OLPC XO-1.75 Arrives


Thank you Fedora Project! The One Laptop Per Child XO-1.75 unit arrived via FedEx today. It was sent to me by the Fedora Project as part of their Summer of Fun and Open Hardware contest. It didn't come in a traditional OLPC box but rather it was wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a cardboard FedEx shipping container.

One thing that is cool about this unit is that it has a "high-school" keyboard on it which is made of hard plastic and much like a traditional netbook keyboard... rather than the standard soft rubber keyboard. I'm actually able to touch type on the keyboard without too much effort. There are a few keys that have been moved around to accomodate the cramped size but the vast majority of keys are fine. I never thought I'd be able to type very fast on an OLPC but this keyboard makes that very easy. In fact I typed this blog post on the OLPC.

The first thing I did was to update the software to the latest (Fedora 17-based) release. Sugar has some really nice software but if one desires, the GNOME 3 Fallback Mode desktop is also available.

One of the Sugar Activities I like a lot is "Get Books" which is a combination book catalog and reader. It ties into Feedbooks.com website which has plenty of public domain books to choose from in a number of genres. Most books are available in PDF and EPUB versions... both of which are readable inside the "Get Books" activity. The features provided by the program to adjust font sizes and jump around in the book work quite well. There is even a feature to have it read a selection aloud using a software-based mouth. I believe it uses the popular Festival text-to-speech system but I'm not positive. If one rotates the screen and flips it down, the navigation keys on the screen work well for scrolling, changing the font size, etc. The OLPC is a darn good eBook reader.

For more pictures see the OLPC gallery. Credits for some pictures go to Christoph Derndorfer and Mike Lee on Flickr.

Video: A Quick Tour of Open Source Creative Tools


Máirín Duffy from Red Hat / Fedora did a lightning talk about the creative tools available in Fedora 17. Please note that while she does mention Fedora, the same tools are avalable for most all Linux distributions... and many are also cross platform.

If I used the correct embed code from YouTube, it should use the webm format rather than that icky Flash.

In related news, if you are a GIMP user like me, you might also be interested in the new GIMP Magazine.

Fedora Summer of Open Hardware and Fun


I submitted an application for the Fedora Summer of Open Hardware program. Haven't heard of that? Well, the Fedora folks had accumulated quite a bit of hardeware that they wanted to pass along to their community members. The hardware consisted of Aurdino, Raspberry Pi, and OLPC XO-1.75 units. Since I already have a Raspberry Pi that I bought myself... and I'm part of an OLPC Lending Library project that already has X0-1.0 and XO-1.5 units... I thought I'd go for an XO-1.75. I just got word today that I was approved and should get the laptop in a few weeks.

How does the XO-1.75 differ from previous models? Well the main difference is that it uses an ARM-based CPU rather than an Intel compatible. As a result the XO-1.75 supposedly has an improved battery life. All of the OLPC models so far use the same case so even though they may be vastly different inside, they all look the same on the outside. Another area where some of the models vary is in the keyboards they have. For example, the "HS" model stands for "high school" and it has a hard plastic keyboard like a traditional netbook rather than the rubber keyboard the non-HS models have. With the XO-1.75 it appears that the keyboard has changed again. While it is still a rubbery keyboard, it is mostly covered by a white, hard plastic cover that has holes that they keys stick out through. See the picture above. The laptop on the left is an XO-1.75 whereas the one on the right is a previous model with an HS keyboard.

Screencast: MontanaLinux Fedora 16 remix in KVM

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If you didn't notice, today is Fedora 16 release day. Yeah! I've been using Fedora 16 for a while now preping my MontanaLinux remix. I made a 41 minute screencast that does two things: 1) Showcases the desktop environments available in Fedora as melded together in the MontanaLinux LiveDVD remix, and 2) Shows using KVM and virt-manager some.

Please pardon my voice and occasionally sniffing... an allergy is bugging me.

fedora16-kvm-virt-manager-montanalinux.webm (85 MB)

MontanaLinux - Remixing Fedora 16

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I setup a local mirror of the Fedora 16 development repo and got to work on the MontanaLinux LiveDVD remix. I ran into a few minor problems but the 32-bit build seems to be working great now.

Now that grub2 is used by default and grub is also in the repos, you actually have to add grup2 to your package list in the kickstart file or it isn't there when you try to do an install. Check.

When using the sample KDE kickstarts to add to, make sure and remove a few of the really big packages you don't want or your iso may grow over 2 GB at which point a few of the later build pieces may get cranky. After removing a lot of koffice translations, octave, and a few other things... my iso went from 2.1 GB to a more desirable 1.8 GB. Check.

Packages that I noticed that disappeared in Fedora 16 that I needed to remove from the package list: agave and xfprint. Check.

Since grub2 is used the process of rebranding grub has changed and I haven't figured that out yet. In fact, I still need to learn how to customize grub2 since it is no where near as obvious as the grub.conf used to be for grub1.

New stuff in Fedora 16 I still need to figure out

Anyone got grub2 all figured out yet? From what I understand there are a number of config files, and then a few for settings... and then some process to build from those the config file. Editing the config file directly is a no-no.

systemd is now in full force and legacy tools like chkconfig and ntsysv still work but to a lesser degree. The legacy tools only show a subset of services rather than all of them and I haven't figured out yet how to get a complete list of enabled services from systemd.

"chkconfig httpd on" has become "systemctl enable httpd.service". I'm just not sure what the systemd equivalent for "chkconfig --list" is yet.

I still have to work on the 64-bit version but now that I have a functional 32-bit kickstart, that should be a piece of cake. I should have everything done before or by the official Fedora 16 release date which currently is set for 2011-11-08.

Video: GNOME 3 Shell (and Fedora 15)

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After looking around for a good introduction video to GNOME 3 I found this one. It is the best one I've found so far. Unfortunately it seems to only be available in flash format. Since Fedora 15 was one of the first distros to ship GNOME 3, it also covers Fedora some. Enjoy.

Opinion: On Canonical, Red Hat, and their communities

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When I can, I try to participate in The Linux Link Tech Show when it is streaming LIVE... but even when I can't I often listen to the archived recordings. When I find something interesting I'll sometimes shoot Dann Washko an email with my thoughts. This morning I found myself writing a long email to him on a subject they covered on their June 15 episode (#407). I thought I'd post it here too.

It just so happens that several of TLLTS regulars had attended the Southeast Linuxfest the weekend prior and one of the conversations that Dann encountered there was about Canonical and Ubuntu. Dann spoke about the questions and opinions he heard raised and asked for everyone else's opinions but he didn't get a whole lot of feedback so I thought I'd provide him with some.

I'll admit yet again... I'm a big Red Hat and Fedora fan and I am biased... and I sometimes even serve as an apologist for them. While I think everything I say below is "fair and balanced"... I'm sure there are plenty of folks who disagree with me... and maybe one or two who agree... I do encourage feedback and comments from all sides. Read on at your own peril. :)

Fedora: virt-manager with SPICE support coming in Fedora 15

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virt-managervirt-managerI've been keeping up with the virtualization related developments in the upcoming Fedora 15... but even if I weren't... Fedora offers a fedora-virt-preview repository that makes it easy to ckeck out the new stuff on Fedora 14.

Adding SPICE support to virt-manager is one of the upcoming features in Fedora 15 and as of 2011-03-28 it appears to be 100% done. I decided to use the fedora-virt-preview repository to check it out on my Fedora 14 workstation.


If you aren't familiar with virt-manager, it is the default GUI-based management application for virtual machines on Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux... as well as a few other distros. virt-manager uses libvirt so it can support a number of virtual machine types but it is primarily used for KVM and Xen. I use it with KVM and KVM is the only virtualization product that offers SPICE support currently.

QXL videoQXL videoTo try out the added SPICE support I took an existing Fedora 14 virtual machine and edited its configuration with virt-manager. In the Video device I changed the Model from "cirrus" to "qxl".

Then I deleted the existing VNC-based Graphics device and added a SPICE server. There are a number of different SPICE related options... what port to run it on... whether only the local machine can access it or if it is accessible remotely... use a password or not. There is a setting for SSL port but I'm not sure if that is actually operational... as I have not figured out the SSL stuff yet.

In virt-manager's preferences they have added a toggle for the default graphic device, either VNC or SPICE. Of course you can always delete one and add the other if the default isn't what you wanted.

Adding SPICEAdding SPICEDoing some testing I verified that everything worked. If I picked local access only, you had to be on the same machine to access the VM with SPICE. If you allowed remote access, that worked.

Update on Fedora 15 Development - GNOME 3 Shell Updates


GNOME 3 ShellGNOME 3 ShellI've been keeping up with Fedora 15 development. I installed a nightly build on my wife's dual-boot computer. I setup a Fedora 15 KVM virtual machine in preparation for my remix compose... which isn't quite there yet.

Anyway, I've noticed a few changes that came with some updates yesterday that I wanted to share:

  1. Fedora 15 appears to have incorporated all of the upstream GNOME 3 changes. The experience is exactly like that from the GNOME 3 live beta based on OpenSUSE
  2. They added a way in the GNOME 3 Shell System Settings to switch back to the GNOME 2 style desktop
  3. The GNOME 2 style desktop has been polished up some
  4. Fedora has added some additional artwork for non-GNOME desktops

Fallback DesktopFallback DesktopThe GNOME 2 style fallback desktop in GNOME 3 isn't exactly like the previous GNOME 2.32 desktop but it is fairly close. There are some elements from GNOME Shell present... such as the window styling and decorations (although you DO get the minimize and maximize buttons back). You can place application buttons on the top panel but none are there by default. There isn't a right-click desktop menu and the System Settings are from GNOME 3. Although the fallback desktop mode is a bit different than the older GNOME 2.32 desktop, the changes they have made should go a long way to make GNOME 2 diehards a little happier.

I've been using the GNOME 3 Shell more and I really like the changes they've made since the Fedora 15 Alpha release. These changes include larger icons in the Applications list and auto-managed virtual desktops. Some people call this a "dumbing down" of the interface but I prefer to call it streamlining. If you have a lot of previous GNOME 2.x experience you might perceive it to be counter-intuitive... but give it a little while. The streamlining really makes the new environment easy to learn and use. It is elegant, and as one blogger put it... "it looks expensive".

The GNOME developers have frozen the development for this development cycle and only bugfixes will be accepted. GNOME 3 Shell is finished and I like it. As a long-time KDE user, I'm not sure I'm ready to switch to GNOME 3 exclusively but really have enjoyed testing it out. I still expect there to be quite a bit of backlash against GNOME 3 Shell when it becomes the default desktop in Fedora 15 and probably also in the next major releases of other GNOME-based distros... but I think a lot of people are going to like it too. When you get a chance, give it a try.

System Settings Fallback OFF Fallback ON

Continued Adventures in Distro Remixing

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I've been making a personal Fedora remix for a while now... since Fedora 10. While that might sound hard, thanks to Fedora's livecd-tools package and their livecd-creator script, it is really quite easy. I even made a screencast about it. I recently started making a remix of Scientific Linux 6.0 and wanted to share.

As you may recall, I prefer Fedora on my personal desktops but on servers I prefer Red Hat Enterprise Linux or a RHEL clone. There are actually a few clones to pick from and I've been using CentOS for a number of years. One thing I like about CentOS is that one of its goals is to stay as true to RHEL as possible by attempting to be 100% binary compatible with it, bugs and all. Unfortunately the CentOS developers have gotten somewhat backlogged with the onslaught of RHEL releases over the last few months (6.0, 5.6, and 4.9) and have taken a lot of criticism for release delays as well as falling behind on security updates in the process.

Trying out Clone #2

CentOS is definitely the most widely used RHEL clone with an estimated 6 million users who are eagerly awaiting the releases of CentOS 6.0 and 5.6. I can't really fault the CentOS developers for the delays because they are a completely volunteer organization and do development in their spare time.

Another popular RHEL clone is Scientific Linux (SL) which is put together by a small number (two or three?) of developers who are paid to work on it by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). SL's main goal is to produce an enterprise grade Linux distribution to meet the needs of scientists and people working with scientific data. SL strays a bit from the stock RHEL package set by adding some additional science related software including some changes to a few core packages to accommodate additional filesystems (reiserfs and AFS). SL is also known for its additional "tweak" packages that are designed to easily change some of the application default configurations.

The primary reason I had previously avoided SL was because I really did not want to deal with their changes and additions to RHEL. Now I'm giving it a try. What has changed? SL has a fairly public development process. For example, they came out with several alpha and beta releases of SL 6.0 before releasing the final version on March 3. They have adopted several of the Fedora developer tools and have given many public presentations about their development process.

While reading about SL I discovered that with their 6.0 release they have switched to Fedora's livecd-creator for producing their Live media. They have also released the kickstart files they used to build their live media and have quite a bit of documentation including a Create your own SL6 LiveCD page. While CentOS does offer live media, they don't use livecd-creator... and their live media does NOT offer an install option. I certainly hope that changes for CentOS 6.0.

Another thing I learned was that as a result of feedback from their userbase, the SL developers have decided to drop their "tweak" packages with 6.0... at least initially... although they may offer them as an option later for those that want them.

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