Tag Archives: linux

Fedora 12 Alpha Release

Booting the Fedora 12 Alpha CD for an install

Screenshot: Booting the Fedora 12 Alpha CD for an install

I don’t “review” alpha releases, but I’m very much looking forward to Fedora 12, it’s alpha spin was released today. Currently scheduled for early November, even with some pushback I would expect it out by Christmas, probably thanksgiving. Fedora 12 has a large changelog and feature list, a few big ones based on upstream changes to Gnome, KDE, etc. Last night I downloaded the 64bit live CD and installed it on a virtual machine for some testing. Sometimes working with beta software I forget it’s beta software; so many stable products and distros are beta. Alpha is a whole different ball game. I don’t suggest installing any alpha release on your primary desktop. It’s best left as a testing release for those of us who file bugs. If you want a preview, download the live CD and either boot it live on your computer (without installing) or install it on a virtual box. For my testing I’m using virtualbox on an AMD quad core with 8gb of ram and a nvidia video card. The Virtual machine is set to 2GB of ram, 2 processors, and 64mb video ram (3d acceleration turned on). My base settings for testing Linux distros.

You can view the full release announcement, but I’ll point out a few of the interesting bits. Continue reading »

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KDE 4.3 on Fedora Linux – Screenshot & Mini review

KDE 4.3 as installed on my primary desktop

KDE 4.3 as installed on my primary desktop (click image for full size). Widgets in use include microblog (twitter), weather forcast, Google Calendar Gadget, moon phase, color picker, and post-it note.

KDE 4.3 was recently released and should be hitting the Fedora Stable repos very soon as a system update. I installed if from the updates-testing repo to get a look at what was coming. You may have seen the release announcement and screenshots on the KDE website.  When I first saw them I was quite impressed. But the story goes back a bit for me. When I first started in Linux (ages and ages ago) I played with the KDE desktop but always went to Gnome. KDE had too many things that could get screwed up and it was near impossible to achieve and maintain the eyecandy screen shots we all saw and even posted on the web. You could get everything set just right, reboot or change one font setting and everything was screwed up. That hasn’t been keeping me out of KDE all this time, but it’s what made me chose the Gnome Desktop in the first place. Since then and up until KDE 4.2 I have been a avid supporter of the Gnome Desktop. Actually, I still am. I’ve used KDE on testing platforms thought the years, but never on my primary desktop. When Fedora 11 launched I wanted to do a clean install and make everything ext4, among other changes. I sat at the ‘KDE or Gnome?’ prompt for what seemed like hours even though I knew I was going to pick KDE. I have a lot of time and energy in using Gnome, there’s history there. But Gnome wasn’t doing what I wanted on my desktop and I’d been seeing all the eye candy and functionality of recent KDE so I went with it. And I’m very, very pleased. I still love Gnome and it’s installed on every other computer I own and it will stay my choice for any production systems. But KDE has won my heart on my main computer. KDE version 4.2 was the first version that I really liked. It still has some quirks and wasn’t quite as stable as I would have liked, but over all, I loved it.

KDE 4.3 brings a new default theme, “Air,” and I have say it’s one of the best looking themes I’ve ever seen. Its simple, clean and very easy on the eyes. The screen shot I posted above is the default theme, though with a different background color. I tried the animated backgrounds and I like them, but animated backgrounds aren’t for me. This was where I found the only bug I’ve found so far. I could switch to any animated background and they worked. Once I switched to “virus” however, I couldn’t switch away from it. KDE would freeze and I had CTRL + ALT + BACKSPACE to restart X. Even after restart, I couldn’t switch to anything other than “virus” without freezing. I had to manually switch away from the virus wallpaper. To do this open ~/.kde/share/config/plasma-desktop-appletsrc and find the line wallpaperplugin=virus and change “virus” to “color” save and reboot (or restart X). So far this has been the only bug I’ve found.

The Plasma Desktop Shell is a large part of KDE and this update.

The Plasma Desktop Shell introduces a new default theme, Air. Air looks much lighter and fits better with the default application theme. Plasma also has seen large performance improvements. Memory usage has been reduced, and animations are smoother. Activities can now be tied to virtual desktops, allowing users to have different widgets on each of their desktops. Furthermore, Plasma has improved upon its job and notification management. Running jobs are grouped in a single progress bar to prevent the popup of too many dialogs. Animations are used to signify that jobs are still running by smoothly sliding dialogs into the systemtray and animating the notification icon. Smaller changes in Plasma include fully configurable keyboard shortcuts and more extensive keyboard navigation, the ability to create a plasma widget when you drag or copy content on the desktop and many new and improved Plasma widgets. (snippet from KDE 4.3 Release Announcement via KDE.org)

There is a lot of information in the rest of the release announcement: I’d encourage you to visit KDE.org and learn about other new features of KDE. If you interested in trying KDE 4.3 on Fedora before it hits the stable repo. Temporarily enable the updates-testing yum repo and do a group update. At that point, you’ll have KDE 4.3 running and will receive further KDE updates once it hits stable.

Run the following command as root to install it then you’ll need to reboot the system.

yum --enablerepo=updates-testing groupupdate "KDE (K Desktop Environment)" updated: kde 4.3 is now in fedora stable

If you don’t see the pretty new look, you may need to right click on the desktop, chose “Desktop settings” and set the theme to Default “Air”.

If you’re not a power user, I’d suggest you wait till KDE 4.3 hits the stable repo. I’ve only had the one issue with it (others have documented the same issue) but there is a reason it sits in the testing repo before hitting stable. I would expect to see it as a system update in the next few days. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Looks like KDE 4.3 Has dropped into the Fedora stable repo. So you can do a normal update to install it. Feel free to read my comments below or head over and read about what’s headed to Fedora as I comment on the Fedora 12 Alpha Release

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How Far We’ve Come with Linux – Part 1

Last week my wife’s laptop started dying; for the record, it still is. In the interest of full disclosure, I love Linux. I don’t have a computer in this house running windows natively, though I do use windows on a virtual box to run Photoshop CS4  and Adobe Camera Raw. I also have countless virtual machines of windows (and other linux distros) for testing purposes–as a consultant I work a lot with windows, but it’s not the OS for me. I’m not a apple fanboy either, I’m a red hat guy: servers run CentOS, desktops run Fedora.

My wife doesn’t mind Fedora, but she’s switched to Ubuntu for the last few years on her laptop. She’s an English teacher at a state college and uses Linux and Open office, how great is that? How many College English teachers do you know that accept papers in Open Document format? Oh and the other day when I was watching the trailers for the new Halo 3 ODST, she may have been more excited then I was. I think we’ll end up playing ALL of the other Halo games through again before ODST comes out. For those of you who were wondering, no, my wife playing Halo has nothing to do with any of this… My wife chooses to use Linux and Open Office, she LOVES Halo… Just wanted you to know how lucky I am. If you were in my shoes wouldn’t you tell everyone?

Anyway, her part time job is online tutoring. So when her laptop started dying I needed to get her a desktop up and running as a backup. She had the choice between two computers I also gave her the choice of Windows XP, Ubuntu or Fedora and assuming she chose Linux the choice between Gnome and KDE. Continue reading »

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ServerDensity.com – Hosted Server Monitoring

Ever find something online and you have no idea how you found out about it? Well, this is sorta the case. I think I found out about ServerDensity.com via some well placed marketing on twitter. Regardless of how I found it, I did.

There have been and probably still are a million hosted remote server monitoring services; years ago I tried most of them. All I needed at the time was a remote service to monitor my Nagios monitoring server. Lets face it–when the network connection to the server that monitors all your other servers fails, it can’t exactly send you an email. But an hour later you’ll see an email telling it is back up, implying you know it WAS down :). I tested a couple services that were basically ping monitoring… Didn’t like any of them. Either they were too expensive, overly complex or unstable. One I liked didn’t notify me a server hiccup and when I went to the site I found they were no longer in business. I finally stuck a simple Nagios configuration on a server I run for my Dad’s Office. It’s one of the servers I monitor from my network and since I give him all that free computer work, I let Nagios have a couple CPU cycles every 5 minutes to make sure it can talk back to my monitoring server.

Load Monitoring my sever via ServerDensity.com

Load Monitoring my sever via ServerDensity.com

So today I find ServerDensity.com. I make a quick trip through the site and like what I see, so I decided to try it. I should mention at this point, the service is beta, but it looks like they are set to launch later this month. Any linux geek worth their salt should be able to set this up in less than five minutes. Anyone who can follow instructions can set it up in 15.

I pulled up an ssh connection to a test server I have here that doesn’t do much. AMD 64bit, couple gigs of ram, nothing fancy… it runs Xen with one virtual server running on it 24/7 (my wife’s file server) and occasionally a virtual server that is used as a second test platform for server images.  If that server goes down, my wife will tell me pretty quick, so I don’t monitor it via Nagios. Literally 3 minutes after entering my ssh password I had the script downloaded, configured, running and was seeing the updates on the website.

The agent is nothing fancy, a small python script that runs as a daemon and doesn’t even need root permissions to work (which I very much appreciate). It pushes load stats to the server every minute or so, no holes to punch in a firewall, no further configuration needed. I did script it to automagically start at boot for simplicity.

The website is very simple and polished and as you see in the screen capture above, the stats are nicely graphed for you with noted min/avg/max. There are plenty of alert options you can configure to let you know when your server is acting up, down or being slashdotted. I’m still playing with the alerts a bit, but they seem straightforward.

I will point out that I haven’t had a chance to test the Apache monitoring yet. I don’t have Apache running on that box so I’ll put it off for another day.

All in all I’m pretty impressed–looking forward to the public launch of the service and updates to the agent. It won’t replace Nagios or (wait, is there anything other than Nagios? what’s that other one called? hmm… nevermind), but for those that don’t need as many options and need a hosted solution or just a solution to monitor their Nagios box, you might give ServerDensity.com a look. I’ll keep an eye on them for a while, but I do believe I’d recommend this option to clients when it fits their needs.

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