Switching From Machine To machine - Hardware talk

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)
Hello fellow nixers,
This thread is about how you handle your multiple machines.

Having multiple piece of hardware can be confusing. You probably have a main box with your main equipment that you spend most of your time on, the cherished ones.

That's probably the one box you backup frequently.

What about your other machines and accessories?
When do you use them?
Are they just servers laying around the house?
Your special rig for gaming?
An old hacking box with some sort of weird OS you play around with during the weekends?
A RP that's running daemons?


I have a spared laptop at home which I setup with Debian stable. I got excited about it when I finished my install however I just can't feel the same way about it as my main machine. It still feels like it's a secondary one that I barely use. There's no way in hell that I would scatter my files around. I tried it at first working on different machines but it got annoying when I had to transfer projects around.

The sane solution I had was to completely make the switch from one machine to another and stop using the oldest one.


The question is; Do you really have multiple main boxes, and if not what do you do with your spared machines and hardwares?
Long time nixers
I have a custom built desktop I use to run Linux/BSD/whatever OS I have on the hard drive this week. I consider that my main machine, holds all my dotfiles, personal stuff, the whole 9 yards. I use it the most.

I also have a 2012 Macbook Pro that now runs OS X. I've always used that as my "set up and forget it" machine in that, I dont tinker with it much. I just want it to work. I usually use it to talk on skype and google documentation when my desktop is FUBAR.

I own a Dell Chromebook 11 that I bring on trips. I use that solely as an ssh client and for chrome. Nothing else really.

Those are my three machines I currently have in use. I have a plan 9 "cluster" that is sort of turning stale, I sadly haven't turned it on in awhile. I'd like to get back to it soon though. But again, I really just use those three machines. I also have an iPhone and a Nexus 7, but I use those in the same way as the Chromebook. SSH/contacting people really.

To keep it all together, i use a messy combo of Google Drive, git, and sometimes rsync. My whole setup is really wonky. I am doing some intense cleaning for college though. I'm getting rid of stuff I don't really need (extra peripherals, monitors, formatting drives, figuring out a use for currently working hardware) so hopefully my setup will make more sense in the future. I'm also considering using some old boxes I have in my closet as servers for a VPN i want to create. That would consist of my Macbook, desktop, and then those machines. I'd probably use that for backups and MPD, to stream my music library to all my devices.

Hopefully I can get that working soon.
Grey Hair Nixers
That's a pretty nice thread here! Good idea.

I own 3 machines ATM. First there is my custom desktop, which is my main machine. That's where I spend all my time. I got 2 hard drives in there, one with crux on it for everything linux related (IRC, coding, web browsing, mails or whatever), and the second one running Ubuntu, for steam as I got tired of steam dirtying my crux install with 32 bit libraries (I don't use it for anything else really).

The second machine is an old desktop a friend gave to me that I use as a personnal server. It runs alpine and I only connect to it when I write new blog posts.

The last one is a notebook I take with me on trips, running elementary OS (I need to switch though, this shit runs terribly slow). I installed it before my holidays so my girlfriend and brother could use it to dump their pictures/videos without any help from me.
I don't use it much, so everytime I need it, I expect it to work.
Long time nixers
Since switching over to OpenBSD as my main operating system, (most of my Linux machines have now been converted).

I presently have a desktop running OpenBSD (my daytime machine - 1GB ram / 64GB SSD) & a netbook running AntiX (my morning machine - 1GB ram / 2GB SD card), they get the most use.

(The netbook will likely stay Linux because it has a Broadcom wifi card.)

The morning machine is mainly used to check email whilst I drink my wake up cuppa; whilst the daytime machine does email, forums, music, movies; all the usual stuff.

(The others get the privilege of being practice/test machines.)
I have a laptop which is sort of my main machine, primarily because it is what I use the most because I take it to school. It runs Arch Linux. I also have a desktop which is kind of my gaming computer, which is running Windows 7 and dual-booting Arch Linux.

I use github for keeping my dotfiles in sync, and my desktop and laptop almost work identically. There are differences between desktops and laptops, however, which is why I have two branches -- one for my laptop and one for my desktop. I will then just cherry-pick commits which apply to both branches.

For syncing stuff that doesn't necessarily belong under version control, I use dropbox. All of my code(some of which is under version control, but you can sync that with dropbox), my university stuff, and all sorts of other crap is synced using dropbox. This makes the whole sync process feel mostly transparent. My favorite robot overlord, Google, also takes care of syncing bookmarks and history and such across sessions because I use Google Chrome.

The only downside of maintaining multiple machines is the occasional effort to keep track of the difference between the dotfiles from machine to machine as well as dropbox being somewhat slow to sync at times, and I feel that the linux implementation of Dropbox is rather prone to bugs(hangs, idle spin eating cpu and such).
Long time nixers
* I have four machines at the moment. I have a Lenovo U410 running Arch . Its been sturdy and well maintained, its my main workhorse right now. I also have a Toshiba netbook as well as a Thinkpad X400 both running OpenBSD. I bought the Thnkpad because BSD support for the Lenovo U410 was giving me issues. I have an old desktop as well that I use for a basic web server also running OpenBSD.
Long time nixers
I own three machines ATM. One Dell Vostro 1500 from 2007, which is in storage right now because I don't need it no more. It served me well for 8 years. It has Arch Linux on it. It was my main right for 8 years, the last 3 years serving under soem kind of *nix system or another, I programmed in it every day, watched porn on it every day (after discovering porn), I watched videos on it every day, and just generally was the only thing I used for nearly 8 years.

One Macbook Pro 13" Retina from Late 2013 which I've acquired recently, which is what I use at work all day and what I use for non-gaming stuff at home. What I'm using to write this right now from work. Of course it has OS X on it which makes it very comfortable for programming.

And last a Mac Mini late 2011 which I use for gaming every day, especially the weekends of course. Gives me a constant 120 FPS on CSGO with minimal settings so it's pretty good since my monitor only has 60hz.

The way I kept them all synced is with my original dotfiles setup (copyright me). The dotfiles are on GitLab and the way I have it setup I have a folder for each OS and I just have a .symlinks file inside each of those folders which tells a script what place to symlink stuff to. If two files are identical on two OSs then the original is in one place and the "copy" is just a symlink to the original.
Eduan / greduan
Long time nixers
i recently got rid of a bunch of old machines. now i only have 3:

primary machine: laptop running arch (but i think im ready to move to crux) and a few other testing os's in a vm's.
programming, web-browsing, chat, i do almost everything on this machine. i back it up about once a month. i have a folder structure i try and adhere to so that backups are just a simple shell script that pushes stuff to my nas.

secondary machine: nas / htpc running arch. this is a mini-itx mobo with 6 500gb raid 10 hard drives and 6gb of ram in a small box sitting on my entertainment center. i use it as a file/backup server, and entertainment. it runs kodi (xbmc) for tv shows and movies and a bunch of emulators for retro gaming. it's also tied into my seedbox and automatically syncs files and tells me i got new stuff to watch when i login next time. whole thing is controlled via a boxee box remote (w/ the keyboard on the other side). i also have another boxee box in my bedroom that i stream video from the nas to. the only backup it has is raid 10.

tertiary machine: old laptop with the guts ripped out of the case and wall mounted. it's sequestered from the network (by physical means and mac address). i only use this thing for weird tests (read malware analysis) i dont want to do on my real boxes or on the network.

i also have many vps/seedbox servers in "the cloud".
Long time nixers
I have a desktop and netbook. The desktop is my primary machine where I do all my work and gaming, the netbook is mostly for light browsing and programming on the move or in a more comfortable environment. It has more important projects and files than I'd like, but that's mostly just because it's a portable machine unlike the desktop so it gets used on trains and things. Projects aren't a massive issue though because I just use git to keep files synced.
Long time nixers
I currently have two main machines (a desktop and a laptop) and I explicitly treat them as "main" machines. They hold the same data (synced using scripts around git and unison), they both run Arch and both run a virtually identical setup. It used to be three machines (slow and quiet laptop for most of the work, fast and loud desktop for gaming and a netbook for mobile stuff) and I built all those syncing tools during that time. I don't use any cloud services for syncing.

It's important to me that those machines can work independently from another. This is also some kind of "implicit backup": Since almost all (!) of my data is synced to the partner machine on a daily basis, very little data would be lost if one machine died. (I still do additional backups of both machines, though.)

Granted, I spend most of the time in front of my desktop computer, simply because it's more comfortable. That doesn't downgrade the laptop to a "secondary" machine, though. It's my "morning machine" (nice term :)), I keep it around when travelling or visiting someone. The point is, it's not a "burden" to use the laptop. It can do anything my desktop can do. No data is missing. This is an enormous luxury, in my opinion.

It took me a lot of time to get this setup up and running. I only started using bazaar in 2007, git in 2008 and unison in 2010. All the stuff that had been created prior to that had to be sorted out and moved around and merged and cleaned up... To some degree, this is still an ongoing process. But it's worth it. I doesn't feel like "scattering files around" anymore (it surely did at the beginning), quite the contrary: If stuff happens to be NOT covered by git or unison, it feels like that data is "lost" or "orphaned". :)

Edit: I didn't mention other devices like my Pi or the Pentium 133 because I feel they're out of scope. They serve very special purposes and are unique. There's no "main" or "secondary" here.
I am using a desktop pc as my numbercruncher/workhorse, running Windows 7 wich hosts 4 linux "worker" VM's,
a macbook air 11" which i use mostly for work
and as my main machine i use a thinkpad T420 running OpenBSD.
I sync my code with dropbox and i use several external harddrives for storage.
I have a laptop and 2 custom built desktops.
I study in a town far from my home, so I basically use my laptop (Dell Inspiron 17R-5737) for everything (programming, irc, browse the internet, run virtual machines), its running Arch + Windows 8.1, the laptop has a 17" screen, its a bit heavy but it's really comfortable to use.

I barely use the other computers, one of them is mostly used by my brother. The other one I use it to make some weird tests.
I have FreeBSD running on a Thinkpad X201, a laptop with Windows 7 on it so I could check out SWTOR. I have an old desktop that I have my website on and where I play with jails, it also has FreeBSD on it. When I backup I just use an external hard drive, sometimes I place my dotfiles on github but they are there more or else if anyone wants to look at them. About every month I place what was on my external hard drive on my desktop, so I have 2 copies of everything. I'm running out of space on my desktop and have to pick up a couple hard drives for it.
I have a gaming laptop that I got a few years ago from before I discovered Linux and when I thought gaming was cool. I also have a cheap Lenovo desktop (don't have any special needs, and thus couldn't be bothered to build one). I hardly game anymore, so both the laptop and desktop run Linux. Finally, I have a Surface Pro 3 that was supposed to be for taking notes with at school, but is used less and less as my distaste for Windows grows.

During most of the summer, I've been almost exclusively using the old gaming laptop. I would've liked to use the desktop more because of the bigger monitor, mechanical keyboard, and trackball I have plugged into it. Unfortunately, all my files somehow ended up on the laptop. Consequently, the desktop remained powered off for several months. The Surface is nearly a lost case; I only use it to hand-write math stuff sometimes.

I suffer from a general lack of motivation to do things I don't deem immediately or fully necessary, so up until today, I never bothered to figure out a solution to keep files up to date on the laptop and desktop. What I'm using is this program called Syncthing (basically BitTorrent Sync but open source and more secure, I think) as an attempt to motivate myself to distribute my work between the laptop and desktop more evenly. So far it's working well. I was able to get all the files from my laptop onto the desktop super quick with it, and more importantly any changes or new files are synced immediately.
I got my main custom build desktop, which I'm normally on, and a ~4 year old HP Pavillion dv6 laptop that I dualboot Arch/Windows on and use on the weekends. For both of them I have a git repo on gitlabs that I use for dotfiles, and each machine is just a branch in the repo so I can merge across machines configs that I want globally. It works pretty well.
I converted to a Thinpad X200 a couple of months ago, which is docked in and thus connected to all my usual stuff, big screen, keyboard, sound system etc. When I want to go somewhere else, I can just undock it while running and take it with me and vice versa, which is really nice. Because this is a fairly old laptop, desktop-ing is fine, including HD-YouTube and stuff, but compiling and other heavy lifting is delegated to my big beefy homeserver (aka my old desktop) with a nice Xeon and more memory than anyone needs, which is usually on hibernation and can be woken up temporarily via Wake-On-Lan, even from the internet when I am somewhere else.

I like this setup very much, because it enables me to have a truly portable setup, and I scripted a lot to automate the usual tasks in this environment. Before, I had a laptop, but tended to not really use it, because it was just a different experience. I did not have all my data there, swapping SSDs is too much of a hassle and requires shutting down all involved machines, and so on. Now, I can literally have the computer I use almost every day in my bagpack while being somewhere else. Maybe I'll look into transitioning working from beaches or so :).
How come I didn't mention Ricerous in this thread yet.

Ricerous + a repo that contains your dot files is a really nice solution to getting your setup on another machine.
Long time nixers
on a semi-related note. i just finished switching vps hosts.

i just ran:
rm -rf /home/xero/*
then disconnected.

it felt quite cathartic.
I use 6 years old a realtive enough desktop hardware with: 1st Gen Intel CPU, 4GB Ram, and SSD.
After then switching to source-based distro, I feel not enough powerfull for compiling, but enough for every-day using.
I plan in the near future built a new one.
Interesting thread from 2015 about switching or using multiple machines. Which machines do you have laying around your house and what purpose do they serve. From smart home media systems, to backup solutions, to spare laptops, etc..

I got inspired to bump this today from this discovery: USB over IP

Which makes it easier to share peripherals between machines when needed or if the drivers aren't installed on the other one.
I love this thread, nice!

So I have a few machines at the moment. A laptop, a desktop, a server, some raspberry pis, and a phone. I have other machines that could be used eventually, but this is what I have at the moment.

My setup is currently evolving. I have FreeBSD on the server, and my main user installed at /usr/halfwit... and I share /usr on the network, which allows my desktop to mount that. The end result is that my desktop and my server have the same set of "my files", differing only in what binaries are installed for the system runtime, thanks to how FreeBSD decided to break this all out. My laptop is stil running macOS, but I want for it to join the fray sooner than later.

I use plan9, which i'm attempting to coerce to live on FreeBSD. Basically, Plan9 is a file server, authentication server, computing server, and terminals which utilize these resources. They can be all done on a single piece of hardware, in a single installation; or broken out across disparate machines as you care to. What I want is to move the file server over ZFS on my FreeBSD. This allows me to boot a machine to run the duty of 'authentication' on say, an rpi, and then only really need to virtualize the CPU server section, which is very nice, I can do that on-demand, on another rpi, anywhere really, and use the Unix userland utility Drawterm to act as my terminal in most cases. As for switching machines, well, that's what Altid is truly great for.
Ohhh, p.s., adding a new machine to the fray is not too bad. I don't PXE boot my FreeBSD machines as I have very fast disks in my desktop, and RPIs are more annoying to PXE boot; but I could do so trivially. I reeeeeally want to play with a small cluster, which serves up on demand computing while otherwise running very low idles
It's always interesting to see how other people are approaching things.

Although I wrote the rest of this last night, I am reminded this morning of how difficult (or at least tedious) it can be to move data between all of the different operating systems we have running. Apple made everything very convenient, we didn’t have to think about anything, but now we find a few more obstacles in the way.

We're in a transitional phase here at the fortress of solitude. Moving away from Apple products began in earnest a month or so ago while at the same time we begin to un-tether from "cloud" solutions as much as possible. We are resolved that any cloud solutions we do utilize must be fully privacy respecting, etc. This is a significant challenge by itself. Primarily this is because fully committed to the Apple ecosystem by 2015 because it "just worked" and we had no energy at the time to solve complex problems at home and at work.

At the moment things look like this:

Two 2014 15" MacBook Pro's. My wife uses hers as a daily driver, I use mine only for school and some music related things.

My desktop that's been a running custom upgrade/build for a few years using FreeBSD primarily with a couple of Linux partitions I don't use much. It’s also been a hackintosh and dual-booted windows for a while for gaming.

An old Dell laptop running Debian/PiHole for DNS resolution with ad blocking and filtering.

Two iPhones, two iPads, an Airport Extreme with a drive hooked up to it for backups, and a Uqiuti edge router round out the "IT" gear that's in use.

As far as synching data of any sort we have mostly relied on Apple services for that in the past. I'm experimenting withGitLab for dotfile and other configuration backups and we're in the process of building up some other services here at home. Trying to do so with the hardware we have available is a challenge but it makes sense for a couple of reasons.

Rather than go into excessive detail on planned services and the machines that will provide them, I'll just say again that we intend to be as self-contained and self-supporting as we can be. At the moment I would say we have about a 40% solution and will be at 60% within a month or so. The remaining 40% will take significant resources to address since we need a fairly robust network storage solution and drives are very expensive. For now the bulk of our data will remain offline on several drives for redundancy.
I have an old computer at home. I like it. It works perfectly, I do everything on it.
But for work, I had to buy a laptop. I choosed a Lenovo x250, as I use OpenBSD and it works perfectly on it. Too much powerful for my needs.
I keep both machines sync using openrsync+ssh (script: gemini://ybad.name/code/homesync/) (need to work on it). I have a list of files/directories to upload/download on/from my server depending where the changes are the most recent. A cronjob do the work (hourly), and I download last changes with a cron "@reboot", and make sure to backup changes using /etc/rc.shutdown
I have three machines: an M1 MacBook Air, a ThinkPad X1, and a VPS. The ThinkPad and VPS are both running NixOS, and the MacBook Air uses the Nix Package Manager. This allows me to configure all three using the same nix flake. As for syncing, I use Syncthing to sync my main folders (Documents, Downloads, Code, etc.), and a self-hosted nextcloud instance on my VPS to back everything up.