Linux Emergency Mode Thoughts

I’ve broken a lot of things over the years. Quite a few of them out of curiosity. I remember in the mid-1980s my dad had bought me a digital CASIO watch. After a few months with it, I wanted to see how it worked. Avoiding the sound advice of the instruction manual, I proceeded to open it using a blunt object. In the end there was no way to get it to work again.

Younger readers won’t remember or realize that a digital watch during the 80s was high tech and cool. It was a computer on your wrist. It had an alarm and a stopwatch feature. While there’s certainly a market for high end watches for the kids at school, these were status symbols. Now they’re on the cheap shelves of your local big chain store.

I’m not as violent as I was in my earlier days when it comes to electronics, but I still avoid the advice of the manuals (if any) and test things to their limits. I’ve run an Apple time capsule in my car so the kids could have wifi to play minecraft on car rides. I’ve tinkered around with several iterations of portable movie servers over the past few years. I’ve run a MATE-based Emby server off of a MacBook Air. My video for that even made it to an episode of LAS, though my solution wasn’t terribly eloquent but it still worked. One cool thing about that video is it got the attention of some of my old Army buddies and I enjoyed a week of digitally reconnecting with folks I haven’t worked with in over a decade.

One current iteration of the server in the car is a MATE-based Pi2 running Emby. It’s way smaller and more portable. Again, not elegant, but functional. At least it was functional until I broke it this week.

When they say that the Pi needs 2 amps they’re serious. I plugged mine into a power supply that’s been known recently to have some hiccups. I was curious to see what would happen. It hiccuped as some files were being written to the SD card and affected the load sequence for the OS.

Plugging it into the monitor I saw a message I had never seen before. “Welcome to Emergency Mode!”

That’s a very deceptive sentence. Welcome? I thought. Really? What’s so welcoming about emergency mode? Aren’t emergencies things to be avoided and run away from? What’s that exclamation point for? Are you that excited I’m visiting? Truly, I hope my time in emergency mode wouldn’t amount to much more than a visit. After all, this happened as we were headed out for a car ride. Time was limited.

As it turns out, the problem was extremely easy to solve. Throw the SD Card into another machine and push the error message to Google and see what pops out. I found a couple of quick lines on fsck (which I had never used before) and Bob’s your uncle. Problem solved.

You could totally razz on me in the comments as an amateur for never having encountered emergency mode or for ever having used fsck. If you think that’s what the comments are there for, you go right on ahead. I think it says something about the OS that I’ve never had to use these tools before. I think it says a lot about the community that they made my problem easy for someone to post about and for me to quickly find the answer before the car ride.

This week, I listened to the psaltery voice of Bryan Lunduke lovingly berating and belittling his guests on his podcast. Martin Wimpress, whose work with MATE made it the first project I ever donated to was among the guests. He was asked why he based his project on Debian/Ubuntu and to that Martin responded with polite comments about the robustness of the communities around those projects. He’s right and because of that community I didn’t tag him on Google Plus and wait for a reply. I got my answer much, much faster than that.

I’m still going to keep the blunt objects in a different part of the house but I learned this week that if I break a few lines of code along the road of personal curiosity I’ll have help to get me back on course again. I’m grateful for the community that’s built all of this wonderful support information. The momentum is certainly brewing for the projects on the latest episode of Lunduke and Whatnot. I still believe that the problem solving involved, not just with code, but with the community that builds it, puts these folks nothing shy of genius level. They built something I could smash and put back together again! Whoever invented fsck rocks!

More great Linux goodness!

Jacob Roecker
Jacob Roecker is an addictive hobbyist and Linux user, father of four, veteran, college student who self published three books and dabbles with media production, management, photography, videography, and long distance running.  Jacob's love for Linux comes from its versatility as a tinkering operating system.  Jacob has often found the only elegant solutions to some of his tinkering problems have come from the community behind the penguin.  

Jacob's practical about what he uses and when.  He often composes on his MacBook Pro because if he was using his Linux desktop machine full time he'd probably never get any work done because he'd be trying out one of the many cool new projects someone just published and shared with the community.  Sometimes it's good to use an OS that doesn't have as much freedom. LinkedIn

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Matt Hartley
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RE: “This week, I listened to the psaltery voice of Bryan Lunduke lovingly berating and belittling his guests on his podcast.”

I’d actually say it was more playful banter in which all who participated had a great time. 🙂

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