[conspire] Utility to rescue formatted EXT3 partition & distribution choice?

Edmund Joseph Biow biow at bigfoot.com
Thu Mar 8 18:57:50 PST 2007

Hi folks,

I'm looking for a utility to recover a formatted EXT3 partition. 

Here's the gory details: I built a nice new box, AMD X2 5000 on an ECS
Nvidia chipset board with a 400 GB SATA HD, a DVD burner, 2 GB of
Kingston PC5300, onboard Geforce 6100 graphics, and a Antec Minuet 300
case, about $490, plus tax.  Far and away the nicest machine I've ever
had.  I used GPARTED to create a 18 GB VFAT partition, a 20 GB EXT3
partition, a 1.5 GB swap partition, and the rest in in big /HOME EXT3
partition.  I had considered installing some stripe of Windows on the
first slice, but thought the better of it. 

I got tired of waiting for Etch to go stable (I would have been happy to
install RC2, but that isn't due for almost 2 weeks, the 19th, I believe)
so I installed SIDUX CHAOS (2007-01) 64 bit to the 20 GB partition. I
spent a few hours adding software, cobbling together a custom fstab,
xorg.conf, root .bashrc, smb.conf, etc. 

I figured I'd dual boot 32 bit and 64 bit using the same home partition
and user.  SIDUX-64 was blazingly fast scrolling through images on my
computer, with the NV driver, no less, and it rendered local directories
with a lot of files (like /usr/bin) in record time.  But 64 bit has some
serious limitations (using plugins like Flash, for instance), and for
whatever reason my SAMBA performance was abysmal, ~800 KBps, very slow
directory rendering for folders on my Sarge local file server).

This morning before my second cup of coffee I booted the SIDUX CHAOS
i386 CD & tried to install it to the VFAT partition (formatting it EXT3
first, of course).  Apparently the SIDUX installer can't format a VFAT
partition and choked on this operation, but spit up a dialogue box
offering to format a partition.  I didn't look too carefully, assuming
it was offering to operate on the same partition that I'd originally
chosen, but alas, it had selected my SIDUX-64 root partition.  I
canceled the operation within a few seconds as soon as I realized what
was going on, but it was too late, I mounted the partition and all there
was there was a Lost+Found folder.  Whoops.  I asked around on the SIDUX
IRC channel, but was told there is no unformat utility for EXT3.  I
Googled a bit.  Some folks suggested Testdisk, which I've used in the
past to recover formatted VFAT and NTFS partitions.  It is on Knoppix,
so I'll give it a chance after my spouse goes to bed tonight. 

Does anyone have any other suggestions if testdisk doesn't pan out? 
There isn't anything really important on the partition, no data, so
rescuing the partition isn't very important. 

A good thing about losing my infant install is that I can re-evaluate my
choice of distros, if desired.

Since I'm already annoying you folks I thought I'd solicit OS comments.

  Here is what I'd like for this box.
1. Normal desktop stuff.  Internet, music, camera, file manipulation.
2. I'd like to install MythTV at some point, if I can find a compatible
TV card that will fit in this little slimline case (my Hauppauge PVR-150
failed, the antenna aperture needs to be towards the middle or bottom of
the card). 
3. 3D desktop.  What the hey, I've got the muscle.  Not too picky
between XGL, AIGLX, Beryl, etc.  Really, I just want the mouse
scroll/keyboard zoom and translucency effects.
4. At some point I'd like to play around with virtualization.  The AMD
X2 apparently has some hardware virtualization support.  Wine is a pain
and there are some Windows apps I like (curiously, generally NOT
commercial ones).  I don't care about using an unsupported version like
98SE, since it wouldn't be used for surfing, other than, say, CDDB
access for Exact Audio Copy). 

I'm having some second thoughts about installing 64 bit anything. 
Granted 64 bit is a great option if I were running some sort of database
or serious web server.  And I was very impressed by how quick SIDUX-64
displayed images (I'd had Windows-envy at  speed at which Microsoft
renders images; I suppose it is nice having drivers lovingly crafted by
the hardware makers just for your OS).  I don't know how much of the
speed was due to 64 bit and how much was due to my snappy new hardware. 
I could install the latest MEPIS 64 bit beta or maybe OpenSUSE 10.2 64,
both of which appear to use 32 bit versions of Firefox to get around the
plugin problem. 

Also, at this point I'm also wondering about my choice of SIDUX.  I'd
like to be somewhat closer to the cutting edge than Sarge (which
periodically updates me to the latest revision of Firefox 1.0.4).  I
figured this isn't a great time to install Etch, since it is about to go
stable in a couple of months.  At the beginning of the next release
cycle Etch will probably become much more like Alpha software, no?  I
don't really want to experience major breakage every few weeks.  When
Etch becomes the new Stable I wonder if I could pin my install to stable
or would I still be in testing?   Sidux has too short a track record to
predict how robust it will be over the long haul.

SIDUX seems to have a rapidly growing community, forum and a friendly
and helpful IRC channel (particularly if you sprech ein bisschen
Deutch).  It is KDE & desktop oriented, which is a plus for me (though
you can add XFCE metapackages during installation).  

I'd like to contribute to the development of Linux with a few bug
reports, since I don't have the skill set to do much more (OK, I could
help produce documentation that might be comprehensible to mere mortals,
but I'm also incredibly lazy). Would bug reports for a small distro like
SIDUX be very helpful to the overall community?  I worry that the
fragmentation of Linux leads to a lot of duplication of effort.

Opensuse, Fedora & Mandriva are wonderful distributions, but I prefer
apt to zen, yum & urpmi, so I'd rather stay with a deb based distro. 
*buntu has never really appealed to me (sudo rubs me the wrong way, and
I dislike the KDE customizations that Kubuntu chooses), but most of the
really cool YouTube videos of Vista being run on VMWARE inside a
translucent Beryl polygon are done with it..  . 

Anyone think Sidux is a really obtuse choice for my purposes?  Or should
I install the latest daily of Etch?  Or just plop down $379.99 for a
nice retail copy of Vista Ultimate at Buy.com (a $20 savings!)?  Or
should I bring the beast to an install-fest and let you guys pick
whatever looks entertaining?

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