EPEL

Video: AlmaLinux 8.4 installable Live XFCE Media

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Fri, 06/04/2021 - 14:05

I've been wanting and trying to create live media for EL8 since the initial 8.0 release of CentOS.  The main problem I ran into is that RHEL has decided that their customers aren't interested in live media and they didn't produce any... and CentOS hasn't either.  I've been using livecd-creator from the livecd-tools package for years for making personal remixes of Fedora and CentOS 7.  In EL8, livecd-creator comes from EPEL and it has had various issues since the initial 8.0 release... and I've only been able to produce broken .iso media if I could get it to build at all.  Luckily one or more Fedora developers have taken pity on me and been updating / fixing livecd-creator in EPEL recently.

Another problem is that RHEL also decided that since they don't have live media anymore, the RHEL Anaconda installer no longer needs to support live media installs, and they have removed the anaconda-live package from their stock repositories... although I did learn today that it is built by CentOS but just not placed in the public repositories... but if you look for it hard enough, it can be found in their newly opened up build servers.

I've been working with AlmaLinux a bit lately and they provide the anaconda-live package in their off-by-default (and shouldn't really be used for production systems) devel repository.

With the updated livecd-creator and the newly found source(s) for anaconda-live... I've renewed my efforts and finally was able to produce an AlmaLinux 8.4 installable XFCE live media.  I did run into some qwerks that are explained in the screencast below that shows me booting the media in a KVM virtual machine, doing and install, and then showing a little bit of the post-install desktop system.  The .iso includes a /root/livecd-creator directory that has all of the files I used to build the media with and the system has all of the needed packages pre-installed for building.  Anyone who might want to make their own remix can do some minor editing (updating the repository URLs as they currently point to a local mirror I'm using... as well as customizing the package list as desired) of the included files and build their own.  Enjoy!

If anyone wants a copy of the .iso, just email me (see web page footer for contact info) asking for a download link and I'll reply back... as I do not publicly promote MontanaLinux as it is primarily a personal remix.

UPDATE: Anyone who wants to build their own media needs to be aware that there are currently two bugs in livecd-creator... one already fixed in the livecd-tools package currently in epel-updates-testing, and one that needs to be manually patched.   The manual patch is easy though, just edit /usr/lib/python-3.6/site-packages/imgcreate/live.py and add a new after line 239 (Line 239: # XXX-BCL; does this need --label?).  Put in the following:
            makedirs(isodir + "/images")
So make sure you are using livecd-tools-28.1-1 from epel-updates-testing with the given 0ne-line patch and you should be able to build working media.

UPDATE 2:  I fixed the XFCE media so now it uses SDDM rather than GDM and the live media automatically logs into XFCE.  I have also added media for KDE Plasma and GNOME (aka WORK).  They all seem to be working well but I haven't tested them on UEFI.

UPDATE3: I believe I'm missing one or more packages needed to install the bootloader on UEFI systems.  All of my (working) testing has been on Legacy BIOS-based VMs.  I'll get it fixed ASAP.

CentOS 8 New Release Overview

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Fri, 10/04/2019 - 10:18

As you should recall, CentOS 8 came out on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.  On that date they also announced CentOS 8 Stream.  I've had the opportunity to play with it some, do a few installs, see what's there as well as checking the state of the two most popular third-party repos (EPEL and rpmfusion).

What's New?
... a much newer kernel to start with.  EL7 has 3.10.x and EL8 has 4.18.x.  As you may recall, EL8 is loosely based on Fedora 28.  One good thing about having a much newer kernel is that things like username spaces work better and that trickles down into things like podman and rootless / unprivledged containers actually working... whereas they were basically broken in EL7.  A much newer kernel also brings its share of hardware enablement and a bit of legacy hardware being dropped.  Have an older server with a RAID card?  Better check those release notes to ensure it is still supported.  If not, there's a good chance that the third-party ELrepo  repository has you covered.

One oddity at time-of-writing is that cockpit in EL7.7 is newer (version 195) that what is in EL8 (version 185).  I'm guessing cockpit will receive in an update in EL8 in the not-too-distant future putting it in parity or surpassing what is in EL7.

While yum is still there, it's really a symlink to dnf.  I'm guessing most all Fedora users would agree that dnf is more of a pleasure to use than yum.  Speaking of package managers, EL8 now has streams which obviously came from Fedora where it they are called modules from their Modularity project.  Unfamiliar with modularity?  It is a way of providing multiple versions of packages although you can only have one version installed at a time.  Need something older or need something newer?  You decide.  It allows EL8 to still provide the slower changing personality we've come to expect in Enterprise Linux while at the same time accommodating those who might want / need something newer.

I could go on and on enumerating package updates but I'll leave it to those fine release notes.  One last thing to mention is that KDE Plasma is no longer available from the stock CentOS repositories.

Anything missing?
Yes.  At least this early in the release.  There are only two install .iso files to pick from... one being a half-GB netinstall and the other being a 6.6GB DVD image.  There currently isn't a min CD image.  There currently isn't any LiveDesktop media (they only offer GNOME now) .  I believe some of their cloud KVM, vagrant, Amazon AMI, and container images are still in the works as are all of the updates.  While that's quite a bit of stuff, they are working on it and I expect we'll see those things start to appear shortly.  You have to remember that they basically have two full blown flavors now, regular and Stream.

There isn't a livecd-tools package in the CentOS Extras repository anymore and that kind of bums me out because I really preferred to use livecd-creator (historically provided by the livecd-tools package) over livemedia-creator (provided by the lorax package).  I've been trying my best to build a few personal EL8 remixes with livemedia-creator and I have yet to get it to work.  One has to wonder if that is part of the reason CentOS doesn't have any LiveMedia available yet.

What exactly is CentOS 8 Stream?
The gist of Stream is that it is a rolling release.  Wait, weren't minor version upgrades painless and basically rolling in nature... meaning no clean install required, just use your package manager to upgrade?  Yes.  Is CentOS 8 Stream different?  Yes.  Basically rather than waiting for a new .x+1 point release to come out where you have a large number of packages to update all at once, Stream will offer updates to things more frequently, over time during the normal lifecycle of your release.  I'm not sure if Stream will have point releases or not.

Will there be a CentOS 9 Stream release before RHEL 9 comes out?  Will CentOS 8 Stream be easily upgradable to CentOS 9 Stream in true rolling release fashion?  Maybe... probably... but the 8-Ball says the future is currently unclear.  Since we are so early in the lifecycle, there currently isn't much different between CentOS 8 and CentOS 8 Stream.  Obviously there are a number of use cases for Stream and I'm sure the plan for it will be modified over time as needs dictate.  I do have to wonder why much of their goals couldn't have be accomplished with  package streams.  As previously mentioned, with package streams,  newer stuff can be easily and non-disruptively offered.  I'm guessing they have much broader plans for Stream that haven't been articulated yet... or maybe Stream is going to be more disruptive than they want to be with streams.  Oh, and why did they have to use the same word with 1 letter difference?

Third-Party Repositories
I am fairly confident that a significant number of EL users use Fedora's Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) and while EPEL8 is available, compared to the vast numbers of packages in EPEL7, EPEL8 still has a ways to go.  You should recall that KDE Plasma isn't in CentOS proper anymore, but rest assured that it is in EPEL8 Playground.  I believe one thing currently slowing down the appearance of a lot of stuff is the fact that the EPEL automated build system is still being worked on so that it may produce package streams as some EPEL packagers have mentioned that they would prefer to release their stuff via package streams.  We'll have to wait and see how that pans out.  I'm currently waiting on XFCE and MATE to appear in EPEL8 / EPEL8 Playground.  It should also be noted that RPM Fusion has come out with a repository for EL8 where you can find most of the same stuff they offer Fedora users.

In Conclusion
There is just so much to be excited about in CentOS 8 and the addition of CentOS 8 Stream will surely offer a lot of possibilities we haven't even thought of yet.  One additional thing worth noting is that the Red Hat documentation for RHEL 8 (which CentOS mostly points users to rather than trying to also produce rebranded documentation) has undergone massive changes.  Rather than offering the various guides we have grown accustomed to in the past (like the System Administrators Guide, the Network Guide, the Security Guide, etc), the RHEL 8 documentation is task oriented rather than reference oriented.  For example, they have a Configuring basic system settings guide and a Deploying different types of servers guide.  I'm guessing that there is probably quite a bit over of overlap in the material between the two styles of documentation but the newer one will take a little getting used to.  Those who are completely new to the documentation may prefer the new style.

In any event, I really look forward to using CentOS 8 more and putting it through its paces, seeing how Stream evolves, and enjoying all of the new features a new major release offers.  Thanks for all of the hard work Red Hat and CentOS!