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Well, since we have a Linux thread now, I've been meaning to ask - how does Linux compare with macOS for running a server (file sharing and CalDAV/CardDAV mainly). Does it run any leaner (RAM, CPU usage, storage usage)? Couldn't be anymore user unfriendly than macOS with the latest Server, at least for CalDAV.
As a hobby, I try to make something useful out of old Macs my clients ask me to wipe clean after upgrading to new Macs. One that was particularly interesting was a 24" iMac 6,1 with 3 GB RAM (the last white plastic iMac with Intel Core 2 Duo). Other than not being able to run anything newer than 10.7.5 (so no modern software available), it's in nice shape.

I found a 32-bit Mint Linux distro (v18.3) that runs very nicely on it. Wiped it clean beforehand, so there's no macOS at all. Now it runs all the latest (Linux) software, including Chromium and Thunderbird, and it can even play nicely file-sharing with my newer Macs and PCs. It's now a secure environment.

Not sure yet where it will end up but it's great that Linux keeps a 12 year old "obsolete" Mac running properly.
 


Ric and I have been discussing Linux (and Linux compared to Mac) backup methods and strategies "offline" as he's been converting his Mac Pro to run Ubuntu.

I'm reporting here on my experiment today with the Time Shift backup program that is distributed with Linux Mint.

I've been using this little NUC:
which is a quad-core "Pentium Silver", to test Linux distros and applications before deploying to production machines. With declining RAM and SSD prices, it's possible to assemble a nice little Linux desktop for about $300. I added a SATA connector extension so I could "hang" SATA SSDs outside the case and easily change them without even turning a screw.

Tonight I did a clean install of Linux Mint 19.1 Cinnamon to a 128GB SSD on the NUC. Ran all the updates. Changed desktop background and settings, and copied a folder of photos from my Synology to the Pictures folder inside my user "Home" folder.

I then launched the Time Shift backup program. Set the "type" option to rsync, selected the option to back up both root and Home (they're not active by default, probably to save time and storage), and launched the backup targeted at a 128GB SSD connected by a SATA-to-USB 3 adapter cable.

I told Ric I would time it. Went so fast I really didn't have "time" to write down the start and end time before it was nearly done.

Next, I deleted the VLC Media Player, changed the desktop background, deleted the photos I had copied onto the boot drive, and did a Time Shift Restore. Perhaps 4 minutes, and the system rebooted to Mint with the desktop settings as before my changes, VLC re-installed, and my photos back in place.

I'd suggest that for real world use of Time Shift (which isn't just for Mint, though Mint is pushing it) a larger, even much larger, Time Shift target drive than the one being backed up. That should sound familiar to users of Apple's Time Machine.

There's a variety of tutorials online. One thing I didn't find explained was how to manually update a Time Shift backup. Simple: "Create" makes another (incremental) restore point, and like Windows Restore Points, it is possible to choose which to restore.

One other nice feature I discovered: If your boot drive fails, it is possible to boot from a Mint Live USB or DVD and use Time Shift on the Live installer to restore the previous system to the existing or a replacement boot drive.
 


George, et al.,

One thing to note about TimeShift is that it's apparently not meant for user data backup, just snapshots of the system software, applications, etc. This seems a bit weird, but their reasoning is that if you restore, you might end up overwriting more recent files.

I recently investigated this with my Dell XPS 13 (9370) laptop, on which I installed Mint 19.1 (to replace Ubuntu 16.04 it came with). The Mint people suggest you use the Mint Backup program, which just makes a tar archive of your home directories. So Mint's current combo of Time Shift and Backup are a lousy substitute for Apple's Time Machine.

For years, I've just used an rsync script to backup my Linux machines, but I thought I'd check out the latest GUI offerings. Not sure what I'll settle on yet, but it seems that TimeShift could work like Time Machine if it's set to backup on a very regular basis. The GUI interface for TimeShift is strange, though, and I haven't figured out how to get it to do incremental backups, say every hour. Perhaps it needs to be put on a cron job, probably run by root?

Note that I'm a long-time Mac user (owned the original 128K Mac in 1984), but I'm moving more and more to Linux, which I've also been using since 1995. If Apple would release a useful Mac Pro or maybe a laptop that could be modified by the user, I might be convinced to move back to Apple. I never thought I'd buy a Dell, but the hardware is excellent and reasonably priced compared to a MacBook Pro. I can swap out the RAM and SSD, no sweat. Last Mac I bought was a 2012 Mini, but I'm sick of having a rats nest of cables on the desk. Sigh...
 


According to what I've read here, a TimeShift snapshot is exactly like a Time Machine snapshot. Perhaps there are some differences in how system software is restored, but it appears that all user data is backed up and available for restoration.
 


One thing to note about TimeShift is that it's apparently not meant for user data backup, just snapshots of the system software, applications, etc. This seems a bit weird, but their reasoning is that if you restore, you might end up overwriting more recent files.
From the main TimeShift Menu, choose Settings.

In Settings > Schedule the following language appears onscreen when Hourly is selected:
  • Snapshots are not scheduled at fixed times.
  • A maintenance task runs once every hour and creates snapshots as needed.
  • Boot snapshots are created with a delay of 10 minutes after system startup.
Scheduled Snapshots are enabled.
Snapshots will be created at selected intervals if snapshot disk has enough space (> 1GB)​
In Settings > User the following language appears:
User Home Directories
User home directories are excluded by default unless you include them here.
Options on my one user system are:​
root /root ( ) Exclude All ( ) Include Hidden ( * ) Include All​
myuserid / home/myuserid ( ) Exclude All ( ) Include Hidden​
( * ) Include All​
In Settings > Filters the following language appears:
Include / Exclude Patterns
Options on my one user system are:
+ -​
( * ) ( ) +root/**​
( * ) ( ) +home/myuserid/**​
It was with the settings marked with the * that I was able yesterday to create a backup including UI customization, photos in the Photos folder, then change the UI customization, delete the photos, delete the VLC app, click restore, and have TimeShift restore the system and its files exactly.

This is not the incremental-type versioning file backup of Apple's Time Machine. It is more like a Carbon Copy Cloner scheduled incremental backup.

If you're an Apple user who relies on OS X / macOS versioning, as introduced in Lion, and uses Time Machine to version files as you work on them, TimeShift's maximum snapshot frequency of once an hour may let you down, or if you're moving to Linux, require a different workflow.

It may help that LibreOffice offers an option to Save Documents Automatically, and many other Linux applications write changes to their disk as changes are made.
 


FWIW, at home I use Clonezilla to do a full clone backup of my Linux systems once a month to an external drive, then I use a program called LuckyBackup to do an rsync backup of my home folder now and again to act as an incremental backup. The combination has worked quite well.

At work, more and more of my users are opting for Linux. Fortunately, Retrospect now has good support for Linux clients, so I can use my central Retrospect servers to back them up.

I personally have never been a fan of Time Machine and would never trust it as my only method of backup.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
FWIW, at home I use Clonezilla to do a full clone backup of my Linux systems once a month to an external drive...
I experimented with Clonezilla and found it such a PITA that I eventually abandoned it, when it was taking literally days to back up from an internal 250GB SSD with minimal content to an internal hard drive. It was also extremely geeky (and slow) in operation, would only work when the source and target were offline, and was booted from a very slow optical disk. It made me appreciate the great backup apps on the Mac.

What's your setup? What are you booting Clonezilla from, etc.?
 


I experimented with Clonezilla and found it such a PITA that I eventually abandoned it, when it was taking literally days to back up from an internal 250GB SSD with minimal content to an internal hard drive. It was also extremely geeky (and slow) in operation, would only work when the source and target were offline, and was booted from a very slow optical disk. It made me appreciate the great backup apps on the Mac.

What's your setup? What are you booting Clonezilla from, etc.?
I used Clonezilla once and agree it is a PITA to get working, and cloning my boot drive to an external had a big fail: I couldn't boot from the external USB drive to test the backup, and an untested backup is no backup.

On the other hand, I installed Clonezilla to a USB 3.0 thumb drive and booted from that.

Using Clonezilla's option to copy itself to RAM and run from memory would probably be even faster.
Clonezilla said:
The boot menu of Clonezilla live
The choice, "Clonezilla live (To RAM. Boot media can be removed later)" . . . when Clonezilla live booting finishes, all the necessary files are copied to memory. Therefore you can remove the boot media (CD or USB flash drive) then.
Wonder if it Clonezilla would boot from a Firewire drive?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Using Clonezilla's option to copy itself to RAM and run from memory would probably be even faster.
Actually, I did that (but it didn't help the insanely slow copying speed.)
Wonder if it Clonezilla would boot from a Firewire drive?
That's a good question. FireWire offers an entirely different - and better - boot path vs. USB on the Mac, but I haven't had time to explore it for Linux. (Booting off an internal SATA drive is probably the best path and may be similar for Thunderbolt or PCIe SATA adapters.)
 


Actually, I did that (but it didn't help the insanely slow copying speed.)
...
That's a good question. FireWire offers an entirely different - and better - boot path vs. USB on the Mac, but I haven't had time to explore it for Linux. (Booting off an internal SATA drive is probably the best path and may be similar for Thunderbolt or PCIe SATA adapters.)
Unless it is limited by the amount of memory, I'd think it would be faster running from RAM than any kind of drive. Adding another SATA drive into your mix might be adding issues, since SATA to SATA from application in RAM was "insanely" slow. Then there's being sure you have the right source and target.

As I recall, using Clonezilla on my NUC from internal 256GB SSD to external USB 2 hard disk drive connected to a USB 3 port took, at most, a couple of hours. That was in 2015, and time has passed under my bridge since...
 


That's a good question. FireWire offers an entirely different - and better - boot path vs. USB on the Mac, but I haven't had time to explore it for Linux.
I imagine this is made even more complicated by the fact that modern Macs no longer include FireWire ports (which I view as a shame). Furthermore, I can't recall ever having seen a PC that included FireWire ports out of the box.
 


I can't recall ever having seen a PC that included FireWire ports out of the box.
It's been a while, but I remember seeing them on laptops from Sony and HP (typically in the form of the 4-pin "i.Link" connector). My old Shuttle XPC had two FireWire 400 ports. And I've used several Dell Precision minitowers that were bundled with a FireWire 400 card (including a front-panel connector).

But all these machines are/were very old. It's been a long time since I saw a new PC bundled with a FireWire interface.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch



What's your setup? What are you booting Clonezilla from, etc.?
I boot it from a USB flash drive and always load it into RAM, so the flash drive can be removed later.

I use Clonezilla to make backups of both Linux (Mint, Ubuntu, and Debian systems) as well as Windows 10 systems. It's been an absolute godsend for cloning Win10 systems at work.
Since Clonezilla by default saves the clone as a collection of data files instead of an exact copy on a backup drive, it makes it super easy to do a full restore. No need to try and boot off of the backup drive (which can be all sorts of fun if we're talking about a laptop) - just boot off of the same flash drive and do a restore instead of a backup. Clonezilla even takes care of reformatting the destination drive for you.

And, yes, I've done a full restore of a WIndows 10 backup... it worked perfectly. :)

I can definitely see how Clonezilla's interface can be daunting at first, but once you understand the nomenclature Linux uses for drive IDs (/sda, /sdb, etc.), and once you do a few backups, it becomes second nature.

As for the slowness issue, I've seen that happen on rare occasions. Stopping the backup and restarting usually corrects it. I'm guessing it has something to do with the speed it decides the USB port should run at, but normally when backing up to an external USB 3.0 hard drive, I'm seeing something in the order of 5-6 GB/minute.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... As for the slowness issue, I've seen that happen on rare occasions. Stopping the backup and restarting usually corrects it. I'm guessing it has something to do with the speed it decides the USB port should run at, but normally when backing up to an external USB 3.0 hard drive, I'm seeing something in the order of 5-6 GB/minute.
Thanks for the info. I was backing up from a Crucial MX200 SSD to a 750GB WD Green drive, both in 3Gbps SATA bays inside the Mac Pro 1,1. Maybe the WD Green drive has some quirk - I don't know, but it is in good shape and hasn't been used much at all. I didn't know that the backup could be stopped and restarted.
 


I booted ElementaryOS 5.0 on the Mac Mini from a flash drive.
  • WiFi didn't work - it didn't seem to recognize any WiFi hardware (unlike with other Macs). But hooking up Ethernet (via a power-line adapter) worked great. ...
I installed Elementary on a thumb drive for my old 2011 Mac Mini. It used WiFi for the install process, but when the install was complete it no longer would see WiFi. Web search said to check the WiFi drivers -- a look into the file system showed the drivers were not there! Plugged into ethernet, downloaded the drivers, and WiFi was functional.
 



I installed Elementary on a thumb drive for my old 2011 Mac Mini. It used WiFi for the install process, but when the install was complete it no longer would see WiFi. Web search said to check the WiFi drivers -- a look into the file system showed the drivers were not there! Plugged into ethernet, downloaded the drivers, and WiFi was functional.
Ubuntu and Mint also exhibit the same behavior. When the WiFi driver is in the installation media (and the OS obviously knows it's being used), why does it not install it? Yes, I do check the "use 3rd party..." choice but I believe the driver is an open-source option. This WiFi driver install failure is simply poor programming that wouldn't happen if there was someone taking responsibility instead of a headless committee.
 


Ubuntu and Mint also exhibit the same behavior. When the WiFi driver is in the installation media (and the OS obviously knows it's being used), why does it not install it? Yes, I do check the "use 3rd party..." choice but I believe the driver is an open-source option. This WiFi driver install failure is simply poor programming that wouldn't happen if there was someone taking responsibility instead of a headless committee.
I installed Mint in dual boot on my 11" MacBook Air while connected to the Internet by a USB 3 to Ethernet adapter. In "Mac Mode," WiFi worked fine. But when restarted in "Mint Mode," no WiFi. Puzzled, I realized Mint hadn't auto-added the MacBook Air's proprietary WiFi driver, possibly because it didn't need them while connected by Ethernet? Updated over Ethernet, and the WiFi drivers installed and have been working fine for months.
 


One tiny slip ("b" instead of "a"), and you wipe out your files. Ooops!
There's worse. The boot SSD in my 2015 NUC is the M.2 SSD - which is in sdb, not sda. Ooops! I've learned a lot since but much prefer the somewhat more user-friendly GUI, whether in Linux or Mac.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
There's worse. The boot SSD in my 2015 NUC is the M.2 SSD - which is in sdb, not sda. Ooops!
I think that drives were switching between a and b in my Mac Pro system when I booted off different Linux systems. Not good when you get confused about which one's the backup drive and which one's the original!
 


There's worse. The boot SSD in my 2015 NUC is the M.2 SSD - which is in sdb, not sda. Ooops! I've learned a lot since but much prefer the somewhat more user-friendly GUI, whether in Linux or Mac.
Typically, SCSI discs (which includes SATA for some reason) have fixed letters corresponding to the specific ports on the motherboard. They typically only change if two ports are managed by different device drivers and something causes the drivers to load in a different order.

I assume your m.2 SSD is a SATA device, since it is getting an "sd" name. If it is actually NVMe, then something weird is going on because NVMe devices don't typically get "sd" names. They get names of the form /dev/nvme0n1p1 (NVMe controller 0, namespace 1, partition 1).
I think that drives were switching between a and b in my Mac Pro system when I booted off different Linux systems. Not good when you get confused about which one's the backup drive and which one's the original!
This is one of the reasons why it is recommended to use labels or UUIDs to identify partition in /etc/fstab - so you don't get affected when something causes the device names to change, which (as you found out) can happen when switching between different OS installations, since they may discover interfaces in a different order.

If you're doing an image backup, then yes, you're going to have to be very careful with the device names. If you're doing a file-based backup, however, you shouldn't need to know the device names. Both volumes should be mounted (one might be root, with the other attached at some mount point like /mnt/backupvolume, or both may be mounted off of a third (root) volume).

Your backup software should provide you the ability to only backup a single source volume, not recursing into other mounted volumes (e.g. rsync's "-x" option, "don't cross filesystem boundaries").
 


installed Elementary on a thumb drive for my old 2011 Mac Mini. It used WiFi for the install process, but when the install was complete it no longer would see WiFi. Web search said to check the WiFi drivers -- a look into the file system showed the drivers were not there! Plugged into ethernet, downloaded the drivers, and WiFi was functional.
My experience with Linux Mint has been that the wifi drivers can be loaded from the live / installer USB. Go into Menu/Administration/Driver Manager, and it prompts to either connect by Ethernet or insert the live USB, if I recall correctly.
 


I think that drives were switching between a and b in my Mac Pro system when I booted off different Linux systems. Not good when you get confused about which one's the backup drive and which one's the original!
Ah, the joys of "arcane" terminal commands. Linux lshw -class disk yields on my current NUC running Mint:
Transcend 128 GB SSD connected via USB 3
description: SCSI Disk
product: TS128GESD400K
vendor: StoreJet
physical id: 0.0.0
bus info: scsi@4:0.0.0
logical name: /dev/sdc
version: 0
serial: A1478012331C11505102
size: 119GiB (128GB)


Samsung Internal 500GB (data, not boot)
description: SCSI Disk
product: TS128GESD400K
vendor: StoreJet
physical id: 0.0.0
bus info: scsi@4:0.0.0
logical name: /dev/sdc
version: 0
serial: A1478012331C11505102
size: 119GiB (128GB)


WD 500GB Boot M.2 (SATA)
description: ATA Disk
product: WDC WDS500G1B0B-
vendor: Western Digital
physical id: 0.0.0
bus info: scsi@3:0.0.0
logical name: /dev/sdb
version: 00WD
serial: 164602805640
size: 465GiB (500GB)
This NUC does not support NVMe.
Typically, SCSI discs (which includes SATA for some reason) have fixed letters corresponding to the specific ports on the motherboard. They typically only change if two ports are managed by different device drivers and something causes the drivers to load in a different order.

I assume your m.2 SSD is a SATA device, since it is getting an "sd" name. If it is actually NVMe, then something weird is going on because NVMe devices don't typically get "sd" names. They get names of the form /dev/nvme0n1p1 (NVMe controller 0, namespace 1, partition 1).
I will verify what David said at home on NUC with NVMe boot.

No "arcane" terminal commands required, the "Disks" application which ships with Linux Mint reports the Samsung 850 500GB data drive as /dev/sda; WD M.2 as /dev/sdb1; Transcend 128GB USB 3 as /dev/sdc1

GParted provides less information when opened, but the View > Device Information pull-down identities the drives by brand, capacity, and "hardware connection" (e.g., sda, sdb, sdc).

Using System Information > Storage on the 2014 Sierra Mini that's on my desk, I see:
Clone 1; 220.5 GB Available; Capacity 249.2; Mount Point /; BSD Name disk2s2 {it is the boot drive connected via USB 3}

MacIntosh HD, 474.58 GB Available; Capacity 498.89 GB; Mount /Volumes/MacIntoshHD; BSD Name disk1
The Mac Terminal command: diskutil list delivers the same information, adding reference to the 650MB macOS Recovery partitions on both drives that are not reported in System Information > Storage.

Given that early in my Linux life I wanted to install a different "distro" and inadvertently installed it to the internal data drive that mounts at sda and thereby overwrote that drive and its data (safely backed up, whew!), I do like to remind myself how the system's drives are configured by opening a GUI tool, like Drives, or GParted, before doing anything irreversible that might happen if I invoke an arcane terminal command in which a typo could be a typhoon.
 



One tiny slip ("b" instead of "a"), and you wipe out your files. Ooops!
Not quite - you get asked to confirm twice if you use the [Clonezilla] wizard. So the user has two chances to back out - if at that point you continue on, well... that's kind of on the user. Most GUI tools will only ask you once.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Most GUI tools will only ask you once.
Most GUI tools will display the name and attributes of the volumes/drives in question, rather than something cryptic like "sda" and "sdb" where "a" and "b" change around from time to time, but, sure, it's always "on the user", and a good friend of mine got confused in SuperDuper once and wiped out his system, thinking he was backing it up.
 


Most GUI tools will display the name and attributes of the volumes/drives in question, rather than something cryptic like "sda" and "sdb" where "a" and "b" change around from time to time, but, sure, it's always "on the user", and a good friend of mine got confused in SuperDuper once and wiped out his system, thinking he was backing it up.
And if you are running a clone, your drives might both be named "Macintosh HD" in the Finder, but below the covers, one of them will have a “ 1” appended (and when you start off the other, the “1” should be on the other drive).

Clonezilla also tells you the drive make and model and the size along with the “sda” assignment when you pick your source and destination drives. Unless you have two identical drives, it should be somewhat clear. As always with cloning software, diligence is needed.

I once had a coworker who used Retrospect to backup a drive to itself, and wiped everything doing so. That shouldn’t have even been possible, and yet...

UUIDs are the option that doesn’t change, but they are practically unusable by humans. But good GUI software (like Carbon Copy Cloner) uses that to map the drives, so you can’t backup in reverse if your boot drive stalls and you start up off your clone. It does let you turn that off, so you can use two drives with the same Finder name and rotate your backups (but it’s harder to know what drives you backed up to last).
 


Most GUI tools will display the name and attributes of the volumes/drives in question, rather than something cryptic like "sda" and "sdb" where "a" and "b" change around from time to time, but, sure, it's always "on the user", and a good friend of mine got confused in SuperDuper once and wiped out his system, thinking he was backing it up.
Clonezilla (at least the early 2018 version I'm currently using) displays drive labels and drive make/model info when asking me to select the source and destination drives. Unless you're using two identical drives for source and destination, there's enough information being provided for the user to select the correct drive.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
When I spent a bunch of time experimenting with Linux for personal use about two years ago, I tried every flavor I could and ultimately ended up liking Mint the best, which is, of course, based on Ubuntu. I found Elementary somewhat Mac-like but a bit too basic for me.
My experience with Mint has been better than any other distro. That's partly because I find the Cinnamon desktop just doesn't go wonky; I can configure it more to my preference.
Here's some more about Linux Mint:
Scott Gilbertson/Ars Technica said:
Linux Mint 19.1: A sneaky popular distro skips upheaval, offers small upgrades
While Ubuntu and Red Hat grabbed most of the Linux headlines last year, Linux Mint, once the darling of the tech press, had a relatively quiet year. Perhaps that's understandable with IBM buying Red Hat and Canonical moving back to the GNOME desktop. For the most part Linux Mint and its developers seemed to keep their heads down, working away while others enjoyed the limelight. Still, the Linux Mint team did churn out version 19, which brought the distro up to the Ubuntu 18.04 base.

While the new release may not have garnered mass attention, and probably isn't anyone's top pick for "the cloud," Linux Mint nevertheless remains the distro I see most frequently in the real world. When I watch a Linux tutorial or screen cast on YouTube, odds are I'll see the Linux Mint logo in the toolbar. When I see someone using Linux at the coffee shop, it usually turns out to be Linux Mint. When I ask fellow Linux users which distro they use, the main answers are Ubuntu... and Linux Mint. All of that is anecdotal, but it still points to a simple truth. For a distro that has seen little press lately, Linux Mint manages to remain popular with users.

There's a good reason for that popularity: Linux Mint just works. It isn't "changing the desktop computer paradigm," or "innovating" in "groundbreaking" ways. The team behind Mint is just building a desktop operating system that looks and functions a lot like every other desktop operating system you've used, which is to say you'll be immediately comfortable and stop thinking about your desktop and start using it to do actual work.
 


Here's some more about Linux Mint:
From the article:
There's a good reason for that popularity: Linux Mint just works. It isn't "changing the desktop computer paradigm," or "innovating" in "groundbreaking" ways. The team behind Mint is just building a desktop operating system that looks and functions a lot like every other desktop operating system you've used, which is to say you'll be immediately comfortable and stop thinking about your desktop and start using it to do actual work.
Yep, that's what I'm looking for!
 


Clonezilla was updated January 10, 2019. The under-the-hood changes are significant and detailed here:
Clonezilla said:
What is Clonezilla
Limitations:
  • The destination partition must be equal or larger than the source one.
  • Differential/incremental backup is not implemented yet.
  • Online imaging/cloning is not implemented yet. The partition to be imaged or cloned has to be unmounted.
  • Due to the image format limitation, the image can not be explored or mounted. You can _NOT_ recovery single file from the image. However, you still have workaround to make it, read this.
  • Recovery Clonezilla live with multiple CDs or DVDs is not implemented yet. Now all the files have to be in one CD or DVD if you choose to create the recovery iso file.
DistroWatch said:
2018-11-20 Clonezilla Reader Review
Really love Clonezilla. Works well once you get the flow of the dialogues which can be intimidating at first. It would go a long way if they could make a simpler user interface one day.
The only issue I find is trying to restore an image on a different size drive than the image was created on.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Just a quick heads-up about a Linux security issue:
Sophos said:
Linux user? Check those patches! Public exploit published for systemd security holes…
A pair of recent bugs in a very widely used Linux system tool called systemd have just been “weaponised” by a US cybersecurity company called Capsule8.

The systemd project is a large, complex and popular – but also controversial – toolkit used by many mainstream Linux distros to handle system startup and logging.

The -d at the end of the name denotes that it’s a daemon, the Unix/Linux version of what Windows calls a service.

In other words, it loads like a regular app – in fact, a daemon is a regular app – but then eases itself into the background where it keeps running even when no one is logged in.

Because systemd is typically the “mother of all processes” on a Linux computer – in technical terms, it has the process ID 1 – many of its components run as root so that they have the administrative authority needed to take charge of the system.

If your Linux system were a game of chess, the kernel would be your King, and systemd would be your Queen.

To put it mildly, bugs in systemd typically matter quite a lot.
#security​
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I'm a little confused about how a Linux installer sets up booting on a Mac. Here's a sequence I went through today:
  1. Download Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.1 image (.iso)
  2. Using balenaEtcher, write the image to a USB flash drive
  3. Option boot a 2017 MacBook Air from the flash drive into a "live" Mint system
  4. Install Mint onto an SSD connected via USB to the MacBook Air
  5. Option boot into installed Mint system from SSD on MacBook Air
  6. WiFi isn't working - try a bunch of things unsuccessfully, including defining a WiFi network and trying to install drivers from flash drive. Looks like it needs Ethernet to get going. MacBook Air doesn't have Ethernet. [*]
  7. Connect Mint SSD to Mac Pro 1,1 and attempt to Option boot - Mint doesn't appear
  8. Connect Mint SSD to 2011 MacBook Pro and attempt to Option boot - Mint doesn't appear
  9. Connect Mint SSD to MacBook Air again - Option boot, no problem
  10. Examine MacBook Air looking for magic Mint boot code missing on other Macs - can't find it.
So... Mint installation apparently installs GRUB and who knows what else not on the installation target Mint drive but in some other mysterious location elsewhere on the computer used to perform the installation.

Can anyone explain what's going on here?

And... how can one create a standalone Mint system on an external drive that will boot any Mac, not just the one used to create the system?


[*] I later managed to get WiFi working by jumping differently through hoops with the Driver Manager and installer flash drive to install and configure/activate a Broadcom wireless driver.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
No, not easy, but this seems to have worked (after jumping through very many hoops)... sort of:

This USB SSD Mint system does Option-boot on a 2011 MacBook Pro that doesn't have Linux installed, and runs fine (after using Driving Manager and the installer flash drive to add/configure the Broadcom WiFi driver).

• But, attempting to boot the 2018 MacBook Pro (with external booting permitted) aborts the Linux boot and switches to Apple software, putting up a picture of Mojave with this error message:
"The version of macOS on the selected disk needs to be reinstalled."
The same thing happens with the Cinnamon Mint "live" installer USB flash drive, and choosing to update results in a completely unhelpful error from Boot Recovery Assistant:
"An error occured installing the update.
Try again or select another startup disk."
 
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So I installed ElementaryOS, because it’s “Mac-like.” And that's true, it looks like a cross between a Mac and Windows XP. If I don't touch anything, it looks great.

Now the complaints... the file manager doesn't show disk use. Okay, I download a disk use program. The basic browser is too basic so I download Firefox. Now I try to hook up a USB drive with NTFS or exFAT formatting - pick either one! Everything grinds to a halt while I spend an hour or two figuring that one out...

Some things work quite well, but there's always something vital missing from anything I touch. There's a pretty dock but no apparent way to change it. There's an applications pull-down where the Apple menu usually is, which is great (I miss that from Mac OS 9), but how do apps get on there? I have programs that I can't seem to access, and clicking "Open" does nothing.

The more I use this thing, the more I realize why people pay double for Macs or put up with the privacy intrusions and reboots and malware and cryptic error messages that are the essence of Windows. I will say I like the fact that the entire system lives in a space that's around 1/7th the size of Windows 10's mandatory "free disk space" area.

Maybe Mint would have done better?
 


To follow up on yesterday's post regarding ElementaryOS: I rebooted and the new Finder-type apps and USB and exFAT compatibility suddenly appeared, so I was able to run VirtualBox.

VirtualBox runs Windows 7, but exceedingly slowly on this particular computer, which has Celeron processors running at some crazy-high and deceptive clock speed, with 8 GB of RAM. The main issue, I suspect, is the USB bottleneck; the virtual machine is on an external drive due to lack of space on the internal drive.

It does not run the Snow Leopard install I made for my Mac. While VirtualBox does have settings for various Mac operating systems, including Snow Leopard, the forums point out that you're not supposed to do that, so figuring out the messages doesn't work. (Of note, while I can shut off VT-x and such in VirtualBox, I always get an error telling me to shut off VT-x.)

Seems to me this would be an OK system, after a bunch of setup, for someone who just has to surf the web and check email. It works fine for that. With OpenOffice installed (I haven't found that yet in the software installer GUI), it would do fine for word processing and spreadsheets, too. Still, it's all pretty unfinished. Graphically, it's fine; but the user interface is awkward and there are a lot of assumptions about what we know. Helpful little bits of information, right down to putting “requires...” in the descriptions of software, are lacking.

I still find it odd that I need to install extra software to figure out how much drive space is available; and most of the software I've installed have obvious bugs (e.g. the "system hardware inspector" that is blank when I select anything but "motherboard").

And, when I reflect on this, I realize the same is true, to a much lesser degree, on modern Macs and Windows boxes. Microsoft just announced that it's going to start using error messages that actually link to the help resources, rather than giving a knowledge base article (and if you've read Microsoft knowledge base articles, you've probably found, like me, that 80% are useless). Apple used to be very useful in its error messages, but these days it's more likely to just freeze or give you a blank screen, and good luck with the new logs!

Google's probably being very clever in designing their own new operating system from scratch. Perhaps it's time someone else did, too, before we're all using Google computers, because they're the only ones that will work.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
VirtualBox runs Windows 7, but exceedingly slowly on this particular computer, which has Celeron processors running at some crazy-high and deceptive clock speed, with 8 GB of RAM. The main issue, I suspect, is the USB bottleneck; the virtual machine is on an external drive due to lack of space on the internal drive.
If it's a USB flash drive or USB 2 drive, it would be radically slow in comparison and explain that problem. An external SSD via USB 3 should be reasonable in speed.
 


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