Begin again, again.

>> Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Well, I've reinstalled Kubuntu. I'm now running 7.10, the Gutsy Gibbon. Now to see if I can get things set up again: DVD playback, making sure my Firefox preferences stay preferred, getting the right number of virtual desktops and the launch panel configured. And getting the one Linux game I have, Neverwinter Nights reloaded and my save games restored.

Good grief, it's all a pain in the ass.

But it's not all bad: the thing about doing a clean reinstall is that you've learned from all the things you screwed up last time. This time, I'll get DVDs running without using Automatix. Automatix is a program that runs installation scripts for you, but it's a bit controversial among Linux geeks because of debates over its necessity and because it does seem to frag some installations by re-writing some initialization files in a sloppy-ish way. (Automatix is a likely suspect in my previous installation's inability to mount portable hard drives.)

And this time, I installed my root (the actual OS files necessary for installation) in one partition and my home folder (my data files) in a separate partition. This is a purely optional thing to do, but it means that future disasters will be segregated. If I manage to blowout the kernel (the core of the operating system--the files that tell your computer how to be a computer) like I did trying to fix Linux this week, my data should be in a separate place. And if the data gets corrupted, the operating system should be independent of the disaster, and in a better position to fix things.

(One of the perverse things about Linux and the Ubuntu family is that the data is more valuable than the operating system: if the operating system gets screwed, you can run it from a CD. But your data is only as good as your last backup.)

Partitioning the hard drive was a fairly simple point-and-click affair. In fact, the longest and most difficult part of the process was actually trying to decide how big to make my swap partition. Of the OS installations I've done over the years, Ubuntu/Kubuntu is so easy and painless, it's almost seems criminal, like deciding to eat another Krispy Kreme doughnut. I mean, you could (if you were a big enough nerd) almost spend a whole afternoon installing and reinstalling this thing.

The big pain isn't the basic installation, it's fixing the system to be the way you want it to be. Where are your fonts? Your icons? Your wallpapers? Why is the titlebar the wrong color, damnit? Getting a computer working at this stage bears some resemblance to a dog going to bed: turning around the right number of times, kneading the pillows into the right shape with the forepaws, chewing the rear leg until it feels right. A lot of steps that don't really seem to be necessary, but we're not bedding down until we have it right.

Anyway, that's the current situation. I may actually sleep alright tonight. And when I get all my virtual desktops tweaked, maybe I'll post some screenshots like a geek-father.




4 comments:

Rick Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 12:31:00 AM EDT  

it's also good to have either /usr/local or /opt as a separate partition so that other software that you install outside of your package mgmt system (like neverwinter nights or whatever) has a place to live and you don't have to deal with that after a reinstall.

For the next step, you should get a shell account somewhere and setup a secure rsync of your home directory to there as a cronjob (rdiff-backup is nice for this).

good times.

Eric Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 12:43:00 AM EDT  

Rick:

I can see where installing /usr/local into a separate partition would be useful. Thank you very much for the tip!

Slowly but surely I'm learning how to get a Linux install right. I haven't been this happy with a computer setup since the ancient days when I ran OS/2.

Rick Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 12:52:00 AM EDT  

some distros recommend a separate (small) /boot also, and in the old days I built a separate /var because a mad runaway logging process could fill your / and take you down, but with larger hard drives and more mature software it's not so necessary...I don't think you need to worry about either of those.

If you're worried about that sorta stuff, you can do some monitoring. monit is a handy free tool that's easy to configure.

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