Flock 2013

Flock came up fairly quickly and without much discussions as a replacement for FUDCon in NA.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and from my own experiences and talking to others, it so far hasn’t turned out to be much different from FUDCon’s in the past.  There are a few differences worth mentioning however

* Sessions were recorded, slides were posted consistently and transcriptions are available for most talks. I would like have preferred the recordings to be professionally but this is much better than before.

*  Way too many parallel sessions and many sessions had very few people attending which was a real disappointment personally.

*  Handing out a food card was a nice touch and allowed more flexibility and combined with a place with a lot of different restaurants, it was a great deal.

* There were a number of interesting sessions including the future of Fedora ones by a few different people but I would preferred a more curated level of content.

* Social events turned to be the real highlight allowing people to have many relevant ad-hoc conversations. 

Thanks to all the different sponsors including Red Hat for taking care of all the expenses including my travel and stay.

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RHEL 7 will default to GNOME classic mode

According to this interview,  Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 will default to classic mode in GNOME.  That makes a lot of sense considering the conservative nature of the distribution.  There are other bits of interesting info including XFS becoming the default filesystem and an official upgrade tool (probably based on fedup).   Well worth the read

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Free and open source support for RAR archives in Fedora

RAR is somewhat of a legacy format in terms of compression ability but RAR remains popular in many places especially for its split archive feature.  Current Fedora users are used to installing unrar command line utility from RPM Fusion to get the ability to extract RAR files and unrar is supported by the GNOME (File Roller) and Ark (KDE) archive managers however it is a proprietary utility and unavailable for other architectures like ARM which are getting popular in Fedora as well.

Free software support for RAR files was considered a high priority FSF project which announced that it has been completed a while back.  It took sometime for the support to become more solid and I have built a package for Fedora. In Fedora 19 or newer,  users can use unar from the Fedora repository. unar is the free and open source command line utility for RAR archive extraction from the Unarchiver project.  All the RAR features including encrypted archives are fully supported by this utility.  unar is supported as an alternative to unrar by File Roller however Ark support is still under review.  I pushed a update of File Roller that automatically pulled in unar but this was reverted due to lack of space in the live image however if you do install it, File Roller will use it.   I have filed a bug report against unrar in RPM Fusion to consider automatically replacing it with unar and we will have to figure out when it is suitable to do so.   I highly recommend users try unar if you need to extract RAR files and use the open XZ format with better compression for creating new archives.

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AssaultCube for Fedora!

AssaultCube is a multi-player game based on the free and open source cube engine but some of the media assets are non-free and hence the game is available in the RPM Fusion non-free repository for Rawhide and Fedora 19 (updates-testing repo for now).



This was my first RPM Fusion package and it was a smooth ride since much of RPM Fusion infrastructure resembles Fedora Extras including the plague buildsystem, cvsextras branch and so on.  Thanks to folks reviewing the package and setting up cvs and other things necessary to complete this task.  I have another package, subtitleripper already waiting on review and I hope to contribute more as time permits. 

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status of dnf – experimental fork of yum

dnf, the experimental fork of yum was introduced in Fedora 18.  Under the hood, dnf uses the libsolv library from openSUSE (also used by Zypper) and aims for near 100% compatibility with yum.  Nearly all command line options are the same and instead of /etc/yum.conf, it uses /etc/dnf.conf but the configuration options are not changed. dnf is parallel installable along side yum (yum install dnf) and the plan (30:05) is to make it the new yum only by Fedora 22 so you have ample time to participate.

I have setup a bash alias (alias yum=’sudo dnf’ in ~.bashrc and source ~/.bashrc) in my system that pretends that dnf is yum so that I don’t have to throw away my muscle memory.  In the course of the last several months, I have filed over a dozen  bug reports and new feature requests (mostly to bring dnf in line with what yum already supports) and the core dnf (especially in Fedora 19) is usable (with the exception of one weird bug) and  the performance is much better compared to yum.  There are quite a few nice features missing however.  This includes support for Delta RPMhistory undo, parallel downloadsauto-remove, bash completion and several group commands.

Try it out and report any bugs.

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Mute in awe

I remember the good old days when I had to struggle with Red Hat Linux 7.2 just to get my Ethernet card working.  Getting X to start was a entirely different ballgame.  These days, having Fedora working out of the box on pretty much any hardware I boot it on is just routine but the expectations have risen and little niggles that I wouldn’t consider a problem before bother me now.  One of those trivial items was the mute button in my office ThinkPad X200 not working in Fedora 14.  I talked to Matthew Garett on #fedora-desktop in gimpnet and he requested me to file a bug report and assign it to him but it turned out this problem was already reported upstream.   This is a long standing problem and has even been noted in the RHEL 6 technical notes.  I searched and found a boot option but it has a undesirable side effect of increasing power consumption in the laptop.  The trade off wasn’t worth it and I moved on.

I have been running Rawhide and more recently the Fedora 15 development branch for quite sometime and recently noticed that the mute button works!   Apparently a kernel update fixes this problem due to a series of patches merged upstream.    I have no more hardware issues to complain about.  Muted

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A lesson in persistency

Matt Domsch from Dell has recently introduced a new change in Rawhide bringing consistent network device naming to Linux.    Devices in Linux have been called eth0, eth1 etc forever but the names were not always consistent or predictable and this has lead to several problems for Linux administrators who are looking for a consistent device naming.   There has been some attempts to solve this problem before.   In Fedora 14,  on my system,

$ cat /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

# Intel Corporation 82567LM Gigabit Network Connection

(values changed to protect the innocent)

The hardware MAC address is used by udev to rename the devices when necessary to preserve consistency and udev uses the file /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules to accomplish this.   The relevant line on my system looks like

# PCI device 0x8086:0x10f5 (e1000e)
SUBSYSTEM==”net”, ACTION==”add”, DRIVERS==”?*”, ATTR{address}==”00:23:2A:F7:CB:F6″, ATTR{dev_id}==”0x0″, ATTR{type}==”1″, KERNEL==”eth*”, NAME=”eth0″

According to the feature description,  this is racy and error prone and we have now a alternative method that picks up names using the BIOS with a udev helper to accomplish the same task in a better way.    Quoting from the description:

“Starting in Fedora 15, Ethernet ports on servers will have a new naming scheme corresponding to physical locations, rather than ethX. Ethernet ports embedded on server motherboards will be named em<port_number>, while ports on PCI cards will be named pci<slot_number>#<port_number>, corresponding to the chassis labels. Additionally, if the network device is an SR-IOV Virtual Function, the name will have a suffix of _<virtual_instance>.

By changing the naming convention, system administrators will no longer have to guess at the ethX to physical port mapping, or invoke workarounds on each system to rename them into some “sane” order.”

Similar to the Btrfs effort in Fedora, this has also been a project involving many people over the last several years.    Again, let’s look at the overall timeline:

*  Matt Domsch from Dell announces a project called biosdevname back in August 2007. biosdevname review request filed for Fedora soon after.   He worked with Harald Hoyer (Red Hat udev maintainer) and Kay Sievers (Novell and upstream udev developer) via this review request to enhance software and fix bugs.   biosdevname becomes part of Fedora 8 and things went fairly quiet in Fedora land although work continued elsewhere

* After consensus is reached,  we had a quick announcement that this feature was coming up as part of the Fedora 15 discussions.    This was followed up at a later point with more details as a new version of biosdevname hit rawhide.    The rules are getting into upstream udev.   Anaconda,  kickstart and dracut is getting enhanced to use biosdevname and it will also be installed by default in the Fedora 15 release.

Anaconda will use this feature by default and so far there isn’t a way to disable it during a fresh installation.   Upgrades will preserve the same behaviour as before since /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules will retain the names.   As indicated earlier,  this is of interest to system administrators managing server class hardware.  Systems which feature a SMBIOS 2.6 version or above and have multiple ethernet ports will notice a difference in the network device names on a fresh installation to provide consistent names matching how the network ports are physically located.

Welcome to a new era.  After 18+ years of history in Linux of having ethX as device names for ethernet ports and we are seeing a change now.  We lived through a change of /dev/hd* to /dev/sd* and we can deal with this as well as the benefits are going to be good for system administrators and desktop users and others are not affected typically. Kudos to the developers involved in this effort. A persistent effort to bring persistent device names is finally paying off.

Posted in Fedora 15 | 2 Comments

Buttering up Fedora 15

One of the important changes not listed in the feature list for Fedora 15 is Btrfs in Fedora 15.   Anaconda, the Fedora installer has marked Btrfs as a supported filesystem in Rawhide, the Fedora development branch a while back.    Btrfs integration is a long process in Fedora spanning several releases and will eventually result in Btrfs becoming the default filesystem in a couple of releases .  Let’s  look at what has been done so far:

*  Eric Sandeen,  Ext4 developer upstream and for Red Hat submitted a patch to Anaconda in January 2009 that allows users to use Btrfs as one of the filesystems and format their partitions with the installer if you explicitly pass a option “icantbelieveitsnotbtr” .  It was documented and announced in Fedora 11 Alpha release.  Just in case,  this is not obvious,  it was a bit of a joke but served the purpose of making it harder to actually pick this option and conveyed to the users this wasn’t a serious choice yet.   It was definitely and clearly a experimental option

* In Fedora 13,  the next step was taken with a integration of a yum plugin that supports Btfs snapshotting feature.  Everytime you install or remove packages, this plugin will take a snapshot and allows you to rollback and restore from any software changes.   yum history undo does a pretty good job in many cases but filesystem level undo is quite useful too.   You only had to pass “btrfs” as a installation option in this release but it was still considered experimental

* In Fedora 15, you don’t need to pass any option.  Btrfs will be one of the options by default but do note that Live images don’t support anything other than the default of Ext4 still.

The future plan for Btrfs in Fedora  has been detailed out by Josef Basik,  Red Hat Btrfs filesystem developer.  Josef is planning on adding Btrfs support into GRUB 2 as well but Grub 0.97, the legacy version is what Fedora is using by default and although the repository does have a grub2 package for users wanting to try it out,  more work needs to be driven by someone interested in this effort in Fedora to make GRUB 2 the default.   Fedora 17 or later would have this filesystem by default if things go according to plan but I fully intend to migrate to Btrfs as my root filesystem for Fedora 15 if it finally gets a fsck that can actually repair damage instead of just reporting it which is indeed part of the Fedora plan.    One of the interesting projects to keep an eye on is snap,  a project to provide desktop integration of Btrfs and I would really love to see seamless integration with file managers like Nautilus.     The future is butter and it is better.

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Kyle needs more alcohol

Thanks to LWN and distrowatch for covering my last blog post about three new features in Fedora 14 feature list.  Of course,  I will cover three more features this time as well just to keep with the pattern but life in Fedora development is not just about technology.   It is a community getting together and often it is fun.  Here is a glimpse of  rawhide report from today.

* Tue Jun 15 2010 Kyle McMartin <kyle@redhat.com> 2.6.34-38
- Fix build by nuking superfluous "%{expand" which was missing a
  trailing '}'. You may now reward me with an array of alcoholic
  beverages, I so richly deserve for spending roughly a full
  day staring at the diff of the spec.

Back to business then. FESCo approved three more features yesterday. Let’s take a look at them.

Upstarting upstart

One of the features that I am most excited about for Fedora 14 is systemd. If you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard about systemd yet, you can read Lennart’s late night novel . When you finish reading all of that,  you will have a very through understanding of systemd and you will be only be a couple of years older.  LWN has a nice and much smaller article about it as well.   I worked with Lennart on writing up a feature proposal and also packaged it up for Rawhide.   It is in the development repository already.

# yum install systemd

Boot with selinux=0 init=/bin/systemd and you can see it in action.  Note however that much of the work is still to be done.   Once we get the selinux policy updated,  we will obsolete upstart and make systemd the default init system for Rawhide soon.   Whether it will be the default for Fedora 14 will have to be decided based on testing and feedback before the feature freeze.   Systemd is a drop in replacement because it is compatible with sysv init scripts and this transition is  easier as a result.   Replacing the init system is grand and bold endeavour and Fedora 14 will hopefully take the first step.

MeeGo  –  Let’s go

MeeGo is a merger of Maemo and Moblin to create a new operating system for netbooks.  Fedora 13 had a moblin spin and since Moblin itself was a RPM based distribution,  Peter Robinson, a community volunteer in Fedora was able to collaborate very effectively together with the Moblin project and pull in the new user interface.  One of the benefits of the merger is that much of Moblin stack and the RPM base remains the same and Peter Robinson is taking the effort to provide the MeeGo user interface within Fedora.  Fedora 14 will have a exicting new netbook interface.

How sweet!

OLPC with it’s XO laptop is the largest vehicle for Fedora deployments and around two million Fedora systems are out there, all over the world running Fedora with a custom kernel on the XO laptops.  The latest revision even includes GNOME and a easy way to switch to it but the default interface is Sugar which was developed in collaboration and funded by Red Hat initially and now managed by the non-profit foundation called Sugar Labs.

Sebastian Dziallas , a community volunteer for Fedora has been busy for a long time packaging and integrating the Sugar interface and it’s many add-ons for Fedora as well as leading an effort called Sugar on a Stick aka Soas which is in Fedora 13, an official Fedora spin.  He and Peter Robinson are now working on updating the sugar interface to the latest revision, 0.90 in Fedora and Soas will feature it too.

What would you like me to cover next?  Let me know your feedback and questions.

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Fedora 14 – three new features

As you can see in the FESCo meeting minutes from 2010-06-08, three new features have been approved for Fedora 14.

More content in live images

LZMA/Xz is a relatively new and better method for compression and Fedora has increasingly been taking advantage of it.   Fedora switched over from gzip to using LZMA for the RPM payload back in Fedora 12.  Fedora 14 will combined the previous feature with the next step of better compression in the live image itself.  The smaller size enables us to store more content in the same size.   Bruno Wolff III, a community contributor took over from me as the games spin maintainer after the Fedora 10 release and has been very actively working on forming a good gaming community in Fedora and also improving livecd-creator to work with larger images.  Games are often the biggest size packages we have in the Fedora repository and switching to using LZMA in livecd-creator is of obvious benefit not just to the games spin but all live images we include as part of a Fedora release including half a dozen Fedora spins and many remixes and custom images that end up getting generated via livecd-tools.  This is expected to reduce the image sizes by 10%.  Quite a handy win if we get all the pieces ready in time.   We could include more packages in the live images and since newer versions of software often tend to be bigger, this is a very welcome improvement.

Much faster porn picture browsing

Fedora is replacing the old and stagnant libjpeg library with libjpeg-turbo library by default.  It contains numerous performance related enhancements and is at least twice faster in JPEG compression/decompression than original libjpeg on platforms with MMX/SSE instruction set. It has same API/ABI like original libjpeg and also runs on non-SSE platforms where is around 25% faster.  Adam Tkac, from Red Hat is leading the fork effort as part of his involvement in the TigerVNC. As you might recall, Fedora switched over to using TigerVNC for Fedora 11 and this is a logical next step.    Instead of multiple software components bundling patched versions of a library,  Fedora will have a better maintained and faster equivalent.   The spells W-I-N to me.  libjpeg-turbo is currently in the Fedora package review queue and looking for a reviewer.   Hopefully someone volunteers to do that and we will see it in Rawhide soon.

Multi-path device support including bootup

If you have installed Fedora 13,  you certainly noticed a new screen for selecting storage devices.  Anaconda, the Fedora installer has been revamping the storage handling for the last several releases and Fedora 14 will add another tab if you select “Specialized Storage Devices”.  Multi-path is really an enterprise feature that adds some redundancy and useful if you have large storage and don’t want to have a single point of failure if your switch or cable connection goes down.   Additionally,  Fedora will have support for booting from a multi-path device as well. Peter Jones from Red Hat is leading this effort.

This is just the beginning as FESCo will have weekly meetings throughout the development cycle until the feature freeze currently scheduled for July 9th 2010.   Fedora has a open and transparent process for proposing and approval of features and the policy is detailed here.  The technical aspects of Fedora is led by the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee aka FESCo.  FESCo is a community elected body and gathers on a weekly basis to discuss several technical issues and approval of features that are part of a new release is one of the recurrent agendas.    We can expect to see many more features proposed and approved before the feature freeze.  I am excited and curious to know how the final feature list will look like.

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