Code, Computers & Random Junk

#mv2linux. Almost There…

Just some notes and updates on my “switching” status. I’m almost there. Just a couple of things left, but it is the final legs.

My New Year Resolution

As I wrote in December last year, I don’t usually make New Year Resolutions, but I made an exception about switching to GNU/Linux, within the year - as my default OS. Time is ticking away, and the year is about to end (soon’ish).

Well, it’s been a tough year with a few unexpected bumps along the way, but I think I’ll make it.

The plan now looks like I’m going to setup a laptop as my (temporary) main computer until I’ve got the new one built. That also gives me some space to backup/move things properly, and so on.

My (new) Laptop

Earlier this year, a good friend of mine gave me an old Toshiba laptop. Yaaay! And it’s perfect - for me. It’s not that old, and it has an AMD Athlon™ Dual-Core 64bit CPU and ATI graphics. The display is 16:10, wich I prefer over 16:9, with a native resolution of 1440x900. Which is also good. I’m not too fancy about the hunt for pixels, the urge of displaying everything as small as possible on the screen. smirk

Since then I’ve been upgrading the hardware a little bit, where it’s been possible.

  • A new Kingston SSD 120GB v300. Perhaps not the fastest one around, but the computer has only SATA II, so I’ll reach max speed.
  • A new additional disk. Western Digital WD5000LPLX - a 500GB SATA HDD, 2.5”. That one replaced the DVD who now lives in an external case.
  • From 3GB -> 8GB RAM. This was maybe the hardest part, and kind of expensive to find 2x 4GB RAM (PC2-6400) for this one. The new one wasn’t exactly cheap. But I found a couple of ones on eBay. But, now the RAM is maximized.
  • New batteries. It was almost completely worn out, and I found a high capacity 9-cell battery (7800mAh) for (only) £21,- in UK. So, I bought 2 of them.

One thing remains left - to install a switch. A “slide switch”, which will work as a kill switch for the mic & camera. Inspired if the Librem computers (13”, 15”), I decided I want one to. Found a 6-pole switch at ELFA. Only thing that bathers me a little bit is that it feels somewhat hard to move the pin. Maybe because its new and needs to be used for a while before it feels “normal”. If not, I’ll just unplug the connectors on the board - as the initial idea was. I prefer external gear instead of built in. For Wi-fi, there is alread a switch present on the front. I’d guess it’s for an airplane mode, or something like that.

Found a great guide at which gave me a good overview of the inside to plan what I want to do.

For being an old’ish computer it really is what I want. It’s hard to find a 17” with 16:10 and ATI graphics. Though, if the external display was DVI or DP &/or HDMI and if it had SATA III - that would almost make it almost perfect. Can’t get it all - especially when it didn’t cost me anything.

System setup

Now, with the laptop and the new/xtra disk(s) I can move my whole OS X installation - make the new install like/simular to that one. In my Mac I have a 120GB SSD and 2x WD RE4 500GB. So, next thing up is to install Arch Linux, which is the distribution I use. And the plan is, and what’s been delaying it a bit due to “more reading”, to use another/new setup than what I usually have. That means with encryption and an additional USB-stick for that.

Basically it will be LVM on LUKS, with /, /usr and /srv (more or less, the partitioning is a bit different) on the SSD, and /home, /var, /swap etc on the HDD. But, I also thinking of to put the /boot partition on the USB-stick. I bought a couple of identical USB-sticks so I can set it up and clone the stick. Haven’t decided all parts yet on the encryption, if I’m going to make it encrypted, or with “deniable encryption”. But that’s not my primary concern.

On top of Arch I’m using Cinnamon and LightDM.

The Desktop Computer

In the move I’ll need to get an old Mac mini, to backup my OS X system on that one. That will give me a computer/system I can use on the side, as compliment. Like Arch has been until now. Thinking, it’s good to keep all work I have, not having to run OS X in a VM, and to have the programs I’m used to. Not that I can’t use new/other ones, but in case there are programs hard to replace and to ease the transition a little bit. Basically, not have to learn the full GIMP program in < 2h.

That’s the first step, then I’ll have to sell my Mac Pro and build the desktop computer.

Here in Sweden (also in a few other countries) there are a site called “Prisjakt” (Pricespy, Pricehunt etc). They have an excellent function to create lists. Not only when to buy, but to keep track of what I want, and to share lists and builds.

So, I’ve made a couple of lists of my machines: Box #1 and Box #2 (comments on the right are in Swedish). The lists are almost identical except the chassi and a few other parts, based on which chassi I finally chose. It’s basically built around the same CPU with matching parts. The different chassis are the key. At the moment it looks like it is Box #1 that I will build. (The prices… USD 1,- ≈ SEK 8,50-9,-)

Though, the mini-chassi would be very nice, but I’m thinking about the option to have an xtra PCI slot + I can use both my disks from my Mac Pro and doesn’t have to buy more/other disks.

Silverstone has a carrying bag that would fit both so it’s not that bad with the larger one. It’s still a lot smaller than my Mac Pro. About same height/width but only ≈ 60% of the depth.

The choice of AMD is simple. I can start without a separate graphic card, using the APU/onboard graphics in the CPU, wich Intel has too, of course. But I’ve had a couple of bad experiences with Intel and Linux and in the end I’ll get an AMD graphic card anyway. I like them, the are good for graphic works and my case it’s not for gaming. Playing SuperTuxKart most of the times.

The CPU I selected (A10-7800) was comparable/slightly better than an Intel i5. A great and low powered (65W) CPU.

When that one is built I can setup the same system setup as I will have in my laptop so I can have it as my “traveltop”. At the moment, if/when I travel to visit my mother for example, I pack my Mac Pro + display and everything. With this setup I can have the same stuff in my laptop as in my desktop - make a quick sync/update the laptop, and then go.

I’ll get there…

So, a few things left to do. But, I’ll get there. At least I will be able to keep my New Year Resolution by using the laptop as my main computer while building/swithing the desktops. Really important! …to me.

And I really looking forward to the day when it’s all done. Leaving OS X behind is of course a bit emotional (spanning Mac OS 7.* -> OS X 10.7.5), but in my mind I’ve already left. Just need to put everything on the right soft-/hardware.