Sorry for the enthusiasm, but my Dad and I managed to fix it late last night / early this morning - perfect father-son activity, lol (funny how Linux always works best in the early hours...guess that's when it was programmed
). Guess I'm just a little bit happy that I got m'Tux back, that's all...
Anyway, for the curious and those with similar problems, I'll write a (fairly) quick account of what I broke, how I broke it, and how my Dad fixed it... My little contribution to the Linux Cause...
The problem started when I got messages in KDE saying 'mount: only root can do this' when I tried to mount CDs and DVDs. I thought (wrongly) that it was all to do with the ownership of the mount executable in /bin, so I did a "chown karl /bin/mount", hoping that that would solve it. *BIG* mistake. It didn't work, and I decided I'd go to bed and think about it, but when I tried to boot it up the next day I got more messages saying "mount: only root can do this" during booting. Linux couldn't boot *any* of my drives (I think the problems started with /proc - those of you with any Linux knowledge will know that not being able to mount that is a pretty dire situation!!). After that, everything fell down in a big ugly mess, normally resulting in the system freezing when the kernel couldn't find some modules (can't remember which). I couldn't even get to a command prompt - the keyboard would freeze up long before I got that far :-(
Now for the fix. Thanks for the suggestion, Frogman (and another thank you for the quick response!!), but inserting the install CD and trying to repair with that didn't work - the installer kept insisting that it couldn't find any Linux partitions, and suggested that I install a new one instead. Not what I was after, in short.
Eventually my Dad and I went for the best recovery CD you can get - Knoppix 3.2 (www.knoppix.org
) :-) . For those of you who are new to Linux, Knoppix is a Linux distro that you run off a CD, with no need for anything to be installed on the hard drive at all. It provides a complete desktop, office tools....and crucially, a command prompt with root access.
We booted up Knoppix 3.2, and it detected my Linux partitions just fine. First job was to find my /bin partition - just did this by looking in each partition one at a time until I found one that looked like /. It turned out to be /mnt/hdb12. First problem though - Knoppix had mounted all my partitions in read-only mode, so we had to become root (no password needed on Knoppix to become root BTW), unmount the partition and then remount it in read-write mode.
Once that was out the way, we quickly found the offending executable in /mnt/hdb12/bin . Once there, it was was a case of typing "chown root.root /mnt/hdb12/bin/mount" and rebooting. Net result - one working system and one very red faced newbie who realises that he has a lot to learn about Linux ;-) .
Anyway, I hope this will help out anyone who gets into a similar fix...