Build your own PC Part III

Although somewhat belatedly, here is a brief discussion on what has happened since I finished building Lobsang.

The system has been very stable and reliable. It is quiet. And it performs well.  There have been a couple of niggles with the software installation that I would like to mention and also briefly I wanted to cover partitioning as a reader requested it.


As with most of my computers I installed Ubuntu Linux on this one. Due to some kind of incompatibility with the BIOS and my shiny new graphics card, I ended up installing the pre-release (Alpha 5) of Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex, the 8.10 version. It’s been very stable throughout the time I have been using it but the graphics card has been problematic.

Initially I had quite a few difficulties using this new NVIDIA 9500GT card which made me simply drop back to using the default and OSS “nv” driver instead. That was fine as I needed the machine for work so I was quite happy to wait for eye-candy support. When 8.10 was actually released I re-enabled the NVIDIA binary drivers for my hardware. Initially it seemed OK and worked but I was limited to a maximum resolution 768×1024. My monitor can handle quite a bit more than that.

It turns out that one of the big changes in 8.10 is with Xorg. The configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf is basically empty and everything is auto-configured. This is fine as long as the detection process works. My monitor is connected to the VGA port of the graphics card, via a Belkin KVM switch. I think this is preventing the monitor from being detected and hence I am left with a minimal option for configuring my monitor.

Using the nvidia-settings application allows me to change the screen resolution to something more sensible but the changes I make are not persistent, even when I have run it as root. I have tried to “hard-code” the relevant settings in my xorg.conf but on each reboot the monitor has defaulted back to the standard 1024×768 resolution. It is a tad annoying, but hopefully there will be a fix shortly – or if I get a new shiny TFT for Christmas the problem will probably go away anyway.


Here is the partition table I am using on Lobsang:

Partition Flags Part Type FS Type Size MB
sda1 Boot Primary Linux ext2 526.42
sda5 Logical Linux ext3 15726.74
sda6 Logical Linux ext3 15726.74
sda7 Logical Linux ext3 15726.74
sda8 Logical Linux XFS 268168.81
sda9 Logical Linux swap / Solaris 4194.90

As you can see I have split my disk into 6 partitions.

  • sda1 is a small boot partition so that I can have multiple OS’s kernels and a common grub to load them all (Linux distributions, not that “other” legacy operating system.) in one location.
  • sda5, sda6 and sda7 are each 15GB partitions that I have for the operating system’s / file system. I could have, for example, Ubuntu 8.10 on sda5, Kubuntu on sda6 and Fedora on sda7. 15GB should be more than ample for most installations. My current Intrepid installation – with lots of space hungry apps installed – is only using 4GB.
  • sda8 is my /home partition. All 270GB can be used (shared) by any of the OSs and it also makes re-installing an OS a breeze as all my settings and data are stored on a separate and OS independent partition*.
  • sda9 is the swap partition. Typically it is made to be about twice the size of the available RAM. I recall reading somewhere quite some time ago that it is advantageous to have it at the “end” of the disk although I can’t recall why. Maybe it is at the fastest part of the disk or something…

Also note I am using the XFS filesystem for the home partition. There are two reasons for this. The first is it has better performance for very large files, like all those ISOs I keep downloading and virtual machine images etc. And also it is more efficient space wise. I probably gained about 4-5GB of space over the more traditional ext3 filesystem on a disk this size.

* Adrian over at Mercian Labels posed a question about this very subject on his blog recently. I suggested using a separate partition for /home for these very reasons.