so, for some reason (most likely, because I pulled out my usb drive [older one, 256 MB] before unmounting or closing all the documents – doh!) All of the files on my usb key drive were now only read-only on my ubuntu 8.04 hardy install.
I panicked, briefly (my SIP, senior thesis was on here, and although I make backups, I hadn’t made one in 2 or 3 days).
First, I tried to change the permissions with chown: that didn’t work.
Then, I was recommended to use fsck, which is designed to repair the sectors of the disk.
sudo fsck /dev/sdb1 -t fat fsck 1.40.8 (13-Mar-2008) dosfsck 2.11, 12 Mar 2005, FAT32, LFN /SIP/SIP-class_mobility_as_a_diaspora.tex Contains a free cluster (108). Assuming EOF. /SIP/SIP-class_mobility_as_a_diaspora.tex File size is 17388 bytes, cluster chain length is 0 bytes. Truncating file to 0 bytes. Reclaimed 1 unused cluster (16384 bytes). Leaving file system unchanged. /dev/sdb1: 3287 files, 13969/15656 clusters
Apparently, the above description is something that would look right when it was prepared in fsck, but the files were still read-only for me. (thanks to jrib and blueeagle in the ubuntu irc channel for all of their advice on this).
At this point, I opened up that .tex file and realized the latter end of the file was missing (which didn’t contain any new information) . This led me to believe the file itself was still corrupt.
In the end, I copied all of the files to my local hard drive, and then booted up in windows xp to format the USB key. The USB Drive now functions normally. Thankfully, I didn’t lose any valuable data.