Posted by: vwbusguy | February 23, 2013

Fedora at SCaLE 11x

Once again the So Cal Linux Expo is upon us!  This marks my fourth consecutive year in attendance, and it has had steady growth through that time.

Regrettably, in contrast to previous years, we did not have a Fedora Activity Day this year.  As a result, i arrived with my wife Friday afternoon instead of Thursday evening.  This freed me to take advantage of the great talks during the day, such as the DevOps talk on scaling data and stumbling into how to store private information sanely with MySQL.

The evening rounded off with UpSCaLE, which is a series of short talks.  My favorite was someone orated a poem about poor deployment strategies to the theme of the seven deadly sins.  Other notables were an led palette color chooser and an open source net security based board game.

The real fun starts tomorrow at the both.

Posted by: vwbusguy | September 3, 2012

More cputemp love!

Since the recent release of cputemp 1.0 (and subsequent minor release), there’s been an influx of downloads and comments on it, including a post by Phoronix and Softpedia.  While user comments have revealed a few regressions during the code rewrite that didn’t show up on my hardware, they were easy to patch for version 1.0.1 and expect another new minor release soon to add more hardware support.

I’m also happy to report that this has spawned a sister project, where my python code has been ported to C as ccputemp by ifoo.

My next milemarker goal with cputemp is to split out cputemp into cputemp and a separate cputemp-libs so that the functions can easily be called by other programs needing a simple read out of thermal state of the machine.

Thanks for the kind words and support!

Posted by: vwbusguy | September 2, 2012

cputemp 1.0 is finally here

cputemp screenshot

After a complete rewrite, cputemp is ready to graduate to 1.0!  In this version, the code has been entirely rewritten to be object oriented to accommodate future projects and to allow for easier maintenance.  The core functionality and UI hasn’t changed, but there are some more installation options and newer kernels and hardware are supported.  Additionally, now degree measurements are available in Kelvin.
Cheers!

Posted by: vwbusguy | June 20, 2011

Sanctification is Painful

Look, the grief I experienced was for my benefit.
You delivered me from the pit of oblivion.
For you removed all my sins from your sight. Isa. 38:17 (NET)

Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Lk 14:27

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Jim Elliot

The three things that will last forever are brutal and merciless in their requirements.  If there is one absolute fact about the Christian life, it is that it is not possible to live it and also escape injury.  To embrace Love, Hope, and Faith means that one must let up one’s own guard and be vulnerable at the risk and almost certainty of incurring personal harm.

Yet this is exactly the winding narrow road that must be taken.  To love even those who cause you harm, to allow oneself to have peace and hope in the midst of uncertainty at the risk of enduring pain if such hopes are unfounded, and to be patient and endure terrible tragedies in the belief that God has known this day before we were born and somehow even this works out for our good.

It is the nature of how God works within us to save us from ourselves.  If the Kingdom of God only sprouted out of a stump (Isa. 11), it is because destruction had to pave the way for peace.  And considering that there is no greater injury than when God himself ordains it, this is where Faith, Hope, and Love receive their ultimate test.  For if Jesus himself could not escape this injury when he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”, then we must also endure it.

But how can our evil hearts possibly know to be obedient in these things if we have not know the contrasts between the fruit of love if we have never seen the destruction of hate, and how can we know hope if we have never been paralyzed by fear, and how can we know faith if we have not felt the true and utter despair of the deepest loneliness of feeling isolation and rejection from others or from our very Creator?

It is only through this brutal method that we can be enriched to purity.  As Bernard of Clairvaux pondered in On Loving God, the purest love is not out of natural self-preservation or thankfulness for being provided for, but that our own love and identity comes solely from the the love of God- that it comes purely, untainted from the life-giving vine, that bottomless well of living water.  It is what allows us to react as Job did initially and refuse to curse God even though we may perceive that in that moment it is our every right- to be able to pray that though he may curse us, will we endure it (“Should we accept good, but not illness from God?”).

There is no alternative, for Love, Hope, and Faith are the only things which we will have left when this world passes away- which is our greatest hope.  For the day is coming when the clouds will be rolled back, and our King will come to bring peace.  Only then will we be able to have Love, Hope, and Faith without injury, but unless we bear it now, we will never see it.  It is the greatest irony that all of our injury is gain, and those who avoid it at all costs will never escape it.

When a scorner is punished, the naive becomes wise. Prov 21:11

Posted by: vwbusguy | May 30, 2011

How to install Linux without a CD or USB stick

There are may reason why someone may not want to or be able to use a USB stick, CD, or DVD to install a Linux distribution (no CDs laying around, and your mobo won’t boot to USB, or your just don’t feel like it, cool.)  Luckily, you can easily install Linux without needing either.  I will, naturally, be using Fedora as an example, and giving a guide for both users currently running Linux or Windows.

How it works:

If you don’t care, skip this section.  Basically, what linux installers do is boot a kernel and ram disk (initrd) that loads an installer.  In Fedora’s case, this is anaconda.  When only the kernel and ram disk are present, the installer will then prompt the user for where to look for the installer, which can be an .iso on the hard drive, USB stick, or an ftp or http mirror somewhere on the web.  In this guide, we will use the latter method.  From there, the installer should function just as normal, as if you had made and booted the installer by a more conventional method.

Preparation (for both Linux and Windows users):

First, you need to download the kernel (vmlinuz) and ram disk (initrd.img) from any Fedora repository (Please note, this method works for other distros but the kernel and initrd may be named differently.)

Download the kernel (vmlinuz) and ram disk (initrd.img) from any one of these places:
List of 32-bit repositories.
List of 64-bit repositories.

Doing the work (Linux users):

1. As root, place the vmlinuz and initrd.img in /boot using mv or cp.
2. Edit /etc/grub.conf to add a boot entry (nano /etc/grub.conf or vi /etc/grub.conf)
Here’s an example assuming your /boot partition is the first on your primary drive:

Title Fedora 15 installer
root (hd0,0)
kernel vmlinuz
initrd=initrd.img

Special Considerations: Most other linux distros use /boot/grub/menu.lst instead of grub.conf, however the format will be the sameSecondly, if /boot is not a separate partition, you must give the root of your / partition and give a /boot prefix on the kernel and initrd lines, example:  kernel /boot/vmlinuz).

When you reboot, you should be able to boot into the installer.

Windows (and Linux alternative method):

For Windows we will use unetbootin (the same steps will also work for Linux).
1.  Download unetbootin from here (Pick “Save” when prompted).
(Linux users may skip steps 2 and 3, and simply run: unetbootin showcustom=yes)
2.  Unfortunately, the kernel and ram disk options are now hidden by default in Unetbootin, so you will need to create a shortcut to the Unetbootin.exe file you downloaded (Right click, Make Shortcut here).  
3.  Right click on the shortcut and after the location pointing to unetbootin.exe add showcustom=yes, and save the shortcut.
4.  Now launch the shortcut.

5.  With custom selected, just point kernel: to where you saved the vmlinuz file, and initrd: to where you save the initrd.rd.
6.  Make sure you then set it to install to C:\, then click OK and reboot.

Note that while Unetbootin has worked in the past for booting install DVDs and live CDs from hard drive, this no longer works with Fedora 14 or 15.  However, this above method should work regardless.

Posted by: vwbusguy | February 25, 2011

SCaLE 9x Day 1: Fedora Activity Day

The first day of the Southern California Linux Expo has gone pretty well.  While the network still suffered, it was usable for most of the day.  This is partly helped by there being two wifi broadcasts on both 2.4 and 5 GHz.  The turnout seems pretty high so far, but the atmosphere doesn’t seem as crowded as it did last year.  This in in large part to the relocation of the event across the street to the Hilton from the Westin.

For the Fedora Activity Day this year, those in attendance worked on the content of building a Fedora System Administration Guide, which will be useful for people who want to learn to be a more advanced user and may even possibly help in training for certifications.

Because of the nature of this, a PXE install image was provided and participants could quickly install Fedora into a VM over LAN, which allowed users a means of hacking on the OS without concerns about affecting the stability of their running OS, though some opted for a local install anyway.

Generally, the attendance for this event (FAD) was much higher than last year, especially in considering the Fedora Ambassador to non-Ambassador ratio.  This format allowed for an interested person to quickly become engaged and then provide meaningful input.  For those who made comments, we collected their work and this will be integrated onto the wiki page in the near future.

For future Fedora Activity Days at SCaLE, we may use the material we worked on this year to facilitate discussions on how to do various tasks, such as setting up LDAP or bridging network devices.  With the high attendance and general interest I’ve seen so far, I’m anticipating a great event for the rest of the weekend.

Posted by: vwbusguy | September 24, 2010

cputemp 0.2.4 is released!

I have just published an update to cputemp.  While it doesn’t contain any amazing new features from the 0.2.3 release, it should now more accurately report timing and averages, as well as will now report temperature changes more often than before.  Several small UI issues were also addressed.

As usual, this is free software, licensed under the GPL.  Get it for free at sourceforge.  RPM is coming soon.

Posted by: vwbusguy | September 3, 2010

How to setup Lexmark X4650 wireless printer in Fedora

This is a big step for Lexmark.  In the past they have generally entirely ignored Linux users (and often Mac users, too).  When my old HP printer bit the dust and Target had a deal for an all-in-one wireless printer for $50, I was surprised to find that Lexmark offered full support for Linux.  Granted, Lexmark has opted to do this by packaging their own driver rather than contributing a ps or ppd to foomatic, but I’m willing to acknowledge progress.  Here’s the steps to get it to work wirelessly.

1.  You must first go through the setup with a Windows machine and keep the paper it prints out with the network info.  There is no way around this.  The CD that comes with the printer won’t help.  Once you get the printer connected wirelessly, we can set it up on Fedora.  If you don’t need wireless skip to the next step.

2.  Download the Lexmark driver from their support site.  The file extension is rpm.sh.  Note that they only have 32-bit drivers, but they will work in x86_64.

3.  Open a terminal and login as root.  cd to the folder where you downloaded the file from step 2.

4. chmod a+x lexmark-08z-series-driver-1.0-1.i386.rpm.sh.tar.gz . If your filename is different, adjust accordingly.

5. ./lexmark-08z-series-driver-1.0-1.i386.rpm.sh.tar.gz should now start the installation program.  Just follow the steps and plug in the USB cable when it asks.

6. After the wizard finishes, as root, run ‘system-config-printer’.  The printer should now show up here.

7.  Right click on the printer and select Properties.

8.  Under Settings, click on the button that says “Change…” next to the right of “Device URI”.

9.  Click on Network Printer, Find Network Printer.  Next to “Host:”  Enter the IP Address listed under TCP/IP, Address on the network settings print out.  The application should automatically set port 9100.  Enter a Description and click Apply.

10.  Congrats.  Print a test.

*Printing works wirelessly, but ‘Scan to Network’ only seems to work with Windows clients.

Posted by: vwbusguy | June 30, 2010

How to Buy a New Name-Brand Laptop Without Windows

The time has come for me to buy a new laptop.  As a graduate student and an open source hobbyist, I needed a machine that would work both for typing lengthy papers, and could handle compiling and virtual machines with ease.  This meant finding a nice keyboard and plenty of hardware resources.

The other thing I wanted to avoid was paying the Windows tax.  Since most major OEMs ship Windows pre-installed the end user ends up paying for this license whether or not they end up actually using Windows.  This is money that can be saved or spent on buying better hardware.  I surprisingly found that many name brand laptop makers do in fact have Linux options, which save money, though they are not well advertised.

***Please note that my primary focus is on laptops and not desktops and netbooks, which tend to have more Linux offerings***

HP – At first glance on HP’s consumer site, it may look a little disheartening, but HP has a good variety of offerings for Linux-shipped OEM laptops for both the HP and Compaq brands.  They offer SuSE and Red Flag for Linux options, or FreeDOS on many of their models.  If you select one of these OS’s for an option you save at least $100 off the price tag, and you retain HP support.  Not all of their models offer this possibility, but many do, including the HP ProBook series.  You have to go through their business site (which also offers discounts for government, education, student, etc).  While I was researching, they had a special promotion for 18% off and free shipping from this site.

Lenovo – This was disappointing.  I have been a big fan of ThinkPads.  Their keyboards and hardware quality have been excellent.  The problem is, Lenovo has no direct options except Windows on their laptop machines.  I did speak with sales and customer support and I found out that on desktops for businesses they do offer Red Hat Enterprise but nothing for laptops.  Futhermore, when I asked if I could decline the Microsoft EULA and get my money back, I was told I would have to go through Microsoft (good luck!), even though the EULA says to contact the hardware vendor.  Someone is not being truthful.  There is a way however!  Lenovo will sell ThinkPads without an OS in bulk to OEM vendors.  There are at least two that ship these pre-installed with Linux: LACLinux and Emperor Linux.

Dell – Dell used to have a very diverse offering for Ubuntu, from netbooks all the way up to high-end Alienware machines.  Dell has disappointingly limited the options to one laptop (and one netbook), which is a low-level Inspiron.  Their Linux OEM products are listed on this page.  <Edit: See Comment #1 for more Dell Linux offerings.>

In addition to these three, there are several Linux OEM vendors who may use the same suppliers as major vendors.  Here are three I found notable in my search:

ZAReason – This vendor is based out of the bay area in California and has eight different, customizable laptop offerings.  I found the value to be decent, but some of the hardware on the models is not the latest (though three of them do offer i3/5/7 processors).  They do have good OS variety and will install Fedora, Ubuntu, or Debian.  Another nice feature is they replace the Windows button with an Ubuntu logo.

System76 - This vendor offers a range of products between low-level netbooks to high-performance machines.  The Lemur is a thin-model looking to compete with a Macbook Air, and the hardware options on the higher models is very impressive, especially for the price.  They only ship Ubuntu for an OS, but all the hardware is tested for it.  Some of their laptops also offer a chiclet-style keyboard, similar to Macbooks.  Like ZAReason, they also replace the Windows button with an Ubuntu logo.

PCs for Everyone – The focus of this vendor is high-performance gaming laptops and they are impressive, especially for the price.  They feature some newer high-end ATI and nVidia gaming cards and come loaded with features.  They only currently offer three models, but this would be a good place to look if your focus is gaming.  They offer Fedora, OpenSuSE, and Ubuntu pre-installed, and offer an option to dual-boot with Windows 7.

In the end, I ended up getting the System 76 Pangolin Performance with several upgrades.  The combination of a reputable keyboard style, high-performance hardware options, and very competitive price made this best deal for my needs.  My order hasn’t come in yet, but when it does I will post a review on it.  Good luck in your laptop search!

Posted by: vwbusguy | June 2, 2010

Fedora 13 Review: Smart and Beautiful

While I had done reviews of other distributions in the past, my reviewing Fedora may be a bit more biased in some regards since it has been my primary OS of choice for several years.  Nevertheless, Fedora 13 has been an impressive initial release and though not a perfect one, has much to boast about.  In my review I will only speak of features to which I have to some extent used or researched, but the full feature set may be found here.

Look and Feel

The artwork is beautiful.  Just beautiful.  KDE is beautiful, XFCE is beautiful, and GNOME is still beautiful (with the exception of Nautilus not using Browser mode by default.).  The interface continues to get more user friendly.  For instance, when a user plugs in a printer, Fedora will go and find the driver for that printer in the repositories so the user doesn’t need to go install hplip or whatever package has their driver.  This functionality has been implemented for media codecs already in a previous release and continues to work well in Fedora 13.

The icons have also been updated and look much nicer than previous releases.  GNOME is at 2.30 and does not use gnome-shell by default.  This release of GNOME has slightly more eye candy but not many dramatic changes.  I did see one issue on an HP Mini netbook that the default font size at fresh install seemed way too big and awkward.  They returned to a sane size after an update, although I’m not sure if it was the update or my tweaking with some things that fixed it.

Another thing I have noticed is cairo-dock, as shown in my screenshot, is much improved for stability with this release.  I had used it on and off in Fedora 12 but it suffered frequent crashes and display defects.  Since upgrading I have not seen a single occurrence of either here on my equipment (your mileage may vary).

Performance

The performance is at least on par if not slightly better than Fedora 12, which was already pretty impressive.  Fedora 13 runs nice and smooth on an HP Mini I installed it on with a quick boot time.  In part just to see how it would work, I installed Fedora running XFCE on an old, old machine with a 400MHz Celeron with 96M of RAM and a 4G hard drive. To be fair I did a hard drive swap for the installation, but it boots and runs with about 1G of hard drive space left to spare.

Video performance is one of the big features of this release.  There is now 3D support in the open source nouveau driver for nVidia cards and expanded 3D support in the radeon driver for newer ATI cards by using the mesa-dri-drivers-experimental package.  While the 3D implementation of nouveau isn’t complete yet, but it has been able to take advantage of some of the advanced features of newer video cards.  The nouveau driver has come a very long way in a short time.

Installation and Upgrading

Installation is even more user friendly.  The anaconda installer has re-done the menu for storage setup. It is now easier for a Windows user to resize their current partition and install Fedora alongside with less manual steps.  I should note that some users in the #Fedora support channel on Freenode have complained about Windows 7 not liking the work of the Fedora installer in some ways.  Fedora has also improved btrfs, although not officially supported, one feature touted is filesystem rollbacks.  The anaconda installer can setup Fedora over btrfs by passing ‘btrfs’ to at startup of installation.

Upgrading is a little more annoying.  If you used the default partitioning for Fedora in the past, using preupgrade will be a bit of a pain.  There is no way to find enough space in /boot with only a 200MB partition, and if you used the default LVM, resizing that partition will be a chore.  You can however use a wired ethernet connection and just let anaconda download those images during the upgrade process.  On the two machines I have done this with so far the end result was really good.  Everything was updated and after checking several things was pretty pleased with the process.  But if you don’t have a way to get a wired connection, I would recommend using the install media to upgrade.

Recommendation

Try it!  If you run Fedora already, upgrade!  This has been a very stable out-of-box release for Fedora.  Whether you’re into eye-candy and usability or a smart OS for performance and useful tools, Fedora 13 will likely make you smile a bit.

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