Linux Mint LMDE on Hybrid Disk Laptop

I have an old Thinkpad T43p that I am trying to extend the life of. So I recently fitted a cheap 60GB IDE Solid State Drive (SSD) and put a 320GB SATA Hard Disk Drive (HDD) in the Ultrabay. This is not a true hybrid disk, but the principles are similar. The root partition will go on the SDD (for performance) and the home partition will be located on the HDD (for capacity).

I've been running Arch Linux on the T43p and the SDD improves system responsiveness and boot time considerably, especially when using F2FS or btrfs (with LZO compression and SSD mount options) on the root filesystem.

I am also testing Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) with the MATE desktop to determine if this is a suitable operating system for my family to use. It appears they find GNOME 3 confusing and would prefer a familar desktop experience.

While testing LMDE 201203 I ran into a few issues, so I've decided to capture my notes here for future reference.

Fix the installer

In order to install LMDE using partitions on multiple drives you must use the ADVANCED USER install mode. However, the ADVANCED USER install mode has a bug that prevents the installer from completing, so that needs to be fixed first.

sudo nano /usr/lib/live-installer/frontend/gtk_interface.py

Find the following on line 1765.

self.wTree.get_widget("button_next").show()

After it add the following line, making sure the identation is correct.

self.wTree.get_widget("button_next").set_sensitive(True)

Installing LMDE

  • Double click the Install Linux Mint icon on the desktop.
  • Select your Language and click Forward.
  • Select your Timezone and click Forward.
  • Select your Keyboard layout and click Forward.
  • Enter your User info and click Forward.
  • From the Hard drive window Select Manually mount partitions (ADVANCED USERS ONLY) and click Forward.

The Please make sure you wish to manually manage partitions window will appear. On my system the SSD is detected on /dev/sda and the HDD is detected on /dev/sdb. Start GParted and partition and format the drives as follows.

/dev/sda1
  Size: 256MiB
  Create as: Primary Partition
  File system: ext4
  Label: boot

/dev/sda2
  Size: 2048MiB (or the size you prefer)
  Create as: Primary Partition
  File system: linux-swap
  Label: swap

/dev/sda3
  Size: Remainder
  Create as: Primary Partition
  File system: btrfs
  Label: root

/dev/sdb1
  Size: All
  Create as: Primary Partition
  File system: ext4
  Label: home

Apply the changes and close GParted.

I use ext4 for the /boot partition because GRUB can't currently boot from btrfs in LMDE. I use ext4 for /home because it offers the best performance on rotational drives on my Thinkpad T43p. I use btrfs on the /root partition because performs best (by some margin) on solid state drives in my Thinkpad T43p.

The filesystems need mounting under /target so the installer can install the OS. Open a Terminal and do the following.

sudo mkdir /target
sudo mount -t btrfs -o compress=lzo,ssd /dev/disk/by-label/root /target
sudo mkdir /target/{boot,home}
sudo mount -t ext4 /dev/disk/by-label/boot /target/boot
sudo mount -t ext4 /dev/disk/by-label/home /target/home

Return to the Linux Mint Debian Installer.

  • Click Forward.
  • From the Advanced options check Install GRUB and select /dev/sda. Click Forward.
  • Confirm the Summary is correct and click Install.

Time for a cup of tea while the install runs. A pop-up, titled Installation Paused, will appear. Click OK.

Create /target/etc/fstab

Do as the installer says and create /target/etc/fstab. Open a Terminal.

sudo nano /target/etc/fstab

The following fstab works for my T43p.

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
#
# <file system> <mount point>   <type>      <options>                           <dump>  <pass>
proc            /proc           proc        defaults                            0       0
LABEL=root      /               btrfs       defaults,noatime,compress=lzo,ssd   0       1
LABEL=boot      /boot           ext4        defaults,noatime                    0       2
LABEL=home      /home           ext4        defaults,relatime                   0       2
LABEL=swap      none            swap        sw                                  0       0

Upgrade MATE 1.6 and remove legacy MATE 1.4 packages

MATE 1.6 has been released for LMDE 201203 so it is a good idea to upgrade and remove legacy packages before the first boot to ensure a clean configuration. Open a Terminal.

sudo chroot /target
apt-get update
apt-get install apt-show-versions
apt-get dist-upgrade

Some MATE 1.4 packages will be left behind that are no longer required. The following can help identify them.

apt-show-versions | grep 1\.4\.[0-9]\-[0-9]\+wheezy | cut -f1 -d' '

Purge the old MATE 1.4 packages.

PKGS=`apt-show-versions | grep 1\.4\.[0-9]\-[0-9]\+wheezy | cut -f1 -d' '`
apt-get purge ${PKGS}

Exit the chroot.

exit

Finish the install

Return to the Linux Mint Debian Installer.

  • Click Forward.
  • Some final installation steps will now complete.
  • A pop-up, titled Installation finished, will appear. Click Yes.

Your computer will reboot and start LMDE.

References

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