Migrating To A New Linux Computer With A Manifest

With Windows, you buy a new machine.  You copy a few things off the old one that you know are most important.  You make a token effort to re-create your old environment.  Then something Microsoft did gets in the way or you can’t find your original discs and you just keep it in the closet because you are afraid you will have lost all your data.  Because that’s what your buddy did down the block.

I’ve been told anyway.  I’ve also been told that most people have spare Windows computers that are taking up space.

Mac people can use a backup from Time Machine.  I’ve actually done that, and it is pretty slick.

I ran into a very different problem  My backups were perfect clones of the original.  But my original was “broke”.

Note:  This migration process is SO very easy that it takes about a half hour of actual hands on keyboard “work” and about 3 hours of processing time.  I have done this a couple times in a short span of time and am now getting “Creative” with the process.

Narrative:

Once upon a time, I installed Linux, and it was good…

Actually I installed Debian.  I figured that if there are so very many distributions of Linux that were forked from Debian, that Debian itself was safest.

I think I was right, no proof, just my opinion.  I have done my distribution hopping and had a machine in 1995 that was still being used in 2010 with CentOS 4.  Still stable, I just had much better hardware by then than my old Panasonic Omnibook with a Pentium 3 chip in it.  Yes, a 15 year long stretch with a computer is a long time, and I was the third owner of the machine.  It was my “pet”

I ran Debian 7 along side my Windows machines, and slowly found myself using Linux more than Windows.  I still use windows today, Windows 8.1 specificially, and I have an XP virtual machine With The Embedded Patch so I can get windows updates, but I don’t think I have run that within a month.

The only thing I use Windows for now is Photoshop, and really there are Linux programs like Gimp and Inkscape that will do what I need.

My original install was in my Dell.  Seven years ago in 2010.  First generation i7.  Dell Precision M4500. Blasted thing was built like a tank.  It loved, and once again loves, Linux.  I lived there for a year or more.  Then I was given upgrades, a couple times.  The original install went from machine 1 through 4.  Along the way Debian got upgraded to Debian 8, then recently 9 although I joined 9 back when it was “Testing”.

You see with Linux, you can clone the hard drive, take the clone, plug it into a new machine, and it just may work.  All you need is a USB caddy for the destination drive and as long as your drive names line up it works.  dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb bs=4M conv=noerror,sync

For the most part it did but there were weird video affects and strange hibernate and resume problems. This cropped up as a result of taking machine 1’s operating system and making it stable in machine 2 and 3 and later 4.

The actual process:

So here I am, creating from scratch Son Of Original Install. Debian 9 with XFCE4.  Oh, and a lot of extra “baggage” that I don’t need but it is easier that way.

I decided that I would create a list of programs that I could reinstall on the New Machine and see how it works.  Also this is done with me in XFCE4.  We Linux People are if nothing else, flexible.  If it is not where I said it is, poke around a bit.

Step 1.  New Machine, is a Thinkpad T530, and gets a clean “Bare Metal” install of Debian 9. I ended up doing it a couple times, and so far the only weirdness is that it insists that I do “sudo su” if I want my terminal session to be and remain root.  They also renamed the network devices that have been used for decades.  So when I get to the network tweaks that I will have to do, I may have to edit a configuration file. Most likely samba.conf.

Success.  I’m typing this from that machine now.

Step 2.  Create Manifest and install it from Synaptic. (Menu, System, Synaptic)

Step 2a.  On Original, open Synaptic.  After giving it the password for Root create a manifest by clicking “File, Save Markings As” and ticking a box at the bottom of the window that says “Save full state, not only changes”.

Synaptic created the file with everything and in next step, it will place everything where I need it.  Yes, it will add a lot of software I don’t really need, but with Synaptic and Linux, I can purge all that stuff with a simple “apt purge” and it will remove it all, completely.  Put it on a chip or USB stick and place it on the new machine.

You can edit the file and delete anything out that you know won’t be needed, but you will have to trust Synaptic to realize what you’re trying to do.  Best if you did the removal in the next step.

Step 2b.  On New install on the new machine, open Synaptic and select “File, Read Markings”.  Tell it where that file is.  It will read it in and select all your “markings” from the manifest and instruct Synaptic to later install.

I did that in bed.  It was 8GB worth of upgrades on a replacement for my old 7 year lived in install.

Here is where I am second guessing and should have removed the other programs and window managers that I don’t use.  I like XFCE4, it’s light, fast, and configurable.  Others prefer KDE or Gnome.  I have them all installed.  Why not, it’s a seven year old install.  If you remove it before telling Synaptic to update, Synaptic will get rid of the chaff along with it.  I didn’t want to, I wanted “What I Had On The Old Install”.

Step 3.  Bring over my home directory.  I cloned the Original install on a backup drive.  I took that drive and plugged it into an external case.  Plugged that into the USB port. It is copying.

Step 4.  Live with it.

I have to go with this new install for a while spotting problems.  And I haven’t gone back to the old machine since.

Step 4a) The first one was I had to be able to play DVDs.

Change, as root, the /etc/apt/sources.list file by editing it and adding four lines:

#2017-07-08 to add libdvdcss

deb http://download.videolan.org/pub/debian/stable/ /
deb-src http://download.videolan.org/pub/debian/stable/ /

Then install as root by “apt install libdvdcss2”.

VLC worked by playing Futurama in Spanish.  Leela is a babe.

Step 4b) network shares on windows are not yet accessable.

SAMBA was installed on Original, and it was happy.  It took a lot of twiddling to get that there.  Luckily I could copy over and merge it into my bare bones samba.conf file.  I saved the new one as installed, then copied the one over from Original, then restarted.

Fixed the access to my network shares.  It did not fix the share I had on the new machine.  I’ll work on that.

Step 5) Conclusion is that this process works.

Worked.  I’m on day 6 of all of this.

Two problems cropped up:

1) The network share on my “new” machine still hasn’t been fixed but I will deal with that later

2) Flash does not work.  Flash, as a platform, is dying. The only place it irks me is on www.imgur.com when I run across a short video to play.  I’ll look into that at my leisure.

Step 6) Epilogue:

Furthermore…  I got bored and did it again with another machine.  I had it working once the updates happened.  It’s a first generation Thinkpad Yoga S1 and has its own problem.

That’s the thing, there will always be quirks.  Be prepared.  They happen because the new computer has different hardware than the original one.  You may need drivers, and you may need to remove software.

After all you still have your old machine and its backup, so you can go back if you want.  This “migration” is completely safe to your original data.

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