Switching to Linux [4]

Continuing on my series of investigations into switching the most powerful of my computers to Linux.

There are now some important questions to be resolved in the area of running a software based RAID 1 array on a pair of disks (a mirror) as this is somewhat of an advanced area of knowledge and unlike a lot of other stuff a mastery of various command line tools and hardware concepts is needed. It will require further investigations and forum postings to determine.
In the short term I can break the RAID mirror on the existing pair of Windows disks and use one of them as a source for the other which will be the Linux data volume equivalent. In other words reading the Windows disk using ntfs-3g as I transfer data to the Linux ext4 volume. Later on once this process has been completed it should be possible to bring the second disk across into a RAID-1 array in the same way as the means by which I originally set up the Windows software disk array.
In the short term I expect one of my computers will stay on Windows as there are still a few software packages that are not going to be available on Linux. But which version of Windows it will be running is a moot point. I don’t think Windows 10 is warranted and it may be reverted to 7. The issue is with the cameras and photo editing software such as IrfanView. It will take me some considerable time and investigation to find alternatives that are as good as these packages. However given the availability of ntfs-3g I haven’t ruled out the possibility of being able to interface a Windows virtual machine to images. The main issue is to find some way of replicating the download of photos from a camera to a Linux computer in the way that the Canon software handles it.
So from here we can look at moving closer to an actual timeframe for migration but it is a process that will have to be scheduled for when I have more time as it is not as straightforward as migrating to a new version of Windows has been. However it is not too complex.
The steps I will be following for the migration are likely to be as follows:
  • Back up all of the existing data on the PC
  • Move some of it back to the study PC (the one where most of it used to be) – photos and the photo processing software packages
  • Break the RAID mirror and check that both disks function independently
  • Install MINT on the SSD
  • Turn one of the mirror disks into a ext4 data volume and redirect the home / usr folders to it.
  • Link the other mirror disk using ntfs-3g and migrate data structures across from it
  • Reformat the second mirror disk and then create the new RAID-1 array in Linux
There is possibly more but that’s the gist of it. My little AMD E350 box on which I am writing this has been doing a good job as a test bed but is stretched to its limits at times. With only 4 GB of RAM and its low power CPU then running some big stuff like Qgis along with several browsers is asking a lot of it. But I have spent as much time as possible using it and have been attempting to achieve as much as possible with it compared to the other computers in the house.
One of the things that is important is a second backup disk so that I can immediately start to make backups from the Linux system. This is on the basis of not relying on ntfs-3g for write support because we do not know how reliable their system really is, because it is unclear how they are going to guarantee bulletproof compatibility. In fact this is a really murky area. It seems the entire product has been captured by the commercial developer and is not embraced by the wider community. As such I do not see much merit in wanting to run any of my data long term on a NTFS volume using this system. For Linux therefore my data will be migrated to ext4 which is a native filesystem.
So a lot of steps and a lot of time. I am not sure what the timeframe for making it all happen will be. It may be that it is as much as two months away. I am making the most use I can of my test system and trying out various things on it but I am really champing at the bit to be able to move quickly to my main system running Linux. So I hope with a bit of juggling it will come together soon, maybe over the Easter holiday weekend, perhaps sooner if I have more time.