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© April 2004 Tony Lawrence

Missing data files

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It was Sunday, just before noon. I had to leave shortly to meet my sister for lunch and then the two of us would visit our mother in the nursing home. I was packing up some books for Mom when the phone rang.

I don't like answering the phone on Sunday, but I know it's probably someone with a real problem. I usually let it go to voice mail, and call back if it is a client with a serious issue, but for some reason I picked this one up.

"Hi, Mr. Lawrence? This is Bill from so and so company. I got your phone number from your website".

Oh great - not even a client. Now I'm going to get asked for free advice, and for crying out loud it's SUNDAY and I'm on my way out. Sheesh!

"I'm really sorry to call you, and I'm not looking for free help".

Well, OK, thanks for saying that, at least. Though it probably still will end up being free, and my wife is going to remind me that I can't afford to be a nice guy and - once more with feeling - it is SUNDAY!

I explain that. Well, part of it: "I don't really have much time - I'm on my way out".

"Well, I suppose this can wait till Monday, but these folks are getting really upset and I thought I could help them, but I'm pretty confused now.."

Oh darn it. The poor guy really sounds desperate. And he seems like a really nice guy. Darn it, darn it, darn it.

"OK, well, I can spare a few minutes".

I really couldn't; my sister would be wondering where I was very soon. But.. "Tell me quickly what's happening".

"Well, we had a problem where the system wouldn't boot. Couldn't fix that, but we have CTAR backups, so I restored those, but something went wrong. It ran out of space restoring. I can't imagine why, but I had a bigger drive handy, so I restored to that, and now it boots up, but my data files are gone".

"Gone? What do you mean?"

"Well, I've got all the data files in the /med filesystem and it is flat empty. Nothing in it".

"Is /med mounted?", I asked.

"Oh.yeah. I do 'df -v' and there it is. But nothing in it".

"Any chance you never backed up /med?". Hey, it happens. Unlikely, but I have to ask.

"Maybe, but here's the funny thing - I saw all those files listed while the restore was running. But now they aren't here".

"You SAW /med files listed as being restored?

"Sure did."

"OK, I know what's wrong. Not sure how you got there, but I know where your files are".

Do you know what was wrong, and how to fix it?


Got something to add? Send me email.

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Sounds as tho during the original restoration, a /med directory in the root filesystem was created, into which the files were written, not into a mounted /med, which is where they belonged. That could also explain why he seemingly ran out of space in the first restoration attempt -- he overflowed the root filesystem.

Next, when the system went multiuser and the /med filesystem was mounted, it obscured the /med subdir in the root filesystem, making it appear as though the files in /med were gone.

Tony, I didn't peek for the answer. Honest!



Well, anyone else who doesn't want to peek can see if they agree with you..

Actually, I was in such a rush to get to lunch I didn't realize what it had to be till later, while munching a bagel. So I sent him email later. Hope he got it!


Bagels are good for your thought processes, at least according to my wife. <Grin> I personally find Oreo cookies to be more effective.


No, your wife is right. Not from any nutritional benefits, it's just that looking through the hole gives you a unique perspective. You cannot look through an Oreo, even if you separate it (as you should - eating without separating at least one is an abomination).

BTW, isn't the plural Oreae ?


Oh, and I was late, and even more so because when I got out to the car, it was almost out of gas, so I had to stop to fill up. My sister was wondering if I was dead because I'm one of those folks who is ALWAYS early for everything no matter what.

And no one reading this should assume they are going to get free help in general.. whenever I get "caught" like this, I'm grumpy and nasty about it for weeks after. There are ways you can get inexpensive assistance; see my web page but please DO NOT CALL me if you are not already a client - especially on a Sunday! You might end up getting free help anyway, but that has to be my choice, not yours.

I'm much more happy with people that arrange for help ahead of time and less inclined to deal with your problem that just came up now.. I know that all sounds so nasty and unfriendly, but sheesh - I have to pay my bills too!

If you want to BECOME a client, of course call or email anytime - or check the Consultants page here and find someone less grumpy!


As the old saying goes (I assume it's an old saying because I've been saying it for decades), someone's lousy planning doesn't suddenly become my extreme emergency -- especially on Sunday or after 10 PM. Of course, if that someone is willing to exude copious quantities of cash, I *might* be persuaded to suddenly consider that individual a client and extend the same sort of courteous and expert services I would to anyone willing to pay for them.

Like Tony, it's not as though I'm against giving some free help. It's just that there are certain...er...cheapskates I know who feel their time is worth a lot and mine is worth a little or nothing. This seems to happen more with Windows types than UNIX users, so go figure.

BTW, Tony, I tried gazing through the hole in one of our bagels and concluded that the view reminds me of looking into a toilet bowl. That, of course, didn't stop me from loading up the bagel with a lot of cream cheese and chowing down.


Saturday and Sunday are usually big days for me to do system maintenance, especially during our slow season, which just ended. I had a total of 3 weekends so far this year where I didn't have to come in for a 3-6 hours each day. That is one of the drawbacks of being a SysAdmin in a mostly 24x7 manufacturing shop; we cannot be down during production hours. I really dislike working on those days too, because if I do need support, nobody is usually around. Now that I have all the hardware upgrades done for our remote buildings, and any old RH 8 systems have been updated to RH ES, I can probably do some fishing this Sunday :-)

- Bruce Garlock

But you ARE allowed to call on Sunday :-)


Yea, I know, and sometimes I am trying to figure something out, that you could probably answer in a couple of seconds, but I don't like bothering anyone on Sunday's. I usually figure it out, but I know that you would have an answer much quicker. Looks like I will be working tomorrow (Sunday), but it is all easy stuff, so no calls from me tomorrow :-)

- Bruce Garlock


Clients should feel free to call anytime. If I'm off having fun or otherwise tied up, you'll get voice mail. When I'm free, I'll return the call. Not "bothered" at all: I might not be free till Monday morning, but chances are it will be earlier. No harm done either way.


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What happens then? Is there a ticker tape parade and heartfelt thanks from the computer it has reached? No, my friends, there is not. The poor packet is immediately gutted, stripped of its protective layers and tossed into the hungry maw of whatever application (mail, a webserver, whatever) it belongs to. (Tony Lawrence)

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