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Cleaning up the cruft...

Posted 06-09-2010 at 01:25 PM by Lufbery

From the Wikipedia entry:

Cruft (occasionally kruft) is computing jargon for "code, data, or software of poor quality". The term may also refer to debris that accumulates on computer equipment. It has been generalized to mean any accumulation of obsolete, redundant, irrelevant, or unnecessary information, especially code. An alternative usage is becoming more generalized to refer to any unneeded or unwanted computer hardware or obsolete equipment.
Now that our second son is approaching six months old, my wife and I are over the hump in terms of lost sleep and barely controlled chaos. With a little more rest, we're finally able to start a systematic spring cleaning/decluttering of our house. I fully expect that this particular project will take well into the summer, if not longer.

I've got an analogous situation with the hard drives on the main desktop computer for our family. Just like with a house, I brought a lot of old stuff with me and moved it into the new computer when I bought it last year. Prior to that, I was using a Pentium III desktop that I bought in August of 2000. It worked exceptionally well for all that time with only a few upgrades: more memory, 2nd hard drive, replacing the DVD drive, and going from Windows ME (which worked nearly perfectly for me) to Windows XP. About five years ago, I put a Linux distribution on it and it was a dual-boot machine from then on.

I had a pretty nifty partitioning scheme on the old computer. The C drive, of course, had Windows and all my data on it. I didnít permanently add Linux to the computer until I bought a second hard drive. I divided that hard drive into three partitions: a D drive, which served as a target for the automated backup of the C drive (being the same size); and E drive that I used for additional storage; and the rest of the disk (unreadable by Windows), which I further partitioned into a few JFS partitions for /, /root, /home and swap.

So I get a new computer and given the motherboard and types of hard drives and the DVD drive, I can put one, but not both of the old HDs in the new computer. So I quickly copy all the good stuff from the C drive to the second hard drive and install it in the new computer. The new computer has a 1TB SATA drive as its boot drive and the second hard drive is now the legacy EIDE drive from the old computer. Iíve transferred all of the good stuff from the old hard drive to the new one, and now use the old HD as a backup drive, well sort of. Both of the VFAT partitions are still there to make it easier to share data between Windows XP (during very rare occasions when I boot to XP) and Slackware.

The previous 450 or so words is just a very long way of explaining how I got a whole bunch of cruft on my computer, and thatís just data files. Of course e-mails pile up and various software applications that I tried out but donít like sometimes linger because I never get around to uninstalling them. For that matter, since I regularly compile apps and make my own packages, Iíll sometimes have multiple versions of the same package on a machine from various upgrades. Oh, and bookmarks. Iíve got a pretty well-organized list of bookmarks in Firefox (synced and shared with other computers using Xmarks), but probably half of them are no longer interesting, need to be categorized, or are dead.

So, just like my house, I need to get rid of the cruft on my computer. A new release of Slackware is a great time to do that. Whether I do a simple upgrade or a new installation, I always transfer the /home folder to the new version of Slackware. With it comes the Thunderbird mail folders, and various .js files that go with Firefox (especially my whitelist and blacklist for Adblock plus!), a bunch of cool scripts I use, and my .emacs and .bashrc files. But not everything needs to transfer, especially a lot of the hidden files. For instance, the .kde folder almost always needs to be deleted when upgrading to a new version of KDE. Other hidden folders obviously need to stay. So part of cleaning up is knowing what to toss and what to keep.

I think, however, for this upgrade from Slackware 13 to 13.1, Iím going to do a much more thorough housecleaning. The biggest thing I need to do is clean up and reformat the second hard drive so I can use it as a pure backup again. Then I need to install and configure something like rsnapshot ( so that all the good stuff gets regularly backed up to another disk.

Beyond that, the main task is to do a lot of careful pruning and reorganizing. Careful is the operative word. I lost several months of digital photos once because I deleted the directory, thinking I had already copied it when I hadnít. Of course, excessive paranoia about accidentally deleting stuff leads to having multiple copies of files in different places, which can lead to . . . cruft.
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