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 LinuxMint.com 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 http://en.wikipedia.org

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…

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Finished Upgrade: Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 to Hardy Heron 8.04

Posting from Linux Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04, second try. My first try was doing an upgrade from the manager. After finishing that and booting up in Heron 8.04, 2 things caught my eye – the prompt for updates and a Crash Report. First thing I clicked on was the Crash Report but it does not respond. Clicking on Update Manager doesn’t do anything either. I went in search for possible solutions but none came soon enough. I wanted to give Heron a try and the wait was not promising. So I went with the popular vote and did a clean install.

I made the mistake of doing it with my XP drive still plugged in. My boot setup is that of two drives operating independently of each other with XP being the primary drive. Both XP and Ubuntu booted up as it should but the problem starts when you remove one drive. Grub error 17 comes up whenever that’s the case. Next order of battle is to fix the windows MBR. Luckily, when things were working I was able to burn a way out. I went into Recovery Mode DOS and entered “fixmbr”. Once that was done, XP booted up nice in its own independent way.

I then took off the XP drive, leaving only the Linux drive and booted up the LiveCD. Reinstalled Linux and of course take a nap. Grub is safe and sound only in the Linux drive. Everything works peachy. As in my last post, there are 2 main things I want working. My Conky and Compiz-Fusion settings aren’t up and running yet. But I will be working on those next. In the next release of Ubuntu, I will attempt the upgrade first and the clean install will be the last option. I just have to remember removing the XP drive if I end up doing it again.

To summarize: If upgrading does not work, remove the XP drive before doing a clean install. I’m glad to have kept a record of the changes I have made. At least I have some sort of guide to put my settings back the way they were in 7.10. I have XP and Linux Ubuntu 8.04 running as planned. Spent a good deal of time but definitely another learning experience worth the effort.

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.