Jul. 1st, 2016

Upgrade log

Jul. 1st, 2016 04:18 pm
pyesetz: (woof)

(Hi, [livejournal.com profile] porsupah!  Thanks for stopping by again!  You are the only person who has commented on my journal this year.  In previous years, [livejournal.com profile] xolo was often the only commenter, but he seems to have left LJ now.)

I decided in April that my Dell D620 laptop needed an OS upgrade.  The major issues were:
  • My 3-year-old fonts did not contain the latest emoji characters, which *everyone* has started to use all over the Internet.
  • Opera 12.16 was so old, it didn’t support the latest HTTPS standard.  Many websites refused to be visited by this old browser (“for your protection”).  Newer versions of Opera refused to install on my old OS.
  • Firefox 41.0.2 did not play well with the new Reditrᴀ, which was a forced upgrade (they didn’t tell me until after it was installed).  Most images displayed as blanks and memory usage was astronomical.

Now it’s time to say So long! to Linux Mint Debian Edition with Cinnamon 201303 (“Jessie”) and say Hello! to Linux Mint 17.3 with Cinnamon (“Rosa”).  I’ve been down this road before, so my hard drive is already partitioned into “/home” for files that should survive an OS upgrade, “/” for the OS, plus “/windows” for my dual-boot Windows 7.

April 28th: Finally get around to it: repartition /home to be 13 GB smaller, download Linux Mint 17, write it to a USB stick, boot it up, then let it install itself onto the new partition.  Then reboot back to the familiar old system.

June 5th: Boot up the new “Rosa” system for the first time, after first saving copies of all the dot-files in my home directory (since Rosa will upgrade them and then Jessie won’t understand them anymore).  Install some of my favourite Linux packages (emacs, wget, etc) and remove a few I don’t need (hplip, cups, bluez, etc).  Then back to the old “Jessie” system, which still has those three problems forcing me to upgrade.

June 23rd: Time to get serious.  The laptop’s FN keys for controlling volume and backlight do not work when logged in to Rosa/Cinnamon as ‘root’ (which I always do but it’s been deprecated for years).  I futz around with it for a bit, but eventually decide to “act normal” and log in as an unprivileged user (this means that I can’t use my main Emacs session to edit system files).  Firefox 47.0 works better with Reditr, although memory leakage is still excessive.  Thunderbird cannot see my mail archives and Opera has lost my RSS feeds, but I decide that Rosa is good enough to use for now.

June 26th: Opera 38.0 is not very good.  It has a wacky multi-level menu system that can no longer be turned off, making bookmarks much less accessible than they used to be.  Also it seems that all support for RSS feeds has been removed.  Looks like Opera will need to be demoted to my “backup browser”, even though Firefox does not have good support for search accelerators (with Opera I could type in the address “w Boris_Johnson” and instantly get a Wikipedia bio on this famous person, or type “e ProScan” to get eBay listings for matching products).
      I can’t figure out how to pull the list of RSS feeds from Opera’s data files, so I boot up Jessie (after switching my home directory to the saved dot-files) and start Opera to export the feeds as an OPML file.  Back in Rosa (switching dot-files again), I start manually adding feeds from the OPML file to Thunderbird, then discover a poorly-documented feature Edit → Account Settings → Feeds → Manage Subscriptions → Import, which just happens to accept an OPML list of feeds to add.  Those manually-added feeds are now duplicates, so I delete them.
      Firefox has a tool called “Subscribe” (it’s hidden by default).  It strongly promotes the use of Live Bookmarks for RSS feeds, but once you tell it to use /usr/bin/thunderbird instead then it Just Works™.  Clicking on a link in Thunderbird opens the web page in Firefox, so these programs seem adequately integrated for my needs.

June 27th: Merge the old email archives into Thunderbird 38.8.0.  This is a royal pain because disk space is now very tight on /home and so I can move only a few emails at a time.  I delete the saved dot-files, which frees up a lot of space, but means I can no longer go back to Jessie.  While I’m at it, I clean up the email archives for my seven years at Company 𝔾.  It feels good to put that thing to bed, although it would be better if I had managed to find a replacement job by now.

June 28th: Java no longer works in the browser.  This has been deprecated for months, but I have IcedTea installed and it clearly does start, but then a blank screen appears instead of the Java app.  Same behaviour in both Firefox and Opera.  This is a problem.  I use StreetSmart.com to put trailing-stop protection on my stock trades, but it’s written in Java and is now obsolete.  I can still use Schwab.com which is mostly plain HTML, but that is for “investors” rather than “traders” and doesn’t offer trailing-stop orders.  I could use StreetSmart Edge®, which is a .net app, but then I would have to reboot into Windows any time I want to do something with the stock market.
      But wait!  One of the advanced new features of Linux Mint 17 is supposed to be improved support for VirtualBox.  Maybe I could run StreetSmart Edge inside a paravirtualized Windows system inside a GUI window under Linux, just like all the cool kids do nowadays!  It’s never worked for me before, but I try installing VirtualBox.  It needs a Windows installation disk, so I download the Windows 8.1 evaluation as an .iso file, then write it to a USB stick.  VirtualBox cannot reuse my /windows partition and needs several GB to create a simulated hard drive for windows, so I delete the .iso file to make room.  Then it turns out that VirtualBox cannot use the USB stick and wants to simulate the installation disk using the .iso file, so I download it again.  But Windows 8.1 refuses to boot inside VirtualBox, because my CPU is an old Centrino Duo which doesn’t have the VT-x instructions that Windows 8.1 requires when running in paravirtualized mode.
      So I download the Windows 7 Starter .iso from this slightly-shady site, figuring that I’ll reuse the product key from my dual-boot Windows.  But my officially-licenced product key is not accepted because it’s for Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Windows 7 Starter.  So I get a key from this rather-shady site, which is accepted.  But Windows 7 won’t install itself because it insists that the simulated hard drive needs at least 6 GB of space.  (I remember when operating systems would fit on a single floppy disk!  I used to use a computer whose entire hard-drive capacity was only 0.005 GB!  So get off my lawn!)  I decide to free up some space by deleting old Company 𝔾 stuff.  The most useless stuff is non-final versions of slideshows for conference sessions, which surely I will never look at again (nor will anyone else).  I try using an Emacs keyboard macro to select the non-final versions from a list of all conference-data files, but the list is long and the macro runs slowly.  So I write a Lisp function to prune the list, which runs in an instant.  It occurs to me that this is the first “computer program” I have written in many months.

June 29th: Windows 7 installs successfully inside the simulated computer, but it cannot access the Internet.  Google finds many people with similar problems, but most of their “solutions” don’t work.  It turns out that the default networking settings for VirtualBox are not compatible with Windows 7, even though there’s a drop-down menu with “Windows 7 (32-bit)” selected so VirtualBox will know what kind of OS it’s supposed to be supporting.  The correct answer is to tell VirtualBox to use the ”Bridged Adapter” methodology and simulate the ”Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop (82540EM)” type of networking device, which is so old that even Windows 7 knows how to deal with it.
      StreetSmart Edge installs successfully and runs well.  The “Live Chart” function correctly updates once per second to show the latest prices on Wall St.  But the rest of my system lags a lot while VirtualBox is running.  I improve this some by telling VirtualBox to simulate a computer with only 0.75 GB of RAM.  (I spent most of my career writing software for computers with only 0.00003 GB of RAM, although those programs couldn’t do any fancy graphics.)  I only have enough hard-drive space to store one “snapshot”, so I set it to resume to the moment when StreetSmart Edge asks for my username and password.  I’m getting warnings that there’s *only* 1 GB of space available, so I invoke the wizard command “tune2fs -m 2” (kids, don’t try this at home), which reduces the /home partition’s safety margin from 5% to 2% and frees up another 2 GB of space.

June 30th: Begin writing up this document, which requires examining the log-files from the old Jessie partition.  Some of the ”facts” documented above might be inaccurate because I didn’t keep careful records as I went along; sorry.

July 1st: Time to get rid of the old Jessie partition to free up 12 GB.  To move partitions around on a hard drive you must boot from someplace else, but my usual USB stick was overwritten with Windows 8.1, so I download Linux Mint 17.3 again (meanwhile, Linux Mint has released version 18.0).  Write it to the stick and boot it up.  Remember that I haven’t set up Rosa to act as its own web-server yet, so save a copy of Jessie’s /etc to Rosa in case I need it.  Then use gparted to delete Jessie, make /windows be 1 GB bigger, and put the rest of the released space into /home.  This requires moving 21 GB from one spot on the hard drive to another, which takes half an hour.  Despite all the warnings that this could make my hard drive unbootable, Rosa boots up just fine.  Windows also boots correctly, after first spending a lot of time on chkdsk which finds no problems.
      So now all that’s left is to remove Jessie from the boot menu, since that menu item no longer points anywhere.  I use the wizard command “grub-mkconfig” for that.  All done!  Happy Canada Day!


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