"So . . . being a good little boy I did. But then fsck began to ask me if I wanted to fix every freaking inode, magic flag, etc, etc. Let's just say my hands got tired of hitting the "Y" key. I managed to jury-rig it so that my "Y" key was pressed down. I went away for some time and came back. The inode count was up to well over 206,000."
You can use the -a option in fsck to tell fsck to stop asking permission to fix things, just do it.
" I would really like it if someone told me what the heck inodes are."
Inodes are the file system control blocks used to keep track of disk space, whether it is free space, allocated to a file, etc.
"Why did my superblock go bad?"
The most common cause of disk problems is shutting the computer down without going through shutdown (power failure, fumble fingers, whatever). Linux keeps a huge disk cache to speed up disk access. There are usually cache buffers for disk writes that have not been written yet. Normal shutdown includes writting all dirty buffers to disk. Abnormal shutdown may leave your disk corrupt with some disk blocks changed correctly and other changes not having been written yet..
"Also, is there any way I can save the error messages that come up when I try to boot into Linux? It's a pretty big pain trying to write stuff down on a peice of paper."
You can display the messages from the last boot with:
You can display any boot message which contains a particular set of characters, such as disk with:
dmesg | grep disk
"Should I just reinstall linux?"
I suggest that you boot a rescue CD such as knoppix and run fsck:
fsck.ext3 -a /dev/hda3
or whatever partition number Mandrake is on. Then see if Mandrake works. If not then reinstall Mandrake.
Be prepared. Create a LifeBoat CD.