After connecting it to an USB 2.0 port, the disk was correctly recognized as /dev/sda, and a nautilus window opened showing the contents of the preformatted NTFS partition. It was all smooth and fine, but I wanted to do some serious stuff with that drive, eg. keeping backups with symbolic liks preserved, and felt as if NTFS is not exactly the right filesystem for me.
Thus I invoked fdisk to repartition the hard drive. I made one 80Gb Linux partition (/dev/sda1) for normal use and one 40Gb windows partition (/dev/sda2), just in case.
$ fdisk /dev/sda d,1 n,p,1 n,p,2 t,1,83 t,2,7 p q
Then I tried to format /dev/sda1. However, I've made a mistake: I've invoked both mkfs.ext3 and fdisk without root permissions. I have started relying on sudo only recently (2 years, time flies when you've got little children), so I forgot both options, either to become a superuser or to simply say sudo in front of fdisk. I mean, I was formatting disks, one would thought that the computer would recognize a need for becoming root :-)
$ mkfs.ext3 /dev/sda1It went fine in the beginning, but in the end I've received a most disturbing error message:
ext2fs_mkdir: Attempt to read block from filesystem resulted in short read while creating root dirAfter that, the drive become invisible to the system:
$ fdisk /dev/sda Unable to open /dev/sda
I've browsed the internet for the error, and found no clues for solving the problem (only open questions). I've re-attached the drive and tried with a different tool. I again forgot to become superuser :-), but parted warned me:
$ parted /dev/sda WARNING: You are not superuser. Watch out for permissions.So I did the right thing:
$ sudo parted /dev/sdaThen I did simply:
(parted) mkfs 1 ext2 (parted) mkfs 2 fat32And then everything started to function just fine.
The conclusion? Either fdisk or mkfs.ext3 messed up the because it was invoked without root privileges. This should be fixed in my opinion. I post this so that other people when encountering this same message might read about my experience and hopefully avoid a few hours of frustration.