Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Going /home

With the release of Fedora 10 I thought I would take another look at running Linux on my laptop. I haven't changed my mind, however: I stick by my assertion that Linux is a great workbench, but a lousy desktop. I love working on Linux, but I'll be installing Fedora 10 on a separate hard drive.

One of things that might have caused my previous installation of Fedora to break so badly was that I upgraded it: from version 7 to version 8. It turns out that just because you can upgrade a system doesn't mean that you should: section of the Release Notes states "In general, fresh installations are recommended over upgrades." But if the OS is changing every 6 months, what do you do? Backing up your data (and all your settings) every time and then restoring it all to your new system is a serious pain. One answer to this is to create a separate /home partition. By doing this you can keep your stuff out of harms way when the system and the applications get nuked by the installer.

Creating a separate /home partition is beautifully easy on Fedora 10. When the installer gets to the bit about "Select which drive(s) to use for this installation", you just need to check the "Review and modify partitioning layout" box. On the next page, click the "New" button and then add a new partition with /home as the mount point; the only other thing you just need to do is set the size. I also checked "Encrypt" - meaning my personal data would be encrypted :-)

The Fedora installer does everything else for you - including resizing the other partitions so that your new /home partition fits.

Cool. Except before I could do this, I still needed to backup my data and settings from my old Fedora installation that didn't have a separate /home partition. To get this done, I created an archive of my old home directory:

#cd /home
#tar cfv David.tar David/

I then burnt David.tar to a DVD. Once Fedora 10 was installed I created my new "David" user account and let Fedora create a home directory. I then copied my David.tar file from the DVD to /home:

#cd /media
#cd "Personal Data, Dec 01, 2008"
#cp David.tar /home

I then deleted the "David" home directory that Fedora had created for me, and recreated it from the .tar file:

#cd /home
#rm -rf /home/David
#tar xvf ./David.tar

Finally, I needed to make my user account the owner of the directory.

chown -hR David /home/David

I logged on, and it worked! My desktop appeared just as I remembered it. Maybe I didn't need to create a /home partition after all...

Footnote. Sadly, though, not everything worked. I had hoped that the version of Evolution on Fedora 10 would just pick up all my email. No chance. It starts some conversion process... and then crashes everytime. What a piece of crap that application is. The lack of an enterprise class mail client is one of the biggest failures of the Linux desktop.

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