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September 2002

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A Tale of Woe and LVM.

An editorial view from Christian Hennecke.

Let me tell you a tale of LVM. Lately I have experienced both its good and bad sides, and the latter lead me to the conclusion that we are sorely lacking something.

First the good side. Recently I started having severe problems with my main machine, which was TRAPing all the time after I had installed the drivers for my new ISDN card. To cut a very long story short, after much fiddling around I decided to set up a dump partition so that I would be able to both capture the TRAP screen much easier than by writing it down and also to have a dump available in case Scott Garfinkle should request one, if I described the problem in comp.os.os2.bugs. I had already done that about two years ago when I had been using Warp 4 and still remembered it to be a quite painful process due to certain restrictions, which the dump partition has to comply to. This was especially true since at that time I had to use the partition filter by Henk Kelder to access my FAT32 partitions. Another long, long story cut short: I had to jump through dozens of hoops to get it working.

Now, with the arrival of LVM came the freedom to assign drive letters at will and Scott has also modified the dump stuff a bit. As a result, setting up the new dump partition was a breeze. I deleted the partition where I keep downloaded files until they get moved to CD and created a dump partition and a now slightly smaller one for the downloads, assigned the dump partition a drive letter that wouldn't change the existing drives' order and confuse my applications, added the appropriate statements to CONFIG.SYS, and it worked. There still are some restrictions regarding the placement of the dump partition, but this time it was much, much easier than before.

On to the more unpleasant nature of it all. Some time ago I thought that I should broaden my knowdledge by making myself more acquainted with Linux. So a few days ago I acquired the latest Mandrake distribution and set forth to install it. Therefore some new partitions had to be created, and I knew that LVM gets confused if that is done with other tools, because it stores additional information outside the partition table, which other tools don't know of when changing the structure. So I followed the advise from people in Usenet and created the required partitions with LVM prior to install. Linux would just have to format them with its own file system and everything would be fine. So I thought.

While the formatting and determination of mount points seemed to go through without problems, the install process terminated immediately. I had seen that before and thought that maybe Linux didn't like the partitions' locations. A reboot and different setup would cure the problem for sure. Ha. Upon startup of LVM it displayed a warning message that the partition table of the drive I had destined to carry the Linux partitions might be corrupted. As a result, LVM wouldn't let me create new partitions or even write a new MBR. And I couldn't boot from my maintenance partitions any more. DFSee didn't help either (or maybe I didn't use the right commands, who knows). I can't say who was the culprit - LVM, Linux or maybe the hard drive just had a bad day - or exactly when the problem started. Anyway, the repair process included de-mounting the hard drive and controller, mounting them in a friend's machine, hours of copying files back and forth, low-level formatting the hard disk, and adding everything to my machine again.

So let this be a lesson for us. There are three things we can learn from it: First, do have a complete, working backup when you try something like this. Also, you should ensure to have a working backup. And it can't hurt to have a back... Just kidding, there is more! Second, it seems that it is not a good idea to mix OSes with incompatible file systems on one hard drive. If possible, assign a dedicated drive. If anything goes wrong, you should be able to simply wipe the drive and begin again while still being able to boot the other systems.

But to me the third thing is the most important of all. Things do go wrong and when they do, you need something to assist you in nullifying or repairing the damage, or cut the losses. Also, things which help to prevent damage at first are very welcome. Yet, when I look around, availability of such tools is near to naught. After rejecting IBM's apparent offer to assist in implementing support for LVM, Power Quest even dropped support for HPFS in Partition Magic. And few to no-one else seem to care about it either. Meanwhile DFSee offers some capabilities like saving and restoring the partition table and the related LVM information. Over the last years Jan van Wijk has also added support for shrinking FAT(32), NTFS and HPFS partitions, and HPFS partitions can be extended using some tricks. But it's still painful to use and anyone who doesn't know exactly what he is doing, can damage the system very easily. So no easy resizing (and I mean real resizing as opposed to extending a JFS volume by adding another partition) and moving of partitions on an LVM-enabled system. We also don't have any possibility to undelete accidentally deleted files, which reside on a JFS drive. (No, I don't consider the built-in DELDIR feature a viable solution.)

Years after LVM and JFS have been introduced with WSeB, OS/2 is still lacking some really crucial tools here. DFSee has grown a lot, but it still lacks important features and is much too complicated to use. What we need is something with an interface like that of Partition Magic, where you can e.g. resize and move partitions simply by dragging some graphical bars, and the program will compose the required commands for you. Think of such an interface for quick and easy operations and an expert mode for e.g. batch operations and more in-depth stuff. Not only home users, but also enterprise customers should feel a great deal of relieve, if such a tool became available. This is a great business opportunity for any developer with enough knowledge in that area. I suppose that whoever releases a good, easy-to-use hard disk maintenance product with full support for LVM, JFS and other file systems can be sure to earn some nice dollars, not only in the OS/2 market. (An LVM toolkit is available at, by the way.) You can count me in as your customer.

VOICE Newsletter Update: The planned page for free small advertisements by freeware authors and OS/2 users is going to become part of the VOICE home page soon. Its delayed as our webmaster has just relocated and isn't as yet back up to full speed yet. If you are interested, please contact us at

We are always interested in your thoughts and views on subjects related to OS/2, and would like to see opinion/editorial pieces as well as hardware/software reviews and HowTo articles. If you can help by writing an article please contact me at

Our Newsletter team is in need of backup. A few people have joined after we published a call for help in one of the last issues, but we could do with some more. To be able to help you don't have to be a very good translator or HTML programmer. If you have profound knowledge of English or German spelling and grammar, you can also help with editing the articles. Some hints on translation activities are also available in the FAQ.

Warp Doctor: Have an idea for Warp Doctor? You can send your comments directly to the Warp Doctor web guy Jeremy at or better yet attend one of our Warp Doctor Team meetings, weekly on IRC.

Everyone's help is required to keep this project going. The team meets every Sunday at 3PM EST (19:00 GMT), on IRC in the #warpdoctor channel on the WEBBnet IRC network. For more information on attending online IRC meetings please see the VOICE Meeting Information page -

VOICE Online Update: This month the general member meetings are scheduled on September 2 and 16 at 8PM EST (00:00 GMT). Everyone interested in OS/2 or eComstation is invited to attend either or both of these sessions. For more information on attending online VOICE IRC meetings please see the VOICE Meeting Information page -

Last month there was a SpeakUp with Serenity Systems regarding the future of eComStation on August 3rd. The two parts of the log are available from the Transcripts page or directly via and

If you have an idea for a Speakup event, please submit it to, and we will try to schedule something. As always, please be sure to check out the updated VOICE Future events Calendar in this newsletter or on the VOICE website at for more details on future VOICE events.

This month Stan Sidlov tells us how to achieve Faster Network Printing and save some energy with the right soft- and hardware. Unnoticed by many, as it is their way, IBM has released a package that's going to help you.

The amount of SPAM e-mail that we are facing is growing nearly day by day. While most of us are confronted with the things which the provider failed to sort out and use their clients to cope with them, those who are running a mail server as an ISP or for their local network, have other choices to make. For the users of the Weasel mail server out there, Michael W. Cocke reveals the way of Using Weaselfilter against E-Mail Attachments, the spammers' latest trick.

In Digital Photography on OS/2, Julien Pierre gives us an overview of how he is using OS/2 to work with digital photos and some recommened and not-so-recommened hardware.

Walter Metcalf is back with the fourth part of his series on BackAgain/2000 Server Edition version 3.0 - A review. This month Walter describes some strategies and techniques to help you in keeping your data safe and consistent.

With part one of DrDialog, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love REXX, Stanley Kubrick, er, Thomas Klein starts a series which will give an introduction to the development of REXX programs with GUI using the free development environment DrDialog by IBM. This should be interesting for anybody, especially for those who have always wanted to write their own OS/2 applications, but were afraid of the high learning curve of PM programming.

In another article dealing with digital photography, Jason R Stefanovich reviews Photomesa 1.3, a Java tool which can help you to reduce the mess, which usually comes with taking a lot of photos, and keep your files organized.

Finally we have the VOICE Newsletter OS/2 Tips page and the Letters, Addenda, Errata page. If you have any OS/2 or eCS tips you've uncovered, please send them to If you have any comments or suggestions about the newsletter or articles in it, please send them to

That's it for this month. Upcoming articles include a review of an USB memory card reader by Mark Dodel and the next articles in the series on DrDialog.

Mark Dodel and Christian Hennecke
VOICE Newsletter editors

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