I had a Unix II lab class today. We had arranged that the students would be completing their assignments which meant they would be presenting mini-classes on how to use certain commands that appear in the past papers. The idea is to get them to study on their own and come up with a mini lesson to explain each command. Sadly they only look at the on-line manual page and even more sadly they did so starting in my lab class, i.e. they had not prepared for the session. But that wasn’t the worst:

The same students installed Linux on one of our computers at the start of term as part of the course. The idea is that this is their machine and they have the superuser password for it. If it gets damaged we can always install the OS again.

One lady was sitting at the computer and the others were connected over the network. The one using the terminal had a stream of error messages in front of her. We couldn’t execute any commands and the whole thing was looking very sick. The students logged in to our server and I rebooted the troublesome one. Or tried to. This time round there was no operating system to install (Kernel Panic!).

But thats not a problem, right? We can always reinstall the OS. But the RedHat Linux install CDs that I had my colleagues from 7irene send last year anre corrupted and are not good to install from. We have been getting by booting from the CD and installing over the network from the other Red Hat server…. which recently died.

I spent the rest of that class fixing PCs and managed to get the old server back up and started checking the disk on the faulty one…. when the power went off. The Uninterruptible Power Supply that both machines were plugged into seems to have an old battery. It protected us from the blackout for a full ten seconds before shutting both machiens off abruptly.

Maybe we need some tools for self reliance out here ourselves!

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