Why openSUSE?

After I chose to use Linux on my new PC back in 2011, I installed openSUSE as my Linux distribution (“distro”) of choice. Before I built epsilon 4, I had a spare PC that I would experiment with. I purposely installed swappable hard drive bays so that I could experiment with different operating systems without corrupting my main OS.

In addition to trying different versions of Windows, I also “distro-hopped” between many different distributions of Linux. I also belonged to an online forum whose members happened to be local. Every so often we’d drag our hardware to a local space to experiment with Linux. Invariably we wound up using openSUSE to try our hands at networking, MythTV and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Back then, I never really got past the experimental stage and never made the switch from Windows. When I decided to live in Linux full time, I re-visited openSUSE, decided I still liked it, and never looked back. Sadly my old forum is no longer around, but there are plenty of thriving communities on the internet for folks to interact with other openSUSE enthusiasts, whether you’re an old pro or just starting out.



Making BackUps

The next step of my 2018 tune-up for Epsilon 4 called for a complete backup of my files. Until now, my backup strategy has been to drag and drop my /home directory to an external hard drive. While it may not be the best backup strategy, it only works if you do it on a regular basis.

I started searching for decent backup solutions, and received a few good suggestions on Reddit. After comparing a few, I decided to give Back in Time a try. Written in Python 3, Back in Time uses rsync to backup files to the desired location. It sounded like a simple solution which is what I was looking for.

The first time I started Back in Time, I had to create a new profile. After making what looked like decent choices including what I wanted to back up and where I wanted to put the backup, I saved my profile. After double-checking my choices I went ahead and clicked the Take Snapshot button.

The snapshot started running at approximately 9:00 PM, and since I had a long day I left it running and went to bed. In the morning it was apparent that the backup was complete. From my estimation, it took about four and a half hours to back up 700 GB of data to a USB 3.0 external hard drive. I also tested the backup by successfully deleting and restoring several files.

While I still need to take a look into all the options available to fine-tune the software, Back in Time looks like it will be part of my backup routine for a while.

Epsilon 4 2018 Hardware Audit

I’m giving my computer, Epsilon 4, a long overdue tune up. As part of that, I performed a hardware/OS audit, and this is the result:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-950, 3.06 GHz, stock heat sink
  • Mobo: ASUS Sabertooth X58
  • RAM: 12 GB (3x4GB) Kingston DDR3-1600
  • Video: ASUS Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
  • SSD0: Samsung 840 EVO 250 GB SSD SATA III, (sda)
  • HDD0: WD 2 TB SATA III (FZEX), (sdb)
  • DVD: LiteOn iHAS424 24X DVD+/-RW
  • BluRay: Pioneer BDC-207DBK 8X BD-ROM
  • Case: Antec Three Hundred
  • Monitor: ASUS VE247H 23.6″ LCD
  • Printer: Brother HL-L2380DW Laser Printer
  • Mouse: Logitech M500
  • Keyboard: IBM KB-9910
  • OS: openSUSE 42.3/KDE 5.8.7/kernel 4.4.132-53-default

As promised, here is the current state of Epsilon 4’s hardware. I cheated a little bit and removed a 640 GB drive that I won’t be using for the time being. Also, while the case was open, the Great Dust Bunny Massacre of 2018 went off without a hitch. Next up, backing up!

Why Linux?

That’s a short question with a long answer, but I’ll try to keep my answer manageable.

Long ago when I was running Windows XP on Epsilon 3, I dabbled with Linux a bit. I experimented with dual booting and distro-hopping, but never committed to Linux full-time. It was fun and educational, but ultimately a hobby.

Once that PC died in 2011, I pulled out some backup hardware and my XP disk, but couldn’t find the CD Key. I downloaded, burned, and installed Ubuntu 10.10 on that backup machine and started recovering all the data I could from the remains of my old hardware.

Over the course of the three months it took me to rescue the data off my old hard drives and research and build my new machine, I discovered two things. The first was that I had absolutely no qualms about using Linux as my main operating system on a day-to-day basis. The second thing was that I was not going to be using Ubuntu on the new machine.

Using Linux on my backup machine let me do about 90% of the things I was used to doing. The things I couldn’t do weren’t entirely the fault of Linux/Ubuntu, but there most certainly are challenges when migrating to an non-MS platform after a couple decades of daily heavy duty use of Windows and MS Office. Still, those challenges were not insurmountable, and I learned a lot over the last seven years.

I also didn’t have to worry about shelling out over a hundred dollars for a new copy of Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest at the time. I didn’t have to worry about buying a newer version of MS Office. I could (and did) put Linux on multiple machines without paying extra for each copy. Most of the software I’d been using before the crash was free and open source anyway, why not the operating system?

Ultimately it came down to the realization that I wouldn’t be losing much by making the switch away from Windows. And I did have a safety net (my wife’s desktop) if I got ever got stuck needing a Windows machine. But in the end I was comfortable making this decision, and I know that to this day I made the right choice.

The 2018 Desktop Tune-Up

The last time I’ve been under the hood of Epsilon 4 was back in 2014 when I installed some hardware upgrades.

While I’m not planning on any new hardware this time around, I’ll take the opportunity to do a full backup of my data and perform a fresh install of openSUSE Leap 15.0, which was released just recently.

I’ve been running openSUSE Linux on Epsilon 4 from the start. For its seventh birthday I figure that not only is a fresh install in order, but it will give me a chance to document all the tips, tricks, and sources I’ve been using over the years so that the next time I’m trying to remember what I did or where I found something, I can look right here to find it.

First up will be a hardware audit, just to document everything that’s gone into this machine since it came online. I’ll also include the current partitioning scheme and attached peripherals. Then I’ll crack open the case and eradicate all the dirt, dust, and other crud I can find while I’m inside.

After that will likely be a walk-through of my data backup procedure, which I can promise will not pass a “best practices” audit.

Finally, I’ll be installing openSUSE 15.0 on freshly prepared drives and will do my best to document the installation, setup, and customization of the system. I’ll also be looking into some of the unsolved problems I’ve had recently, as well as a few things that I did manage to fix.

The next time you hear from me I should have the hardware audit online.

Introducing Epsilon 4

Since my next few posts are going to be about giving my desktop computer a bit of a tune-up, I thought I might give you a little background on this machine.

It was built in the Spring of 2011 to replace my previous desktop PC (Epsilon 3), which suffered a permanent hangover right after the start of the new year. I specced out a new system, bought and assembled the hardware, and booted it up for the first time on April 30, 2011. I named it Epsilon 4, and it’s been my main machine ever since. As always, the current hardware of Epsilon 4 can be found here. The only things that have changed over the last seven years have been the numbers and types of drives and peripherals, but I don’t anticipate any major upgrades this time around.

This was also when I decided my new desktop was going to run Linux. I’ll have more to say about that later.

As I mentioned above, Epsilon 4 is still going strong these days, but it’s time to go under the hood and do a little preventative maintenance. I’ll be documenting everything here on the site if you’d like to follow along.