Using Gentoo, of course, is rocket science, but now I may have the freedom to pursue higher levels of rocket science. Mainly the freedom to migrate to my new box, which is going to be some work.
Here is an overview of how I migrated Kristy’s machine (though I am pushing myself into too much typing). The first thing I did was try Ubuntu and Kubuntu in VirtualBox. GNOME-based Ubuntu was nice, well-integrated; KDE-based Kubuntu was haphazard and sucked (even though I am a KDE user on Gentoo). Then, wanting to put Kristy’s installation in LVM logical volumes instead of conventional DOS-style partitions, I set up a virtual drive with logical volumes and installed Ubuntu in that. This is considerably tougher than a default installation. In the process I broke Ubuntu and, rather than start again from scratch, recovered from the breakage so I would learn. I may have done this more than once. Eventually I had the whole thing working, so then I went to the beginning and did it all again (a practice wisely advised by the Slackware manual).
I almost forgot to mention that the Ubuntu installation used GRUB 2 (beta) as its bootloader and I was familiar only with ‘legacy GRUB’ and LILO. I broke GRUB 2 a few times and learned how to recover from that, as well. The difference in GRUB versions complicated things, especially for the actual migration of Kristy’s box. This is getting ahead a little, but I ended up installing Ubuntu with a new boot partition, and chain loading GRUB 2 from the legacy GRUB installation that was already there from Gentoo; so you first selected "GRUB 2 testing" from a menu and then you got to another menu; but, when I was satisfied the OS choices in that second menu were working, I installed GRUB 2 to the Master Boot Record of the hard drive, and so now you will never see the first menu again. You get a choice to boot recent Ubuntu kernels, Windows XP, the last Gentoo kernel I compiled on Kristy’s box, or Memtest.
As far as the Ubuntu installation proper, I set up volumes on Kristy’s box, then decided to install directly from the CD onto Kristy’s box much as on the virtual machine. However, I did not like the messages the installer gave – it was unclear about what would be wiped out and what would not. The installer was relatively a friendly and easy tool, and seemingly capable of advanced installations, but I changed my mind and copied the installation from my virtual machine. This meant some things would not get configured automatically, and so, essentially, the Ubuntu installation would be ‘pre-broken’ and once again I would have to recover it.
The migration actually meant changes to my own machine. I have been using the same, fixed user ID numbers for Kristy and myself since the 1990s. These numbers were high at the time, but lower than those nowadays normally assigned to users. It turned out that some graphical user account management software in Ubuntu did not recognize such low numbers as belonging to a person, so I gave us new numbers, and went and changed the numbers in our Gentoo installations as well. This meant changes to the metadata of many files, particularly on my own box. I broke my own machine by accidentally changing the ownership of the wrong files, but recovered from that as well. (If I had messed up too many of the wrong files, it could have been disastrous.)
Ubuntu is easier to maintain from a graphical desktop, so I set up means for me to get one remotely. For Gentoo this wasn’t an important matter, because I do practically all the maintenance from a command shell (and it is relatively easy to do so – Portage is a great system).