Funny how much time a man can spend on technology.
I got myself a new harddisk for my laptop. A 320GB WesternDigital with 16MB cache spinning at 7200 rpm. Great. But how do I move from the old 100GB harddisk to the new one?
So I decided to do a bit of research before doing it. And while I was doing that, I started moving all data off the old one over to a USB disk.
The first thing I quickly decided on was that I wanted a dual boot system. I have been using Linux on and off for a long time and I finally wanted to use as much time using it as possible. The next I had to decide was what distro to go for. Linux comes in many flavours, and it can be a nightmare to choose. But I had always liked the Ubuntu family and on a different computer I have Linux Mint installed. This is one of the many offsprings of Ubuntu.
But for my laptop I decided to use Kubuntu. I had heard a lot of good stuff about it and the new KDE looked great. There was also this thing of getting as close to the source as possible. Mint is great looking and has some extra features I would have loved. But as it is an offspring of Ubuntu, their releases are always behind and I wanted to be able to use all updates as they were released from the Ubuntu team. After communicating with people in the Kubuntu forum, I did what I consider to be a little bold move: I went for the Kubuntu 9.04 aplha6 release. This is a test version of Kubuntu that will be released in April this year. For Ubuntu and Kubuntu the first digit signifies the year. So for 2009 the first digit becomes 9. The two digits after the period is the month. So April is 04. The Ubuntu family has two major releases every year. One in April and one in October. As someone in the forum pointed out, we are very close to the release for April and the other people testing it reported that it was already very stable.
Partitioning the harddisk
When you want to have two operating systems on your harddisk you have a few considerations to make. Do you want them to just live side by side with no interaction, or do you want to be able to use some data in both systems? How much space do you have to give to each? And how do you want to organize each one of them?
I also had the added problems of a couple of special partitions on my old harddisk. The old one looked like this:
- fat16 86.26MB – a rescue partition set up by Dell
- ntfs 88.66GB – the main system partition that contained WindowsXP Pro
- fat32 3GB – the MediaDirect partition
MediaDirect has it’s own button on my laptop, and when I press it, the laptop boots a special OS that works like a media center wher I can play DVD’s, watch pictures or listen to music.
I researched several forums to try to figure out wether to bring the rescue partition and MediaDirect over to the new harddisk. But eventually decided to scrap both. If my operating system needs rescue, it is better done from the install CD. And I will have two OS’es on the harddisk, so I did not want to take the chance of anything like that messing up the systems.
The MediaDirect partition was actually a bigger concern. Basically what I am a little afraid of is what will happen if I press the button and there is no MediaDirect partition? One of the forums mentioned a talk with Dell support where they said that the button would be dead without this partition. So that is what I am hoping for. But have not dared to try yet…
Another choice I made was to separate data and the operating systems. And as some of my work will generate a lot of data (video editing) from WindowsXP, I decided that the biggest partition would be a data partition formatted with ntfs. Here is the formatting I finally went for:
- Primary - ntfs - WindowsXP – 30GB
- Primary - ntfs - Data – 230GB
- Primary - ext3 - Kubuntu – 15GB
- Logical - ext3 - /home – 20GB
- Logical - linux-swap – swap – 4GB
For the actual partitioning I used a live CD version of gparted.
I wanted to put the whole Documents and Setting plus the Program Files folder on the Data partition. That got me into another big round of research.
Preparing a special WindowsXP boot CD
To get Documents and Settings and the Program Files folder onto the Data partition, it turned out I had to modify the WindowsXP setup CD. I could have done it by making a floppy disk with the setup in a textfile and boot off that one. But I do not have a floppy drive, so I had to go for the whole CD setup.
The first step was to copy all files from the CD that I got together with my laptop over too my harddisk. As I now had moved everything in My Documents on the old harddisk over to a USB disk, I had a lot of space to do this.
I also needed to copy the bootfile from the CD. To do this I used a small program called ISOBuster. It is recommended that you write down the name of the original CD and use the same for your new one.
To get things the way I wanted, I had to do what is called an Unattended install with the setup for it in a small textfile. This file had to be called winnt.sif and should be put in the i386 folder on the CD. On some webpages it says that you need to use a batch file to start the process, but in my case it was enough to just place the file in the right folder. There was a file like that already there, but the content was only two lines and just to be sure, I included them in my file.
Here is what I put in the file:
Hibernation = No
CommonProgramFilesDir=”D:\Program Files\Common Files”
ProfilesDir=”D:\Documents and Settings\”
DefaultStartPanelOff = Yes
DefaultThemesOff = Yes
If you want to do this yourself, you can use this as a starting point. There were a couple of things that did not work as expected. First of all, I had one character in the license wrong. But as I used the mode UnattendMode=ProvideDefault, the settings in this file are only used as default answers and I am allowed to correct them during install.
One question I had before installing was what letter my Data partition would get. As you have to include it in the path where you want Documents and Settings and the Program Files folder, it was important to know. I could not find this anywhere on the internet, so I took a chance on the first available letter, D, and hoped the DVD drive would stay out of the way
This turned out to be correct, so that part of the winnt.sif was correct. But I got some of the timezone wrong. And the screen resolution did not matter, as the driver for my graphics card was not included on the CD. But again – I could correct anything that needed correction during the installation.
I also used the opportunity to avoid installing some programs as well as setting the theme to the classic Windows 2000 look. I prefer this when working with video editing.
The installation itself was pretty straightforward. After installing Windows XP, I added the drivers from the Dell driver CD. Windows XP actually occupies very little of the 30GB space as the folders that tend to grow are located on the Data partition. So I might eventually be able to decrease the WindowsXP partition and increase the Data partition. But time will show.
Since this, I have now transferred all the files from my old Documents and Settings to the new Data partition. I still have to sort things, and this time I will go through everything. The previous times I have changed computers or harddisks, I have usually copied the whole thing over and I now have files from a long time back that could have been deleted. Time to clean!
I also made another decision. The new WindowsXP installation will not have any chat programs installed at all. And my mailprogram here is Thunderbird Portable. As far as possible, I will use portable version of programs to avoid littering the filesystem too much.
Then the time had come to install Kubuntu. As I had already done the partitioning, I chose manual partition. I then had to choose what to put where, and go on with the install. Just before the installation really starts, I was given a summary page with an Advanced button on the bottom, right side. I clicked it because I was thinking of putting the bootloader on the Kubuntu partition instead of the MBR. But as far as I could see, I did not have that choice. I could only choose sda (the whole disk). So this presumably meant that it went on the MBR. The reason why I wanted this was that I was hoping it would mean that the MediaDirect button would then boot Kubuntu if pressed when the laptop is off.
The Kubuntu installation was a lot smoother than WindowsXP. Nicer graphics and no drivers to install after. I did try to activate the special nVidia drivers, but for some reason it did not work. As it is, the laptop works very well. It was easy to connect to the wireless network and the Data partition comes right up. As well as my connected USB disk. It even has detected the built-in webcam, but that part needs a little bit more finetuning to be ok.
I am slowly finding my way around Kubuntu. The Kubuntu forum is a great help with a lot of friendly people. You can ask any question and get a lot of helpful answers. I am really impressed by the positive tone in that forum.
What is next?
I have already installed Avid MediaComposer and Adobe Photoshop CS2 in WindowsXP. I might try to install Photoshop in Kubuntu under Wine, but not yet.
Kubuntu comes with OpenOffice installed and this has been my choice of office software for some time now. Some of the applications that come with Kubuntu are worth a special mention. Kopete is something like a nicer, Kubuntu version of Pidgin. I am already using it as I need it to stay in touch with customers, friends and family. Konqueror, the webbrowser in Kubuntu, looks nice. But I prefer using Firerfox so I have already installed this. I have also added the Foxmarks plugin as I do on all computers I use. This let me synchronize my bookmarks in all computers and OS’es. Works like a charm! Amarok is so far the best music player I have seen on Linux. I warned me the first time I used it that it needed some extra codecs to be able to play the music I had. The MP3 codec is not included as default in Kubuntu, but that is easily fixed. Just let Amarok take care of it!
In Kubuntu, the program that takes care of updating your system and install new software is called KpackageKit in version 9.04 . It seems this program still has some bugs, but in general it does it’s job. One of the first things to do after the installation of 9.04 alpha6 was to download updated files. There were already over 300 files that needed to be updated so I let it run over night because of the slow line here. Before the update I had some program crashes, and it seems the update has taken care of most of that. No crashes so far today.
Thunderbird has for a long time been my mailprogram of choice and I have already installed it in Kubuntu. But how do you make sure you do not make a mess with the two operating systems? The solution was to keep the mailprofile on the Data partition and point Thunderbird under Kubuntu to this folder. To do that I had to edit a settings file that is found in the /home/.mozilla-thunderbird folder. To see this folder, I had to switch on Show hidden files in the filemanager. The file to edit is called profiles.ini and it is as simple as changing this section:
Here what I put:
Path=/media/Data/Portable Program Files/ThunderbirdPortable/Data/profile
Everything comes up as normal and I read that you can even point it to a network folder so you can keep all your mail on a server.
There are several programs I still need to install. Skype being one of them. Little by little, Kubuntu will become my main workplatform.
Does this sound interesting? Would you do the same? Let me know what you think of my experiment.