Not there yet

Reader FZ agrees that Linux is not yet ready for the casual computer user and writes:

“OK, I decided that I needed a way to easily copy files between Windows XP and Red Hat 9 for the occasions when I couldn’t do something on Linux. My WinXP was partitioned as FAT32. Should be easy, right? Solution was simple, given 2.5 hours of head scratching. However, it was not documented in any of the books. None of the books documents the User-accessable System Tools–>Disk Management tool that would allow me to mount/unmount the Windows C: disk partition from my non-admin (in other words, not the root) account. None of the books documented the syntax of the command that I would have to add to the /etc/fstab file.

OK, since I have a little experience, I could puzzle this all out. Now, as a non-admin (non-root) user, I can go to the Disk Management GUI, select the “/dev/hda1 /mnt/c_disk” choice, click the mount button, and have a new clickable “c_disk” icon show on my desktop. Double-click on it and the Nautilus file manager lets me read/write to my WinXP C: disk. Something that you really need when you are migrating, right? Should be simple, right?

Sigh…Here’s the change I had to make –Following stanza was added to etc/fstab to allow user mounting/umounting of the Windows C: Disk to permit interchange of files from Win to Lin and vice-versa:

/dev/hda1 /mnt/c_disk vfat noauto,user 0 0

Right – the Disk Management program that shows up on the Start (Red Hat)/System Tools menu is useless. What you have to do is edit the text file fstab, which is found in the /etc directory. To do this:

1. Run System Tools/Terminal. Type “su”. Then type in your password.

2. Type “gedit /etc/fstab”

3. Add the line beginning /dev/hda…. Use one of the examples below, depending on whether your Windows file system is NTFS or VFAT. You should know which you’ve got from having run the Disk Druid partitioning program during your installation.

4. Restart. There may be a better way to run fstab, but I don’t know how.

5. /mnt/windows (assuming you went with the /dev/hda2 approach below) will be where your old drive C is found.

I have three partitions, since my Windows disk was originally formatted as NTFS – unlike VFAT, you can only read the files there, you can’t write/save onto it from Linux – which looks as follows:

/dev/hda1 /mnt/winntfs ntfs ro,users,exec,uid=500,iocharset=iso8859-1 0 0

/dev/hda2 /mnt/windows vfat auto,umask=0 0 0

Really bloody intuitive, isn’t it! Notice that I’ve got my hard drives mounting automatically, whereas FZ does not. Mounting means that they’re available for Linux to read from and write to, unlike Windows, Linux doesn’t mount all possible hard drives, CD-Rom drives and floppy drives unless you tell it to do so. It’s not hard, but you do have to know two things. First that you have to do it, and second, how to go about doing it.

Another thing that people may find useful, in case you’re upgrading your Linux kernel, is learning how to get rid of the old one. Or, in my case, the new one, since I’m switching over to Fedora this weekend.

Run “rpm –erase kernel-2.[kernel # here]” while logged in as the “root” user. This will remove the unwanted kernel as well as eliminating it from the boot options.