Moving an existing system to a new computer

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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby Yaron » 2018-10-28 18:25

@CwF: I'm not an advanced user, so I don't really know all I should do to configure the new hardware. If I knew, I would do it in the VM.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby v&n » 2018-10-30 03:00

Yaron wrote:@CwF: I'm not an advanced user, so I don't really know all I should do to configure the new hardware. If I knew, I would do it in the VM.

A "general hardware" (from the point of view of a 'non-advanced' common user) nowadays ranges not only between AMD to Intel, but also includes the ARM CPU architecture (an average netbook buyer doesn't know the difference between an x86 or ARM based netbook, as for him, both seem to be running the same OS, same programs). Hope you know how big that difference is at the machine level. This is just an example. There are many components that just can't be controlled through 'one-size-fits-all' generic handles.

While it can certainly be made possible to create such a hyper-smart (and therefore super-huge too!) OS or kernel that automatically detects even such radical differences and loads the correct stuff to make the transition smooth, it would obviously be stupendously overkill for a product which will only be useful for 'non-general' users. Because an average user doesn't do the kind of moving/migration you are talking about, only the curious and tekky types do.

And those who do this kind of things are supposed to be either smart enough to figure out their way through the shift, or be ready to take responsibility for the breakage that may happen during the shift. If you are curious enough to try a jet propeller on a bicycle, obviously neither the bicycle nor the jet companies can take responsibility for what happens next.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby debiman » 2018-10-30 06:05

v&n wrote:A "general hardware" (from the point of view of a 'non-advanced' common user) nowadays ranges not only between AMD to Intel, but also includes the ARM CPU architecture (an average netbook buyer doesn't know the difference between an x86 or ARM based netbook, as for him, both seem to be running the same OS, same programs). Hope you know how big that difference is at the machine level. This is just an example. There are many components that just can't be controlled through 'one-size-fits-all' generic handles.

like i said: there's no such thing as "standard" or "general" hardware anymore. well there is (e.g. PC architecture is still a thing), but not in a complete, all-encompassing sense.

While it can certainly be made possible to create such a hyper-smart (and therefore super-huge too!) OS or kernel that automatically detects even such radical differences and loads the correct stuff to make the transition smooth, it would obviously be stupendously overkill for a product which will only be useful for 'non-general' users. Because an average user doesn't do the kind of moving/migration you are talking about, only the curious and tekky types do.

well to be fair, the (arguably bloated) default linux kernel does most of that; it doesn't take much intelligence to just go through all options 1 by 1 until "it works" - just lots of different drivers.
and that's ok because compared to all the youtube videos an average user watches or images stored on their computer, that's still next to nothing.
and bootable live systems are even better at it.

thing is, people get so easily put off when it doesn't work once in a while. instead of rolling up their sleeves and starting to dig, they get all panicky and complainy.

tl;dr: maybe OP really wants "Live USB with persistence"???
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby Yaron » 2018-10-30 06:22

well, @debiman, if a live system is better at it, that means it is possible? Why can't a standard system be as smart as a live system?

@v&n: Yes, I do realize that if I moved a system between different architectures then all binary packages would have to be reinstalled, however even in that case maybe there could be a tool that moves an installation preserving all your settings, other than those related to the hardware. But let's leave that aside now - assume I move a system between 2 computers with the same architecture, so even if there are differences like in firmware, I don't think it's something that big that a system can't adjust and have to be reinstalled from scratch or manually fixed.

Replacing some hardware in an existing computer (especially desktop computer) isn't something that bizarre, and expecting things so "just work" with "standard hardware" doesn't seem like a crazy expectation for me. In that sense, moving an installation from one computer to another isn't principally different to changing some of the hardware in an existing computer - it just means changing all your hardware components. You could just as well change them one by one. And while maybe changing the firmware in an existing computer isn't a typical use, changing things like Wi-Fi card or graphics card or HD or mouse or keybard etc in an existing computer are not rare scenarios. Adapting to such changes doesn't seem like a crazy expectation for me.

Actually I got curious and I'm now trying to do the same with another distribution. Let's see how it goes...
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby Yaron » 2018-10-30 12:41

Ok, so I tried to do the same with Ubuntu MATE 18.04.1 LTS. I used the same hardware both in the original computer and in the new computer. The result: I rebooted, and everything just worked: DE, internet, sound. No errors. I had to do nothing.

Now, I'm not trying to say here this or that distribution is better, vice versa, I was wondering if there's somehow I can make debian do the same: maybe there's some package they use that does that magic, or maybe it's something specific to ubuntu or to ubuntu MATE? Either way, it *is* possible.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby bw123 » 2018-10-30 13:24

Of course it is possible when the hardware is the same. How have you moved anything at all when all the hardware is the same? How can an old computer and a new (another) have the same hardware? Are you trying to say, "Only swapped the cloned hard disk between exactly similar machines?"


No offense, but your'e not being very clear about what you are trying to do.

Hardware details on both would make your point easier to understand maybe.

One reason ubuntu might be different when cloning, is non-free firmware. But that would only apply if the machines had different hardware, not the same hardware/ "DE, internet, and sound" is not standard hardware. Those are abstractions. If that is the problem you're having, then it's probably firmware related for the first two. The sound issue is probably from stored static config for alsa being applied to different sound device on the target.

p.s. ubutnut is better for a lot of people, maybe you are just one of those?
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby v&n » 2018-10-30 16:52

Yaron wrote:@v&n: Yes, I do realize that if I moved a system between different architectures then all binary packages would have to be reinstalled, however even in that case maybe there could be a tool that moves an installation preserving all your settings, other than those related to the hardware.

Maybe there already is, just not popular enough. I know there used to exist at least 2-3 popular threads on UF long ago describing well defined 'procedures' to migrate installations preserving all the settings, programs etc. Automating those procedures was just a matter of interest of ANY user who could code a program. Maintaining such a tool would be main challenge, given the variety of hardware that hits the market everyday. Then again, wherever there is a sizeable demand for something, someone almost always does come along with the solution too. What you are asking is simply not such a 'sizeable' demand, that's all.

Yaron wrote:But let's leave that aside now - assume I move a system between 2 computers with the same architecture, so even if there are differences like in firmware, I don't think it's something that big that a system can't adjust and have to be reinstalled from scratch or manually fixed.

I don't have to assume that. I literally did that just a week ago that I mentioned in my first post, and it did work. In fact even the architecture was not exactly the 'same' if we go into granular details - it was 6 yrs old sandy bridge vs 2nd latest kaby lake, but it just worked.

Yaron wrote:Replacing some hardware in an existing computer (especially desktop computer) isn't something that bizarre, and expecting things so "just work" with "standard hardware" doesn't seem like a crazy expectation for me.

As @debiman has already said this twice, and others too in different ways - "there is no 'standard hardware' ".

I'll take what you mentioned as an example - a wifi card - a very common component of a modern computer. Even two same age cards, supporting exactly same protocols, but of different brands or models can be internally as different as arm vs x86 CPUs. For example the super-tiny SMD-sized WiFi chip on an R-Pi3 card vs a full size Atheros AR9285 card. I'm not a hardware designer so I won't comment on how much this can change the kind and manner of signals they might expect on their apparently 'similarly' laid out contact pins (in case they are designed to fit in the same kind of slot), but one doesn't have to be a programmer to understand that the drivers needed to handle such two cards would be radically different from each other. The 'abstraction' of hardware can only go so far. There just can't be a 'standard driver' to handle them all, period.

Yaron wrote:In that sense, moving an installation from one computer to another isn't principally different to changing some of the hardware in an existing computer - it just means changing all your hardware components.

Except changing the motherboard with a significantly different one may mean much more of a change than you seem to think. Think of the BIOS/firmware, communication interfaces, IRQ protocols/defaults etc.

Yaron wrote:And while maybe changing the firmware in an existing computer isn't a typical use, changing things like Wi-Fi card or graphics card or HD or mouse or keybard etc in an existing computer are not rare scenarios.

No, these are not rare scenarios, and similarly the OS adapting to such minor changes is also not a rare scenario. WiFi is often a different story, a hint of 'why' I already gave above. Besides the presence of driver & firmware, it also depends on so many internal/external variables and their mutual tuning that its stability simply can't be guaranteed across different systems.

Yaron wrote:Ok, so I tried to do the same with Ubuntu MATE 18.04.1 LTS. I used the same hardware both in the original computer and in the new computer. The result: I rebooted, and everything just worked: DE, internet, sound. No errors. I had to do nothing.

I can't say about the DE, but internet, sound worked because Ubuntu distributes non-free firmware along with the distro while Debian does not. It's a policy decision to strengthen foss, not a weakness. Of course the non-free packages can always be installed manually by the users if they need them, Debian just doesn't distribute them with the distros.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby Yaron » 2018-10-30 17:25

@bw123: Sorry, you understood what I said in the wrong way, which is probably my mistake - I didn't notice it could be understood another way. Anway, what I meant is that the hardware I used for the original system in my 2nd attempt (with Ubuntu) was the same as I used in the 1st attempt (with debian) - that is, VMWare, and that the hardware I used for the new computer in my 2nd attempt (with Ubuntu) was the same as I used in the 1st attempt (with debian) - that is, Asus T102HA. So, in both scenarios, I moved a system from VMWare to Asus T102HA.

@v&n: As I already said, by "standard hardware" I mean hardware that is well supported in linux whose driver is usually in the standard repositories. I don't mean to say there's a super-driver that can handle all "standard hardware".

Not all problems I had were related to non-free drivers, and even for non-free drivers, I would expect to be able to make the choice that I am interested in non-free drivers, and then have things happen automatically. I don't think a non-advanced user should manually start investigating how to configure his hardware, be it a hardware that requires non-free drivers, or not. I accept it shouldn't be part of a debian installation by default (or at least the installer can ask me, like ubuntu's does), but I think I should be able to choose it, somehow, and then have things work automatically.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby bw123 » 2018-10-30 19:29

Yaron wrote:...
I don't think a non-advanced user should manually start investigating how to configure his hardware, be it a hardware that requires non-free drivers, or not.
...


This point comes up now and then on the forums. I think I understand how you see it, but another way of looking at the problem is if the distribution is too preconfigured for the "non-advanced" or new users, then the current users spend all their time undoing the preconfiguration every time they install a new system. What might seem to be a 'sane' or reasonable default for one person can just be a nuisance for another person, who wants the system configured the way they like it.

or maybe look at it this way, "If you didn't want linux, why'd you install it?"
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby Yaron » 2018-10-30 19:46

coz windowz sucks :)
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby debiman » 2018-11-02 17:06

Yaron wrote:well, @debiman, if a live system is better at it, that means it is possible? Why can't a standard system be as smart as a live system?

it's mostly about graphics.
a live system tries to catch a broader range of hardware, but does not always use the best solution available.

this argument is pointless :(

esp. because op made it a theoretical request; but now it looks more and more like it's an actual, concrete problem. the details of which are guarded like a secret.

it seems op wants to reason with linux itself.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby Yaron » 2018-11-02 17:43

Unfortunately, it seems like some people here are more interested in fighting then helping. I'm not gonna spend any more time on pointless fights; I've already spend hell more than I should have done.

Thanks all for your tremendous help. I still think all in all Debian is the best linux distribution. Wish I could say the same about its community.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby milomak » 2018-11-02 20:33

imagine if you changed on your current system:
- wifi
- network adapter
- video
- audio

i would imagine that just rebooting from your last install does not mean on reboot everything will work.

say for instance you change from amd to vga, you will wilikely boot to console.
hopefully you will have internet access there (lan).
then you can download the necessary new firmware if needed
then reboot possibly works

but i would never believe that just transferring it to a completely different system will work
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby CwF » 2018-11-02 23:20

You're not giving debian enough credit. From decades of putting together custom install images for windows I got used to the idea of device families. It's not that hard to know what will work and what won't.

When I came to debian I had this very question and I answered it. The driver groupings are similar. There is enumeration of hardware on every boot. Winders has significant more intelligence with this, it can jump system very well, but debian is similar. If you use non-free drivers all bets are off.

Within most any desktop/server board, cpu, net, and video card made in the last decade, the transition is seamless with a default driver set. Sound will be fine if through hdmi or dp or most onboard. One round of swapping hardware and fixing what is missing will result in an image that can boot many different computers as if installed.

I say it will work more often than not, until you intentionally pick an out of range example...to which I could predict, won't work.

My main image (amd64) is fine with any intel 3x thru 9x+ series and any AMD, Nvidia, mga200, intel, back to pci. All nets work, a few wifi and bluetooth dongles I own work on any machine. I have a separate i386 image for older stuff.
Laptops I assume have similar groupings, I don't know.

For the most part, within an architecture and within stable, it is plug and play. From there you need to add the info needed.
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Re: Moving an existing system to a new computer

Postby debiman » 2018-11-03 10:14

Yaron wrote:Unfortunately, it seems like some people here are more interested in fighting then helping. I'm not gonna spend any more time on pointless fights; I've already spend hell more than I should have done.

wtf?
if you pose a hypothetical question you are inviting argument (yes, argument - not fighting) - so you started it, and there's nothing to help you with either since it's a hypothetical situation, by your own definition.
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