[conspire] Preparing dual-boot system

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Jan 21 15:40:36 PST 2008

Quoting hirohama at gmail.com (hirohama at gmail.com):

> I'd like some recommendations on how to prepare my hard drives so that
> I can install a multi-boot system next Saturday; I'll probably arrive
> around 8 PM, so I'd like to do whatever preparatory work that I can
> ahead of time.

We'll be glad to have you.

> I'll probably just go with a few flavors of GNU/Linux and maybe a free
> version of BSD. I'm new to GNU/Linux, so I don't know what
> distributions might appeal to me most. 

You know, my _own_ preference would be to load one distro at a time, and
after a week or so, wipe it out and put something else on.  It makes
things less confusing, in my own experience.  (You would of course want
to acquire installation media for each thingie you want to try out.)
Accordingly, none of my machines ever has more than a single OS at any
given time.  However, plenty of people seem to like multibooting.

> I primarily used BSD-flavored UNIX systems with X Windows as a
> programmer during the decade of the '80s. I've only used Windows XP
> and Windows 2000 for a few years, but have accumulated some data files
> that I'd like to access via some Windows freeware applications. Is
> there an Windows emulator under GNU/Linux up to the task for most
> simple applications?

There are a number of methods for making (some, most?) simple Win32
applications, and some non-simple ones work, either directly in your
main X11/x86-Linux session (what one might call direct Win32 binary
support) or inside a virtual machine that in turn runs MS-Windows, that
then runs the Win32 applications of interest.

In the great tradition of wise-racking 'nix acronyms, the main framework
for direct Win32 binary support on x86 Linux (remember, not all Linux
machines are x86-type) is WINE, WINE Is Not an Emulator -- which is a
set of Win32 support libs, program launcher, etc. and is fully open
source (LGPL).  

Back when WINE was BSD-licensed, two proprietary forks got started:
Cedega (formerly WineX) is focussed mostly on games, and has such things
as good DirectX support.  Codeweavers's CrossOver Linux is focussed more
on business productivy applications.  Each of these proprietary
offshoots has a list on the Web of what they're tested with and known to
make work.

There are also two emulations (right inside x86 Linux) of MS-DOS only:
DOSBox and DOSEMU (both GPL).

In the virtual-machine category, there are a large number of offerings
on x86 Linux:

o  VMware (several editions, proprietary)
o  Qemu (GPL, LGPL)
o  Xen (GPL)
o  User Mode Linux aka UML (GPL)
o  Linux KVM (GPL)
o  Bochs (LGPL)
o  Linux-VServer
o  OpenVZ (GPL)
o  VirtualBox (GPL; proprietary edition also exists)
o  Cooperative Linux (GPL)
o  FreeVPS (GPL)
o  GXemul (BSD)
o  others -- above list is not exhaustive

In the name of simplicity, I'm running roughshod over some important
distinctions among items in the above list, e.g., the presence or
absence of support for CPU-level virtualisation offered by recent Intel
and AMD CPUs.

> As long as most work, I will be happy as I can
> borrow a Windows machine to view and print out the few things that
> might not work.

Another way around that problem (if there's a problem) is to have an
MS-Windows machine still present on the LAN where your main console
X11/Linux box lives, and use one of several remote-imaging protocols to 
remotely run your desired Win32 apps on the Windows box, while imaging
their output, and controlling them for input purposes, from your local
Linux console.

Yes, you _could_ use X11 for that, but the selection of X11 servers for
Win32 is relatively poor.  X11 server options:

"X Servers for Win32" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Legacy_Microsoft/

Other remote-imaging options:
"VNC and Similar" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Legacy_Microsoft/

> Is there good support for burning disks under GNU/Linux?

Hell yeah.

See, for starters:  "DVD" and "DVD Burning" on
http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Hardware/ and
"CDR / CDRW Burning" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Apps/

The choice of preferred tools is perhaps a little confusing because of
development history:  In pre-DVD days, the main burning tools were
cdwrite and cdrecord, both command-line tools, for which various X11 
front-end shells were$ also available.  cdwrite became unmaintained
quite a few years ago, leaving cdrecord. 

The author of cdrecord, one Mr. Schilling is -- how can I say this
delicately? -- more than a bit iracible, and quite hostile to Linux.  I
will omit some aspects of that history in the name of brevity, but among
the misadventures along the way was Schilling attempting to promote his
proprietary fork "CDrecord Pro" as a high-end offering with certain
enhancements including DVD support.  This lead to a messy multi-way
explosion of alternatives, some based on third-party patching of
open-source cdrecord, and some based on independent codebases.  Later
than that, Schilling (who's a Solaris guy) changed his licensing to
CDDL, which lead to more forking, and the situation hasn't yet fully
shaken out.

Anyway, attempting to cut to the chase, what you tend to see on Linux is
one or more X11/desktop front-end utility (Arson, CDBakeOven, K3b,
SimpleCDR-X, webCDWriter, X-CD-Roast, gcombust, GNOME Baker, ECLiPt
Roaster, etc., etc.) that front-ends one or more command-line tool
(for the burning operation:  cdrecord, growisofs, or wajig;  for the
assembling of IS09660 or UDF filesystems that would be burned:  mkisofs,

I'm not even counting the command-line tools to do things like create
CDDA (CD Digital Audio) tracks, and other things like that.  Suffice it
to say, the tools exist to do pretty much whatever you want, though
things suffer from an excess of choices.

> Limitations?

Well, certainly if you want to play back -- or create backup copies of
-- movie DVDs obfuscated with the Content Control System (CSS) by Our
Lords in Hollywood, you're obliged to go to extra trouble to find DVD
applications that use the DeCSS code or an equivalent, and commodiy
Linux installation media tend not to include DeCSS and related code for
legal reasons -- but it is always installable from one or more Internet
package repository, after installation.

>>> The system is a eMachines T6520
>> http://www.e4allupgraders.info/dir1/motherboards/socket754/msi7145.shtml
>> As with any eMachines that has a 250W Bestec PSU, you MUST replace the
>> PSU before it fries your motherboard, because it always will.
> What power supply would you recommend instead?

eMachines boxes, as you probably know, come in at commendably low price
points, but something has to give in parts selection, and one of the
corners they cut is PSU quality.  Overstressed PSUs are both more
vulnerable to power fluctuations and to catastrophic internal failure
that fries components, typically either the motherboard (as Daniel says)
or hard drives.

The "250W" might be more than your Bestec PSU can actually deliver:
It's all too common for cheapo PSUs to not even deliver the wattage

Speaking for myself, I have a strong prejudice towards several brands of
rather bulletproof, conservatively designed PSUs:  Cooler Master,
Enermax, PC Power & Cooling, or in a pinch Sparkle aka SPI.  None other.
People tell me occasionally that some others such as Seasonic are also
good, and they may be right.

Here's one vendor's offerings in the Micro-ATX category:
(Eh, only Sparkle = SPI.  Well, they're decent, and won't empty your

> I'll be in an environment with a wireless network signal. I don't know
> whether I should get a wireless network card or an external receiver
> that will connect to the Ethernet port.

Suitable choice of wireless card can make Linux functionality more easy
and straightforward, in the "it just worked" sense.  One starting point:
"Wireless Chipsets" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Hardware/

> Possible OS if needed: 1: Genuine Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Media
> Center Edition 2005 or 2: Windows XP Pro. Currently, a fresh install
> of the XP Media Center 2005 is on the 200GB disk. I don't know how the
> disk is partitioned--it could be a 200GB NTFS, and I can check if it
> is important to know.

If you are intending to load Linux/BSD distributions onto the hard disk
that currently has MS-Windows, you should consider (1)
checking/defragging, and then (2) shrinking your Windows partition(s),
to free up room.

You probably know all about how to check/defrag in MS-Windows.  If you
don't yet have a _good_ defragger, look up Diskkeeper Lite from Executive
Software (proprietary, gratis download).  For prophylactic diagnosis/repair,
I guess Scandisk or whatever Microsoft calls it these days.

It would be desirable to do that in advance -- and also to arrive with
_some_ idea  what Linux/BSD distro(s) you want to load -- because with
an 8PM start time, you might end up being time-constrained.  Maybe not,
but it would be good to not have to hurry, and to sit and chat.

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