7 May 2014

Still no replacement blog as yet... sometimes things get in the way

Like my old Samsung NC10 netbook still having Windows XP on it. No M$ I will not buy another version of Windows for it as I still think XP is the best one you've ever done.

This lead me to a new alternative and I wanted to sing the praises of LinuxMint. I've been using this since version 12 to reset lost Windows passwords but this will be my first attempt to use it as a replacement for XP. It's a nice bridge between Windows and Linux and installation was a breeze. I downloaded an iso and booted it on an old PC. From there it let me install it to a USB stick which my NC10 was quite happy to boot from so I now have Mint with the Cinnamon desktop which is pretty impressive. Only hitch so far is that I can't get the Disks utility to create backup images of my SD cards (error g-io-error-quark, 13 mean anything? anyone? @cport80). I'm going to use this PC in our Pi lab so backing up SD cards has been a down-time project for a week or two. At one point I even considered making myself a custom Pi case with a couple of USB connected SD-readers for this very purpose. Anyway I was quite impressed when I discovered the Disks utility had an option for backing up to an image file and no doubt the issues will be resolved in time (next update?).

I have been having some issues with backing up SD cards for our Pi lab as SD cards from differing manufacturers seem to have slightly different capacities which comes to light when you try to use dd to backup the cards. It frequently reports there is no space left on the drive when you try to transfer the image. I found a forum post with the answer though and this appears to work in Mint. Download the Gparted partition manager and then with the SD card installed but unmounted, select the SD drive and use the resize partition option. I chose to shrink the ext4 partition, leaving a nice big 512MB block of unused space at the end of the card and then applied the changes. Then I used the usual dd command line to transfer the data to an image file. Swap cards and reverse the in/out file options and even though dd still reports a lack of space during the write, it has booted up fine on the Pi.

Nice to see the fix works on the Linux platform after trying various Windows tools (Win32DiskImager, Roadkil's Disk-Image utility, the official SD consortium format utility and another SD formatter which I think originated via HP). Hope this is helpful to anyone out there still struggling with this issue and thanks go to Gary A Stafford for his post. Incidentally he references the Pixhawk website as being helpful to him (but it was his Gparted post which got things working here - so thanks Gary).