One of the biggest complaints I hear from new Ubuntu users is how easy it is to mess up an existing Ubuntu installation.
Whether the issue stems from an update gone wrong, the hard drive crashing (which is actually a hardware issue) or simply the user deleting a directory best left untouched isn’t the point. The fact of the matter is, having an indestructible Ubuntu installation does have its benefits.
In this article, I will outline my recipe for setting up what most would agree is a bulletproof Ubuntu installation.
Right away, I see many of you groaning at this sentiment. After all, it's not like dual-booting is all that difficult. This is especially true if you're only dual-booting Linux distributions.
But for most people, dual-booting involves Windows. And while the installation of Windows can be done along side Ubuntu, I would never recommend it if you are seeking a bulletproof Ubuntu setup.
Why? Simply because by adding Windows you're adding a wild card to your computing space. A better bet is to use two separate PCs for such things, or look toward a virtual machine solution.
If you absolutely must dual-boot with another operating system, then at the very least I recommend using separate hard drives to protect yourself and your data against drive failure. This way if one OS drive dies, the other is still working and in good condition.
It should be noted, however, that messing up one’s boot record isn't going to be prevented in any dual-boot situation. It's always a possibility and can be, in some instances, a real pain to fix when it happens.
A dedicated home partition is useful
There are countless schools of thought on how to setup your partition layout. Personally, I believe the use of a dedicated partition is the obvious choice. This offers a number of solid benefits.
First, if you happen to have the resources where a dedicated hard drive can be used for your home partition, I would recommend you consider doing so. This can protect your home directory contents should your main system drive run into any problems of a hardware related nature.
Second, using a dedicated partition means that you can "upgrade" your Ubuntu installation with peace of mind as the home partition can be set to be ignored by the installer. This option allows you to prevent lost user data such as documents, media, and user settings should your upgrade go horribly wrong.
One thing to consider when working with a dedicated home partition is that in some instances it may not be worth it. For example, if you are using incremental home directory backups, you may find that having a dedicated directory might be a bit redundant.
That being said, it's a personal choice that you will have to decide on yourself. Speaking exclusively for myself, I find that on my desktop PCs, a dedicated partition makes a lot of sense since this is where I do the bulk of my work.
But on my portable computers, such as my notebook or my netbook, I am perfectly fine with allowing a backup plan to handle my home directory data with a less intensive eye.
Backing up your computer
Not to be confused with hard drive cloning, setting up a worthwhile hard drive backup is actually pretty simple to do. What isn't all that easy is selecting the best method that works well for your needs.
Potential issues that must first be explored before deciding on a backup method are bandwidth caps from ISPs, external storage, network storage, DVD backups, and bulk vs incremental backups. Here are some insights on a few different options while explaining their benefits.
One of the simplest options is to use a cloud-based service for backing up, such as JungleDisk, Ubuntu One, or other backup to cloud solutions. No cloud-based solution is really "better" than the other, they all basically allow you to backup select directories to Amazon servers at some level.
In my case, I've had great success with JungleDisk as it allows me to easily select the directories to backup. Then on a schedule of my choosing, I can run JungleDisk's Simply Backup tool to send the latest copy of my data to remote S3 Amazon (or Rackspace) cloud servers.
The downside to this is that you might be better off using the JungleDisk localized backup option within their program instead. Backing up your entire home directory on the Internet is amazingly slow during its first run and, in most instances, likely to create problems with your ISP. Second, despite JungleDisk claiming that you can restore your files to a selected point in time with their Simply Backup option, I've never personally tested it. And, I would opt for an open source incremental backup solution instead if you need file versions from selected times/dates.