Recently I’ve been evaluating Elementary OS, a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu Precise (12.04 LTS). Despite the Elementary desktop looking like they’ve cloned parts of the Apple OS X desktop a little too well I appreciate what they’re trying to achieve.

With Ubuntu itself, after about 10.10, their desktop environment started heading in a strange direction, trying to cater for a certain type of “modern” user, and doesn’t sit well with me. Personally I don’t want my desktop looking like a touch device and prefer a more “traditional” environment.

I’d go into this further (and less vaguely) but ultimately it’s just personal preference. I’m sure stock Ubuntu suits some people just fine.

The actual point of this post is that the current release of Elementary OS doesn’t support using software RAID from the installation CD. Apparently the Elementary installer is based on the graphical Precise installer which doesn’t support software RAID either.

One solution is to install stock Ubuntu Precise from the “alternate install” CD. The alternate installer runs in text mode, but does allow installing to a software RAID device. You can then add the Elementary OS repos to /etc/apt/sources.list.d/, and then using apt-get to install all the Elementary OS packages. When I tried this it appeared to work fairly cleanly, but for some reason still left me with somewhat broken desktop environment. Despite having an entirely empty $HOME directory (initially), some apps icons were missing from the Elementary dock that are normally visible on a regular Elementary OS install, and the window theme was still the Precise theme, not the Elementary theme.

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I’m sure there are simple ways of fixing the above, but there might still be other problems behind the scenes caused by running a “hybrid” distro in this way.

A much simpler and less error-prone method is to install Elementary OS to a single drive initially, then install and run Raider. Raider converts a regular single-disk Linux installation to use software RAID, and pretty much just involves running ‘raider -R1’ (for a RAID1 setup), powering off the system, physically swapping the disks, then powering on again and running ‘raider –run’. You can then uninstall Raider if necessary; it is no longer required.

For the record I used Raider on a system running from an XFS partition (rather than the usual ext3 or ext4 format) and it worked perfectly.

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I suspect future versions of Elementary OS (eg. the next version based on the upcoming Ubuntu 14.04) will support software RAID from the installer, but even so, using Raider should still be a viable alternative.

Obviously Raider can also be used to convert other existing Linux installations to a RAID configuration. Make sure you create a backup first though, just in case! (I recommend CloneZilla for that.)

 

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