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Partitioning

Posted 04-16-2010 at 06:43 AM by Indymaynard

I discovered that I wasn't as wise on partitions as I thought I was. It's a shame it even became necessary for me to need to figure this out, but I guess that when new technology is taking over the old, you will have a short time of pain during the overlap.

There also was a difficult time of figuring out the answer on Google.

I have an older 1U server (Tyan Thunder K8) that has a 4 drive RAID controller (3ware Escalade). I recently upgraded all of the hard drives because Fry's Electronics is awesome and had a great sale going on. They were merely 1TB drives, but 1 * 4 = 4, so that's better than what I had. I wanted a RAID 5 setup.

The problem came up when I tried to partition the drives. I wanted to set up:

/boot 200MB
/ 10GB
/home 2.7TB

I debated putting in swap because I have 8GB of RAM, but this has no effect on the story other than the fact that I decided on 2GB for swap.

The first two partitions formatted fine in every attempt. It was the third one that killed the process. Fedora simply failed, as did openSuSE. Ubuntu told me that msdos partition tables were limited to 459-something cylinders. I didn't understand this as I assumed that formatting the partitions in ext* would have nothing to do with an msdos partition table. Whatever the case, this limited me to roughly a 2TB partition size. Small, I know. This was especially confusing because I read on Wikipedia that ext4 had a theoretical maximum volume size limitation in the exabyte range.

To cut this story shorter than my long-winded self could make it, it turns out that most installers are dummy-proofed so as to make it easy for those of us that thought they knew it all but don't. Partition tables are just as essential as the file system type when dealing with the massive amount of storage space that is now becoming more common place.

Because I am so used to Fedora's layout on my system, I was having a hard time switching to Ubuntu server and restoring my files. I was too frustrated to deal with it any more. I wound up plugging in a recent version of Knoppix, which has to have been one of the best inventions in the GNU/Linux community ever, and fired up gparted. There is a menu that allows you to change the partition table type. The standard is msdos. I had researched this after I saw the menu and selected gpt as my partition table.

After I selected my layout and clicked, "Apply", I left the room. I think it took a total of 8 hours to format that large partition. When it finished, I plugged in Fedora 12 (a tough choice considering that 13 is due out next month and that means I'll be installing again in a short time...) and set up a custom layout on the partitioning portion of the installer, specifying the layout above.

The installer is finished installing, but I have not rebooted, yet. Expect another post to tell of the progress.
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