Romancing Fedora 19 pre-alpha

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I keep up with Fedora releases. Fedora 19 was due for an "Alpha" release last Tuesday but they had to delay. As most everyone already knows, delays in Fedora are to be expected. Anyway, I thought I'd check out their Alpha test builds. They actually seem to be working quite well. I did several installs from the "Desktop" media which is GNOME 3.8.x-based. The installs I did were inside of KVM-based virtual machines. Then I added on all of the other desktop environments and tried them out. Even in this early stage, it seems to be quite usable and stable. I obviously did NOT run into any of the "blocker" bugs that were the cause of the Alpha release delay. I think most of those were EFI related.

Remixing from Alpha

I thought I'd try doing a MontanaLinux remix from the development repositories. For those not familiar with MontanaLinux, it is basically the vast majority of desktop environments and desktop managers and a lot of desktop software rolled into a 2+ GB live .iso. It includes packages from rpmfusion (codecs, gnome-mplayer, vlc, etc), Google (google-chrome-stable and google-talkplugin) and Adobe (flash-plugin).

So from my Fedora 19 pre-alpha VM, I installed the various kickstart packages, extracted out the KDE related kickstart (.ks) files, and then melded them into a single file, added the packages I wanted to the %packages section, and then did a tiny bit of customization in the %post and %post --nochroot sections of the kickstart. With a MontanaLinux-F19.ks file done, I proceeded with the build.

It built. I discovered (with help from nirik in #fedora-devel on freenode) that Fedora no longer looks at /etc/sysconfig/desktop for the default desktop environment and display manager. That is done with systemd's systemctl.

The Bug Fairy Always Visits

There are a few glitches here and there but that is to be expected. lightdm was messing me up... so I had to add an exclude in the %packages section. I'm still in the process of refining the kickstart but it seems to work well enough.

For some reason, when I boot the .iso in a KVM VM on a Fedora 18 host I can't use the combination of SPICE/QXL. If I change it to VNC/any, SPICE/VGA, or SPICE/VMVGA it works fine.

I made sure to add in the GNOME 3.8.x Classic extensions so the GNOME Classic mode shows up in the display manager Session options.

I've only been working on this for a few hours so I'm sure I've got a bit of learning left to do. Fedora has since released a number of Fedora 19 updates and I haven't tried those yet. More later.

Update: April 22 - There was an additional flood of updates over the weekend. I guess the current build from Fedora went gold for the Alpha release and they had stockpiled some updates until after. I put in a few more hours on my configs and got the 32 and 64-bit versions built. They are working well and the SPICE/QXL combination now works fine. Updates included KDE 4.10.2 and MATE 1.60 among others.

If anyone wants to try it out, feel free to email me ( and I'll reply with a URL.

Update: April 24 - Fedora DID release Fedora 19 Alpha yesterday. I've done yet another rebuild and created a screencast video (no audio) showing the Live DVD iso booting inside of a KVM Virtual Machine connected to with the SPICE remoting protocol. I didn't do any fancy editing of the video so there are long boring parts where you stare at a blank screen as it boots or loads. In the 25 minute video I boot, do an install, reboot and then do a quick survey of all the desktop environments, some apps as well as how I like to personalize KDE. The pre-release Fedora 19 base has a debug kernel and I'm sure the installer is doing a lot of extra logging... so the installer and the boot is a lot slower than the final product will be but that is to be expected. Everything seems to be working nicely except for Cinnamon.

Anyone who would like to watch it can do so with the link below. Right-click to download or play in your webm compatible browser. It is about 66MB in size... which is about 3 times the size of my first hard drive back in 1986. :)


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)

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.

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.

MontanaLinux Remix: The Bug Fairy Pays a Visit

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I've been building a Fedora Remix for some time now. If I remember correctly I started around Fedora 9 and have continued to build them with each new release. I'm on Fedora 13 now. I usually rebuild the remix every time a new set of updates comes out. So far I had rebuilt the i686 and the x86_64 remix 46 times each... and then someone reported some problems with the last couple of builds. I didn't notice because I had been on vacation and was doing the rebuilds remotely without testing the final product. I figured if it built ok, it was probably ok... because I hadn't previously had any problems with any builds.

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