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Make Over: home system migration


This won't be brief, but let me start by saying that I do have some *nux experience, albeit from no less than 7 years ago. I will say that Linux does not scare me, even in command line mode. I'm here because I have specific requirements that the general 'pros n cons' discussions just don't answer except on an individual basis and with too many answers to evaluate for each. Not to mention alot has changed in the Linux community since the last time I dabled and I don't want to waste my time to later find out that there was a better choice to be made.

I have several machines in a home networked environment all running some version of a popular alternate OS. And a Mac Book, which isn't up for discussion according to my wife, though I think that is just fine since she runs the house and I only run a few segments of it. Ok, maybe just one segment. And hell, it already has a flavor of *nux on it.

I have 2 Toshiba Satellite laptops with the params as indicated in the attached pdf.

I have 1 Dell Optiplex GX280 with params as below:

Intel® Pentium® 4

1.5 Gb, 400 & 533 MHz DDR2 SDRAM

Chipset: Intel Grantsdale

AC97, Sound Blaster emulation

PCI 2.2

SATA 1.0a

USB 2.0

PCI Express 1.0a

10/100 LAN

and currently using a Radeon 9200 vid card with 256Mb mem though the system board is integrated Intel Extreme Graphics (in case I decide to yank the vid card later)

For the Dell, I'd like to use it as a file server/media streaming server: audio, video, pictures, etc.--more appropriately a media center box that can stream to other devices (I have been using ORB to do this) as well as be used as a file server . The dell has almost 2 Tb of disk space, mostly on external USB2.0 drives.

For the laptops, I'd like to be able to view the streamed media (again, I have been using ORB to do this). I also need to have some programs, such as the game Spore or EQ II from the afore mentioned alternate OS; so something that can WINE. Until I can teach my kids how to use Linux, I'd like to also be able to take my existing hard disk images and create a virtual machine image and be able to run the image. There is a wireless Lexmark X3550 all-in-one on the network as well as the need to sync ipods and iphones from the non-Mac machines.

One more caveat. I'm a mobile guy who does web app development (currently in ASP.Net and looking to add to the repertoire, PHP on Apache and MySql--and like Linux, does not scare me); I'd like something that can both run linux on stick by booting to it, as well as over the top of what ever system I plug into while keeping my files in sync locally--PC and stick boot--or virtually.

Is this a tall order? If so, ok. I don't care if it takes multiple flavors of Linux to accomplish the end result, but I would prefer not having to take 2 months to do it either, though limiting the flavors to one is better. Or 2.

Someone out there has a home network setup using Linux like I just described--ah the beauty of open source software. What are you using, how successfully and what can you point me to? If I have to, I'll dig out my 1999 O'Reilly "Linux Device Drivers", but I really really do not want to.

Thanks and Regards,



  • rogernxs
    Just adding a watch to this thread....cheers
  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    I have been waiting for someone with experience in home multimedia to respond, but since it has not happened yet, I will respond with what I have heard at my lug.

    For the streaming media server you can use xbmc (http://xbmc.org/), I know it works well at streaming on many different protocols, but I do not know how you would make your television interact with the system. To setup a file share server you can just setup samba on any distro to create shared directories in smb, which is the windows shared directory service. For the streaming server you can also checkout mediatomb (http://mediatomb.cc/), which is supposed to have a good web based user interface.

    If you use xbmc you can use a program like vlc to capture the streams, if you use something more like mediatomb then the web is a sufficient interface. All distros are capable to using wine, you only need to verify if the programs you wish to use as supported under wine.

    If the printer is using the smb protocol for communications then you can find the ppd (cups print driver) for the printer online and configure it through the cups web interface.

    Syncing anything that starts with an i is questionable, apple keeps blocking the capability to run itunes through emulators, so as of the last time I checked you cannot use their official tools on Linux. But rhythmbox is a nice tool for Linux that allow communication with an ipod. Generally when you buy an apple product you are stuck doing what they want or dropping the product.

    The "linux on stick" question is confusing me because I do not clearly understand what you are asking for. Are you also looking for a Live distro that can be run from a USB stick?

    In general you would have the easiest time setting this all up with ubuntu, but if you choose to run something a bit more stable like gentoo then your performance will be notable.
  • MyD0j0
    MyD0j0 Posts: 4
    The usb stick question was for portability. I have seen the live distros, but I'm curious if there are any that will not just allow me to boot to it, but if I'm at my own linux machine, or at a freinds pc, would just run as a virtual desktop? There is a program called Ceedo or even portable apps and mojopac, that run as virtual desktops, but where these fail is that they cannot be booted up and run as an independent system on an untrusted box.

    In short, its one thing to have a virtual desktop on a trusted machine, quite another on an untrusted.
  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    USB thumb driver performance is very slow compared to a hard disk installation and can be quite difficult to use to store information, in fact every usb based distro I have used is read-only and does not save changes.

    If you still wish to use a pen drive then you can use it as a standard usb boot, then for virtual machines you can setup a virtual machine instance that used the pen drive as the hard drive rather than a virtual disk, that will allow the same image to be used in both occurrences.
  • MyD0j0
    MyD0j0 Posts: 4

    thanks for your input but i think i may have confused you regarding the usb stick though. The virtual machine will run on a typical desktop and both laptop systems that I convert to linux and has no bearing on the usb drive. that said, at pendrivelinux.com, i used the universal usb installer with unbuntu desktop 10.x and it did allow for a max of 4gb loop file for saving changes. I've even installed a couple packages from the ubuntu software center (cairo-dock for instance). I have not tried gentoo as yet (but you did say its performance was notably better than ubuntu, so that is next).

    With usb stick, i'm hoping to have a system I can sync with my desktop system. For instance, I'm starting to use eclipse for the php development I mentioned in op, I'd like related files and eclipse settings to sync with the desktop so that when I'm at a foreign machine, i fire up the usb and have everything that was on the desktop so i can continue development from there, come home and sync to work from the desktop. I'm looking at Unison to do this so far, but am worried about the affect on the non-running usb system during sync.

    Any thoughts?
  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    Thank you for the clarification about syncronizing the data rather than treating it as a physical OS as I had thought.

    The synchronization is not that difficult, you could build an rsync script to sync the two when the usb stick is plugged into the chosen system(s). You can even add udev rules telling the computer to run the rsync script whenever you plug it into the computer(s) and when you unmount it guaranteeing that the images are always synchronized.
  • MyD0j0
    MyD0j0 Posts: 4
    You've been a great help in providing suggestions and I appreciate it.



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