Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Friday 13th, three days late

Business as usual on Monday. Well, for the first ten seconds.

I couldn't log into my Linux PC. Which was a bit of an issue, because without it I wasn't going to get a lot of work done. A bit of exploring showed that it couldn't see the authentication server. So I try to log into the PC using a "local" user ID instead (one whose details are stored on the machine, not the auth server). No joy - it was still trying to check the auth server, and the login times out before it gets a reply. Actually, as it turned out, the heat death of the Universe would have happened before it got a reply.

Time to dive into what I jokingly call the machine room to check out the auth server. It's running, but won't respond to keyboard or mouse, and the screen is blank. Hmmm. Nothing for it but a hard reboot. Guess what? It's not booting. Take the cover off, and try again. The hard drive sounds like a miniature jack-hammer; looks like the heads are just ramming their end-stop. The auth server (a recycled older PC) is officially toast. And I don't have a drop-in replacement, not to hand.

It's time to go back to my Linux box, and reboot it into single-user mode (which means I can get into the command line without logging in). Set it up as a temporary auth server, in addition to the hundred-and-one other server tasks it's acquired. Reboot it back into a full running state, and log in.

Joy! I can log in now.

The joy is short-lived, however. I need to install PDFEdit, and I roll in a few security updates too. A quarter-way through, the download stalls.

I try to restart the download several times; no luck.

I reboot the Linux box. No difference.

I restart the local network switch. No difference; I can ping other machines on the same switch, but can't see beyond it.

I restart the powerline modem that feeds the switch. No difference; can't even ping the edge router that feeds the whole network.

I restart the powerline modem connected to the edge router, the other end of the connection. No difference. A laptop that connects to the edge router through WiFi seems OK, so we haven't lost the router.

I restart the edge router, just on the off-chance. Hah! I can see out again! Well, for a moment. About 3MB into the updates download on my Linux box, it stalls again.

There's only one thing left to do, and that's replace the powerline modems. They're both Advent units (PC World own brand; yes, I know, I should know better). I happen to have a couple of Devolo models knocking around and pre-configured, so I swap out the Advents for the Devolos.

It works! It was about time something did - I was beginning to lose the will to live.

This time, the updates and PDFEdit download and install without a glitch.

And then I discover that PDFEdit - the installation of which was the whole point of the exercise - can't even do something as simple as move an item from one point on the page to another.

Definitely One Of Those Days.