Car Metaphor I

Imagine if you didn’t lose the keys to your car, but rather lost the ignition switch. This is what happened to me last night around 11:30 p.m.

Working on too little sleep with too much work to do, I was procrastinating by doing some housecleaning on the server that runs this website and some others in our oeuvre.

This server started off life as a Windows NT workstation, and gradually had a Linux server grow up around it. A byproduct of this slow creeping evolution was that the hard disks were littered with several Windows NTFS and DOS partitions (i.e. parts of the hard disk that “speak Windows” as opposed to “speak Linux”).

And so, last night, I thought to myself “why don’t I clean up those old partitions, copy off what I need, and free them up to use under Linux?” I should have stopped right there.

In an unfortunate series of wrong steps, I managed to render said server dead in the water. I did this mostly by forgetting that although it was mainly a Linux machine, its boot process was controlled by Windows NT. When I removed Windows NT, well, it’s like I removed the ignition switch.

Fortunately I was able to boot from an emergency floppy (yes, they are useful and worth that extra 5 minutes at install time!), copy from the existing partitions what I needed. And then I decided “hell, I might as well start from scratch and give the system a good purgative.” Unfortunately I decided this at about midnight.

I can conclusively report now that it take, once all is said and done, about four and a half hours to take a raw computer and turn it into a Linux-based webserver. About half that time was taken formatting hard drives (I mistakening selected the “thorough” option here), another 1/4 of the time waiting for MySQL to compile, and the last hour or so was spent on the relatively light work of installing Apache, PHP and getting all the web content files and databases back in the right place.

Because the server is located in the 175 year-old basement of Reinvented World HQ here on Prince Street, with me perched on an overturned dying pot huddled in front of a monitor perched on a log, the entire exercise brought back memories of the endless hours spent with Kevin O’Brien in the sub-sub-basement of the Confederation Centre during the early days of ISN. But that’s another story.

Tonight I’m thinking I might go down to Charlottetown Harbour and throw my socks in the Hillsborough River.