Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ubuntu liveUSB

A couple of weeks ago disaster struck! I went into my office to compute a bit only to get an omnious message from Windows to back up my hard drive as it was about to die. I don't know how it devined that though. I downloaded a SMART utility which told me that there were some dead spots but I though the drive would work around those. I quickly saved some of my more precious data, which was mostly digital camera pictures and movies. I also managed to save my browser data, a couple of VMs I was experimenting with and some other stuff but not everything. I left that afternoon and when we came back, the drive was dead. I felt a little like I lost an old friend too. I managed to order some new parts from Amazon, I usually use Newegg but Amazon was cheaper in this case. Got a new 500GB hard drive, as well as a Bluray burner and some media. The whole kit was a little pricy but I needed the hard drive to bring my computer back to life and I'm hoping to use the bluray stuff to make it easier to do backups.

While I was waiting on all of that stuff though, I went to Best Buy the next day and bought a couple of 16GB flash drives for around $13/each. What a deal! I used one to have another copy of pictures, etc. Before that, the only copy was on my Ubuntu fileserver where I had copied it to in a hurry when my main drive was dying. The other drive I installed Ubuntu to. I was running a LiveCD version of Ubuntu but annoyed with installing packages every time I rebooted. Wish I had the URL for the guide I followed, but it was very easy to put on USB flash drive. It setup a 4gb partition for user files, I resized the main partition and the user partition to give me more like 12gb of space. I ran like that for several days before my new components came in. I was actually kinda sad to go back to Windows after using it too. I've always liked Linux, really most of the reason I use Windows still is because of gaming and very few other applications. 99% of what I do is more than possible on Linux though. It was also nice to not have a hard drive chugging because Windows somehow needs to use swap space even though it has 6GB of ram.

As an aside, I'm working at a computer place in town now that has a nifty setup with Xen running multiple virtual machines for networking services. Some of those machines have at least 16GB of ram. I setup a machine to run Windows Server with SQL Server that could do 2 Xeon cpus and 18 sticks of ram. It had 5 sticks for 16GB (3x4GB, 2x2GB iirc). I guess if you put a bunch of 4GB sticks in it, you could run 72GB of ram! That's pretty spiffy! Of course, there's 9 slots per processor, and you can't run ram in 9 of them unless you have the 2nd processor also.

Moving forward, I'd like to maintain my Ubuntu LiveUSB and maybe even run from it some more. I'd also like to see if I can get my virtual machines to run in it. One of them is an old XP licensed from a computer I don't use anymore. I have that setup to run my old HP ScanJet that won't ever have Windows 7 drivers. That could possibly do some of my applications that I like to run. I'm sure I can use WINE, but maybe not? Plus I'm not sure stuff like PDF printers work under WINE.

I'm also thinking about running My Documents style directory from a USB flash drive. This isn't the first time I've lost documents, some of the fairly important, in a hard drive crash. I do need some sort of backup regimen also. If I can set things up right, I'd like to just go ahead and buy a new hard drive every year or 2 and transfer the contents of my operational drive to the new one to keep away from having a crash related to wear and tear. The question then is what to do with the used drives? Maybe I'll set them up to have online storage of stuff I have backed up on disc, but never original copies of data.

I also do need to concentrate data in one place. I'm fairly sure I lost a large archive of Ham Radio info because it was stored in some random place on my hard drive and I forgot to grab it when I could. Mostly cached copies of homebrew pages, so it's not original data but still there was a lot of it.

It is nice to boot up my VM with Windows XP on it and see the stuff there is untouched by my latest catastrophe. I might put more of my necessary programs into a VM like that, or that one at least, just to speed recovery from future crashes. It's very easy to save a copy of the hard drive image the VM programs use.

Man, this turned out longer than I thought it would be. Sorry for rambling.

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