Stage 1: Portable Multi-Distro Linux USB Drive

Like the title says, I want to install 5 Linux distributions on my USB drive. It is a Western Digital Scorpio drive with 80GB of space. I thought it was broken and unusable until I plugged it in recently. Seems it was the pc that wasn’t reading it right after all. Now that I have a new power supply unit in this old box, everything seems peachy. I was using the drive as a back up but I already have 3 hard drives and only 2 are currently plugged in. I ran out of IDE connectors. Did I mention it’s old? :p

I have my drives set up to work independently as I sometimes take them out and test them on other pc’s. I don’t need all of them to be hooked up just to boot up one drive or OS. I just invoke the BIOS Boot Menu using F11 during POST and pick the one I want. Simple and easy for me.

I used my GParted Live CD to make the partitions the way they are now. See image below. Shrunk my NTFS I use as a windows back up sometimes. Next up was 2 Gigs of swap then an extended 60GB partition for my /home and 5 partitions for the Linux distributions I want to try. Looks nice and organized and most importantly – it works fine.

GParted Screenshot of USB Drive Partitions

I got the torrent from and got some rest while waiting for it to finish. Burned it at the lowest possible speed using the simple CD writer in Linux Ubuntu 8.04, my primary distribution. I had some issues booting up the Live CD. I got an “(initramfs)” prompt instead of a regular desktop. Using the Compatibility Mode, I found out that it was some error with it not detecting the floppy and SCSI devices. I used the Live CD troubleshooting guide provided by nice people in the Mint Forums. Pressed F6 during splash, pressed tab, deleted “quiet splash–” and entered “all_generic_ide”. That worked and let me into the Live environment. I liked what I saw, was curious and proceeded.

The installation was smooth. My first boot was met with the famous Grub Error 17 and 18. The reason being how the BIOS and the Live CD arranged the drives. In the Live CD, the usb drive was third and my BIOS read it as the first drive. The solution was to edit the menu.lst and change all references to (hd2,4) to (hd0,4), which is where my Mint is.

Tried again and here I am posting the results. Four more distributions to go. I’ve narrowed down my choices based on release date, number of packages and most important is the community or support. I did not include Linux Ubuntu since I’m already using that and it has its own hard drive in my pc. The list goes:

  • ArchLinux – 10/07/2007 with 15,000 packages
  • Debian – 04/08/2007 with 26,000 packages
  • Fedora – 05/13/2008 with 8,000 packages
  • Mandriva – 04/09/2008 with 16,000 packages
  • Sabayon – 09/07/2007 with 12,000 packages
  • Sidux – 04/12/2008 with 22,950 packages
  • [Simply]MEPIS – 12/23/2007 with 20,000 packages

*data is based on

I wanted the distribution to be recent, within the last year or 2 years, so I wouldn’t be learning something that’s at the end of its life cycle. I wanted as much packages as possible because… just because. I’m still a beginner and still have a lot to learn. Now I have not looked into the community or support sites for these distributions yet. Well, I went into Debian once but for after reading some threads, I felt unwelcome because of my choice of OS – Ubuntu. I will give it another go and keep an open mind.

That’s about it for today. The rest is yet to be determined. Hopefully, I’ll get more information in a few days and start installing a 2nd OS on my USB drive. Until then…


Conky and Compiz Fusion in Hardy Heron 8.04

My Linux Ubuntu upgrade from Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 to Hardy Heron 8.04 was not painless. I encountered crash reports but was unable to open the actual report and it wouldn’t update. So I went ahead and did a clean install of the latest Ubuntu offering. It went fine. My only issue is it won’t read a certain DVD I have although it works with others. But no big deal. On to the tweaking…

I edited my Advanced Desktop Effects Settings. In CompizConfig Settings Manager, I went into General Options>Desktop Size tab and changed the Horizontal Virtual Size to 4 so I can get a cube. Then I enabled the Desktop Cube, Rotate, and Cube Caps. Everything else is in their default state. Cube works with no problems. I’ve also figured out where to adjust the size of the cube when rotating. It’s under CCSM>Rotate Cube>General>Zoom. The higher the zoom number, the smaller the cube gets.

And my favorite application, Conky does what it usually does and like always after an upgrade, I am left to tinker to get my temperatures to show up. I will list the commands I’ve used to get this up and running:

sudo apt-get install conky
sudo apt-get install lm-sensors libsensors3 libsensors4 sensors-applet libsensors-applet-plugin0 hddtemp
sudo sensors-detect (answer "Y" to all questions)
sudo gedit ~/.conkyrc

The last code will open up a text file where you can copy/paste or create your own conky settings. To make conky start automatically everytime you boot up, go to System>Preferences>Sessions and add “conky” to the start up programs. Take note of the lowercase letters or else it won’t work. After this, restart your computer and you should be able to see the fruits of your labor. I will attach my conky code as well as the screenshots:

background yes
use_xft yes
xftfont HandelGotD:size=9
xftalpha 0.5
update_interval 1.0
total_run_times 0
own_window yes
own_window_type normal
own_window_transparent yes
own_window_hints undecorated,below,sticky,skip_taskbar,skip_pager
double_buffer yes
minimum_size 200 5
maximum_width 200
draw_shades no
draw_outline no
draw_borders no
draw_graph_borders yes
default_color white
default_shade_color red
default_outline_color green
alignment top_right
gap_x 12
gap_y 48
no_buffers yes
uppercase no
cpu_avg_samples 2
override_utf8_locale no

$sysname $kernel on $machine

Uptime $alignr $uptime
Load $alignr $loadavg

Hostname $alignr $nodename
eth0 $alignr ${addr eth0}
Mobo CPU Temp $alignr ${hwmon temp 1}C ${hwmon temp 2}C
HDDlinux $alignr /dev/hdb ${execi 300 nc localhost 7634 | cut -c53-54 ;}C
HDDwindows $alignr /dev/hda ${execi 300 nc localhost 7634 | cut -c27-28 ;}C

CPU $alignr ${cpu cpu0}%
${cpubar cpu0}

MEM $alignc $mem / $memmax $alignr $memperc%

/root $alignc ${fs_used /} / ${fs_size /} $alignr ${fs_free_perc /}%
${fs_bar /}

/home $alignc ${fs_used /home} / ${fs_size /home} $alignr ${fs_free_perc /home}%
${fs_bar /home}

swap $alignc $swap / $swapmax $alignr $swapperc%

$processes processes ($running_processes running)

${color white}Highest CPU:
${color de0b0b}${top name 1}${top_mem cpu 1}
${color white}${top name 2}${top cpu 2}
${top name 3}${top cpu 3}
${top name 4}${top cpu 4}
${top name 5}${top cpu 5}

${color white}Highest MEM:
${color de0b0b}${top_mem name 1}${top_mem mem 1}
${color white}${top_mem name 2}${top_mem mem 2}
${top_mem name 3}${top_mem mem 3}
${top_mem name 4}${top_mem mem 4}
${top_mem name 5}${top_mem mem 5}

Down:${color} $alignr ${downspeed eth0} k/s${color} ${offset 80}
$alignc ${downspeedgraph eth0 32,150 de0b0b de0b0b}
Up:${color} $alignr ${upspeed eth0} k/s ${offset 80}
$alignc ${upspeedgraph eth0 32,150 de0b0b de0b0b}

Cube in Linux Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Compiz Fusion Cube in Linux Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Compiz Fusion Cube in Linux Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Compiz Fusion

I’m done for today. Might look into making Conky prettier in the future. Have a good day!

Overclocking Forays

I know nothing about overclocking but I am intrigued by it. I’ve read articles about the pros and cons and how-to’s but still very much apprehensive about the whole thing. One day I thought, as I was spending time “fixing” windows XP yet again, what the hell. If this old pc is gonna die, it might as well die overclocked.

So here’s what I have (hopefully it lasts longer): AMD Sempron 2200+ 1.5 GHz, Asrock K7VM3, PQI 512MB DDR 400, GeForce FX5200 128MB, 80GB Hitachi and 160GB Seagate HDD. I think the PSU is dying slowly by being choked with dust. It’s the only thing that I haven’t cleaned. After doing a lot of reading, I found out that the CPU is locked so I couldn’t touch the multiplier. The only thing that I could change was the FSB.

I then searched for the perfect software to go with this experiment. I got CrystalCPUID and Everest Ultimate Edition. The CPUID showed me all the numbers I needed to know about my CPU, motherboard and RAM. The Everest gave me all the temperatures I needed. Knowing how hot things are running is crucial as what I’ve learned. It also allowed me to do memory tests and stress tests to see how stable the setup is. I pressed F2 during the computer’s boot up process. I upped the FSB 1 MHz at a time until I reached 1.6 GHz. A bit over 6% of my original CPU speed. I did this using the BIOS. It gave me an option to manually set the FSB. It was pretty exciting for me.

This is measly compared to what experienced overclockers do to their systems. I am now in search for a better PSU and more fans so I can play with this old thing to push it further. I don’t wanna touch my newer X2 4000+ pc unless I feel confident that I’ve learned enough.