Yearly setup of Linux


It seems like every year about this time I decide to do something with Linux on the desktop and this year has been no exception. Windows is starting to thrash the disk because I have crammed so much stuff on there and I have so many programs running.

So since the app of the year (for me) is GIS I decided to install a current Linux distribution on the hidden partition on the second drive of my Windows desktop box. Sometimes Linux installs go smoothly and sometimes they don’t. This time around I ended up doing everything twice. I chose Linux Mint 12 so as to use a package system that uses debs (apt). Mint gets fairly high marks from the community at large. I was able to install qgis, but had to do some configuring to get all the python plugins to work. This all would be OK except occasionally the screen comes up blank and I can’t seem to get to any other console screens either. This makes it hard to troubleshoot the problem and I may be giving up on it.

Side Effects

I put a fair amount of effort in to the installation and I don’t want to go through the individual installs again, so I decided to make a backup of the partition  before I try anything else. I booted partition magic with an old drive attached via USB to put the image on. My tried and true utility to make partition images with is partimage. Well it turns out that partimage does not know about ext4 partitions so it would fail with the cryptic message failed to read bitmap block 0.  I finally noticed that partimage thought that I had an ext3 partition and not an ext4.  A search turned up the fact that partimage doesn’t work on ext4. Gosh… I get to find a new tool. It turns out that the successor to partimage, fsarchiver is on the same bootable CD: parted magic. Clonezilla is also on there and I decided to use it instead of the command line tool fsarchiver. Fsarchiver is actually quite nice and has many features, but it is run from the command line and since I did not remember any of the commands so I chose Clonzilla which has a curses based menu system and not only does it copy the partition but it also saves the master boot record and a file fo use with fsdisk. Pretty slick. I managed to save the partition and I am glad I did because the next distribution I tried did not set up grub properly to boot from a second hard drive. It was getting late, so I just restored the deb based system to get a working system back on the drive.

So I have a working Linux system on my main desktop now. It was more work than usual or at least more work than last time. Qgis is working and I have tools installed to work with it and spatial databases so at this point I am happy. Along the way I found super grub disk which I could have used that first night, but may come in handy later when I try some else…