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Multi-OS Issues with Windows and Lunux

Started by Donald Darden, March 09, 2008, 05:07:01 AM

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Donald Darden

Windows and Linux are so different, that putting them both on the same PC actually creates fewer issues than putting multiple installs of either Windows or Linux on the same PC.

With Windows, each partition gets a letter assignment, and most path statements are specific as to which drive a given program or file resides on.  The Registry is used to track where many things are located, and if they are moved from their original locations, the result will be broken links in the Registry and the failure of many applications and programs to work properly unless they are returned to their original locations, or reinstalled from scratch.  And if you install Windows on several different partitions, let's say the C:, D:, and E: drives, then applications will have to be reinstalled with each one in order to get registered properly so that each will be usable in each install of Windows.

In some cases, it might be possible to install the same application to the same partition each time so that all versions of Windows can access that one implementation, but there are other times when it is better to install the applications onto the system partiton, whichever one that happens to be.  These are things you learn with experience.

Linux is somewhat different, but in some ways just as challenging.  For instance, you can install several versions of Linux on a PC, but each one has to have a root partition (designated by /) set up.  You can also associate different folders, such as the /boot, /bin, or /home directory structure with their own partitions as well. 

But let's say you install Linux to three partitions, similar to what you did with Windows, only the drives are designated /media/sdb1, /media/sdb2, and /media/sdb3.  If you do this, you will end up with three partitions that each have its own root (.), /boot. /bin, /home, and other key folders.  What happens then?
Well, one of two things seems to occur:  First, all the folders with the same name are treated as extensions of each other, beginning with the one that is situated on the partition where that implementation was placed.  So this makes it seem that there is only one /home directory tree, one /bin directory tree, and so on.  But you will only see the entries found on the initial drive - otherwise you would see duplicates of anything that also matched on one of the other drives.

But if you try to position to one of the specific drives, and walk the directory tree there, things get confusing, because the system is also trying to treat that structure as an extension of the primary drive, and it may happen that you cannot get access to that folder in this manner, although it is actually still there.

I really ran into tis problem with VirtualBox, because I wanted to use the image of the first virtual drive I created as the image for the VirtualBox I set up on the second Linux install.  But no matter what I tried to do via the GUI or the Terminal Console, I could not get to the first image from the second Linux install.  If you could believe the system, there was nothing at all on the first partition.

I finally got around this problem by rebooting to the first partition, walking the directory tree to reach /home/username/.VirtualBox/VDI, and copying the image there to the Desktop.  But even there I could not find it when I rebooted to the second partiton again.  So I booted back to the first partition and moved the Win2K.vdi file from the Desktop to my NTFS volume and put it in a folder that I created called VDI.  This time when I rebooted to the second Linux install and started VirtualBox, I had no problem adding this image from the NTFS volume to my VirtualBox install there, and had immediate access to Windows, applications, updates, and other files that were installed in that image as part of the first install and setup under VirtualBox on the first partition.

It's interesting how you can play the strengths of one environment against the weaknesses of the other, and surmount problems of this nature.