As a warning for those who are normally quick to upgrade to the latest stable vanilla kernel releases, a serious EXT4 data corruption bug worked its way into the stable Linux 3.4, 3.5, and 3.6 kernel series.
The reason why the problem happens rarely is that the effect of the buggy commit is that if the journal’s starting block is zero, we fail to truncate the journal when we unmount the file system. This can happen if we mount and then unmount the file system fairly quickly, before the log has a chance to wrap. After the first time this has happened, it’s not a disaster, since when we replay the journal, we’ll just replay some extra transactions. But if this happens twice, the oldest valid transaction will still not have gotten updated, but some of the newer transactions from the last mount session will have gotten written by the very latest transacitons, and when we then try to do the extra transaction replays, the metadata blocks can end up getting very scrambled indeed.