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a cautionary tale w/ successful recovery

Hi all, mildly off-topic, perhaps.

Due to a cascading series of errors on my part yesterday, I managed to
not only wipe over my partition table, but also overwrite enough data
in the actual disk to prevent reasonable recovery of the partitions
with such tools as gpart. 

I could recover /boot, and /swap, but the lvm-hosted remaining portion
of the system was hosed, mostly because I couldn't accurately locate
the partition. Maybe if I'd been a little smarter about it, I could
have, but I didn't know, until too late, what exactly to look for. So,
after much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing, I decided to

Now mind you, this is the first reinstall on this machine (a very loose
description considering it's had three motherboards, two disks and
various and sundry parts swapped) since 2004. 

Installation was, of course, fairly painless using the daily-build
business card image of squeeze. I had a couple of problems when
partitioning, but got it sorted out after a reboot to properly re-read
the partition table. 

So here is the real success part of the story: my backups worked! I
had weekly backups of /etc and daily backups of /home. Since I'd not
done any work of consequence in about 24 hours, I had not lost data!
Restoring was a simple matter of copying over from the backup server,
fixing up a couple of permissions and moving on. 

Lessons learned:
1) don't do risky things in DOS 6.22 when tired... you can't trust
DOS to behave in a consistent manner (maybe)

2) keep a copy of the boot sector lying around (on another machine!!)
3) keep a copy of dpkg --get-selections lying around

Now, I know bot 2) and 3), but hadn't really ever bothered to do
it. It's *possible* that 2) could have saved me from reinstalling, but
it still would have required significant work to get everything going

3) is just a convenience really. I have a pretty good idea of what
packages I use on a daily basis are, but there are always random
things one forgets and they'll probably crop up routinely over the
next couple of months. 

Anyway, I just wanted to share that. And for all those who think they
don't need backups... you're so wrong. I am truly grateful that I had
good ones and the recovery went well.


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