| paulcapewell.com
| Powerwashed
Posted on 01 March 2023

In an effort to troubleshoot my Chromebook - it still randomly crashes while asleep - I 'powerwashed' it, which is the Chromebook method of completely resetting the OS back to factory and starting over again. It works reasonably well because so much of your Chrome OS stuff just lives in the cloud, although you do have to be careful to backup any local-only files.

As well as running Chrome OS, I am running the Linux container/subsystem, primarily to run this blog. This Linux container is another bit of local data which would not survive a powerwash and needs to be backed up, so I did that.

After powerwashing, I wanted to see if my main Google account was causing the issue with the random crashing. I had tried removing extensions to see, but couldn't put my finger on it. So I decided to set up the newly-reset device with a completely different Google account to see if the same issue occurred.

The short version, I'm afraid, is it did occur again. Bummer. Well, at least it means that it's not my Google account itself causing the issues, so I can go back to using that without worrying about extensions or whatever. This is a good thing - I sometimes worry that such long-lived accounts get furred up over the years and need resetting, much like a computer. God knows how much legacy bullshit is buried in my ~18-year-old Google account. But apparently it's not so much of an issue.

The one common function between the two powerwashes then is the linux bit. And it doesn't seem all that surprising that a beta test of a sort-of-partition-thing might break a computer while it's sleeping. Probably some power management issue. And so I now need to test the sleep-crashing issue with linux not running. Which is annoying because I basically use this Chromebook to do linux stuff now. But equally, if the Chromebook routinely crashes in sleep, I have to 'start' the Linux container manually anyway, so I may as well just try doing that on purpose to see if it helps.

The one nagging thought at the back of my mind remains that I bought this Chromebook in lockdown for a knockdown price. A lockdown knockdown, if you like. Anyway: it's a cheap, plasticky little thing. It performs admirably at whatever task I throw at it, but I'm aware that it won't live forever. So maybe I'll look at replacing it with a slightly more high-end Chromebook device (or a different lightweight laptop which I can run Linux on...?)

But I do kind of love this little computer. It has provided huge value for money since buying it. And it reminds me strongly of the little netbook I picked up while at uni, a 10.1" device that ran Windows XP, and then 7. It, too, was a gorgeous little device, went most places with me in a little neoprene sleeve, and provided the familiarity of using a 'grown-up' laptop in a small form factor. It's the same with this Chromebook. And I think both devices cost around £160-£180 each, giving more than three years' sterling service.

I can't actually remember what happened to the netbook - something must have caused me to retire it, and I guess it must have been hardware-related - the only thing I can remember is that at one point I bought a third-party power adapter for it, and while charging once it started to sizzle and smoke and the cables essentially set themselves on fire. Which was about as terrifying as that sounds, but since it happened while I was there to observe it, pales into insiginificance compared to the idea of it having happened if I wasn't there to observe it...

Having powerwashed the Chromebook, I of course had to reinstall the Linux container - no worries, since I'd made a backup, right?

Wrong. I failed multiple times to restore from the backup (this having been made using Chrome OS's built-in tools precisely for this purpose). It kept failing due to issues with space (though I'm not sure if this was on the Chrome OS 'partition', or the Linux one). The way I eventually managed to fix it was with a bit of googling which revealed that the .tini file the backup creates is actually just a .tgz archive file, or something along those lines. You can basically just extract the archive file and then grab the files you need. The archive holds a ton of stuff you don't necessarily need, so it might just be the user folder you need. It did remind me that I still find the linux filesystem completely alien, and I never know where anything is. This has been the case for twenty years and I don't see it ever changing.

So I was able to simply recreate a new Linux container, move over my user folder, and then I had to reinstall about three... things? Applications? Packages? (node, npm, eleventy, etc)... and then I was back up and running reasonably quickly.

...do I enjoy this process? This system of trying to do something, it breaking, trying to diagnose it, failing, and having to start over? It's something I actually have taken a lot of joy from ever since I started mucking about with computers. I get that most people would like to just use something that just works. And so do I most of the time. But I do have to say I really enjoy getting my hands a bit dirty, having to search for some answers, and maybe learning something along the way. It's just part of the process for me.

What's next for this website? I need to add some photos to that page at some point. But it isn't a priority. Ironically I also need to remove about 90% of the images currently saved in the project folder. It contains a direct rip of the old Wordpress site, complete with about five different-sized versions of all the images ever used on the blog. My plan would be to a) only have one version of each image that is actually linked to from a blog post, and b) to do some optimization so that that image is a nice compromise between small enough to load quickly and large enough to look okay on a normal-sized desktop monitor.

Maybe, if I can be bothered, I might take some more time on the /photo/ page and have that deliberately serve the most appropriate-sized images on loading. We'll see. It may simply not be worth my time.