It’s good when things don’t work

Things going wrong. You’d expect this to be a bad thing. But I often find this a good thing. Why? Well it may take ages to fix a problem, but you learn so much in the process!

I persuaded my friend to use Ubuntu Linux a while back. So he went and installed it. He found that his wireless network card didn’t work, and there was no way it would work (even under ndiswrapper). So he went ahead and bought a nice wireless card from You’d think that they’d pick one that would work “out of the box”. Well, no! You get this awkwardly written guide (not good for newbies to linux). So I went ahead and re wrote it into simple talk. Great! It worked!

About a month later he decided to reinstall ubuntu and windows so that he could get the partitions right. So he went and did it and began to set up the wireless network card again. This time it didn’t work, even with my simpler instructions. So instead of getting me to help that much he decided he’d just get a nice ethernet cable instead.

Right. So he’s trying to get *everything* to work under ubuntu now. One of those things required his external USB hard drive. Simple you’d think. Plug it in and see it appear on the desktop. Unfortunately not. In this case it was, plug it in and see *nothing at all* happen. So he comes talking to me to ask for help. This is what I found out

  • The device was being recognised as sde – from dmesg
  • The device was not mounted – from mount
  • The device had partitions – from cfdisk /dev/sde

So, I go ahead and tell him to mount the disk manually.

sudo mount /dev/sde1 test

“Please specify a file system type”. Ok then.

sudo mount -t vfat /dev/sde1 test.

“Invalid file system type”. At this point my friend restarted into his windows partition, and the drive worked perfectly. During this time I had a google around and found that there might be an error on the drive. I don’t know much about fsck, but I gave it a go anyway.

fsck /dev/sde
Response: No FSINFO sector 1) Create one 2) Do without FSINFO

Ok then. We’ll press 1 and continue, even though I don’t know what a FSINFO sector is (but at a guess I’d say it is a sector that holds information about the file systems). After that part there were a few other messages like “Free cluster summary uninitialized (should be 10914208) 1) Set it 2) Leave it uninitialized”. We just hit 1 each time and carried on. But at the end of all of that we get a message saying “Leaving file system unchanged.“. I was asking myself why it isn’t saving the fixes, even though I told it to fix it. Ah well. Back to the drawing board.

After a few variations on the fsck command I came up with this nice one:
dosfsck -w -r -v /dev/sde1

So. Ran that. Hit 1 a few times. And tada! All fixed!

And now I know how to operate fsck more! Yipee!

In other news, it’s raining a bit here, and there’s a lot of thunder

/me hides


#1 Jack Perry on 06.04.08 at 1:33 am

Thanks, that helped after I upgraded to Fedora 8. Loads of undocumented changes there that break the system (hda changes to sda, for example, and now this).

Still trying to get my local filesystems mounted on boot. They mount fine when root logs in, mysteriously…

#2 Andrew Gee on 08.25.10 at 6:51 am

But wait! There’s two of us???

#3 cousteau on 01.31.11 at 8:23 pm

-r did it! 🙂 (I would have assumed that -r was the default behavior unless -n was supplied)

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