hfs+ ate my baby


SAMSUNGI love my Xbox 360. It is a fine machine. With it, I have killed many a zombie, helped Scott Pilgrim defeat all of Ramona’s evil exes, and learned to play a number of Nirvana songs on my guitar. The pièce de résistance, though, is the Xbox’s ability to be a super awesome media center. I like that I can have any number of terrible horror movies on an external drive and play them at will. It’s like a Netflix that’s populated exclusively with straight-to-video horror. Oh, wait…

There is one catch, though. The formatting of the drive is funny. I usually keep it in FAT32 format, because that’s the most universal. I ran into a problem recently, though. With a FAT32 drive, the Xbox can only play files up to 2GB in size. Lame, right?

There are two accepted solutions to this problem: buy a proprietary Xbox hard drive (yeah, like that’s going to happen) or format the existing drive as hfs+. This struck me as odd, as hfs+ is a Mac format (and the Xbox is a Microsoft product). But whatevs, right? It’s a no-brainer. I plugged the drive into my Linux machine, fired up GParted, created a new partition and… nothing. Unfortunately, hfs+ was not an option.

Hmm. I looked into it and found that I could make hfs+ an option by installing the package “hfsprogs.” I did it and, in a rare instance of things going just right, it suddenly became available. I formatted the drive, dragged my >2GB movie onto it and plugged it in to the Xbox.

Only to find that the Xbox didn’t support the .mkv video format. So I reformatted the video as .avi and tried to drag it onto the drive. But no luck. All of a sudden, it was read-only. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, every time I plugged it in, it would flash all kinds of rude errors at me. So I reformatted it as FAT32 to see if it was an issue with the “hfsprogs” package. The FAT32 drive wouldn’t mount, either. And neither would any flash drive currently occupying space in my house.Screenshot from 2013-01-08 20:07:55

I was puzzled. I searched the Ubuntu discussion boards for hours trying to find even a hint of solution, but came up with nothing. So I had a conversation with my friend Johnny, the Linux guru over at Pensive Penguin. He suggested that my Ubuntu system might be storing some remnant of the hfs+ debacle in a file somewhere. I chewed on that thought for a while, even though it tasted foul. I had no idea which file might be the culprit. And there are a lot of them.

I googled some things, trying to find the missing piece of the puzzle that would turn Johnny’s suggestion into something I could actually do. I messed with the disk check utility, but that didn’t do anything. Then I remembered that Johnny had said that it might have something to do with a data cache of sorts (well, that’s what I took from what he said, at least) surrounding the mounting of the usb drive, that hfs+ whore. Not knowing exactly what to do, I decided to delete the mount point from the command line. I rebooted the computer and plugged my drive in.

It still didn’t work. In fact, the error it gave me was even more unpleasant, going on and on about superblocks and sleeping with my sister, and….superblocks? I’d never heard of those before. I did some googling about errors concerning superblocks and was directed to a system file called “/etc/fstab” (pictured above) that does some things with drive mounts. I opened it up and saw, right there, what Johnny was talking about- the darned thing was forcing my flash drive to mount like the computer’s hard drive as an hfs+ partition, which Linux doesn’t support.

So I put a stop (#) in front of it, saved the file, and my computer is back to normal. I can use my drives again. The lesson to take away here, I think, is that no horror movie’s quality gets too degraded by shrinking it to less than 2GB.


One thought on “hfs+ ate my baby

  1. Thanks for the kind words Caris. In Linux land the # sign is called bang. In fact there is a distro called Crunchbang that has this #! as their logo. What is amazing is how you continue to figure out all of these issues like you are the true guru. Linux is fun.

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