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.comment: We're Getting There!

Discombobulation

  • August 15, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

I'm writing this in AbiWord (which would be better were it to be endowed with a cursor, which in the version shipped with Red Hat 7.1 it does not appear to have, but which otherwise looks very nice, as it always has).

What's more, I'm running it atop Gnome. More still, I'm running Gnome atop Red Hat 7.1.

It's been a very unusual week. (Made more unusual with the sudden appearance, just now, of aforementioned cursor. Much nicer.)

Last week was unbearably hot and humid here in the rainforest of western Connecticut. Last Thursday, the power company reduced voltage so as to be able to sell power to Pennsylvania. The chief effect here, other than angry air conditioners and refrigerators, was the arrival of tremendous computer unreliability. And the power company seemed to punctuate its voltage changes with brief, unannounced breaks in the current all together. This when I learned the total superfluity of the "un" in my IBM uninterruptable power supply -- my production machine went down just like everything else.

Friday was supposed to bring relief. It did bring a change. At 1 p.m. we had what appears to have been a tornado.

I was watching the approaching storm when all of a sudden there was hail. The window screens in the front of the house´┐Żall blew in. All that was visible outside was circularly swirling hail. It sounded as if the front door were going to blow down; (No, it did not sound like a freight train.) I dived for the basement door. In the basement, I looked out to see that there was no wind at all in the back yard. After a minute or so, I went back upstairs -- the front door was still there -- and looked through the rain upon a scene of some devastation, the chief feature of which was an oak tree, 30 inches in diameter, that had broken off about three feet from the ground. There was a trail of similar destruction heading off through the woods. We will have firewood next winter -- it's too late to season it for this winter.

The electricity stayed on, sort of. It was interrupted for a few seconds every four or five hours for the next two days. This kind of thing makes computing difficult.

The first time it happened, I was in the middle of some work. The machine rebooted and was part way through e2fsck when it happened again. This time I shut everything down for a couple of hours after which I decided it was probably safe to fire up again. Fsck ran and all was well -- no damage at all, no data lost (except for the last few characters I'd typed.)

As I mentioned, there were sudden power interruptions several times over the next two days. Each time, the machine came back up just fine, no problem. Once I was in the middle of gathering mail, so I got the already-collected messages twice, but that's it. I concluded that Ext2 and its associated tools are pretty robust. Sturdiness is an important attribute in an operating system, don't you agree? That and a couple of things that have happened since then have given me wonderful new confidence in the progress and direction of desktop Linux. And it comes at just the right time.

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