Prepare for the Multiboot

So, you’ve decided to turn your computer from an expensive paperweight and typewriter replacement to a Multibooting Machine. Now what do you do? Before you dive in and start throwing software around and generally messing up your hard drive, there are some things to consider:

1. You have a working computer, apart from the one you will multiboot on

This isn’t strictly essential, but it is strongly recommended. Multibooting on your main computer is certainly possible, but very risky. Remember that you will be reformating your hard disk and so you might lose all data. Also you won’t be able to use your computer while the operating systems are installing (see below) and if anything goes wrong during install, your computer could be unusable for long periods of time. That’s why you should have another computer at the ready (with all essential data on it) so that you won’t be stuck without a working computer if you need one in the middle of your multiboot mission It would be better if this other computer was connected to the Internet so that you could look up documentation and get help if you get stuck somewhere

2. All your hardware should be working perfectly.

This is top priority. If you have any hardware that has been acting up lately, get it fixed or replaced immediately. Installing operating systems is rather resource intensive and many things could go wrong if your hardware is malfunctioning. Especially important is your hard drive and your optical (CD/DVD) drive. One tell-tale sign of a bad optical drive is having problems reading and writing CD-RWs. If that’s your case, change it. While we’re talking about hardware I would also recommended having a DVD drive as many of the larger operating systems ship on DVD. Yes, it’s true that most also have multi-CD edition, but one DVD is much easier to handle then 6 or 7 CDs.

3. All your data should be backed up

Make sure that the hard disk you plan to use for multi-booting has been cleared of all important data. Ideally I would recommend having 3 backup locations: a CD or DVD, another hard disk and an online location. For the last one, a personal secure server would be ideal, but there are a number of web services offering online storage for free or at minimal cost.

4. You have some time to kill

Installing an operating system can take between 20 minutes to over an hour depending on numerous factors (most importantly, the size of the operating system and your hardware specs). Plus there is the additional factor of how long it will take to download the operating systems over the internet (if they’re available that way) or to buy them. And talking about buying…

5. You’ve got some cash to spare.

Now, don’t start worrying, making a multibooting machine isn’t going to burn a hole into your pocket. There are a plethora of operating systems available free of charge so you won’t have to pay a penny that way (unless there’s one or more that you’re dying to get and isn’t available freely). However, there will be some minor costs, like the price of buying a few blank CDs or DVDs. More importantly there’s the cost of bandwidth, which might be a problem if you don’t have a cheap broadband connection.

Now that the mundane considerations are taken care of, it’s time to move on to more interesting things. You can now proceed to search the internet for operating systems of your choice and download them (or buy them). Generally they will be distributed as CD or DVD images and you should be able to burn them to the appropriate media with any standard CD/DVD burning program (like Nero for Windows and K3B or Gnomebaker or xcdroast) for Unix. Just one word of advice: it’s better to burn to good quality CD-Rs rather than CD-RWs. Rewritables can be troublesome and I have personally experienced problems with them. I don’t have any experience with DVDs, so you’ll have to check that one yourself. Tomorrow I’ll take you through a more sophisticated checklist of things you’ll need to multi-boot as well as a few special tools to make your Multibooting experience a bit smoother.

Why Multiboot?

First things first: why would you even want to multiboot? Here’s a short list of the reasons you might consider, starting from the most practical to the most outrageous.

1. Data security

Remember the time when you had to get to that important document and Windows simply wouldn’t start? It’s times like this that having one more operating system installed can be helpful. Thanks to the variety of sizes and shapes in which operating systems now come, it is possible to fit a “rescue” operating system in less than a gigabyte (at current hard disk capacities that would be less than 1% of your storage space)

2. Software testing

If you’re a software developer, developing for multiple platforms, it would be essential to have multiple operating systems installed to test your software on. Unfortunately, the number of such multi-platform developers are rather few and far between. But having multiple OSes is also helpful if you’re a web developer. Even cross-platform browsers like Opera and Firefox are known to render pages slightly differently in Linux, BSD and Windows.  To make sure that your pages look good in all contexts, it would be a good idea to have different operating systems at the ready. (Of course, in this particular case using virtualization might be more productive than actually multibooting, but that’s a different matter altogether.

3. You want to know what makes your computer tick

Certainly a reason for the more technophilic type, but not a bad one at all. Installing and using different operating systems will give you an idea of what makes them work individually and how they are different from each other.Of course that is only going to happen if you pick the right operating systems and take an active interest in learning about what’s going on. not for the faint of heart

4. You’ve got time to kill and nothing better to do

For many of us, that would be all the reason we need.

Tomorrow: Getting the Multibooting tools

Let the Mulitboot Marathon begin

When I got my own computer some months ago, I had intended to turn it into a Massively Multi-Booting Machine. Unfortunately that dream was derailed as the hard disk was rather badly damaged. But I’ve finally managed to get a new disk installed and have successfully turned it into a Multibooting Machine, (though not quite massive yet). My current list of operating systems are:

  1. Ubuntu
  2. PCLinuxOS
  3. Dream
  4. Arch

That’s the order I installed them in, but at the moment I’ve been using Arch exclusively for the past week. I had planned to install Symphony OS and Minix3 and was looking at the BSD’s, but my CD drive appears to have bitten the dust. But while I wait to get that replaced, I’m going to enthrall you all with my tales of how to go about creating your own Multi-booting machine. This one is going to be a long-ish series with quite a bit of detail (and maybe a bunch of screenshots) so make sure you have all your turkey and pudding out of the way. So check back tomorrow.

Have a warm Christmas!

    Hello, all. It’s that day of the year again when it’s time to go around spreading good cheer and feeling very happy for no reason in particular. Well I hope you all have a good Christmas and a great new year. For me the next year will be a vrey important one as I’ll be starting college, but I have no idea where (yet). I’m not making any new year resolutions, I never do. But I am restarting my blog from tomorrow (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done this) with a nice bright, warm theme. I hope to make this one last as I now have my own computer and internet connection and I intend to make this blog a long term investment.  Of course, it will be a technology oriented blog, along with a healthy dose of my own ideas and other interests. But I’ll leave all that for tomorrow and leave you to your roast turkeys.

Before I go, let me tell all you Tolkien fans out there that you have extra reason to celebrate. According to the Red Book of Westmarch, today was the day that the Fellowship of the Ring set off from Imladris on their quest for Mount Doom and the Cracks of Doom where the One Ring would ultimately. So while you’re all singing your Christmas Carols, take a moment to remember the bravery, suffering and sacrifice of the Fellowship of the Ring.