Keeping My Hat On

In my previous post I outlined my thinking about moving from Fedora to OpenSuse. I installed OpenSuse 12.3 onto mylaptop and had a play about. The installer was clean and easy to use and everything was setup with the minimum of effort.

Two issues with Fedora prompting a move were the control over the firewall and the Arduino software not being up to date. I was disappointed to that the installation of the Arduino software didn't come with a desktop icon setup but the latest version was there to use. Now onto the firewall; things were not good.

OpenSuse has completely removed the iptables scripts for managing the firewall. It seems you will use their firewall daemon and associated setup program. So basically the future looks like I will be being forced into using a wrapper of some sort around the iptables rules for my firewall. What's more, after doing some reading it would appear that more applications will rely on this dynamic functionality in the future. So what do I do? I can, on Fedora at least, use my existing script in the short term but need to migrate it. Alternatively I can change distro, waiting a little longer for the inevitable push towards dynamic firewalls.

Where does this leave me now then? I'm thinking of staying with Fedora at the moment. Fedora 19 will be due out in around 3-4 months time. At this point I think a clean installation of my main machine will probably be in order. In the mean time I can work on migrating my current firewall script over to the Firewalld system. It will mean I have to manually install the latest Arduino software but that is at least a manageable task.

OpenSuse was removed from the laptop and Fedora 18 reinstalled. A clean installation does appear to have changed a few things. A series of upgrades over the years had left a few legacy options it seems. The Fedora installer was not as user friendly as the OpenSuse installer, especially when it came to creating the dual boot with Windows on a separate hard disk. That said it did install and I'm sure it will improve in the future.

Going Gecko

Using Linux has always presented me with a lot of choice as to how I want to use it and how it can work for me. I started my Linux journey with Gentoo and stayed with it for many years. But over time I found it didn't fit with my workflow, it was fun to use and I learnt a lot but it required hands on tweaking.

I took the plunge and moved over to Fedora. Not having to compile software at install time or rebuild a lot of packages when a library changed was easier and has saved me time not having to go through packages that failed to compile. Fedora has been a stable system; well it is about a month after a big version update. Having a stable system has allowed me to use the system for actual work. But this stability has also brought a few problems. Stable packages are not always the newest. System packages this isn't a problem with as it's the solid foundation for everything else to run on. But the applications like Libre Office and in my case the Arduino IDE are not guaranteed to be up to date.

The Arduino IDE is in the Fedora repos, it is however 2 releases out of date. I have been trying to use it and have found myself struggling against a few bugs that I know to be fixed in a later version. Looking at the bug tracker for Fedora the version bump has been noted. If the package was in the testing repo allowing me to install the later version at my own risk I would be happy. But it isn't. The alternative option is for me to manually download and install the software. I have no objection to doing this, I often do it for software that is not in a repo. But it is irritating that a package that is in the repo is not keeping pace with upstream even as an unstable package.

The next irritation from Fedora is experimental improvements that make it into a release. Fedora 18 updated my machine with Firewalld, this is a daemon to run a dynamic firewall. This is all well and good but I had written my own firewall script and whilst I like some of the ideas that Firewalld brings I don't feel it should have been forced upon me. Firewalld is a Fedora project and reading up on it development is still ongoing and features being added. I am not happy about placing my faith in this package for security until it has matured. I am all for newer versions of existing packages but not radical changes like this. Fedora was also the first distro to use Gnome 3. The initial release was basic to say the least but it has improved over time. I get the feeling that it is possible to be too near the cutting edge for comfort.

So where does this leave me? Well one options is to go back to Gentoo. What is stopping me doing so at the moment is the changes going on in the background of several distros. Systemd is becoming the standard init system replacing a legacy system. Most distros have moved over to this as a default. The two which don't have this as a default are Gentoo and Debian. Gentoo does support it but this would require some tweaking which I was wanting to get away from. It also rules out Debian.

I had considered Arch Linux. Whilst it seemed to offer the flexibility of Gentoo without the compilation it was not without issues. Certain packages would install without all the dependencies, if I can't guarantee that then its another distro to avoid for a desktop. I'm not ruling out Arch for a very minimal server/netbook installation but for day to day desktop it's not for me.

Linux Mint is an option but it is based upon Debian. Whilst this is not a bad thing I prefer a distro to have it's own base and not be reliant on another distro. Ubuntu is a no go area, it has changed focus to be a testing ground for new ideas and I don't like the direction Canonical are taking it. Mageia has had more uncertainty over the years than I care to remember so it's out. Slackware is a no as its not a Gnome supporting distro. CentOS & Scientific Linux are based off RHEL & Fedora so they are out. So out of the big distros I am left with OpenSuse.

What is there to like about OpenSuse? Well on the face of it quite a bit. One thing that bugged me about Fedora was the fact it's forms were independent of the distro. Gentoo has an integrated community which I liked and OpenSuse seems to have the same. Trying to navigate the Fedora website was a pain. I found myself stumbling over project procedures and guidelines rather than the support and guides which I wanted to refer to. The OpenSuse website by contrast has a link to the forums on the main page and seems more navigable in general.

OpenSuse has better options for software, it makes it easy to search for software in various repos and select stable/unstable packages. The support from forms and wiki appear easy to access. Ultimately OpenSuse may not be as bleeding edge as Fedora but my current experiences suggest this isn't a bad thing. OpenSuse 12.3 is to be released in the next 24 hours. Time to give it a go.

Fedora 17 – Sluggish Firefox

The upgrade to Fedora 17 on my main system had gone well with no significant issues aside from one. When trying to start Firefox with multiple tabs loading it would hang locking the browser up. After trying the DNS problem route to upgrade problems etc. I finally traced the problem. The Flash plugin was out of date and the older version was being caught by the system as the log files outline. Upgrading the Flash plugin solved the problem and everything is back to normal.

Visit to check if your plugins need to be updated.

Fixed: Fedora 16 Printing

During my upgrade from Fedora 15 to 16 several things broke, this is nothing new there were alot of major graphical components updated. Those issues were resolved in the week following the F16 release. What I had not expected to break was my network printing setup. In all the years I used Gentoo and upgraded over and over I never had many issues and when I did it was usually my fault.

This time nothing much was apparent aside from printing not working on either the host or client machines. First point of failure was the lack of a running CUPS service on each machine. Ok, so it was stopped during the upgrade and not restarted, annoying but not the end of the world. Still no joy. In the end I found I my previously set sharing settings had changed. With all the other changes in config files being highlighted allowing for manual updates this had slipped through the net. Sharing my printer again in the settings and bingo, everything works as before and auto detects. It has only taken a few minutes of fiddling around to fix but it has been finding those few minutes and being in the right mood to fix it. Hopefully the next upgrade will go a little more smoothly.

Fedora 15 – Initial Thoughts

I took the plunge a few days ago and updated my machines to Fedora 15. The results have been mixed. My netbook and laptop were the first to be upgrades with Intel and Nvidia graphics respectively. Both upgraded fine and the Gnome 3 experience was ok, if a little strange. The problems started with my server with an AMD/ATI graphics. The screen was tearing in places and the smooth experience I was getting on the netbook and laptop had been lost. I still have not fully resolved this problem and it proving difficult to use gnome 3 without it.

The one thing I am finding an issue with in Gnome 3 is the change in panel functionality. I previously minimised some applications like my RSS client to run as a minimised icon. Whilst there is a sort of similar function present I think apps need to be updated to take advantage of it.

Another problem presented itself in the form of a reboot leading to the a message saying the lan cable was unplugged. Rebooting again didn't solve the issue. I had to shut the machine down completely and cold boot before the network stated working again. At least one problem is solved. I will review again once a few more bugs are fixed.

Arduino + Ethernet Sheild + Linux 64 Bit = Headache

I have been trying for the past few hours to get the simple web server sketch working with an arduino board and my recently acquired ethernet shield. All seemed to be going well the sketches were uploading to the board and I was able to ping the ip address over the network. Why then could I not connect to the device to see the generated output? Much time has been spent looking at different libraries and other peoples sketches looking for alternative ways of doing the same thing. Each time my sketch would stall whilst trying to read the client data. A single line of code which for some reason would stall the program execution.

Searching on this particular problem rather than just generic "Why is the ethernet shield not working?" I came across Issue #267. It seems that on the 64bit build there is a problem with the command. To test this out I reverted to 32bit Windows and used that version of the software to upload the sketch to the chip. Suddenly it all works flawlessly. Needless to say I have had enough of playing around with the thing today and wont be getting creative with my newly working hardware until the frustration has worn off.