Linux Mint

Operating Systems and Backups

Linux Mint
Linux Mint

I have been using Linux for almost ten years now. I was a loyal Ubuntu fan until a few years ago when it started changing more than I liked. At that point I switched to Mint, a derivative distribution which kept everything I liked about Ubuntu and cleared out everything that irritated me about it. Lately, however, I was beginning to get frustrated with Mint, so I searched for an alternative.

After reading up on various different options, I decided Mint really was the right distro for me, but I didn’t want to have to keep upgrading every six months. This involved backing up my files, formatting my hard drive and installing the newest version from scratch. I like to be up to date, but I don’t like the hassle. I decided to try Linux Mint Debian Edition, or LMDE.

LMDE is a version of Mint that is known as a rolling release. This means that rather than installing a new base version every six months, you continuously update your existing system. It is based on Debian rather than Ubuntu, which means that there are some minor differences from the main version of Mint, but these are mostly behind the scenes and don’t affect general usage. The downside of LMDE compared to the main version of Mint is that it may be less stable, a bit rough around the edges. On the other hand, the regular updates should take care of these.

I downloaded the .iso and made a USB live disk of LMDE 64 bit, to match my computer’s architecture. I backed up my files to an external hard drive and set about installing my new system. The process was a little more DIY than I was used to, I had to set up my own drive partitions, but it was easy enough. Once installed, I booted into the familiar Mint desktop (I like the Cinnamon variant) and copied my files back in.

I noticed some problems right away as I set about installing the programs I use and setting things up how I like them. Firstly, my printer wouldn’t install, and it wouldn’t tell me why. It just popped up an error to let me know that it hadn’t been able to install it. Useful. Next, I had trouble with Skype. I had to download it from the skype website as it wasn’t in the repositories. I was able to install it, although it pulled in over 50 32 bit dependencies so it took a long time. When it finally installed, it wouldn’t play nicely with my sound. It showed me a lot of sound output options, none of which worked. Interestingly enough, it showed the same output options as microphone choices. Needless to say, none of those worked either. I also couldn’t get Picasa to connect to my web albums. It told me I needed a 32 bit library, and offered to install it for me. When I accepted the prompt, it told me that it didn’t know how to handle it on Mint.

There were a few other problems that I encountered. For example, when I closed the lid on my laptop it didn’t always go to sleep, and when I opened the lid after it had slept, the wifi refused to connect to my network. There’s rough around the edges and there’s simply not working properly. I wasn’t satisfied.

I decided that since the bulk of my problems were caused by the software that needed 32 bit libraries, I would try the 32 bit version instead. I copied my files back to the external drive, downloaded the 32 bit .iso and installed a new USB live disk. I went through the identical installation process and once again booted into Mint.

This time, things were a breeze. Skype installed easily and picked up my sound and microphone settings without me having to do anything. My printer installed happily. Picasa didn’t complain about connecting to my web albums. I haven’t had chance to close the lid yet, but if it didn’t work, I would get used to shutting down, I’m sure.

I came to copy my files back over, and at this point I started having real problems. Half of the folders I had copied were empty or corrupt. Thankfully, I had a few of the missing files saved on the internet, and an afternoon playing with testdisk and photorec brought some of the files back to life. I am now just missing one file that I’m bothered about. Typically, it’s the one file I actually can’t manage without. My finances.

I use KMyMoney to keep track of our household accounts, scheduled payments, direct debits and past transactions. I have been using it almost as long as I’ve been using Linux. I depend on it to make payments on time, make sure we don’t overspend and generally keep our finances in check. Without it, I have no idea what’s going on.

Photorec is able to rescue KMyMoney files, and to its credit, it did find my file on the corrupted drive. Unfortunately, the rescued copy was also corrupted. The best I could do was recover a backup I made to google docs five months ago. This means I have the backbones of the data, the payment schedules and transaction amounts haven’t changed much in that time. It also means that to get back up to date, I will have to go through five months of statements from five different accounts and reinput all the transactions. That is not going to be fun.

Lesson learnt. Back up mission critical files properly, regularly, and to somewhere safer than an external hard drive that has been misbehaving for a long time. I’m thinking a weekly back up to google docs should do it. It’s been added to my to do list (another thing I can’t do without, thankfully it’s online).

I suppose I should stop putting off the inevitable and get started on those bank statements.

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