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Living with multiple operating systems

My old computer died last year just before christmas so I had to buy a new one. I bought myself an Acer Aspire M5641 which is a decent machine with a decent price tag.

It came pre-installed with Windows Vista, which I hadn't tried until then so I decided to give it a try. It had a solid 5.0 on the experience index so I could test all the shiny effects that's supposed to give you the WOW effect.

All in all, it's a nice improvement over XP, but if you're coming from a Compiz powered desktop, or have seen OS X, then there's definitely no WOW what-so-ever.

The UAC thing was not as annoying as I had expected. It's a bit more frequent than the average sudo prompt in ubuntu but not at all as annoying as various reviewers had described it.

What finally made me plug in another hard disk and install Linux again was the lack of a decent command prompt. You can't really appreciate how much you miss it unless you spend a couple of months on a Windows system. I tried to learn the powershell thing, but after two days trying (and failing!) to create the equivalent of the snippet below, I gave up.

for i in *.avi; do
    output=`basename $i`-converted.avi
    RunCommandToConvert $i $output
    RunCommandToFixConvertedFile $output
Passing CLR objects around may sound nice in theory, but it's freakin impossible to use when all you want to do is manipulate strings and do operations on various files. Maybe my use case is not within the scope of powershell, I don't know. Or maybe it's just a case of trying to learn an old dog new tricks...

In any case, I'm now running Ubuntu 8.10 alongside windows (I decided to keep vista around, I mean I've payed my microsoft tax and it's useful for certain things like playing games or talking to weird hardware) and that requires sharing of data between two operating systems.

Most important is:
  • Pictures
  • Music
  • Firefox bookmarks and passwords.
Thanks to various software, I can access ntfs from Linux, and ext2 from windows. Both reading and writing works fine.

For pictures, this was easy. I'm using Picasa (it's fantastic! And I couldn't care less that it isn't "native" or anything.) and since my photos are stored in separate folders, and picasa stores settings for these in its picasa.ini file in those folders it's just a matter of copying over the files. Star rating, comments, edits. Everything already migrated with a simple 'cp /windows/picasa-folder ~/Pictures'. The only thing missing is the "Albums" which are sort of virtual grouping of pictures. I will need to migrate these manually from windows somehow.
For keeping these two folders in sync, I'm using Conduit which will automatically sync the folders for me.

For Firefox, I used to use Google Browser Sync, but that has long since been abandoned. A quick googling found me the Foxmarks service which so far has worked great. It syncs bookmarks and passwords (not cookies or preferences) but that's the most important things anyway.

For Music, I just made a symbolic link to my mounted windows partition. In windows, I used Winamp to listen to music (it's the player that sucks less) and on Linux I use Banshee. The problem with this approach is that neither of these players store all their information in the actual ID3 tags of the files. Most of the information is there, like album, title, artists etc. But I also like to rate my songs (to use the "Highest Rated" automatic playlist) as well as look at the play count (for fun, or use the "Most Played" automatic playlist). This information is typically stored in each applications own database, in their own format.

To solve this, I'm working on a small tool to migrate all this secret information between the players. I will save the details for another blog post, but right now I'm focusing on getting information out of Winamp and after that, getting extracted information into Banshee.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
Nice computer. I've also got myself a new PC last week with an AMD Triple-Core and 4 GB of RAM. It's just perfect for VirtualBox. You should try that too, AFAIK your new computer got a quad core and 4 GB RAM, too, right?

The only advice I can give you concerning Multi-Boot is: Stop using Windows! ;) Seriously, the only reason I see to use Windows: Games. Anyway, I'll need to reboot now to continue playing Mirror's Edge...
Mar. 2nd, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
It's a dual core, with 3gb of ram.

Regarding Multi-Boot. Yeah, you're right.. But I'm addicted to Civilization IV & Colonization so it has to stay. :-)
Also, it's a safe resort for hardware that doesn't (yet) work in a satisfiable way under Linux.

Well see how much I will use windows in practice though. Haven't hardly booted it since I installed Ubuntu :)
Feb. 19th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
Building a new kernel for Acer Aspire M5641
I have a Acer Aspire M5641. I have been unsuccessful in building a kernel.
My current attempt built the kernel, but when it came up, I got the login prompt, but the keyboard was dead. I looked in the logs and saw several errors regarding USB. I'd like to know if you've built a kernel and if so, what did your config file look like? Thanks.

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )