Scott Dowdle's blog

Yet another blog post about remixing Fedora

While I'm considering writing a review of Fedora 18... I'm not sure how useful it would be. I mean, I"m a Fedora zealot, right? Every release of Fedora is awesome! If every package of their tens of thousands of packages isn't perfect on release day, that's ok... there will be a constant stream of updates over the release life cycle. Over the course of the next 13 or so months they even continue to grow the updates repository by adding some new packages (that weren't available on release day).

My personal remix of Fedora (MontanaLinux) was completed by the official Fedora release date. Since then I've rebuilt it to include the firehose of updates that have come out in the two days it has been out. Those updates include going from KDE 4.9.4 -> 4.9.5, Firefox 18, Kernel 3.7.2, etc. The remix also has a lot of desktop environments (KDE, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE, CinnI love it.amon, MATE, OpenBox, and few others) as well as desktop software (LibreOffice, Calligra, GIMP, Inkscape, Dia, Scribus, etc). Also included is a bunch of stuff from RPMfusion (multimedia stuff like VLC, gnome-mplayer, ffmpeg, etc), Google Chrome browser, and the Adobe Flash plugin. It has all of the software I used to install manually post install.

I have written about this a few times over the last couple of years... but with each release I like to retell the story. My remix is nothing special. I just took the stock Fedora KDE kickstart configuration and added a bunch of additional packages to the list. The iso file is right at 2GB and it is somewhere between 5-6GB installed. Building it is fairly easy... a single command line with a few options. It takes about 30-45 minutes to build... but I have a local repository mirror. If you are downloading all of the rpms from the stock Fedora mirrors it might take a while to download the ~2GB worth of rpms. :)

While there is some overhead and time involved with building ones own remix I think it is really worth the effort if you happen to do a lot of installs. I have not bothered much with customizations nor re-branding. Fedora makes it so easy to re-spin (using only stock Fedora Project packages) and/or remix (using additional third-party packages not included in Fedora). Some of us actually even enjoy doing it.

Fedora just releases so many updates that using their stock install media a month or more after initial release is just painful... with all of the updates you have to do post install. Since it is so easy, I rebuild about every week to two weeks... to incorporate updates... so my remix is always current.

Thanks Fedora Project! Thanks Red Hat for sponsoring Fedora! Thank you to developers who interact with us users on the bug reporting systems. You actually listen and fix bugs in a timely fashion. Keep up the good work.


Opinion: What if Linux became closed source?

Bryan Lunduke wrote a piece for Networkworld... or something like that. I'm NOT going to link to it because I don't want to encourage more page hits for such lunacy. I heard the article when I listened to the latest Everyday Linux podcast. I strongly recommend that so check it out if you haven't already. One of Montana guys is one of the hosts. They don't always get it right, but they do make me think.

Anyway, I found myself hitting the "contact us" link and writing the following:

Just got around to listening to the latest episode of Everyday Linux. The article by Bryan Lunduke is moronic. That isn't to say that Bryan Lunduke is a moron... but I disagree with a lot of the stuff he says and this is another example. Posing the scenario and asking if you would still use Linux if it went closed source... is like asking Christians, would you still love Jesus if he was really Satan. Yeah, that's a lame comparison on my part but the point is that being free software (and open source) is the core of Linux. It is THE development model that lead to Linux. It is something Linux has been for more than 21 years now. Linux would not exist if it weren't for the fact that it was free / open software. It is what allows thousands of companies to sponsor the work that interests them and also what has allowed tens of thousands of volunteers to scratch their itches for the features they wanted improved or added. Simply put, if Linux were to become closed source, its development model would change and the number of outside contributions that it receives would stop. In essense, Linux would stop being Linux. Given the fact that the only way Linux could become closed source would be if tens of thousands of copyright holders all agreed to do it, that's never going to happen.

While Bryan was trying to enlighten us to the fact that many of us do compromise our free software values in those software categories where free software either doesn't exist or is significantly under-featured when compared to the closed alternatives... that really isn't a useful exercise other than to indicate the areas where free software needs more help.

Sure most of us "end user" types don't look at, read, modify and share source code changes... because most of us don't program at all... but switching something from free / open source to closed would basically be putting one of its feet into the grave. Does that sound dramatic? Well, let us consider... just how many software companies have existed during the 4 or so decades that personal computers have been around? How many of those companies are still around? How many of the top selling pieces of software from 21 years ago are still around and popular? How many companies have gone under with their closed source products dying with the company? How many companies / products have changed hands over and over... with competitor A buying out competitor B just so they can kill or co-opt their products? Now contrast that to how many pieces of FOSS from 21 years ago we still use. Yeah, the vast majority of drinking age free software has grown and evolved because of changes in the industry and user needs... so it definitely hasn't stayed frozen in time... but the fact is that the bulk of it still exists (assuming it was useful software to begin with) and is still being used. Because it is free and open... people have been able to modify it and keep it relevant... and as a result... even us end users who don't program at all can enjoy the benefits.

So, to answer the question... if Linux became closed source would we still use it? Ok, let's pretend that fire extinguishers somehow became flame throwers... I'm sure one or more people / groups would fork the last free release and give it a new name... and it would overtake the closed source Linux which would quickly fade into irrelevance. Don't believe me? There have been a number of major marketshare leaders that have made seeming tiny little changes in their license agreements... that caused them to be forked and replaced. Think Xfree86 or OpenOffice. There are certainly many more less well known examples I could mention, but I'm sure you get my point. So the answer is yeah... Linux would get dropped like a digital hot potato and we would just all move on.

Any other questions?

So to recap, Free and Open Source software's major strength is in the freedom it gives to developers... who then pass it on to users... who may or may not even notice. And of course, just being FOSS does not guarentee success. There are plenty of failed FOSS projects and Linux is really the biggest exception rather than proof of the rule.

Video: Jon Corbet's Linux Kernel Report

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Jon Corbet from Linux Weekly News gave a refreshed Linux Kernel Report at the LinuxCon Europe 2012 recently. I think I've posted every Kernel Report Jon has given in the last couple of years so why stop now?

Here's a link to the webm.

Video: Where Are We Going?

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The videos from LinuxCon Europe 2012 are starting to come out. Here's one with Linux Torvalds and Dirk Hohndel on where we are going. Credit for this video goes to The Linux Foundation.

Here is a link to the webm.

Fedora 18 Pre-Release Report

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Fedora 18 Spherical CowFedora 18 Spherical CowI've been remixing Fedora 18 pre-release for quite a while now. As you may recall The Fedora Project has delayed the release of Fedora 18 Beta several times now... mainly due to blocker bugs in their new installer and Fedora Updater (fedup). I think the rest of the distribution has benefited from the delays because I've been running it a while and it has been very solid for me... as or more solid than Fedora 17. In fact, Fedora 17 and Fedora 18 share a lot in common... because a Fedora release, during its lifecycle, gets a lot of updates and upgrades.

I started by putting Fedora 18 on my netbook. Then I put it on my home desktop system. I ran it for more than a month... oh, and by the way, I disable the updates-testing repository. Since it has been so solid on my hardware at home I finally decided, perhaps being a little haphazard, to put it on my workstation at work. When did I decide to do that? Well... I picked the day before Thanksgiving about 1 hour before it was time to go home. Care to follow me on my journey?

Update: (8PM, Thanksgiving) - I noticed an email that said that there was a Fedora 18 Beta release Go/No Go meeting today and that the decision had been made to finally release the beta on Tuesday, Nov. 27th... the so called "exploding turkey" release. Yeah!

Video: Continuing Adventures with KVM

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KVM has supported USB for some time... although I hadn't had a reason to try USB inside of a KVM virtual machine until now. I got a hand-me-down USB webcam. I plug the webcam into any of my desktop systems and it works great... but can I use it in a KVM virtual machine? Can I use my webcam with any KVM virtual machine even if the virtual machine isn't running on the same physical machine where the webcam is plugged in? It turns out that the answers are all yes... thanks to USB support being added to qemu and the SPICE remoting protocol and client applications.

Here is my scenerio. I have a rack mount server that I run a number of KVM virtual machines on. Some of the virtual machines are setup as servers and don't run any graphical environment whereas others are desktop virtual machines with graphical environments. I have a physical desktop system where I run a SPICE client application that allows me to graphically connect to the desktop VMs. The SPICE remoting protocol does a good job of giving me a good user experience complete with bi-directional sound... which means I can both play back sound and I can create new sound with a sound input like a microphone. I found a recipe for using USB devices with KVM:

https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/UsbNetworkRedirection

After following those instructions I was able to record the following video with the USB webcam and microphone (regular audio jack) plugged into my physical desktop but used within the remote KVM virtual machine. As you can hear, the sound is a bit weird and I'm not sure why that is but it seems to work.

Direct link, right-click save as:
usb-webcam-inside-kvm-vm-20121112.webm (6.2 MB)

Video: Linuxcon 2012 Europe - Enlightenment

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So far as I know, the various Linuxcon conferences around the world are planned and managed by The Linux Foundation. They have many, many sponsors... and The Linux Foundation has been doing live streaming from the last few... but it usually takes a while before the final videos are released. I believe someone in the audience shot this one and posted it to YouTube.

Just when you thought we already had too many desktop environments and window managers for Linux... comes the resurgence of one from the past... Enlightenment. The Enlightenment window manager USED to be the default for GNOME way back in the day... but after it got dropped it has sort of lived in exile with hundreds of hackers continuing to code on it for another decade.

The speaker is Mike Blumenkrantz, Senior Software Engineer at Samsung Electronics and Release Manager for Enlightenment DR17. Enjoy.

If you want to download it, break out youtube-dl and do something like the following which is the 854x480 webm flavor:

youtube-dl -f 44 -t "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc_BxQa8Y40"

Video: MontanaLinux F18 So Far

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If you have been paying any attention to the development work going on with Fedora 18, you're probably aware that they have been running into repeated delays because of a complete rewrite of the anaconda installer. I've been working on remixing Fedora 18 and generally it is in fantastic shape with the exception of a few pieces of the installer that I'll not mention now. Below is a video of me booting the latest build, installing it, doing a firstboot, and then showing off some of the new desktops.

I do the install on top of an existing KVM virtual machine so that's why I nuke the partitions that were already there. The desktops shown are Mate, GNOME 3, and Cinnamon. Also included but not shown are KDE, LXDE, XFCE, openbox and a few other window managers. The latest Firefox, Flash plugin-in, and Google Chrome are included along with several of the multimedia apps and codecs provided by rpmfusion.

There is no sound. I guess I could have put some Euro-synth-pop in there but nooooo....

Direct link, right-click save as:
montanalinux-f18-beta-boot-install-run.webm (25.7 MB)

Video: How Linux is Built

Here's a video made by the Linux Foundation that does a good job of explaining what markets Linux is dominating in and how it is developed. Enjoy:

Programming Class Forming

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BozemanLUG member Jordan Schatz posted the following recently to the mailing list so I thought I'd share it here:

[BozemanLUG] Programming Class

So I think being able to obtain the source for software is very important, but just as important is having the skill to modify that source... so in that vein I've been asked by a few people "how do I learn to program?". I love writing code and learning about or teaching computer science so I thought see if there was enough interest do put together a class. I think I'd need 10-20 people to make it worthwhile. The class would be aimed at adults or highschool juniors / seniors that know how to use a computer and are interested in learning how to code but have little or no prior programming experience.

I want to try a 6 hr (or there about) intensive class on a Saturday and then see what people want from there, but I would consider other formats too.

If you are interested or know someone who is, drop me an email: jordan@noionlabs.com preferably with "Programming Class" in the subject line, if there is enough interest then I'll find a place we can have the class and email
out a date and time.

- Jordan

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