The thought receptacle

Stephen's mental dustbin

Wed, 17 Nov 2010

It goes like this

At 4pm yesterday I was writing an e-mail. Around then, without realising, I accidentally pressed Ctrl-W. This is a keyboard shortcut that some other apps use, so perhaps I was context-confused.

My mail refused to send, and the mailer was behaving as if there was no network connection. After checking that there definitely was a network connection, and restarting the mailer, I decided it must be a bug in the mailer.

I therefore decided to upgrade all my packages, as it'd been a while. Since the last upgrade, I had added some Debian repositories because various packages I wanted weren't available in Ubuntu.

The upgrade pulled in a lot of packages from Debian... many of which turned out to clobber Ubuntu packages, or attempt to, in various ways. After it becomes clear that the Debian packages are a bad idea and must be eliminated....

.... I tried to remove them by hand. No good, so I re-read the documentation on dreaded APT package pinning and configured my APT to “downgrade” everything back to Ubuntu.

Around this point, I really had to leave the lab for the evening. I manually re-typed my e-mail and send it using Lab machine. Since my laptop battery spontaneously failed a few days ago, I had to hibernate my machine instead of putting it to sleep.

The next day, the machine failed to boot, complaining that “it seems udevd is already running” (which, first thing at boot, is unlikely). I try booting the Kubuntu disc, so I can chroot in and fix the packages. No joy---there are tons of read errors on the CD, whose messages fill up the consoles, while the X session fails to start.

I tried an old Debian netinst disc, but it's too old to support either of my network devices. Although all the packages I desperately need are on the Kubuntu CD, and might be readable, I can't eject the CD drive when booted from it.

I tried booting Windows 7 to google the udev error message, but the machine hard-locked just after login. I remember that the temporary (broken) battery I'm using does that, so I remove it, reboot, and wait inordinately long for the recovery boot process. Googling reveals nothing useful.

At the Lab, I booted my Knoppix disc and successfully connected to the network. I successfully downgrade away the rogue Debian packages, after much manual package-twiddling. Sadly the machine doesn't boot... it just hangs there on a text-only Ubuntu bootscreen.

Back in Knoppix, I try randomly reinstalling a bunch of important-seeming packages including the kernel. The machine now boots, modulo a spurious “gave up waiting for the root filesystem” error which can be manually guided around.

A bunch of packages I actually do want were somehow removed somewhere along the line, so I spend a while reinstalling those. Around 5pm I am back to where I was at 4pm yesterday. It turns out that Ctrl-W enables “offline mode” in my mailer, which makes things look suspiciously like there is no network.

Can I add that I woke up underslept (not for want of trying), with a horrible cold, in a freezing cold house intermittently devoid of hot water. Then the Co-op was out-of-stock of nearly everything I wanted to buy this morning (hmm, that's only a slight exaggeration). I also knocked over a stack of CDs into my breakfast plate. Having now wiped off the baked bean remnants, I have no more mishaps to report, but yes, life is clearly conspiring against me.

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