Multi OS fileserver – Project Alice
The open source community is coming up with a new OS almost every month !!! For me the urge to try out a new OS is insatiable, I want to migrate/test other variants as soon as they are available for download. Having multiple OS’s has it own problems, you need to cut your HDD into multiple partitions and allocate it to the new OS, this creates a much bigger problem of data-isolation. User data available on one OS is invisible to the other, what if there was a solution wherein we could have plug and play OS and user data on a file-server which can be accessed through any OS. I am trying to achieve this (codenamed : Project Alice) as per the plan below:
Step 1: Build a low cost PC
Hardware has already been arranged, need to buy some old disk controllers and hard drives for the file-server. Hard drives are going to be inexpensive ones with lesser storage space (40 GB max), so as to minimize extent of damage and cost in case of a disk crash. If someone has some old unused disks in working condition, please let me know.
Step 2: Make it a file-server and store all data on it
This is perhaps the easy part, configuring the file-server. I am planning to use some generic storage filesystems on it, like Veritas volume manager or something else, preferably open source and spread the data on it using RAID 5, that solves the problem of backing up data on a periodic basis and also restoration is a lot easier. The file-server can then be hooked on to the network.
Step 3 : Create USB bootable copies of the OS and run it from the USB itself
And this is the most interesting part of the project Create bootable OS versions on 4GB flash drives. OS’s now a days are quite light and 4GB is more than enough for them. You may need to add an external swap if the system is too overloaded. The USB version of OS also allows you to make persistent changes. I have already built two USB drives with Ubuntu and OpenSolaris on it. You just need to plug them in and restart the system, your new OS would be UP and running in minutes. To change the OS, Shutdown -> insert new OS flash drive -> reboot, simple.
Step 4: Access all user data from Fileserver irrespective of the OS
Right this is the trickiest part. Almost all Linux based OS’s use the same file-systems (ext2/ext3) while windows uses NTFS/FAT32. I need a method/driver to access (read and write) on both the filesystems. In simpler terms I can store a file on a windows machine and access it from a machine which is running Linux !!! As of now I dont know how to achieve it , but have certain theories. One of them is to share the data by using Samba for Windows machines and NFS for Unix based machines. The other is to use some 3rd party tool to allow me reading/writing data across multiple filesystems, I am not sure if such tool is available, if anyone is working on or aware of such tools, please let me know. I am eager to try out the second option.*As of today this project is majorly dealing with 2 variants of OS, Linux and Windows **Sorry if this post seems to be tech junk