Today my daughter was using my machine for her online games when she came down to me in a panic. She kept saying that she didn't do anything, but, the screen turned black. I came and saw some messages about the kernel. Not a problem, just reboot and let the system fix any file errors. When I did that the system would start fixing the error and then lock up or randomly reboot. I remember that this happened earlier this summer so I figured bad memory or a hard drive problem.
My next task was to pull out my bootable CDs and work with them. Each one would give either a kernel panic or VFS error and lock up. I tried again with the SLAX USB key that is bootable and I got the same problem. I then downloaded a current copy of PCLINUX OS V0.93A and fired that up. Again it locked so I tried the 'MEMTEST' option. When that started it generated hundreds of errors when it was checking the RAM. I shut down the system and opened it up. There was a bit of dust so I cleaned out the system and tried again. The next run of MEMTEST still picked up memory errors. It looks like the 512M memory stick is fried. I will be going out on Sunday to pick up a new 512M and try that. The first thing I will be doing when the system is back up is to do a full backup as it has been a month since my last backup.
If you don't have a copy of PCLINUX OS I highly recommend that you do. The MEMTEST option by itself is worth the time to download and burn a CD. INSERT also has MEMTEST if you want to use that distro.
I installed a new 512M memory module in the system. When I booted up I let the system fix the file areas and Linux is now up and running without a problem. In the future if you get kernel panic or VFS errors you may want to check the memory first before any other problem.