So I also spent my hiatus installing a sexy new 74G, 10k RPM, SATA drive, which has cut my startup, login, and application loading times in half (the X and GDM startup now takes a mere 5-6 seconds, for example). I also switched to XFS from reiserfs while I was at it. I’ll take the arguable speed hit (at least for tiny files, of which I don’t have a whole lot) in favor of stability.

I did this by recompiling my kernel to have builtin support for SATA and XFS, installing the new drive, partitioning and formatting it, mounted it to /mnt/newroot, then running cp -rdf --preserve=all / /mnt/newroot/ to copy the old installation over. I then edited /mnt/newroot/etc/fstab and /mnt/newroot/boot/grub/menu.lst (or /mnt/newroot/etc/lilo[/lilo].conf) to use the new partitions (SATA is treated as SCSI [sdX] by Linux, not IDE [hdX], for example), took the old drive(s) out, and rebooted.

In the meantime, I got a couple of USB2.0 external enclosures to stick my old drives in, and am currently debating reformatting my disks as VFAT or XFS. On the one hand, VFAT is the defacto world filesystem, if for no other reason than Windows and (at least compact flash) camera media use it, and thus everyone can read/write to it without a lot of difficulty, whereas XFS is so new that even a lot of existing Linux installations don’t support it. On the other hand, VFAT is slow, ugly, has no concept real of permissions, and has a lot of character restrictions that would crimp my current music collection (colons, parenthesis, question marks, etc.), whereas XFS has none of those issues. Whatever I decide, I’ll end up with around 56G of removable storage for merely the cost of the enclosures, which totally rules.

I also got the new HAL-enabled gnome-vfs going, in order to test it out in combination with the new drives and such. My only real complaints are that HAL doesn’t handle strange volume labels very well (my compact flash card registers itself as “?^M@” for some reason), and sometimes the “info.product” or “storage.model” strings are somewhat bizzare. My Maxtor HDD says it’s “4098U8” and my IBM HDD says it’s “-351680”, whereas the front panel media slots report things like “USB Storage-CFC” or “USB Storage-MCC”. While the product/model number is potentially useful unformation, it’s kind of user-unfriendly. Maybe some combination telling me what it does would be better, like “16GB External Hard Drive” or “64MB Removable Disk”—the exact heuristics could be determined by the bus and removable/hotpluggable fields, maybe? It already knows to call FDDs “Floppy Drive” (even though the kernel seems to think my single USB FDD is actually 7 disks, somehow). Aside from these trivial things, I think that HAL-enabled gnome-vfs/nautilus also totally rules.

Meanwhile, in widget-hacking land, GtkFileChooserButton was added to GTK+ while I was offline, so make sure it get’s tested before 2.6.0 :-).



  1. Jimbob says:

    The drives themselves are a 16G IBM-DTTA IDE drive circa 1998 (which came with my Dell) and a 40G Maxtor drive circa 1999 or so. The former is old enough that it doesn’t support even “newer” DMA modes, like UDMA, and managed to acquire at least 20 bad blocks seemingly overnight. I had to get a new motherboard because my old one started flaking and then just died.

  2. ed says:


    What kind of disk(s) did you upgrade from?

    Also, do you have a cool new motherboard with S-ATA built-in, or do you have a PCI card?

  3. Simon says:

    What is this new widget for, exactly?

  4. Jimbob says:

    It’s a GTK+-based replacement for GnomeFileEntry, for general “pick a file or folder” situations.

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