This will be booring.
On Sunday I sat down to do some coding work that I had been procrastinating on (( I don’t know if you procrastinate on or procrastinate about. I don’t even know how to ask Google the question. )). Computer booted up, I logged in…and it hung. Did the ctrl-shift-backspace thing, but the screen just displayed what looked like memory codes and some failure messages. Restarted a couple times and decided that my system was completely borked.
Grabbed two Ubuntu CDs off the top of my huge pile of burned but unlabeled CDs. The first CD I put in was for 6.10 and was the text installer. Now every time I restarted I was forced to boot from this CD because of my stupid-ass hardware… a Macbook that I only run Ubuntu on (( I used to be able to dual-boot it with MacOS and it was pretty nice, but for some reason I nuked that partitition and I haven’t been able to reinstall from the CD. )) ; I couldn’t eject the CD using the keyboard key while in the text installer. After too much time figured out that the rescue mode worked and I could use the `eject` command on the drive (I found out later you can just hold down the touchpad button and hit the eject key on boot-up). In any case, with both CDs I was seeing the same strange behavior: a message that my system clock was set to Jan 1, 2001 and failures to install completely.
Oh, long tedious story short, first I thought it was the RAM, so I bought a new 1GB stick, then I thought it was the harddrive (but really I thought it was the motherboard, because of the clock thing), so I bought a notebook harddrive that had the wrong connectors. So as a totally random troubleshooting step, I burned a new copy of 8.04.1 and tried installing it (( The key was walking away once the install started and coming back after an hour, clearly. )). When the system started, I got the clock error but everything else worked. On the second startup I didn’t even get the clock error.
There is no lesson from this story (( I like to bug Amy by sententiously declaring, “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson today,” whenever one of us, usually me, does something stupid. )). Okay, there is a lesson: troubleshooting is hard, and if you really want to do it well, make a grid and work your hypotheses methodically. If I had done this I might have fixed my system on the first night instead of on the third day. The end result of my ordeal is that I have an extra 500MB memory, a scratched and scuffed Macbook interior, fewer screws on the exterior, and no idea whether my problem was software or hardware related. I basically expect my laptop to burst into flames at any moment.