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Adventures of a laptop

As you may or may not be aware of, my laptop broke in mid-July while traveling in Hungary. Long story short, I forgot my laptop charger at home and bought an "universal charger" from a shop in Hungary. Universal chargers have detachable plug heads to be compatible with many different laptop ports (why don't we have a standard?), which means you need to pick the correct one and then plug it to the coord. Well, I looked it up and only one fit in the charger port anyway, so I plugged it in and... well, poof said the laptop and went black. Turns out the charger head was the wrong way, which essentially means the poles of the current were reversed. Apparently that's not good for a laptop.

So yeah, the laptop booted and appeared to be charging once the plug head direction was rectified. But it wasn't charging, so I assumed the battery had gone foobar, and I couldn't really verify that in Hungary since the charger was 90W and my laptop is 120W (otherwise compatible) and therefore the charger was too weak to power my laptop while it was on. Then I got home and turns out it didn't charge with the real charger either. PROBLEM DETECTED

My father and I came to the conclusion that a fuse or some other part in the electrical supply had failed due to the reverse poles to prevent further damage. As I was embarking on another trip for two more weeks, I let my father handle the thing. Well, he didn't do much more than file an RMA, and it was apparent the laptop would need to be sent into warranty repair.

So once I got home again in August, I looked up the warranty terms and conveniently found damage caused by "external power problems" excluded. As icing on the cake, the place of repair was listed as Sweden, meaning my poor laptop would need to be shipped to Sweden. As I was hoping for a quick repair, and realizing that the damage would not be covered under warranty, I decided to seek out an "unofficial" repair shop. My father recommended one, so I picked it.

The plot thickens

So my father brought the laptop to the repair shop at the beginning of a week sometime in August. They promised to call back the next day with a diagnosis of my laptop's evidently serious disease™. Well, they didn't. Eventually my father dropped by the repair shop and they said the motherboard needed to be replaced. It'd cost 250 EUR. No other options, I guess, so I gave the green light. And then the wait started.

And bloody hell it took long. However, in November they called and informed us that the motherboard had arrived and been installed. However, they still needed to conduct some "tests" (I don't even know, either it boots or it doesn't, right?), and that they need my password for it. Uh? Anyway, as I didn't want to prolong the process, I gave them my Windows password, seeing as I really have nothing of importance on my Windows partition.

My father visited the repair shop a few times for a status report, as the employees were incapable of communicating any sort of ETA at all during the entire time my laptop had been on repair. My father isn't really a master of English, and all the employees seemed to be speaking English, so he wasn't really sure what they said, but apparently there was a risk of data loss. Don't ask me how replacing a motherboard can possibly result in data loss, but hey, wasn't me repairing it.

Anyway, it took a couple of weeks until they called and said the laptop was actually ready. Holy shit. They managed? Good job. When I got home, I booted the laptop and everything actually worked. That's a good start. Well, everything wasn't so good. No grub menu (the thing you usually use to select OS when you have multiple installed) appeared and I was put right into Windows 8 (which, for the record, sucks). And everything had been wiped.

How I fixed shit

Hope wasn't immediately lost, however. I installed all vital stuff (anti-virus, sane browser, and of course SteamTotally vital) and then opened Windows Partition Manager. To my surprise, the partition setup DID seem to be intact. However, all the three Linux partitions (swap (sda5), / (sda6), /home(sda7)) had the file system type RAW and appeared to be completely empty. However, I realized that maybe Windows Partition Manager simply didn't recognize the filesystem type that Linux distros use (ext4). So I asked around and turns out this was true.

I had a Ubuntu 13.04 .iso lying around so I put it onto an USB stick and booted into "livecd" mode. Conveniently, secure boot etc. was disabled, so no problems there. I got into Ubuntu, installed gparted (a partition manager), and holy shit, my Linux partitions were actually intact. However, I had no clue as to how to get a bootable system out of the partitions, so I decided to make a full backup as there were some stuff that was really important. My external HDD mounted without problems.

I downloaded an utility called rsync and started backing up my 94 or so gigabytes of /home and an additional 10GB for / and started syncing the lost data. Rsync managed to crash twice, which I concluded was due to Ubuntu shutting down an USB port that is actively being used. I can't even comprehend that level of stupidity, but yeah. Anyway, after a few hours, all 100+ GB of data had been synced so I started the recovery process. It involved doing hacky things that I had no idea what I was doing. It involved replacing the boot image or something (?) and I actually managed to boot my openSUSE with the diligent help of some people on IRC. I reinstalled the EFI bootloader via YaST, and, to quote a principle of Linux: "Reboot and pray".

Well, it didn't work. The grub menu didn't appear and I was thrown into Windows. I repeated the black magic™ process and tried installing the bootloader again, to no avail. Eventually I just put a clean .iso of openSUSE 13.1 on an USB stick and reinstalled the entire OS. Good news is that you can use an existing partition for /home, meaning I wouldn't have to move over all files from my external HDD to the new OS. However, using a pre-existing root partition during a reinstallation wasn't possible, which means I started with a clean / — which essentially is like using everything except C:\Users as a Windows comparison.

To be fair, that isn't too tedious. Linux has a lovely package management system, and openSUSE's Zypper is quite a solid thing. Reinstalling programs is usually one or two commands, which means everything fast and stuff. It didn't take too long to get back to business as usual, and to my surprise, the bootloader worked nicely; Windows still worked (!).

Lessons learned