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Thread: my poor man's install setup

  1. #1
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    my poor man's install setup

    "probono's poor man's install (PPMI)"

    In this thread, I will describe my "probono's poor man's install" installation. Please note that while I found this is the ideal way to use Linux for me personally, it might not be for anyone else.

    This is a "philosophical" discussion of how I use my system rather than a newbie-proof step-by-step instruction. In this thread, I simply want to share with you my way of using Knoppix, which is quite unconcventional and has been working exceptionally well as my main (and now only) setup since over six months now.

    I am really interested to hear your opinions.

    GOALS:
    * I want make Linux 2004 as easy as Mac OS 1984. All further goals come from this one.
    * I want to have a manageable, deterministic system. While virtually all Linux distributions today consist of tens of thousands of files (and just as many possibilities for failures), I like the idea of booting one single file that is read-only. That way it can't become broken.
    * I want every application to be just one file that can be run from, copied and stored just everywhere. That way, I can move applications easily from one machine to another without the need to "install" them. Similar reasoning as above.
    * I want to work as root. Yes, there is lots of discussion about this and before you call me crazy, please hear my arguments: First, I do not want to type "sudo" and/or "su" all over the place. In fact, I want to type as little as possible. Second, running as root does not decrease the security of your files in $HOME, because these are deletable anyway. Third, I am using a "Personal Computer" which is not a multiuser machine. Fourth, I want to have access to everything at any time.
    * I want a slick graphical interface. To me, that means a boot process without text messages and a carefully themed KDE with well-integrated KDE applications.
    * I want to be able to install new versions of the operating system in five minutes max, and without repartitioning or the danger of destroying the current installation.
    * I want to leave no "traces" of my usage on the computer. Many systems tend to leave mess on the system from using, making the system bigger and slower over time, and unpredictable. In my system, all traces of my usage are wiped out at reboot and the system is "factory fresh" at each start of the computer. This also means that the system behaves completely predictable.

    Sounds like Linux 2014? Well, no, I am coming close to this already today, 2004, with a method I will call "probono's poor man's install (PPMI)".

    IMPLEMENTATION:
    * STEP 1: Format the drive with reiserfs. This file system has proven to be resistant to unplanned shutdowns in my personal experience because it is a journalling file system. I will call the resulting partition /mnt/hda1 or "bootvolume" throughout the rest of this text.
    * STEP 2: Copy the contents of the directory /KNOPPIX from a Knoppix CD/DVD to /mnt/hda1/knoppix.
    * STEP 3: Install the GRUB boot loader on /mnt/hda:
    Code:
    mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/hda1 && grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/hda1 --no-floppy --recheck /dev/hda
    * STEP 4: Copy vmlinuz and initrd to /mnt/hda1/knoppix (even better, to a subdirectory that has the name of the Knoppix version).
    * STEP 5: Edit /mnt/hda2/boot/grub/menu.lst
    * STEP 6: I use my scripts "splash.sh" and "knoppix.sh" in order to customize the boot process and the appearance of KDE. They do the following:
    - make the boot process quiet, no text messages and no sounds at booting
    - make shutdown instantly fast, no text messages and no waiting at shutdown
    - run KDE as root
    - override default configuration by applying my settings to /etc and /root
    - make the bootvolume writeable
    Settings are handled by "folderconfig", which is essentially an "override" folder to the / filesystem. If I want to customize, say, /etc/resolv.conf, the I simply put the customized file in /mnt/hda1/knoppix/foldervonfig/etc/resolv.conf. My folderconfig script then automatically applies the overriding settings to the system.
    My settings include:
    - KDE background
    - No more asking about cookies, security on the Internet, passwords
    - antialiased fonts
    - terminal emulator at the bottom of Konqueror windows
    among others.
    * STEP 7: Use klik to install additional software, and convert the resulting AppDirs to single compressed images (which I call .cmg in recognition of Apple's .dmg). When I want to use an application, I click on its image, which gets mounted read-only automatically, and the application is run. Afterwards, the compressed image is unmounted automatically. This way, each application is precisely one file.
    * STEP 8: I do _not_ use persistent home, but instead save my documents wherever I want, especially on the boot volume.
    * STEP 9: When I want to install an additional/newer version of Knoppix (or Knoppix-like system such as Kanotix etc.), then I just copy three files to my boot volume (the cloop file, the kernel and the initrd) and edit menu.lst. No problem to have many (limited only by the size of the hard disk) concurrent systems (using the knoppix_name= cheatcode).

    CHALLENGES:
    Not everything is perfect yet. Here are some topics I would find worth considering:
    * Knoppix calls the volume on which the compressed 700 MB files resides always "/cdrom". This is irritating. It should get a more appropriate name like "/bootvolume"
    * Knoppix should have a boot option "user=root" that would boot into KDE with $USER=root and $HOME=/root
    * Knoppix should get a number of kernel patches, including bootsplash (I just love how beautiful Mac OS X boots), submount (no more mounting), and swsusp2 (suspend to disk also for desktops, no more boot wait).
    * Boot time should be brought down to 30 secs max by completely rewriting the order and style of the boot process (and making hardware recognition optional).

  2. #2
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    Sorry but a lot of ideas sound crazy. Working always as root? NEVER! Some ideas tend me to say: Use Windows.
    Ok now to a more contructive part. Decreasing boot time is possible by makeing the boot process multithreaded. A simple way to do this is to boot all services which you and programs on startup don't need immediately in background (e.g. all network processes). For me this works well and kdm appears a few sconds earlier. But when doing this it has to be considered that the harddisk is the bottleneck because of the huge seeking times which are caused when several programs access it at the same time. Another option would be runit (http://smarden.org/runit) which is a daemon like sysv replacement. But I don't know how good this works because I haven't tried. Would be very interesting to have some test reports.

  3. #3
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    Just do it probono.
    But I'm not sure about calling it,probono's poor man's install, it's too rich.
    I certainly have no problem working as root, I'm not "rootphobic". Security is not my concern.
    Add ability to upgrade please, rather then reformatting and install newer version everytime. Perhaps just compare version of files on hdd to cdrom and replace it. I think all script on rc.d should append to just single file.
    I think "klik" should be the brain behind this installation.


  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuser123
    Some ideas tend me to say: Use Windows.
    As I pointed out, it's meant to say "use Mac OS 1984" which was an example for a truly manageable system.

    Quote Originally Posted by kuser123
    Sorry but a lot of ideas sound crazy. Working always as root? NEVER!
    I was sure this would be one of the first things to come up. But consider this: Your data in $HOME is unsafe whether you run root or not. And the system data (/usr,...) is safe on my install also because it's all in the unchangeable compressed file.

    I know that some of these ideas sound crazy, but at the same time I am pleased with how well they work for me in practice! Again, I don't want to convince anyone, but for me personally this is the ideal setup.

  5. #5
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    This is basically a single user setup so running as root makes perfect sense, in fact, it should be, save a lot of setup troubles.

    Just wondering what you want to do though ? Just package a loopback rootfs and move it around and you have your desktop with you all the time. Put that on a portable USB 2.0 disk enclosure.

    I have been doing this moving my "computer"(debian actually) around on A PC, Xbox and colinux. Can continue to install whatever packages I want through apt-get then just copy back the rootfs image and I can go.

    In fact, this solves one of the most annoying thing about computer upgrade comparing with Windows. It is extremely cumbersome when I bought a shinny new machine and moving things from my old computer to the new one. People sell apps for doing this on Windows but it is free on linux.

    Today, I can just copy one big file and it is done. the hardware setup etc. may need to be redo on different machines but that is getting easier and easier(KNOPPIX, discover, hotplug etc.) on linux.

  6. #6
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    I think this is great. You are absoulutely correct to go in this direction.

    HOWEVER, this does not address the necessity/reality of co-existence with Windows, nor does it address multiple OS booting. Given that virtually every new PC shipped has WinXP preinstalled, and most of those don't come with a CD to reinstall XP if you take it off, and then want to put it back because you made a mistake, NO ONE in his right mind who is new to Linux is going to discard Windows, or do anything to threaten an installation which cannot be easily reinstalled. Even those who might be tempted will likely have family members reliant on Windows, or needed applications which do not run in linux. NO ONE wants to be disempowered from running the applications that everyone else runs.

    Remember the dispute between the DVD+R folks and the DVD-R folks? There were purists in each camp shouting across the room at one another as to which one was best, and why they wouldn't compromise their standard to recognize the other's. Ultimately, consumers indicated that they just didn't give a d@mn which was better, but they needed compatibility with both. Net result - dual standard +/- is now the norm. The failure of the purists to compromise to meet the demands of the real world invariantly results in fragmentation and dilution of the standard they so highly revere. Their debate is pointless if they fail to meet the demand.

    Right now, the real world of the desktop PC marketplace doesn't give a d@mn about linux, and never will in its current status. The linux purists must be ignored; their contrary philosophies and dogma disregarded. I have little patience for their foolishness, nor does the marketplace.

    As long as you are talking about fundamental changes of philosophy, we need to dispense with the mount command once and for all. It makes no sense w/r/t the PC. A user, no matter at what level, should never be called upon to mount or unmount any device. It is silly and anachronistic, as are mount points. Using a computer should not be a silly "Mother, may I" game of being prohibited from doing work because of a failure to pay homage the the mainframe roots of Unix. We also need full NTFS compatibility built in. NTFS is a fine file system also.

    jd

  7. #7
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    Minor remark 1)
    Windows 2000 has a umount (klick, klick) , and today I saw a WinXP, it had a umount too (for the usbstick).

    Minor remark 2)
    Postgresql will not allow root to connect to the database.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by user unknown
    Minor remark 1)
    Windows 2000 has a umount (klick, klick) , and today I saw a WinXP, it had a umount too (for the usbstick).
    True enough. There is a "safely remove hardware device" icon in the sysicon tray. If needed, it makes sense for devices removed by users during operation. But for most operations, it simply isn't needed. Even in linux, you don't need to umount prior to removing a floppy or CD.

    jd

  9. #9
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    The last time I used a floppy and wrote to it, perhaps one or two years ago, I needed, to be sure that the filesystem had been sync-ed.

    If I remove it half an hour later, it's mostly secure without umount.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by j.drake
    NO ONE in his right mind who is new to Linux is going to discard Windows
    You are absolutely right. My personal story is this: After trying Linux in 1998 (when I was unable to install it because it asked questions in text-mode that I didn't understand), 2000 (when Caldera installed smooth, but lacked applications, and finally around 2002 (Knoppix), I always had a dual-boot setup with Windows as the default boot option. I remember one day when I changed the default from Windows to Linux. That was when I figured out that most of my "critical" applications (Web, mail,...) ran better under Linux than under Windows. Even then, I always thought that I would need Windows as well.

    Then came an unforeseen, but lucky event: I was travelling with my notebook (no CD drive), when Windows crashed beyond any possibility of recovery. Then, I was forced to use Linux exclusively for a couple of weeks. When I came back home, I thought: well, I'll reinstall Windows as soon as I really need it again (I imagined that would be within the next weeks). Guess what, I am still waiting for that day until today.

    So what? - Yes, we need a smooth transition path for Windows users (that's why I am so enthusiastic about booting the ISO from NTFS without changing the Windows boot loader). But as my example shows, there may well be one point where the user recognizes that he can switch altogether.

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