That's just the beginning, though, the rescue boot setup is ... minimal, to say the least. First, I had to get the network card working, and set up the address to talk to the other Linux machine. Then I had to find a way to send many Gb of files from one machine to the other. That, alas, is where it gets a little harder. At the moment it consists of a find/cpio combination creating large cpio dump files on one filesystem, then ftping them across to the other Linux machine, from where I can write them to tape or CD. (had to grab the find executable from the other machine, it was missing from the rescue directories, for some reason). Tried setting up ssh, but this is not the time of night to figure out setting up ssh for the first time ... yeesh
The first file transfer is running now, and taking far longer than I'd expect it to - at this rate, just the first file (around 1.8 Gb) will take over an hour, and there's about 8 Gb of stuff to transmit after that ... *sighs*
I forsee a very late night for me ...