I confess, I nearly did away with Linux last week. Something was consistently going wrong and for the life of me I couldn’t work out what – the result was that, at far-too-regular intervals, my machine was hanging/locking/freezing. At first I took it as it came (good moment to sit back and stave off the back pain) but after a few weeks it was becoming untenable. Until – finally – I stumbled across the message threads (for example) that suggested setting “pci-noacpi” in the boot script. Blow me if it doesn’t work, though I’m sure I’m missing out on all kinds of clever stuff!
As a result, I’ve decided to stick with Ubuntu Gutsy as my base operating system, for the time being. There’s a whole stack of reasons – advantages and disadvantages – and I wouldn’t advise Linux (even Ubuntu) for just everybody. I’ll get round to documenting these over the coming week or so.
This shouldn’t necessarily be construed as some massive switch from Windows to Linux. There are still things I either need, or like to do in Windows, so I am sticking with a hybrid configuration; however, as already discussed, with its smaller footprint (about 650Mb of memory in active use, rather than the 1.2Gb I found was required for Vista in the same scenario) Linux is the preferred base OS for virtualisation. Perhaps the biggest leap of faith is the fact I have just deleted the dual boot: I’m finding that running XP in a VirtualBox virtual machine is just as usable, and far more accessible than having to boot into a separate configuation to access Windows-based applications. It also means I’m working with just one set of files, rather than synchronising between my virtual file store and real, though of course equally virtual file store.
This last point was quite an epiphany for me. At the start I was concerned about what might happen, should the virtual hard disk get corrupted… until I remembered I was equally concerned by (and experienced in) real disks getting corrupted. The answer, of course, was doing a backup. Then, of course, one remembers that everything is virtual, imaginary, made up combinations of electronic signals to give us the impression of data. Phew, but in a good way.
The configuration I have now is much simpler than trying to manage dual boot – there are less file systems to mount, less apps to install and keep up to date, etc. And of course, I can access all my applications at once. On the data side, I still need to delve deeper into questions of file sharing between base and virtual machines – in principle it is quite simple (for example, using virtual network shares in VirtualBox) but I still don’t understand how things like indexing are handled, or for example what is the performance hit on very large files, if they are accessed over a pseudo-network.
For now at least, everything is working fine, and so I can get on with writing about technology, rather than playing with it 🙂