October 10, 2010

The wonder of open source software

by Nori — Categories: Programming, Wising upComments Off on The wonder of open source software

If you aren’t a geek, you probably don’t know there’s a world of software out there written by voluntary communities of programmers.  The open source software often works better with fewer problems than the software designed and programmed by paid programmers.  Part of this has to do with the collective mentality of the open source programming communities.  They work together without mandate to achieve perfection, a labor of love versus a labor for pay.

Companies like Microsoft produce their product aimed at the non-geeky mainstream consumer, but there’s a whole world of people out there who use an open source operating system (Linux), and many many more who, though using a Microsoft operating system, eschew the majority of  Microsoft’s other products.  They opt instead for open source software like Open Office and Mozilla Thunderbird.  I tell you this as an introduction to a piece of open source software I used this morning to change the partitions on my hard drive.

On my desktop computer I’ve been using the same system hard drive for quite a few years.  Just so you don’t think I’m trying to run everything off this little 36 gig drive, I also have a second newer and much larger drive on which I store my personal stuff and things I download from the net.

I had originally partitioned my 36 gig drive into a 17+gig partition for my windows system and the remainder in a partition for my client files. For years that worked great but I’ve been adding a lot of extra programming lately, things to help me manipulate and manage my growing digital library.  As a result, I ran out of room on my system drive and began installing some of the extra programs on my personal drive space.  Ack!  If I didn’t reorganize so I could keep all my little boxes tidy, I was going to go nuts.

If you’re marginally geeky you know that repartitioning usually means you have to reinstall everything.  Not so!  After a few unsuccessful endeavors using commercial software, enter GParted.

I bought my laptop used about 2 years ago.  Laptops usually come with a single drive with a single partition in which the user is supposed to stick everything.  I don’t use my laptop much, but I hate the single big drive.  I like having my stuff divided according to type/use.  I want my email on a separate drive/partition.  Same for my personal stuff and downloaded files.  I definitely want my client files on a separate drive.  On my desktop computer, that equals more than one drive and four or five partitions depending on how anal I choose to be.  While I don’t want that many partitions on the laptop, it’s definitely my ideal for my desktop.  I know I’m organizationally anal, but I find multiple partitions/drives less confusing.  I think there’s nothing worse than slogging through one big drive trying to find a single file or image.

Knowing I didn’t want to lose all my laptop stuff in my efforts to improve organization, I started looking for software that would let me repartition without losing everything.  I found GParted Live, an open source program that allows changing partition size without losing the data therein.   Wahoo!

This morning, using GParted, I moved my client files (second partition on system disk) to space on a second drive, deleted the partition and increased the size of my system partition to the full size of the drive without losing one byte of data or programming.  It took much less time than composing this post.  How brilliant is that?

Are you ready for a comparison between open source and commercial software?

When I first started this process on my desktop I thought I would clone my system partition onto a second drive and switch to that drive as my system drive.  I downloaded *free* HDClone from Miray only to discover HDClone Free would only do slow like to like cloning.  I bought HDClone Basic so I could clone the system partition to the drive.  This whole process proved to be a waste of time and money.  The company says it can/will clone, but the result proved not to be bootable. Given the dismal performance so far and the “hold hostage” mentality of the programers, this was $23+ down the drain.  I would waste no more money “upgrading” in the hopes the software would fulfill my very basic needs.

In comparison, GParted performed flawlessly.  I did more in less time with no $ expended using this open source software.  Miray’s software came with zero integrated help and each added feature you wanted to use cost extra (price difference between free, basic, standard, professional, enterprise).  In comparison, GDParted has copious help available and did everything it claimed just as seamlessly as advertised.  Go open source!

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