[svlug] linux installation advice?

Steve Litt slitt at troubleshooters.com
Tue Aug 7 19:13:33 PDT 2012

On Tue, 7 Aug 2012 10:49:30 -0700, Joanne Sun said:
> I need to get a laptop which runs a Unix or Linux command line prompt
> to install Python, Hadoop, Cascading stuff.
> Currently I have two laptops: a Win 7 Home and a Mac book pro (bought
> in 2007 or 2008 probably). I don't want to wipe out the Windows laptop
Hi Joanne,

The suggestions to just use your Mac's underlying BSD or use Virtualbox
on your Windows PC are certainly good ones.

My situation is I use Linux 99% of the time and Windows 1%, and my
laptop's short on memory, so here's what I did...

If the Windows computer had any data I needed, I would have backed it
up on another computer. It didn't, so I didn't.

I backed up the computer's MBR by dd'ing the first 512 bytes, backed up
the partition table in human readable terms with fdisk -l, and backed
up the laptop's rescue partition by mounting another computer's disk
space using sshfs, and using ddrescue (from System Rescue CD) to copy
the raw restore partition to a file on another computer. With those
three things, I'm pretty sure if worst comes to worst, I can put it
back to the original factory-installed Windows.

Next, I went into Windows, deleted any data I didn't need, and used
Windows' facilities to defragment. Then I used Windows' partition
shrinker to see how much I could shrink the C: partition. It wasn't the
partition size minus the amount of data, because it had some unmoveable

Next I rebooted to System Rescue CD, and used gparted to shrink that
same partition by the amount shown by Windows. Then I used the
recovered space to make a drive for Linux, and installed Ubuntu there.
Ubuntu's smart enough to set the MBR correctly, but if it somehow
doesn't, reboot to Super Grub 2 Disk and boot your new Linux partition,
and use update-grub and grub-install to reset Grub2 and set the MBR to
boot its menu.

A much better and less risky way to do it would be to buy a brand new,
significantly bigger drive for the notebook, lay the original MBR
down on it, use ddrescue to populate the /dev/sda? device that
originally contained the restore partition, boot Super Grub2 disk to
boot that restore partition, and restore a factory installation on the
new, bigger disk. After doing that and verifying that Windows runs,
boot the installer for the distro of your choice, and install Linux on
a partition comprised of the extra space this disk has at the end. This
method avoids the risk of shrinking the C: partition.

Like I said, the Mac-as-BSD and VirtualBox solutions might very well be
better for you, but if not, this is another method.



Steve Litt                *  http://www.troubleshooters.com/
                          *  http://twitter.com/stevelitt
Troubleshooting Training  *  Human Performance

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