May 9, 2005
Ode to KNOPPIX
We've got an in-house server (Windows 2003) running PeachTree, ACT and a couple other apps that we rely on for our day-to-day processes. When I first started working here, there was no regular backup process in place... it was more of a seat-of-the pants approach. Having been bitten in the ass by that type of thing before, we decided we weren't about to let things stay that way. So we implemented a couple batch jobs to automate the process every night so that everything would be backed up to a special folder. The next step was to automate backups onto another machine. But with the launch of our new web site, that fell by the wayside. And it bit us in the ass.
When Windows won't start in safe mode, you know you have problems. The server would get caught in a permanent reboot cycle; a few seconds after the initial windows screen appeared, there would be a BFOD (Blue Flicker of Death — just like a BSOD, only not enough time to read the error message) and with that the server would restart. Running CHKDSK under the recovery console didn't point out any obvious errors, but my money was on a corrupted system file.
But how did that happen in the first place? It turns out one of the drives in the RAID array wasn't plugged in and another one was incomplete. That'll pretty much make all that hardware useless. So we patched things up there, but Windows still wouldn't boot. I wasn't about to do a repair install, seeing as there was no simple way to first back up the data.
Enter KNOPPIX. KNOPPIX is a Debian-based Linux distro that runs off of a single bootable CD-ROM. Just pop it in the drive, turn on the computer, and you are running Linux—it doesn't install anything on your hard disk, nor does it care what OS you normally (try to) run. Being a Linux enthusiast, I suppose I can't be completely objective in saying this, but it's so simple that even a total Microphile could use it with ease.
And just like that, we were able to quickly pull all of the backups off of the dead server and move them over to the new one.
In the end, we were able to do a repair install and get things back to normal, but KNOPPIX definitely added to my peace of mind and helped speed up the recovery process. Klaus Knopper, you are my hero.Posted by jon at May 9, 2005 7:00 PM