Scott Dowdle's blog

Montana Enterprise Linux 7?

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CentOS 7 Public QA - KDE Desktop with FirefoxCentOS 7 Public QA - KDE Desktop with FirefoxIf you didn't hear the news, Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 on Tuesday, June 10th. I've done three installs so far at work... and have been reading through their wonderful documentation. I'm really digging the newer versions of things and systemd... yes, especially systemd. No, no, really!

As you also probably know, Red Hat sponsors the CentOS Project now... and they are working hard on getting CentOS 7 done. Andrew from the BillingsLUG predicts CentOS 7 will be out within two weeks of RHEL 7... so that would be by June 24th. My guess is 6 weeks... which would be by July 22nd. If they don't make it in 6 weeks, my next guess is August 10th, because that's my 50th birthday.

Anyway. So yeah, the CentOS Project has been hard AND they have been, unlike in the past, doing everything out in the open... transparency it is called. Yesterday they announced they had the packages building. Then someone on the centos-devel mailing list said they had a Docker CentOS 7 container image. I gave that a try. Then the centos-devs said they had the first build attempt completed although they have NOT gone through all of the packages yet and removed Red Hat's branding... so it's a very preliminary build. Then they announced they had a network install CD (~ 341MB). I gave that a try and it worked great.

Then I decided I wanted to work on my own remix if possible. I used reposync to download all of the packages... and wget to get the handful of other dirs/files in the install tree. Then I made a KVM virtual machine via a network install pointed at my own copy of the tree. Then I added the livecd-creator package that one CentOS developer ported from Fedora. Then I installed fedora-kickstarts from Fedora 19... and hacked on their KDE LiveCD kickstart until I had it building CentOS 7. The first build didn't go so well. For whatever reason, all of the GUI stuff was there except for Xorg. I was able to use that first install, get it going in text-only mode to figure out what packages I needed to add to my kickstart's package list to get X going. Bingo... only three additional lines although two of them had an asterisk in them.

It built. It booted. It installed. It booted and worked post-install. Not bad.

What does it contain? Well, I'm a KDE fan. EL7 only offers GNOME 3 and KDE anyway. So, it has KDE... but oddly they don't offer KDM (KDE Display Manager aka GUI login screen) so it uses GDM (GNOME Display Manager). While Red Hat defaults to the XFS filesystem in their install media (they don't have any Live media by the way, just install-only) livecd-creator would not build the .iso if I set the default to xfs... so I had to set it to ext4. So, the system you get from the live installer has ext4 partitions. While it is the KDE desktop I added some stuff that isn't KDE-specific... like Firefox, Libre Office, GIMP, and Inkscape. I didn't refer to the EPEL 7 repository in my kickstart so the first good build only includes stock packages. Later I'll probably add in EPEL and add some additional packages like tmux, x2goserver... and a few other sundry packages. Any suggestions?

I should have included some screenshots with this post but I'm too lazy and tired after spending about 6 hours working on this little project today. If you want to give it a try let me know and I can email you the URL to the .iso file. Oh, btw... the installed system does not include a working centos.repo file so after a fresh install is booted, one has to manually add one by creating a file named /etc/yum.repos.d/qa-nightly.repo. Put in it the following:


Then you can use yum to install anything else you'd like. I recommend you also add EPEL 7 (epel-release-7-0.1.noarch.rpm). Enjoy! MEL (Montana Enterprise Linux), kiss my grits!

Update: CentOS has since released Public QA LiveMedia of their own.

Firefox Resolution Tester feature?


Fedora 20 updated to the recently released Firefox 30. Are you using it yet? I am.

I just accidentally discovered a feature I didn't even know existed. What feature? I'll call it the Firefox Resolution Tester feature although I'm sure that is NOT the real name of it. I don't know how long it has been a feature of Firefox... maybe for a long time... but like I said... I just found it in Firefox 30. How do you access it? Hit CONTROL-SHIFT-m. That's it.

I accidentally discovered it when I wasn't paying attention to which application window I was using had the focus. I thought it was konsole (KDE GUI terminal). CONTROL-SHIFT-m in konsole toggles the menu on and off. In Firefox it takes the current web page you are viewing and puts a black border around that has a control menu at the top left of that black border. The control menu allows you to pick from several pre-defined resolutions or even add additional presets if desired. Picking a different resolution resizes the view of the page (and increases the black border around it accordingly) to the desired resolution. It also has a screenshot feature (saves to your default download directory and auto-names images something like "Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 07.42.29.png"). You can also rotate the resolution to simulate a mobile device. It has a "Simulate Touch Event" button but I'm not sure what that does. Anyone?

What good is that feature? Well if you do any web development it should be fairly obvious. While this site doesn't display well at all on smaller screens the current trend is that more and more web traffic is from mobile devices... and there is a push for "responsive design". Haven't heard of "responsive design" yet? It is a combination of CSS and probably some javascript... to make pages resize like magic. Menus move around jumping from horizontal layout to vertical. Images magically resize themselves to fit. It is smooth like butter when it works. Why doesn't this site have a responsive design? Well I'm still using Drupal 4 which was EOLed (end of life) several years ago. I have been testing the Drupal 8 development version and its default and admin themes are responsive. As a result I've been looking around at various websites and responsive themes and wow, they are awesome. Yet again I'll make the claim that I'm going to switch this site over to next Drupal release when it comes out... so I can have all of the new features including responsiveness. Knock on wood.

At work they recently licensed a commercial web content management system that primarily targets larger educational institutions -- OmniUpdate Campus. The web developers (which I am not one) at work have created a nice responsive theme that everyone can use for their departmental websites and it works great. Don't have a responsive site handy? You can try this temporary testing one I made in OmniUpdate. That's just a shell but it'll show you responsiveness.

Anyway, I kind of got off track. Yeah, Firefox. Try CONTROL-SHIFT-m and enjoy. Can anyone tell me what version of Firefox first included this feature?

Video: LinuxCon Japan 2014 - Btrfs

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btrfs (butter filesystem) is something that many of us have been interested in for years. Here is a very recent talk from LinuxCon Japan 2014. There is some Japanese at the beginning of the talk, but fear not, it is in English. The presenter is Marc Merlin... who if I remember correctly used to make really extensive LinuxWorld reports back when LinuxWorld still existed. Anyway, enjoy this btrfs update. Here's the slide deck PDF that goes along with the talk.

I wish I could find a video for the presentation on LXCF (pdf).

Video: Enjoyable Raspberry Pi Distributor Commercial

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I just ran across this on the Raspberry Pi blog and wanted to share it. Enjoy.

Video: FISL 2014 - Growing CentOS as a Platform

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Brazil has a big FLOSS conference named FISL. I'm not sure what that stands for and whatever it is is probably in Portuguese. Anyway, I was surfing through some of their video presentations and happened across this gem... being that I'm a big RHEL, CentOS fan:

Growing CentOS as a Platform (Jim Perrin)

LinuxFest Northwest 2014 Day 0

Gary Bummer and I made the journey out to Bellingham on the ritual Friday. Gary drove. Thanks Gary!

The trip was rather uneventful... except Gary decided to bypass Seattle and take a much more scenic router that goes through a quaint town named Leavenworth, Washington. What's quaint about it? Well, Leavenworth is styled after a Bavarian village. How can you tell that? Well the buildings on the road through town all look like they are in the Alps or something. The lettering used on all of the business signs is in some kind of weird font that is obviously somehow mandated by the place... since even the big box stores and fast food chains have altered signage that uses the city font. Really... even Napa and McDonald's don't look quite right. It was definitely a pretty route with quite a bit of snow in the mountains with occational streams flowing down... (the road followed) a winding river much of the way... and apple orchards. The spead limit was 60 MPH but there was very little traffic and we hit the Seattle area just North of Everett I believe... so even when we got on the 6 lane highway, it wasn't that crowded. It difinitely made for a much more pleasant trip. Gary took the same route home last year but this is the first time we took it on the way up.

We hit Bellingham right at 9PM so we missed the oriental food place we usually go to for spicy chicken but hopefully we'll do that for lunch today (Saturday) and/or Sunday.

There was a Board Games event Friday evening in Fox Hall (at Hampton Inn where we are staying) sponsored by Fedora. Fox Hall was chopped in half with a divider and the half that the event got was packed. Every table was full of people. There were some snacks including cookies, crackers, chips, fruit, cheese and sliced meats. Free soft drinks and some wine was also available. Someone had brought in a bottle of Black Vodka to share. I'm wondering if that was Monty W.?

Gary and I grazed the food a little but spent the whole time standing since we had been sitting about 14 hours during the trip. We really weren't in the mood for board games... as I've only played the traditional Milton-Bradley type with my kids... and that was not what these board games were at all. :) We did get a cool pack of Fedora playing cards. At the show today and tomorrow I hope to pick up a few more packs (of Fedora playing cards) and other SWAG to share with the BozemanLUG folks.

One sad note about this year though... I couldn't find my digital camcorder so I won't be recording the presentations I go as in the past. I hope but don't expect some recordings to made of various presentations by others.

The Saturday Night party is going to be at the Sparks Museum again this year and there will be homebrew beer there. Luckily Gary brought his camera so we'll get some pictures at least. More later.

Video: Open Playground

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Audio: NPR Morning Edition on Heartbleed


I heard this on the way to work this morning:

I got all of my machines updated and was sure to restart all services that use openssl. How about you?

How about an OpenVZ CentOS Variant?

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I've used RHEL, CentOS and Fedora for many years... and as many of you already know... back in January, CentOS became a sponsored project of Red Hat. For the upcoming CentOS 7 release they are going beyond just the normal release that is an as-perfect-as-possible clone of RHEL. They have this concept of variants... where Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are formed around making special purpose builds of CentOS... spins or remixs if you will. I don't know a lot about it yet but I think I have the basic concept correct.

Looking at the numbers on I see:

Top  host   distros
CentOS	     56,725
Scientific    2,471
RHEL	        869
Debian	        576
Fedora	        111
Ubuntu	         82
Gentoo	         54
openSUS          18
ALT Linux        10
Sabayon	          6


Top 10  CT  distros
centos	    245,468
debian	    106,350
ubuntu	     83,197
OR	      8,354
gentoo	      7,017
pagoda	      4,024
scientific    3,604
fedora	      3,173
seedunlimited 1,965

Although reporting is optional, the popularity of CentOS as both an OpenVZ host and an OpenVZ container surely has to do with the fact that the two stable branches of the OpenVZ kernel are derived from RHEL kernels.

Wouldn't be nice if there were a CentOS variant that has the OpenVZ kernel and utils pre-installed? I think so.

While I have made CentOS remixes in the past just for my own personal use... I have not had any official engagement with the CentOS community. I was curious if there were some OpenVZ users out there who are already affiliated with the CentOS Project and who might want to get together in an effort to start a SIG and ultimately an OpenVZ CentOS 7 variant. Anyone? I guess if not, I could make a personal goal of building a CentOS and/or Scientific Linux 6-based remix that includes OpenVZ... as well as working on it after RHEL7 and clones are released... and after such time the OpenVZ Project has released a stable branch based on the RHEL7 kernel.

I will acknowledge up front that some of the top CentOS devs / contributors have historically been fairly nasty to OpenVZ users on the #centos IRC channel. They generally did not want to help someone using a CentOS system running under an OpenVZ kernel... but then again... their reputation is for being obnoxious to many groups of people. :) I don't think we should let that stop us.

Comments, feedback, questions?

Update: Wow, looking here, they already have OpenVZ listed as being of interest in their Virtualization SIG.

Opinion: Desktop spin laws that need to go away


Various distro spin makers have made two unwritten laws that I very much disagree with:

A) A distro spin of desktop blah should have only programs built with the same widget library that desktop blah uses

B) A distro spin should only ship / pre-install one program for each application category

I mention this because I'm a big KDE fan but KDE-only distro spins do not include my preferred browser (Firefox) nor my preferred office suite (LibreOffice, not that I use an office suite much) because they aren't QT-native applications. While LibreOffice does a better job of integrating with KDE than Firefox does, both drag with them quite a bit of GTK baggage... which is considered "bloat" by many spin makers.

Ok, so a spin doesn't have to fit on a CD anymore because everyone has a DVD reader, right? So why not take advantage of that and not be afraid to ship a 1.4 or a 2 GB live image?

Korora is a really nice Fedora remix and they have a KDE spin... and they break rule A by including Firefox and LibreOffice but they aren't fond of breaking rule B. And they aren't afraid of having a larger image size either.

I guess I'll have to remain happy by continuing to create my own remix with most desktops included as well as many, and often redundant, desktop applications that use a variety of widget sets.

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