How long does it take to get your fave Distro just right?

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How long does it take to get your fave Distro just right?

Postby Bruno » Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:47 pm

Hi All, with many interesting and relevant threads on here at the moment (awkward software installers, references for beginning programming etc.), I thought I'd take the opportunity to tie some of them together with what I've been doing recently.

I recently upgraded my desktop from openSUSE 11.3 to 12.1. Aside from some hardware upgrades that I took the opportunity to perform (boosting the storage capacity), I have to say the process consumed a fair amount of time. Not so much the initial installation, or even adding all the extra programmes I use and doing the first update but things like adding the firefox and thunderbird extensions I use and setting up unison, ssh, amarok, arduino, git, get iPlayer etc. The fine details of a set up. Any way, this process piqued my curiosity...

My questions are: How long does it take you to get your favourite Distro installed and set up just as you like it? What steps, if any, have you taken to accelerate this process?

I've been using openSUSE for a while now and have slowly been documenting the programmes and respositories that I install and how I configure things. Recently I wrote a one click installer file for all my favourite programmes. I have also isolated a few config and profile files and written a shell script to install them all in one go. I also have my address books and rss feeds exported to files in order to aid installation on a new system. As a result, I don't expect the process to take so long next time but I'm curious to know what others do...
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Postby heiowge » Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:15 pm

I have a separate /home partition. This saves on setting up most of the desktop features I use. When I install, I just format and write a new / and assign my old /home as the new /home, so it keeps the settings.

As for installed software, I have 2 records of programs - new and main. If I use a program often and find it worthwhile, I add it to my main list of installed programs. This list is something I consult when doing all my post install software grabs. It means that instead of trying to remember what I need, I can just grab the lot in one go.

Both of these things keeps my install down to about 20ish mins for the install, and about another hour to update and isntall everything else. This hourish varies depending on how many updates there are to grab.
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Postby Rhakios » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:31 pm

Pretty much what heiowge suggests, though there are is at least one package I need to build. But of course, as Linux admits of an almost infinite amount of tinkering, installation is never really a finished work.
I don't think I've ever got a Windows installation "just how I want it", and for OSX, Snow Leopard was probably the closest I've come to ideal on that platform.
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Postby Ram » Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:54 pm

Urm, probably a very long time now.... gnome2 user

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Postby johnhudson » Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:59 pm

Though openSUSe offers an upgrade option, this only works with consecutive releases. It is also only available with the DVD which, by default, installs a lot more than the Live CD versions. So, whether you use it for a fresh install or for an upgrade, it always takes longer - a lot longer if you select the upgrade option as it has to analyse what you have and what you need upgrading. The CD versions simply copy a ready-made / partition.

Ever since openSUSE made a separate 'home partition the default, I have always done a fresh install using a Live CD which, including the time to download the CD, add the programs the CD lacks together with the speacialist ones I need and restore my mysql databses, takes me about two hours.

That is partly influenced by the fact that I have genuine 10Meg broadband.
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Postby wyliecoyoteuk » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:16 am

My main box has been uograded in place since I moved it to Ubuntu around 8.10.
My Mythbuntu PVR likewise, so not long, really.
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Postby guy » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:30 pm

"Just how I want it" never happens - every distro falls short and they keep changing anyway. (e.g. Debian Squeeze refuses to put my toolbars in the right order, gives me a grottier Shutdown button than Lenny did, and drives me mental by constantly taking screenshots when I accidentally nudge the wrong key. But that's way better than most).

I do have a separate partition for /home, am struggling to set up Unison to sync my backup box to it.

I also keep a plain text list of key config details such the apps and drivers I have installed above the base distro, and any magic spells I needed to do that.
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Postby Bruno » Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:35 pm

Hi All,

Some interesting comments. It seems most of you have great success with upgrading in place, something of which I've always been wary. Perhaps unjustly so, it sound like I need to re-evaluate that. The reason I don't like it is if config file formats change to the point of breaking between releases, it could cause problems. But if it is now a mature technology...

I think my main time consumer during my upgrade (by fresh installation) was actually emptying a 1 TB disk onto 3 smaller disks, some attached by USB, some over ethernet, and then copying the contents back once I'd set up the volume group. Also better documenting the changes I made after installation, so I can apply them more methodically the next time and writing a few scripts to automate some of this took quite a while.

heiowge, keeping a list of extra programmes to install is what I do too. It's a simple and great idea. Rhakios, I know what you mean about a windows installation. I still have yet to commission a new installation of anything past XP Pro. Whilst admittedly that it is nearly 12 years old, it can take a weekend to get all the OS and MS programme patches installed (even though I rolled SP2 and SP3 into an original installation disc for XP Pro SP1a) and I don't have many programmes on my MS partition. It is a royal nightmare. However, since getting to grips with Clonezilla, disc upgrades no longer require a re-installation of XP on the machines I run it on. johnhudson, I used to always install from the DVD, but I tried the KDE CD when I last upgraded my laptop to 11.4 and was pleasantly surprised by how efficient the whole process was. I don't think I really need much of the software on the DVD, considering that multimedia programmes and codecs should be installed from the Packman repository and that installation from repositories of updated packages since release are usually preferable to what is on the disc. I would prefer it if the CD would allow me to do more post installation configuration myself (host and site names) instead of only offering autoconfiguration. Has that changed since 11.4? I think 2 hrs is pretty good going if you are getting back to where you left off with the previous version of any distro.

Thanks to all for your comments.
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Postby SallyK » Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:01 pm

One thing I always do with Firefox and Thunderbird is to just copy my profile across - that way all my extensions, bookmarks and emails are ready and set up for me, without a lot of extra work.

Other than that, I've distro-hopped enough to get the basics of getting a distro set up reasonably quickly, but I tend to wait and install things as I know I'll need them - otherwise I wind up with a lot of programs I used once a long time ago and haven't needed since.
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Postby heiowge » Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:52 pm

I use X-marks and Last Pass on FF to save my bookmarks in a similar way.
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Postby Xelous » Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:18 pm

As you can see from the help section I've still not gotten mine right, not because I've got any problems, but because the distro itself keeps changing on me.

I know we've (or at least many of us) have bemoaned Canonical going with Unity on Ubuntu, so I shan't labour the point.

However, I do wish they'd pack it in.

My current list of steps to customise my Ubuntu install runs to 38 different commands, half of which simply fail to work when I try to create myself a customer Live CD/Distro with the tools for Ubuntu :)


I've used Linux since... well, since it was kernel 1.3.0, if memory serves. And I'm still not happy :roll:
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Postby towy71 » Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:30 pm

I've never been totally happy with any of the stock options for any distro but I prefer to use a Debian based one so that apt-get works nicely with the repositories :roll:
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Postby Nuke » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:38 pm

I have always done a clean install. Usually I take the chance to play around with partition sizes, and the allocation of directories to them, so I am shunting stuff to back-up areas and back again, filtering it in the process. I still have back-up files from several upgrades ago that I need to look through some time ...

I am also re-formatting partitions from Reiserfs to Ext4 (in view of what happened with Hans Reiser). I currently have about 18 partitions, about half of them Reiserfs.

For me, a distro upgrade usually co-incides with some hardware upgrade (a failed BIOS, so new Mobo, was the recent reason) so I am talking about the PC's physical guts being all over the place for a day or two. That is just the start of it.

Then there are the drivers. I have just spent two evenings trying to replace the Nouveau video driver installed by OpenSuse by the Nvidia proprietary one, getting help from forums. You can't use the drivers from last time - they won't play with the new kernel.

Then there is the boot manager. It is rare that a new installation does not nuke my boot manager set-up.

Then it is editing fstab for the NFS set-up. Maybe I could just use the old one, but they keep changing the format of this stuff. And the new Mobo sees my three HDs in a different order from the previous one.

By the time I have "perfected" my set-up (I feel like like Inspector Clouseau "perfecting" his plumbing) it will be overtaken by the next upgrade.
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Postby nelz » Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:10 am

Hans Resier had stopped working on Reiserfs some time before his "relocation". He was working on Reiser4, which is a completely different beast.

18 partitions! You really need to look at LVM, particularly if you are in the habit of resizing, reformatting or shifting data around.
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Postby Nuke » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:05 pm

nelz wrote:Hans Resier had stopped working on Reiserfs some time before his "relocation".


Not sure I want to commemorate his name. It was a good file system though.

nelz wrote:18 partitions! You really need to look at LVM, particularly if you are in the habit of resizing, reformatting or shifting data around.


But would LVM provide hermetic seals between different areas like partitions do?

I make four primaries on each HD as a matter of course, even if I don't immediately use them all. I size the system partitions to be not much more than they need, say half full - no point in them being ten times too big. I am old-fashioned and use cfdisk, don't like hot resizing.

Let's see (looks like only 17, sorry):-

sda1 DOS system (yes, for retro games)
sda2 DOS data (used to be Win95, purely for an old scanner)
sda3 OpenSuse Swap
sda4 OpenSuse /var

sdb1 Windows XP
sdb2 OpenSuse /boot
sdb3 OpenSuse /
sdb4 Windows Data

sdc1 Linux Data (effectively /home, gets mounted on a /home stub)
sdc2 Linux Data (archive stuff)
sdc3 Linux Data (more archive stuff, complete copies of old /homes)
sdc4 Extended partition containing :-
sdc5 Prepared for Mepis /boot - but installation put /boot in / , so disused
sdc6 Mepis /
sdc7 Mepis /home
sdc8 Mepis /data (mounted on /Mepis /home)
sdc9 Mepis swap
sdc10 Spare

This is a snapshot just after installing Mepis. I still need to tidy up, like Suse and Mepis could share a swap partition.
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