For several months I’ve been providing installable RPM packages for the Dillo web browser. Since many different distributions use RPM packages, I’ve been getting requests to add various Linux distributions. I started out just installing to extra partitions, but then I started building virtual systems with User-Mode Linux.

Well, people have been requesting RPMs for Conectiva, a distribution from Brazil and partner in UnitedLinux. I built a UML virtual system, but was never able to get Dillo to compile or to get the imitation network driver working. So, tonight I decided to install an actual copy.

With most Linux installers, you can choose where to create a new partition, and set it up to add existing ones to the system. This has worked fine with every version of Red Hat, Mandrake, and SuSE I have installed. The installer will create the new partition, leave the others alone, and mark them to be visible in the system you’ve installed.

Conectiva didn’t leave the existing partitions alone. Each partition I had marked was gone: my main OS partition (currently Red Hat 9), my home directory, and all my download and media files. Fortunately I had backups of the most critical files from last Saturday, and I was able to recover my entire home directory with Tomsrtbt and Parted‘s rescue function. And I don’t mind losing my main OS, since it’s not that hard to re-install it – all I need is the configuration, and I’ve got that backed up.

That leaves my entire download and media archive. I always figured, “I can just re-download all of this, right?” And most of it I can. Much of the rest either isn’t important, or hasn’t changed since the last backup (which I’ll admit was a long time ago), or can be recovered from CD, or can be re-scanned. The few photos that hadn’t made it into last week’s backup turned out to still be in a temporary folder on my website. Still, there are things that will be hard to find again, and probably some that will be impossible.

Just in case, I’ve got a recovery tool scanning the lost partitions in hopes that it will come up with something.

I’m not touching Conectiva again – or any other distribution I’m not already familiar with – until I get a spare system set up, or maybe spring for something like VMWare. And I’m seriously considering picking up some sort of backup solution that will hold more than a CD-RW, so I’ll be more inclined to save everything instead of picking and choosing what to put on a few discs.

Update 7:45am: I got the download/media partition back. The tool I ran overnight didn’t seem to find anything, but when I ran parted again this morning (after remembering that it was on PAUD, the Parted And Utilities Disk, not Tomsrtbt) it was able to find the partition.

So now all that’s missing is the primary OS (I’m running off of one of the “extra” installations right now), and I can reinstall that easily.

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