Friday, August 24, 2012

Upgrading Fedora

I have an older laptop that I bring to conventions when I'm a department head (Sales to Members at Anime Los Angeles; Charity Auction Check-in at Gallifrey One) and it's running and older version of Fedora Linux.  I've stayed with Fedora 14 mainly because I don't like the new desktop software that comes with Gnome 3.  Maybe I'm a traditionalist and I like my desktop icons and drop down menus.  I also like having all my applications organized by categories that are easy to find.  Office apps here, network apps there, games clustered there...  And my most used apps on the task bar so I don't have to go into the menus to launch them.  But I need to bite the bullet sooner or later so I'm going to upgrade the older laptop first as a test.

The first thing I did was to save a disk image to an external hard-drive just in case something goes horribly wrong.  I used CloneZilla to do the work since it works kind of like Symantec Ghost (which doesn't support Linux as well as it used to and can't write disk images to ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystems which are better anything by Microsoft - IMHO).  CloneZilla is a front end for PartImage, a utility to backup disk paritions, that also saves the partition layout and then optionally compresses the partition images. CloneZilla will also verify that the images are restorable so you don't end up with junk when you need to restore.  Unlike Ghost, CloneZilla/PartImage does not allow for single file restores which is a shame because I liked that feature.  I guess I will have to brush off my C programming skills and try to add this feature.  It will also make it possible to do differential backups so the entire partition image need not be backed up, just the differences.

Once upon a time I created a Ghost image of a system and then made changes that needed to be rolled back.  When I found out that the changes made the system fail I just pulled out the Ghost image and started the restore...  Until Ghost found corruption in the image.  This was not good.  I had to find an older Ghost image and restore from that, followed by making the changes to the point where I started.  This was a waste of time and reminded me to ALWAYS CHECK THE BACKUP before proceeding with anything.  I also ALWAYS CHECK THE RAM before I proceed with a new or upgraded system.  Bad memory can bring a system down.  I've encountered that before, too.

I digress.  After backing up the hard drive I switched to root and installed the utility to upgrade the the software, called preupgrade.  The command looks like:

yum install preupgrade

and it takes a few minutes to download depending on the speed of the connection and what other software is installed.  Since I had my other laptop (see my first post for details) running and accessing the 'net on my now slower connection (money is tight, something has to give) what should have been a 2 minutes download took about 5 minutes.  When preupgrade was installed I decide that now was the time.  I ran the utility and selected to go up one version only (from Fedora 14 to 15) to be safe.  I've heard horror stories of people trying to go up by 3 or more versions, only to have the system rendered unusable.  Even though I had a backup, I'm a tad shy about some things.  I let this run while I was doing work in the yard (weeds getting taller than my dog, a toy poodle) and continued while I was on a phone interview.  The longest step was the download of the new packages because there is a lot changing.  When the download was complete the utility moved to the last steps that set the next boot to install everything that was just downloaded.

Time was running out.  I had to get a shower (remember, outside in the yard with weeds and HEAT) and change clothes before driving over to the school to pick up my stepson.  I clicked on reboot and it was off.  I had a little moment of panic when nothing happened on the screen but there was a flurry of activity on the harddrive.  Then the screen came up that showed the new packages being intalled.  When I walked out it was about 90% complete.  It should be done by now but I won't know until I'm home.  I really doubt that anything horrible happened to the upgrade process, unless the hardware fails...

(Later)  No hardware failures!  The install completed and the system automatically rebooted.  When I logged in I did receive a message that my graphics hardware does not support the new desktop effects.  No big loss.  I started the process to go to the next version (Fedora 16) and it should be done by the time I get home from the PTA meeting and then LASFS.

Once I am done with the final upgrade I will see just how much I need to adjust to the new look and feel before making the decision to upgrade my main laptop.

Fedora Linux:
Gnome Desktop environment:
Laptop: Toshiba Satellite
toy poodle:
Bret Harte Elementary PTA:
Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society:

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