Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bye Bye Linux... For Now :(

After postponing for several weeks to let the dust settle down on several projects/commitments, and also to get hold of some external hard drives first, I've finally purged the Linux partitions from my HP Envy 17.

That "H" partition was where my 2 Linux partitions used to be... now reclaimed for storing all my stuff instead (and maybe home to some future Linux virtual machines instead).

In previous posts from a while back, I've mentioned why, after my brief 3-month stint working exclusively in Linux I ended up switching back to Windows 8 (warts neutralised, mind you). Basically, it was a combination of:
  • Never-ending hardware compatibility quirks. These included...
    • Nvidia Optimus not playing well with default drivers (you have to manually install these from a third-party source IIRC, as the built-in driver doesn't work and the driver manager doesn't detect anything). Even once you have those drivers installed, not everything that would benefit from this support manages to use it (notably, flash videos lasting more than a minute or so start to heat up the machine, because the Intel card gets used instead), and Qt-based apps would often only display green video feeds for some reason.
    • Wifi - I now know that Ralink is a pretty crappy manufacturer, especially when it comes to devices which work on Linux. Yes, I've mentioned a patched driver which seems to be more stable than the system standard driver, but still, I did still run into some lingering issues, and since I didn't give it another 3 month long trial after changing over, I can't say for sure whether it will also still fall down when used for long periods. Oh, and the wifi status indicator light on the keyboard doesn't work.
    • Sound - While I managed to get all the Beats audio speakers working eventually, the final configuration still wasn't quite up to scratch. Sound quality was still weaker than on Windows, but at least it wouldn't cause the speakers to pop everytime you started to play some audio when returning to Windows immediately after a Linux session. Perhaps most annoyingly though was that it seemed to have developed an annoying misconfiguration where there would be this irritating "metallic buzzing edge" to the sound when listening to some common sounds (i.e. everytime someone sings for instance); it was that sort which gets inside your ear and starts wiggling the air inside your ear until it starts feeling eye-watering, but without any really "distinguishable" sound.
    • Touchpad - Over 1 year on, I can now say for sure that the touchpad on this machine is not great. At the time when I tested it, it seemed fine enough, but the longer I've worked with it, the more I'm now convinced that button-less touchpads are evil. Under Windows, at least I can mitigate the damage it does, but under Linux, I haven't managed to do so despite many many many attempts at tweaking various obscure thresholds, and trying to find settings to restrict its range and so forth.
    • Mouse - The control gain for my Logitec G400s is off kilter. It's a bit too fast + loose compared to its usual behaviour on Windows if I don't do anything, making it hard to control. But, it I use those +/- buttons, it turns out that now the mouse ends up behaving far too sluggishly on Linux, while also screwing up things once I get back into Windows again.
    • Canon 7D - Another crucial problem area is the fact that it didn't play well with my camera at all. Due to bugs in several low-level libs in the version of Linux Mint I was using (with no end in sight at the time), even after knocking out the offending processes which would prevent me from using the camera at all, getting images off was still a massive chore which would take ages and would drain the battery very fast.
  • Lost time having to tinker with it everyday to get a smoother setup as there would always be at least one or more disruptive hardware/behavioural quirk (due to all of the above)
  • The combination of themes + fonts + apps (tools + structure) being slightly "off". Particularly disruptive examples included not being able to quickly grab some image to scribble freehand on it and/or crop it (i.e. things I'd usually just do using Paint; Loading up the Gimp for this is a sluggish pain, Krita is also overkill, and all the other smaller image editors make cropping quite clunky while lacking any freehand scribbling ability), not being able to bring up Git Gui from the context menus, Geany feeling like a slightly less productive environment to have to deal with due to some very minor but still silently disruptive quirks (despite being the closest usable relative of Notepad++ already in every other way), and the general growing sense that everything looked slightly clumsy/ugly in various ways (notably, the chunkier fonts, the nearly illegible monochrome icons, the lack of any decent alternative themes that weren't ancient boxy 90's or dark-brooding-techno-unreadable or unfinished low-contrast crap).

Faced with these issues, I gradually spent more and more time in Windows, and hardly ever booting into Linux anymore. Part of that was because the Windows 8.1 update came through and basically nuked the bootloader and wouldn't let me put the Linux one back in its place (which made it even less convenient, as it requires pummeling the F9 key when doing a cold start). The other part was that it was just more convenient to spend most time in Windows to do most of my work, and rebooting to get into the other OS was just too darn inconvenient.

This however did lead to a problem: I had originally left only 190 GB for Windows (100GB of which was taken by Windows itself at the time) when I split off some drive space for Linux. Since I'd just been spending a few painful weeks with Windows 8 and Linux seemed like a haven of sanity at the time (along with the fact that I'd had problems with trying to save to NTFS from Linux when using the Live CD), I figured that I'd be spending the rest of next few years using Linux on this machine instead. So, I went ahead and gifted Linux the majority of the remaining diskspace in 2 partitions (a 50GB for the OS and any apps/resources they needed, and ~700GB for the rest).

By about 3 months ago though, it was clear that I was going to have a storage problem. I was down to about 10GB or so on Windows - hardly enough to really keep doing much, yet there was still a lot of stuff I still wanted to keep accessible via the Windows-based tools I was using. Meanwhile, I had this 700GB + 40GB chunk of disk space just sitting around doing nothing, but which was otherwise unusable to ease up the pressure.

There were 2 solutions:
1) Reinstall Linux and repartition it at the same time to free up a lot more space this time, with the possibility that all the hardware tweaks would need to be reapplied again to the newly reinstalled os, and that many of the apps + theming still wouldn't be up to the task of being better for working in

2) Nuke the Linux partitions, return the space back to Windows, then set up virtual machines to run Linux for the cases where it would be beneficial to be able to use it.

In the end, the second option won out, and would fit better with how I now use this machine. It did however have to wait till I got some hard drives to back up all the data stored on both the Windows and Linux partitions. It got one such drive back in September/October, and made an initial backup, along with a second one a few weeks later. But then, one time I started hearing some clicking noises while it was copying stuff, which unnerved me enough to decide that it'd be better to have a second copy of everything (from a different manufacturer + batch, just in case) before this commenced.

Due to workload issues, that didn't end up happening until about 2 weeks ago. And since today was really the first day where all the big projects I had pending were all finally pushed off onto external servers and/or mailed off for review, this was the day I finally went and started copying off all the data. Blasting away those partitions though was only a few clicks away, and done in seconds. Making new ones though, would be much harder...

1 comment:

  1. Lawrence D’OliveiroMarch 18, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    Windows ... because 26 drive letters ought to be enough for anybody.