When fsck on boot fails, it dumps the user into a shell.. and unless he is a Unix sysadmin, he will be lost.
Solution: Replace the current message with something like:
Repairing your file system may cause errors!!! Do you want to: [F]orce Repair, get to a [S]hell or [R]eboot:
1) Just rebooting when fsck fails is ... going to fail again. That's not useful.
2) If it fails to the point when you get a shell, forcing a fsck won't work - it dies because -y doesn't work.
Which leaves dropping to a shell, which is what we do.
Still, this is a moment of utter panic and confusion for anyone inexperienced with fsck. That's a lot of desktop Linux users. (Won't anyone think of the grandmothers!) The present interface simply abandons the user; it needs to be more guiding. If a fsck -y fails, then it should explain why it failed, what files might be gone, or if all hope is lost...
1) Rebooting can be useful if you want to reboot onto something else (a usb key or a rescue network boot or whatever and for some reason you can't directly access the power key).. alright, not that useful..
1.1) I agree we need to keep the current "drop me to a shell" for the few people who understand debugfs and other exciting tools.
2) It currently doesn't try -y, it tries -a ... which will only do "safe repairs", -y can often help. (unless -y is in /fsckoptions..)
3) Even if -y fails, there should really be more help.
For the the case I had today (using F9), the user got it working just by doing "fsck /dev/...." and answering "y" a few times, so -y would have definitely worked.
Whenever I've tried to "repair" a filesystem using fsck -y the filesystem has been destroyed and would no longer even get to /bin/bash the next time round. In my experience if the system is asking you this question you are already in trouble and at a bare minimum you have to understand what /lost+found means.
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I'm still not sure what sort of useful guiding information could be here that doesn't require 2 screens of data and a sysadmin background. Closing for now.