Hardware failure

Tags: python

On Wednesday, I did an aptitude update + full-upgrade on my well-running Mavarick Meerkat ubuntu laptop. Ah, a kernel update, so I restarted. Quite soon afterwards I tweeted:

Horror! I just updated my ubuntu maverick… Now the entire system freezes after about a minute. Even unpingable! Help….

The number one suspect was of course that last update. I’ve been running Meerkat for about three weeks now (I switched over once the release candidate came out) and I haven’t noticed problems, so I was surprised that there was a problem now.

I booted in rescue mode and got myself a shell. /var/log/apt/history.log showed the updates: a newer linux kernel and some libvte9 packages. But booting a different kernel showed the same problem: the entire system would hang completely after about a minute of xwindows use. So it could not be the kernel. And libvte didn’t seem capable of bringing down the entire machine: I mean, it was even unpingable and didn’t react to ctrl-alt-del.

I booted in graphical fail-safe mode: you use only the basic graphical card functionality. No problems there. Everything works. It seemed to sound more and more like a hardware issue with the graphical card.

Ok, memtest. No problems.

Ok, let’s do a full harddisk check. Let’s do that with my colleague’s USB key with ubuntu 10.04 on it (so: the previous version of what I was running). Hey! It too would freeze! So it wasn’t a problem with any of my ubuntu packages.

I even booted windows on advice of our sysadmin to see if updating the BIOS would help. No success, as windows would hang in exactly the same way. Ok, it is clear now: hardware problem!

The sysadmin had a spare laptop of exactly the same model, so he screwed out the harddisks and swapped them. It did cost me most of the day, but I’ve got a fully functioning laptop again!

Weighing my son to determine whether he's a witch
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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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