April 18, 2008

Ask Linux.com: partitioning, creating a mountable disk image, and how to post productively

Author: Linux.com Staff

In this week's look at the recent activity in Linux.com's forums, we explore a couple of questions from new Linux users about how their new OS differs from Windows, how to create a directory archive that you can mount like a disk image, and how answering your own forum question can actually help somebody else.

Understanding disk partitions

A big source of confusion for new Linux users is disk partitioning. Only a small percentage of Windows users ever have to worry about creating or resizing partitions, so it is a new challenge when trying out Linux. That goes double if you are trying to install Linux on a PC while preserving your existing Windows installation.

In the New to Linux forum this week, Efrain posed that exact question, looking to install Fedora alongside Windows XP. User fninja recommended using the GPartedlive CD to resize the existing partitions, instead of the partitioning tool available on the Fedora installer. Fninja then walked Efrain through a long series of questions in the resulting thread, proving that even when you know what you want to do, using a partitioning tool takes some care.

User iantrader is more experienced with Windows, but still had a lingering question about Linux: "What if you start with a distro but after a while decide you don't like it and want to try another one? ... I notice members recommend different distros to different people. How do you get experience of them all? From totally new system installs each time?"

While at first glance, that might seem like a "how do I choose the best distro for me" question, the answer was to separate the root and /home partitions. As proopnarine explained:

Personal settings, such as browser preferences, bookmarks, documents, and so on will be saved in your user directory (folder), in the /home/username file. If you've partitioned your disk so that /home is a separate directory, then all these will be preserved no matter how many times you re-install or switch distros. (Just remember to not format the partition during a re-installation!) If you didn't create a separate partition during installation, then backup your user directory, do your re-installation, and then restore the user directory to /home (being sure to also create a user of that name).

Creating a mountable disk image

User ktckd9 asked about turning a directory into a mountable disk image: "I have a directory -- say for example /tmp/stuff -- and I want to create an .img (stuff.img) file of this stuff directory. Can some one please help me to achieve this? Thanks."

Mac OS X disk images also use the .IMG file extension, but are a different format. In Linux, a .img file contains raw disk contents, capable of being mounted into the filesystem just like a removable disk. User tophandycwby explained the process of creating a .img using the loop device driver, dd, and losetup.

Installing extras on the EEE PC, and how to win friends in the future

User proopnarine wrote in with a question about the Asus Eee PC -- the flash-based, ultra-portable Linux laptop. As nice as the Eee is, it was proving tricky to add additional applications:

I'd like to install the GIMP and/or KOffice on my Asus Eee PC (which I love btw), but I'm not having much luck. I installed gimp with apt-get, presumably from the Xandros4 repository (which I activated). GIMP fires up snappily and runs, but locks up when I try to quit, giving this message (in the terminal):

*** glibc detected *** corrupted double-linked list: 0xb78ea4f8 ***

gimp: terminated: Aborted

Shashank Sharma posted some links to Eee user resources, including the eeeuser.com forum and wiki. Sure enough, proopnarine found the answer he was looking for. We know because proopnarine returned to the thread and posted a link to the solution -- earning high marks from Sharma, since the correct answer is now available for all future users who search the forums for the solution to this or a similar problem.

That earns proopnarine the title of forum poster of the week. If you want that calibre of glory yourself, remember to come back and share the answers you find, not just post a "never mind, I figured it out" message. It's easy to forget when you are busy with your own issues, but a thread with a solution helps everyone else down the line, too.

Build a better world by answering these unsolved forum questions

If you've got spare brain cycles needing a workout, try weighing in on some of these unanswered questions.

User supratik has a tricky shell script problem. He wants to store a command in a shell variable, then recall it for execution later in the script. It seems to work for some commands (such as ls), but not for others (like dialog). Any ideas?

Karl would like to hear from anyone who has had success installing a Creative XFi sound card in Mandriva 2008. It's not working out of the box, and the Creative Web site offers no help. Is it a driver issue? A configuration issue? Both? Neither?

Finally, Chad McCullough wants your help finding software suitable for his IT consulting business:

About a year ago, I started my own IT consulting business. I was tracking my client site visits, time spent on site, and mileage the hard way with Openoffice.org Spreadsheet. Well, not that it was all that hard, really, but I would like to use a small database instead. Before trying to create one, I thought that it might be a good idea to look for one that was already created. Why reinvent the wheel, you know? I did a lot of research but was unable to find anything. Anyone know of something like that out there?

If you have a reccommendation for Chad, head on over to the forums and tell us about it.

To the forums

That's it for this week. Remember, if you have an answer for any of the questions raised above, click on the link to the discussion and post it there. And if you have your own question to ask, visit the forums and ask it there, not in the comments to this article -- your fellow forum readers will get you an answer faster.

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