I was dealing with some pc-based touch screen games (by Merit Ind. : Megatouch Force 2004/5) running on linux. Their mobo was set to AT, so the power switch is connected to AC line. Now, every single day, those machines are turn on and turn off with this switch.

After couple month operation, many of them have out of order. And i check it, it was the hdd can not be read/identify anymore. With some of them still usable, i clone and running test for a month. In about 2 weeks, it shows some error while boot up.
So, i was come to suspect that it is because the switching mechanism that made the hdd broken.

Afaik, our pc just the same. It must somehow perform shutdown process before power off. I install linux (RH9), to see if i can get some information. Btw, anyone know how to identify linux distro, from reading the hdd partition? (the game itself don't tell, even after i running bash prompt and see the environment vars).

In RedHat9, i tried to press power button (ATX), and it instantly off without any shutdown process (i.e. unmount drive). I have search on the net for this power button handling, but seems to be refer to a hard task. Some mention about recompile the kernel.

Contacting the manufacturer seems not to be an option. because we bought them via supplier. And as i concern, maybe the machine was design to be running non-stop everyday in their country. But this is not applicable in ours.

well, yes, they are providing way to perform shutdown process before power off, by using a keyboard (which is not designed to be exist except in maintenance situation). Now, providing each machine with a keyboard, hoping someone to press ctl-alt-del everytime before switching the machine off is not an option.

i am no expert in hdd stuff. but, i knew some games utilizing hdd as their storage. recent konami and atari games utilize them. the diff is they are not using commercial pc motherboard. they develop their own system board. it strange that it doesn't happen to these games (i never found one until this moment).
yes, they are turn on in morning and turn off instantly in the end of the day without any problem to their hdd.

Anyone know what exactly they do, or somewhat a way to deal with this problem?

thanks (sorry for this long reading)
Posted on 2005-04-10 21:30:41 by dion
There are two integrity issues.

1) Physical integrity - if the read/write heads are located over the data area of the disk when the power shuts off, two things happen: the disk rotation slows down, and there is potentially a magnetic pulse in the read/write head. If the heads aren't moved out of the data area soon enough, you lose the "laminar airflow" which keeps the heads off the disk surface - and you get a scratch on your disk surface. If there is a magnetic pulse in the head when power is shut down, you will remagnetize some random area of the disk, corrupting your data or file system. It may even corrupt synchronizing data such as sector headers.

Modern drives are supposed to move the head out of the data area quickly when it detects power outage, and prevent a magetic pulse on the read/write head. Older drives did not have this feature, and you needed to "park" the heads (by moving them out of the data area) before powerdown if you wanted to maintain physical integrity.

2) File system integrity - if there is write caching of data, the OS and the hard disk controller need enough time to flush data to the magnetic surface of the disk. If the unwritten data is system information, such as file directories, inodes, or allocation maps, then the file system gets corrupted. These errors may or may not be correctable by software on boot up.

You may notice that modern computer systems have a "soft" power key. You need to hold the button for several seconds before the machine shuts down. It may even be detected by the OS, so that the OS initiates a proper shutdown procedure before powering off the computer.
Posted on 2005-04-10 22:52:24 by tenkey