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to linux or not to linux...

On Mon, Dec 20, 2004 at 10:47:29AM -0500, Stephen Adler wrote:
> My new notebook is on the fedex delivery truck and should be in my
> hands within hours... :) But, now I have to deal with the inevitable..
> loading linux, getting the damn thing to properly dual boot linux and
> windows XP etc. etc.

Very fun.

I bought a new Panasonic Toughbook W2 last summer and love it.

I wiped the Windows software and simply put on Gentoo.  Were I to do
it again (and maybe I will), I would do things a bit differently.

First, I would have kept a Windows partition and maybe used vmware or
boch (sp?) to occasionally use it.

Second, as a personal system I want two conflicting things: Stability
and bleeding edge.  Gentoo is good at letting me see something cool
mentioned on Slashdot and typing: 

 # emerge nifty_program_I_did_not_know_about_before

As for stability, I recently revved my mother-in-law's computer in a
pretty redundant way.  I used Whitebox Linux, but the idea applies
elsewhere, two-thirds even apply to a notebook.

I have three different kinds of redundancy:

  1. Software raid 1.  Protects against many hardware failure
     scenarios.  OK, won't work for any reasonable notebook, but a
     good idea otherwise.

  2. Incremental backups using link-dest feature of rsync, so a series
     of complete filesystem trees are available with a simple changing
     of directory.  (The link-dest switch uses hard links to keep
     single copies of files that haven't changed.)

  3. A completely independent and bootable copy of "/" (less "/home"
     and the backups from item 2 above).

The incremental backups happen on a cron, the OS backup is something I
manually invoke before I do something that might hose my system,
such as install a new kernel.

Each OS copy has its own /boot, but the real /boot is actually another
partition that doesn't stay mounted after boot (learned that from
Gentoo), so I don't have to worry about some yum script ruining my
grub.conf.  After I install a new kernel I look at what they might
have done and manually update the real grub.conf.  I keep supposedly
failsafe entries in the grub.conf that boot off other kernels, the
other OS copy, and boot off the other raid disk.  I copied the grub
boot blocks across to the other drive so it can also start the boot.
With a little pressing of up and down keys (and possibly some BIOS
settings changes) I should be able to talk her through to a booting
computer that I could then fix remotely.

The fatal problem she previously had with the computer is that it sits
in LA, in a room that can get *very* hot on a summer afternoon, and
the disks cooked.  This time I have an hourly cron job that puts the
computer to sleep if either disk hits 45C.

My choice of Whitebox Linux is that she had been on Red Hat 9 and it
seemed it would be most familiar.

Do others have experience with keeping multiple copies of the OS
around in ways like this?


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