Monday, 15 June 2020

Adding a Xubuntu partition to a production Windows 7 machine ...

Windows 7 was in many ways an admirable operating system, but one of its major problems was its slow startup and shutdown times,

On a desktop computer, this didn't matter much, basically you never bothered to reboot them unless necessary  and then a restart or planned shutdown was an excuse for an extended coffee break or informal meeting. However on a laptop being used as a portable machine it was a pain - while there were tricks like Alt-F4 to force a quick shutdown when running for a flight, startup was always tedious - I've lost count of the number of times I've spent making polite conversation to people while my laptop booted.

Windows 10 is much better - faster startup, faster shutdown, and no irritating mandatory updates at inappropriate moments.

Well, the old Thinkpad X230 I bought a couple of years ago is still stuck on Windows 7 due to its role as a backup machine for the Dow's Pharmacy documentation project, and is probably not worth upgrading to Windows 10, given that I always intended it to become a linux machine after the end of the project.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, I've lost nearly three months, and instead of being finished sometime around the end of winter, January next year looks more realistic.

The machine is quite a nice machine to work with in an extended session but a pain for a quick looksee operation due to the slow startup time.

After my success making a dual boot work machine, and given that the disk was only about 25% full, I decided to sacrifice around 100GB of the unused space to make a Xubuntu partition - I could probably have made it smaller if I had to, but I had the space anyway.

The idea was to build a quick boot partition and add a minimal set of applications to allow for work in a quick startup/quick shutdown situation.

This isn't an original idea. HP to name but one, used to sell laptops where you could boot into what they called Quickweb - a minimal web based environment to allow you to check email etc.

So, to do this I used the repartioner in the Xubuntu installer to shrink the windows partition, and did a vanilla install of Xubuntu - this gets you Firefox, Libre Office, Thunderbird, and the Ristretto image viewer in the box - essentially all you need to do useful work.

To this I added Focuswriter for quick distraction free writing, ReText for MarkDown editing, and Notable as a way of grouping together notes.

I didn't install printing and I reckon that material can be uploaded or downloaded from OneDrive/Google Drive/iCloud as required via a web browser.

Making the Xubuntu partition just worked. Utterly unexciting.

Shrinking the Windows partition also worked smoothly. As always, it wanted to run chkdsk afterwards to verify the volume integrity - which it passed with flying colours.

The only problem I found was that the OneDrive widget had gone stupid on me and required to be reinstalled - whether due to my shrinking the partition or some other cause I don't know, and this then required a massive resync with the cloud instance - all 64 GB of it - which took several hours.

Painful, tedious but ultimately a fairly straightforward mechanical process.

However, in the end it was worth it - I still have an alternative machine to keep working with should disaster strike the project machine, and I also a have quick start linux based machine to get work done in these boring half hours waiting for trains that never come ...

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