12 March 2008

An Image of Awesome.

I have learned how to image my computer.

For those not-quite-so-geeky as James and I, that means you save a "snapshot" of your computer's configuration to an external source so that if some crap goes down and your computer goes with it, you don't have to spend 94593485734967 years reinstalling and reconfiguring and getting everything back just right (another way to do this if you don't have a full image, but -have- backed up all of your programs and files is to use a registry backup, but this is more hardcore and thus more foolproof than that).

Why am I just now learning this? Well, what it is, is that I want to install Xubuntu on my laptop. Xubuntu is a distribution of Linux (and a derivative of the Ubuntu distribution), which is an open-source operating system (read: free). It also uses considerably fewer system resources than Windows, which makes it a great choice for older machines. While my computer, despite what Best Buy may say, is not old (I bought it October 2006), it will run cooler on Xubuntu because of its use of fewer resources and therefore will last longer. I am a fan.

Xubuntu is meant to be able to install itself without jacking up your Windows partition, but I would rather be safe about it, hence the imaging.

Most of the reason that I had avoided imaging previously was because of the prevailing idea that you have to use CDs or DVDs to do it. This is the equivalent to backing up your entire "My Documents" folder to floppies. In other words, lame. So, I decided to see if this Linux utility, System Rescue CD, could do it better.

Yes, it can. I have a 2.5 inch hard drive in an external case that I've used for several years to backup my laptops in their various incarnations. It has fallen out of use on account of I use the desktop to backup my laptop over our home network, so I checked over its contents, saw that it all was old, and reformatted it (which clears all data). I booted up my laptop from the System Rescue CD and then plugged in my external. Lo and behold, SysRes recognised the thing. Huzzah.

A note about this external: I bought a plain, naked hard drive and an aluminum box which has an IDE connector adapted to a USB port in one end. The whole thing was less than fifty bucks. Don't buy "external hard drives." You're getting taken for a ride. This affair connects via USB 2.0 to your computer and more or less acts like a USB Flash drive, only giant.

At any rate, instead of imaging my computer to a mountain of blank CDs, I am imaging it to another hard drive. It is going to take an hour and forty-five minutes because I am compressing the image; since this external is from a couple of laptops ago, it is only ("only") forty gigs and my current hard drive is ninety or something, so I had to have it compress in order to fit. Apparently it compresses -very- small because the process is now thirty-two percent done and the file size is just about 800 megs. That is to say, it has compressed 12.66 gigs into 800 megs. Nice.

I think that, knowing what I currently know, I am going to dig out my laptop before this and see if I can't stick Xubuntu on it. Details when I have them.

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