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Old 07-09-2006, 07:05 AM   #1
Registered: Jul 2006
Location: Australia
Distribution: Mint 14/16 & Raspbian
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Multiple Linux Distrubitions One Machine


How are we all?
---- If you aren't interested in the background skip down to the FUN ----

I am relatively new to Linux and thought I would post my trials and tribulations of the last week while installing a single computer with multiple Linux distributions and keeping Uncle Bill's eXcruciatingly Painful OS for the odd game of Far Cry or FEAR.

Let's see where to start. First off the computer is an AMD Athlon 64. Running 1GB ram. 2 x Sata HDDs (200GB + 250GB). nVidia 6600GT graphics card.

What I did.
Created a partition on the 250GB HDD of 100GB and copied all my various bits and pieces collected over the last few years, funny videos, mp3s, email's and the like. This was to save them when I repartitioned in anticipation of installing Kubuntu 6.06 in place of the neglected Mandrake 10.1 previous co-inhabitant with XP.

So creating a 10GB ntfs partition I set out to install XP on the 200GB HDD in pride of place sda1.

With windows sorted I turned my attention to installing Kubuntu. Which worked flawlessly. With the installation going so smoothly I wondered how hard it would be to install not one Linux but two, three or more.


So with the thought of trialing and possibly keeping multiple distributions of linux co-inhabiting my computer I set out to reorganise my partitions, again!

This is the result and I will explain why:
sda1 10GB ntfs Windows XP
sda2 150GB ext3 /home
sda3 25GB ext / [Kubuntu]
sda4 4GB swap linux-swap

sdb1 100GB ntfs Windows data
sdb2 25GB ext3 / [Fedora Core 5]
sdb3 25GB ext3 / [Edubuntu]
sdb4 ----------EXTENDED----------
sdb5 25GB ext3
sdb6 25GB ext3
sdb7 40GB fat32

Why? Why, indeed some of you may be asking would he do that? Well the simple answer is that I don't know any better. But I will explain the logic behind my crazy. Keeping the Windows OS separate from it's data is self explanatory, when it eventually crashes (no doubt it will) I have all my funny email's safe and sound.

No the reasoning behind the rest, I've read a lot of online documentation, blog's and faq's explaining that the linux-swap can be shared between dual booting Linux distributions. I just went one step further and thought why not have them all accessing my /home in the same place too.

This has led to one hurdle so far and that is that each distribution needs its own unique login name to avoid corrupting settings.

The remaining partitions are for two (sda5, sda6) more distributions if I feel the need to experiment further, and a space for read write access for both windows and my Linux of choice at the time. This may well change with a further whim, who knows.

So for those of you who were following intently I've only had two hiccup's so to speak. One the need for individual logins for each distribution (if I had though about it I would have made them the disto names). And two, that by installing Fedora Core 5 I let it have its way with the GRUB and only booted FC5 and WinXP, this alas was solved for me when I intstalled Edubuntu.

Anyone else try something similar?
Anyone make it this far through this monster post?
What are people's thoughts on my separating /home ?
Old 07-09-2006, 08:07 AM   #2
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Registered: Sep 2004
Location: Sweden
Distribution: Ubuntu, Debian
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I did the same once (share /home between distros) and to keep it working with one login you need to play a lot. It sure gave me a lot of headache since they all use their own settings and so on. The worst part would be the entries in the menus since you need to remember that all distros have different programs installed, so many icons and other data will not be available to all distros. But after a while you will get where they both work together relatively fine.

And if you run into the GRUB problem again just boot up with whatever Linux distro and change your grub.conf to recognize all your distros and the windows partition (you should save grub.conf somewhere in case it gets lost or overwritten by someone or something).

Other than that, good luck with your Linux exploring.
Old 07-09-2006, 08:33 AM   #3
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Registered: Feb 2005
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Anyone else try something similar?
I had once installed 8 Operating Systems (including Windows) on a single computer, at the same time.

Believe doesn't do any good.

My motto behind that stuff was to learn all the different Linux flavors at the same time.
But as a matter of fact, the different flavors have a lotta unique things..what confused me like hell...

I had Fedora Core, SuSE, Mandriva -- (the RPM Based Distros), then I had Slackware, then also Debian, Ubuntu, Kubuntu -- (the DEB based Distros).

I now have Slackware 10.2 and Debian Sarge installed.

I would be of some help...:P
Old 07-09-2006, 09:17 AM   #4
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I have four Linux distros on my machine right now; I used to have six. Right now I have two rpm based, one deb, and one portage. Two 32-bit and two 64-bit. Two with KDE and two with Gnome. I don't use a lot of programs and I install those few on every distro. So from a productivity standpoint, there's no difference between distros. Every so often I remove a distro that I find myself not using. Eventually I imagine I'll only have the one or two that suite me best.

Never had a problem sharing the /home folder between distros. Even use the same password for the users. Always backup /home before installing a new a distro, though! Then you have to make sure that the uid and gid for each user are the same in each distro. Figure out what they are in the working distro before you install subsequent distros. Then during the first boot with a new distro, boot into a terminal and change them.

I also share a /boot partition amongst distros. Each distro's kernel, etc. is in a sub folder so my /boot directory looks like:


There's a single grub.conf/menu.lst file. When I get to the step in the installation, I choose not to install GRUB or LILO. Then I edit grub.conf in a working distro, reboot, make the uid and gid changes, and login.
Old 07-09-2006, 05:44 PM   #5
Registered: Jul 2006
Location: Australia
Distribution: Mint 14/16 & Raspbian
Posts: 73

Original Poster
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I figured that I wasn't the only person curious about different distributions at the same time. I had only read the one article in 'Tux Magazine' and wondered how easy it was for a novice.

Originally Posted by Arow
I also share a /boot partition amongst distros. Each distro's kernel, etc. is in a sub folder ...
I wondered it that were possible. I suppose it is that I don't like thinks being untidy, and having three Linux operating systems all with their own /home was untidy and counter productive to my mind as I wanted all data accessable by all.

I haven't had to once edit the grub.conf (or menu.list) once manually yet, so I suppose that is the only saving grace to my ignorance. But I am keen to learn much more, I am having a great ol' time.


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