Took some time today to try and figure what went wrong with my home server, and if any of the files on it are recoverable. I'm hoping the picture files can be saved, since I don't have any backups of many of them.
I moved the server from my garage to my room, where I have a keyboard and mouse handy. The first problem was figuring out what the terrible grinding noise when I started up the machine was. I knew it wasn't the hard drives, since I pulled both the old drives and put a new one in. It turned out that it was the CPU fan, which I fixed (at Adam's suggestion) by shooting a little bit of chain wax into the fan. Probably not the best solution in the long run, but this is a disposable box at this point. If it can limp along for another six months or so I can replace it with something better. Something with RAID, that can survive a disk crash.
Tried installing the version of Suse I had CDs for (9.2), however the installer simply crashed when I tried to install it. I downloaded a newer version of the OS off the net (10.0), and the installer for that version was more helpful about why it wouldn't install -- it informed me that I didn't have enough memory to run the installer, and would I activate some swap space, please. This is a little difficult when you're trying to install on a new disk, and the disk doesn't have a swap partition, because you can't run the installer.
So, I pulled out an old Knoppix CD and fired up Knoppix to partition the drive. Luckily it's an old version of Knoppix, so it didn't have any problems booting on my old machine (the server only has 128M of RAM, which is causing the problem). With the added swap the installer was able to start up, and is currently downloaded the OS over the internet (according to the estimat-o-meter, this will take about an hour).
(2PM) The estimat-o-meter is not to be trusted. At least, it only estimated part of the problem... I have now watched all the episodes of "The Daily Show" queued up on my Tivo, including the hilarious "Freedom Tickle", which probably deserves its own post.
The installer has finally finished the install process and booted the machine, just in time for me to pack my hockey gear and leave. So I still have no idea if I'll be able to recover my data.