Yesterday I set up a laptop with a Linux distribution, including everything I needed for work. Today, I’m doing it again.
My reason for repeating the process had nothing to do with Linux. I decided to do something to the configuration that I suspected would be risky and possibly dangerous. Indeed, things got pretty messed up.
At that point I had a few choices:
- Try to debug and fix the situation.
- Try to find someone to help me fix it.
- Say the heck with it and reinstall from scratch, or the CD, as the case may be.
The first option was possible, but I would have a lingering feeling that something was still wrong and would come back to bite me when I least expected it.
As to the second, my local IT support staff is me, so this is really the same as the first option.
I went with the third choice, reinstalling. This is not that big a deal, though it is time consuming. For the most part, the installation and configuration is done while I’m doing other things, like writing this entry. Here’s the general outline of what I do.
- Get the latest version of the Linux distribution you want to install and put it on some sort of media. Sometimes I’ll put it on a USB key, other times onto a CD or DVD, depending on how large it is. The USB key method is a little more involved and usually involves tinkering with the laptop BIOS to get the boot order correct. After the installation, I then have to go back into the BIOS and reset it so it boots from the CD drive and hard disk. Putting the distro on a CD or DVD is usually simpler though it does consume a piece of plastic. You do need to be careful that you are burning the installable image to the disk and not burning the file that contains the installable image (an .iso) to the disk.
- Insert the USB key, CD, or DVD in your machine and reboot. If the USB key is not read, you’ve got the boot order wrong.
- Answer the questions. Be honest. When you are asked for your password consider using a stronger one with letters in different cases and funny characters rather than the name of your first pet. We all know that one.
- Let the installation continue, remove the media and reboot.
- If the system did not automatically connect to your network, look around and help it find the network.
- At this point you may think you have a sparkling new system and you do, sort of, but you need to check for and install updates. This is usually somewhere under “System Updates” under some menu, possible “Administration.”
- Downloading and installing the updates may take several times longer than installing the system in the first place. Just let it do its thing while you do something else.
- Now you do have a sparkly new operating system on your machine. The next thing you should do is configure your browser. This means firing it up and installing your favorite addons or extensions. I use XMarks to synchronize my bookmarks across machines, so I can have my usual browsing environment up and running in about 10 minutes.
- If you wish, install proprietary drivers for things like graphics.
- Turn off BlueTooth unless you know you’re going to need it.
- Now make things pretty. I go to InterfaceLIFT and get a nice background that suits my mood. Note that they also have sizes for mobile devices and iPads. You can use the same background across all your machines and devices, if you wish.
- Install your preferred software. My short list here is FileZilla, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Adobe AIR, TweetDeck, and Komodo Edit. Thunderbird is another good possibility.
- If you’ve this done before and there is software you know you want to uninstall, do that now.
- Configure your editor. I use both gedit and Komodo Edit, so I go into preferences for each and set up the environment the way I like it. For gedit, make sure you check out the plugins.
- If you have a DropBox account, install the software image suitable for your distro.
- Now install your VPN if you need one for work. If you are doing this from a home office, you need to get a copy of the VPN installer on your machine. You can put it on a CD, a USB key, ftp it over using FileZilla, or grab it from your DropBox directory.
- Check that the VPN is working by firing up the browser and looking at some web pages inside your firewall.
- Install the software your company wants you to use.
- Reboot, and get to work.