Thursday, October 25, 2007

Failure to Recover

I have really old computers. You may think this odd with my being in the tech industry but I never go out and buy 'the next big thing' until it is superseded by at least two more 'next big things'. Its analagous to never buying a new car and letting someone else pay the 'drive off the lot' fee.

My personal computer has been a Dell Inspiron 8100 for some time. This thing is at least 6 years old and had begun to show its age. I run linux on my personal machines since it runs faster and in a smaller footprint than MS stuff and trends toward more reliable.

I like linux and I like the Ubuntu brand of linux for my personal use. Its reliable and easy to use without the normal issues of upgrading found in MS products. I did, however, get bit when I tried to upgrade from 7.04 to 7.10 (Feisty Fox to Gutsy Gibbon). The darn upgrade hung halfway through hosing my laptop. So, I created a 7.10 CD on another machine, mounted it on my laptop and proceeded to recover the files to my external USB via a combination of tar and gzip (also known as a tarball).

I wiped the disk on the laptop and proceeded to restore my data. This is when horror struck. The tarball was corrupt. The reason, I suspect, is that my usb is formated for the old windows FAT file system which has an upper limit of 4 GB. The tarball was bigger than that.

I tried everything I knew to try but I couldn't get past the corruption. Googling only brought back windows solutions to the corrupt tarball. I thought this very odd. Either I was missing something obvious or no one else had run into this issue.

I finally found a product for windows called gzrt which restored broken gzip files. It is a C program that comes with a make file. Of course, since I had a new install I didn't have a C compiler so I downloaded G++ the GNU C++ compile then found I was missing the zlib library which I also downloaded.

Once compiled, I lauched it against my corrupted backup
./gzrecover backup2.tar.gz

This made a file called backup2.tar.recover. Since tar doesn't work agianst bad files I used cpio to extract the data.
cpio -F backup2.tar.recovered -ivd

After that all was well. All my precious files came back.

Lessons learned include
1) FAT sucks.
2) Gzip and Tar should allow for more robustness.
3) Thank God for other geeks out there who have run into the same problem and taken the time to find a fix.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Learning To Fly

Well, we're off on another Zack sports event: Gymnastics!

Now, to start off, be it known that my son is not the most naturally gifted athlete. True, he can run further and faster that most kids his age and he somehow manages to hit a softball I throw him with his over sized bat. I tell him to use the smaller T-ball bat but he likes the cool red bat with the flame job. His choice of form over function disturbs me. I chalk it up to his two teenage half-sisters who's life revolves around image. But I digress.

Zack likes to go things alone. He doesn't like team sports. Its too much of everyone doing the same thing at the same time. BORING! Zack deplores that for some reason.

At play, Zack goes from place to place in the yard. He enjoys driving his Jeep, riding his bike or trike, throwing and batting balls, feeding the neighbor's horses, or just running around with our dog Milo. Since there are no other kids around he either plays by himself, Milo or my wife and I. Of course, finding frogs and insects is high on his list of enjoyments as well but the thing he loves best is to fly.

Teamwork is a foreign concept to Zack. His soccer experience was a poor one. He didn't like going out on the field. I think it was due to his fear of failure. We encourage, bribed, threatened and pleaded but Zack refused to take to the field during a game.

Gymnastics seemed a better choice for Zack. Its an individual sort of sport that makes use of his drive and energy. Initial signs were encouraging as his first trip to class was met with enthusiasm and, more importantly, participation.

I was out of town his first class. When my wife called and told me Zack had fun at class I almost yelled for joy. Finally we found something Zack liked to do with others. I wanted to see this for myself and went with my wife to see Zack jumping around and hanging from bars.

Zack did go to class and started to play with others. He has problems with staying in line, however. He doesn't stand in many lines and so the concept is foreign to him. Why would you stand in line when there is a perfectly good trampoline with no one on it.

After that class, where the coaches had to wrangle Zack into line, everything changed. He no longer wanted to go to class. He refused to do more than step inside the door. I admit, I was ready to admit defeat and chalk it up to another soccer experience.

Three times we tried and three times we failed to get Zack into class. On the last go around, I had to work and so Debbie took Zack by herself. He refused to go in and so she brought him home. He cried all the way saying he wanted to go back but there seemed no point if he would not participate or even go into the gym. The all-to-familiar soccer feeling set in and I assured myself this would be another bust.

So, we were going to give gymnastics one last shot. This time I was up to bat trying to entice Zack into class. Zack was conflicted about going. First he said he wanted to go then, in the next sentence, said he didn't want to go. Zack was one stressed four year old.

I decided to try. Debbie insisted. To be honest I would have been happy enough to go home but I sucked it up, bought Zack some cheese sticks at Sonic ( that always seems to help ) and drove him to the YMCA.

It started the same; Zack refused to go in. I asked him why. He said the teachers 'looked mean to him'. I looked at the coach. Andrew didn't look that mean to me but I did notice he scowled from time to time.

I told this to Zack. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, "No, he looked me AT me." A thunderbolt of understanding struck. Obviously during Zack's previous line jumping the coach gave him a stern look.

The solution, it seemed, was to get Zack past the 'mean coach' thought process. The male coach had an assistant who was near the door so I motioned her over. "Look Zack, she doesn't look mean to me."

The young Y staffer took the cue and put on a big smile and invited Zack over to his group. Zack didn't want to go so I held his hand as we walked over. The male coach gave Zack a big high-5 as he joined the group and that, it seems, is all it took.

Zack participated for the rest of the class. Yes he still left the line to wander around but this time the coaches were better prepared and asked him to rejoin. I became involved once when Zack said he was ready to leave. I offered one small bribe of visiting the Y pumpkin patch. Other than that, it all went OK.

In the war that is child rearing, this was a victory... and I have photographic evidence.