Adventures in #linux distros and backups

I am a huge fan of Linux Mint, but I have been doing a bit of distro-hopping lately. I have in mind installing Ubuntu 13.10 when it comes out – a distro I haven’t used for quite a few years now.

In order to accommodate its eventual installation, I wanted to re-organise my partitions. I decided to try cloning my partitions as an experiment. I have a Samsung removable drive – which I am very pleased with. I backed up my essential data, because I was fearful that the restorations from the clones would be unsuccessful. How right I was.
I used 3 tools:
* dd – the standard UNIX disk copying command – which I used to backup my Win 7 partition
* RedoBackup (http://redobackup.org/) – a small live Linux CD with an LXDE desktop for the backup, recovery and bare metal restore
* clonezilla (http://clonezilla.org/) – another live Linux distro but command-line only, and very stripped-down.
Cloning using dd was a breeze, but I haven’t tried restoring a stored partition. In theory, it should work well, although I don’t know how sensitive the tool is if you try to install to a partition that isn’t exactly the same size as the one you cloned from.
The other tools: Redo and Clonezilla, I can only describe as “unmitigated disasters”. Avoid them at all costs, because they are frustrating to use and not fit for purpose.
These tools (i.e. Redo and Clonezilla) seemed to have problems mounting my Samsung external drive, even though it’s never been a problem on every other Linux distro I tried. By opening up another virtual console, I was able to mount the drive. So, it can be done, but the utilities themselves couldn’t seem to do that off their own back. 
I also found problem with id permission problems on my Samsung drive. On my Samsung drive, the user id is 1010. One of the aforementioned tools used a user id of 1000, whilst another used 999. This meant that the tools had problems getting write-permissions to the drive, as they used normal user ids which Linux found were wrong. The makers of the distros really need to sort that one out.
Anyway, after an inordinate amount of fiddling around, I was able to create clones of my Debian and Mint partitions.
I was not able to restore the clones, though. I don’t remember the specific defect in RedoBackup, but in Clonezilla, it said that I was attempting to restore to a backup to a different partition than from where I cloned it from. That bit is true. I had recreated my partition table. It then told me to go read a FAQ about how to do it. Unfortunately, I was in command-line only, and not able to access the web to read it. Epic fail.
I also noted that Redo didn’t have the zip command, which I thought was a bit lacking, as I was trying to unzip a file at the time.
So, in summary, these tools were very frustrating to use, and required constant fighting with. They also failed at their basic tasks. Also, they scrimped, unnecessarily on tools that were relevant to the backup process.
If I were to attempt cloning operations again, I think my approach would be to burn something like a minimal install Slackware to a USB drive, and use that as a basis of a recovery tool. I would then be able to add in any other tools that I had inadvertently left out of my initial distro. I think that would be an infinitely better approach than using either Clonezilla or RedoBackup.
In the end, I had to install Debian Testing from CD again. I kept the Win 7 partitions, but all the other partitions I had are gone. Mint is no more. I would like to stick with Debian for awhile, and see how I get on with that. I will try Ubuntu when it comes out.
I’m really looking forward to the next version of Gnome hitting Testing. I am on Gnome 3.4.2.1, and I must say that I find it lacking. It doesn’t look very slick at all. It’s fast – certainly much faster than I was expecting – but the whole thing has an unpolished look to it. The icons look somewhat dated, the fonts are generally too big, and so are the window title bars. This makes the desktop look very clunky and unpolished. Screen space is also wasted – so it’s not just a question of aesthetics.
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About mcturra2000

Computer programmer living in Scotland.
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