CentOS announces reduced lifecycle on CentOS 8 and Stream Focus

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Tue, 12/08/2020 - 13:49

Regarding CentOS Project shifts focus to CentOS Stream:

My following statements will pigeon-hole both Fedora and CentOS as being a-certain-thing when they are really nuanced and multi-faceted. Fedora is way ahead of RHEL... and RHEL was usually freezing on a version of Fedora and then building on it for a year to a year and a half before it became RHEL and by that time, Fedora had kept on moving with 3 more releases. So while Fedora is (again in a single aspect) the proving ground for new technologies... it led by alot.

CentOS has always been a lagging follower of RHEL... as it rebuilt from RHEL sources and it usually took them time to figure out the build requirements to get as close as possible... as again... RHEL building a distro over 12+ months... different packages had different build requirements because they were made at different periods of time... and figuring those out, in a few cases, can be difficult.

So Red Hat has had a dilemma (from my perspective, I'm not sure if they acknowledge this as being an issue or something by-design) over the last couple of releases.... they have taken longer and longer to have a new major release. I think part of that is because of the large number of changes that happen in Fedora so quickly.

By creating CentOS Stream, RHEL wants to shift from being based on Fedora to being based on CentOS which puts CentOS in-front of RHEL rather than behind... but not very far in front. Fedora still plays a role in being where all of the new stuff gets developed and battle-tested before being integrated into CentOS Stream and then being integrated into RHEL.

My guess is that CentOS Stream 8 won't be that radical and that it will serve the needs of most folks who would like to run RHEL but don't want to pay for it... so realistically, I don't think much is going to change from a user's perspective.

There has ALWAYS been the feeling that RHEL and clones were just too old to run once it was several years into its lifecycle. I mean, out of the gate, it is a 1.5+ year old Fedora release (loosely).  There has always been a significant number of people who wanted fresher stuff in EL and with CentOS Stream 8  they should (maybe) actually be happier... although RH has addressed quite a bit of that issue with AppStreams (aka "modularity").

I also got the perception, although I can't really point to any specific data to support it, that CentOS was overtaxed trying to support BOTH CentOS 8 and CentOS 8 Stream.  Another perception was that EL8 just hasn't had the uptake of previous new releases... and more folks are sticking with EL7 for longer, again without any real data to prove that... but I think it is a fairly common perception on the #centos channel on their Freenode IRC channel.

SL (Scientific Linux) decided NOT to do EL8 because they said CentOS was doing such a good job that they didn't need to duplicate the effort. This announcement changes that, so maybe SL will change its mind. If they don't there is also Oracle EL, which they give away for free, and you only have to pay for it if you want support... although I haven't looked at their terms. If no existing related EL clone picks up the slack, surely one or more communities will spring up to do so. It will be routed around if needed.

Red Hat has also discovered it quite hard to explain the relationship between Fedora, CentOS and RHEL (a Penrose Triangle?)... and I think this change actually alters the relationships in such a way that makes it much more understandable.

Of course there are those who are crying foul... often folks who have called many fouls in the past, many of which have turned out to be inconsequential.  We'll have to see how this pans out, but I'm actually optimistic and think the change can potentially lead to a few unanticipated benefits.  Will I have to eat my words?

For now though, a big THANK YOU to Red Hat and the members of the CentOS community for all of the hard work they have put in in the past and what they'll be doing in the future.  I often tell people I run Red Hat-based distros and some tell me they do not... and I'll take the opportunity to comment on how Red Hat contributes so much to the mainline Linux kernel every release cycle (~9-12% or so) as well as sponsors dozens and dozens of core FOSS projects that are used by everyone... that (almost) everyone who runs Linux, is using Red Hat... just perhaps indirectly.

Video: podman systemd-based system containers with GUI Desktop

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Sun, 11/01/2020 - 17:24

In this screencast I show how to build a podman image using the Fedora 33 base image to include httpd, mariadb, openssh-server as well the XFCE desktop environment with a sampling of desktop applications.  I then make and run a container with the image and show you how to connect to it with ssh, http, and X2Go.  Oh, and I do all of it as a regular user... as a rootless container.  The POWER of podman.  Obviously watch it in full-screen or download. Enjoy!

For information on how to convert a podman container into a systemd service flle that can be managed with systemctl... even as a user service... see this fine video: Managing Containers in podman with systemd Unit Files

Here's a fine article by the master (Dan Walsh) that discusses rootless containers for anyone who might want more info.

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!

Wherefore Art Thou CentOS 8?

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Wed, 09/11/2019 - 15:04

UPDATE: CentOS announced on their twitter account that CentOS 8 will be released on Sept. 24th.

IBM's Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (and I'm not sure if Red Hat likes me putting IBM in front of it or not) was released on May 7th, 2019.  I write this on Sept. 11th, 2019 and CentOS 8 still isn't out.  RHEL 7.7 came out on August 6, 2019.  In an effort to be transparent, CentOS does have wiki pages for both Building_8 and Building_7 where they enumerate the various steps they have to go through to get the final product out the door.

Up until early August they were making good progress on CentOS 8.  In fact they had made it to the last step which was titled, "Release work" which had a Started date of "YYYY-MM-DD", an Ended date of "YYYY-MM-DD", and a Status  "NOT STARTED YET".  That was fine for a while and then almost a month had passed with the NOT STARTED YET status.  If you are like me, when they completed every step but the very last, you are thinking that the GA release will be available Real-Soon-Now but after waiting a month, not so much.

It was also obvious that CentOS had started work on the 7.7 update and the status indicators for that have progressed nicely but they still have a ways to go.  Of course one of the hold ups is that they have quite a few arches to support (more than Red Hat themselves) even though their most used platform (x86_64) had its Continuous Release (CR) repository populated and released on August 30th, 2019.  There is still a ways to go on 7.7 but they are generally much quicker with the point update releases.

Users started complaining on the CentOS Devel mailing list harkening back to an earlier time in CentOS' history where they lagged way behind.  There were lots of responses to that thread, many thanking the CentOS developers for all of their hard work, some name calling, and a lot of back and forth with plenty of repetition.  Everyone understands that it takes a while for a major new release to come out and it'll be done when it is good and ready... however... the main complaint was that the development team (which long-time CentOS developer Johnny Hughes Jr. said numbered 3 people) wasn't being transparent enough given the fact that the wiki pages hadn't been updated in some time.  Johnny Hughes finally explained the reason 8 has stalled:

WRT CentOS 8 .. it has taken a back seat to 7.7.1908.  Millions of users already use CentOS Linux 7.  Those people needs updates.

That totally makes sense, doesn't it?  Everyone was happy with that answer... and I updated the Building_8 wiki page to reflect that by changing the status to, "Deferred for 7.7 work" and adding a note that said, "2019-09-10 According to this thread, work was stopped on CentOS 8 after upstream released 7.7. Since so many more users have CentOS 7.x in production, and no one has 8 yet, priority has been given to the 7.7 update... and once it is done, work will continue on 8."

Someone asked JH Jr. if they could use some help and he said that building the packages was easy enough and there wasn't really a way to speed it up... but testing all of the packages, especially all of the various arches, was a way the greater community could help.  That was a poor summary so if interested I encourage you to read the full thread.

While I'm definitely looking forward to the release of CentOS 8, I understand the 7.7 release takes priority and I now better know what to expect.  As has been said so many times, thanks for all of the hard work devs, it is appreciated.

Civility in a systemd World

Submitted by Putz3000 on Thu, 08/23/2018 - 22:48

Let me just say that I don't really know much of anything about systemd and as such, I'm not even sure I care. I know that people either like systemd or really, really, hate systemd and that there is a very slim slice of global users that don't care one way or the other. I also know that literally everything in life can be turned into a punchline joke if you link it to systemd. You don't even have to understand the specifics of the joke, you just know that if systemd is part of the punch line that you are supposed to laugh. Now after all that, here is the real reason for this post.

I was listening to episode 262 of the Linux Unplugged podcast in which there is a discussion of Benno Rice's BSDCan 2018 keynote called "The Tragedy of systemd."  First, the discussion was really, really good and certainly thought provoking. I would highly recommend listening to the discussion.  It was interesting enough that I had to go and actually find the keynote presentation and watch it in it's entirety.  Remember what I said at the start of this post, I don't really know anything about systemd nor do I know if I even care.  And yet I am willing to say it was a very good presentation.

What I think really made this a good presentation was that Benno discusses the type of impact our public systemd stances can have on a project and on a community (think Linux) as a whole.  So I would like to encourage all of you to listen to episode 262 of Linux Unplugged podcast and watch Benno Rice's BSDCan 2018 keynote.  Who knows?  Even if you don't change your opinion of systemd, you might just change how you publicly use your opinion of systemd.

Years and Years of Linux Journal...

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:25

Update: On Jan. 1st, 2018 Linux Journal published an update on their website stating that they had a new investor that was bringing them back to life.  Long live Linux Journal.

I got an email from Linux Journal today.  It announced that they were ceasing publication because they were broke.

I've been a long-time subscriber.  How long?  Well, I started using Linux in January of 1995... and only found out about the existence of Linux Journal some months after that.  I don't recall the exact month I subscribed but it was probably sometime in late 1995 or early 1996.  Early on they were every-other-month but it didn't take them very long before they went monthly.  I continued renewing my subscription every year... although I think there might have been a few, fairly short, accidental late renewals where I might have missed an issue or two.  Whenever that happened I was sure to check the newstand (aka Barnes and Noble).

I remember early on (1996?) they were based in Seattle... and it just so happened that my family and I would periodically visit Seattle for days and sometimes weeks at a time because my first son was born with kidney problems and the Seattle Children's Hospital was his regional pediatric care facility.  Staying in Seattle for periods of time you look for stuff to do... and I decided to find their offices and pay them a visit.  In those days it wasn't too far from the University district.  On my first visit I was able to buy most all of the back issues that came out before I was a subscriber going back to issue #2.  They had long sold out of issue #1 (dated March 1994) as it obviously had the lowest print run anyway... so I never actually saw a physical issue #1... but I saw all of the rest of them.  I believe I visited their Seattle office at least 3 times.  They had tee-shirts and various other branded items one could buy.  I do remember getting one or two tee-shirts.

I also saw a Linux Journal booth at various Linux-related conferences I have attended over the years.  I was always sure to grab a few copies of the current issue they would giving away to share with my fellow LUG members.

A few years ago they went digital-only (August 2011).  I never missed an issue because they allowed access to all back issues they offered in PDF format... which goes back to issue #132 dated April 2005.  Their last issue was #283 dated November 2017.  I have the bulk of my print issues sitting on a shelf in front of my desk at work.

In the email from today they said that they were unfortunately not going to be able to give  subscribers a refund for any remaining undelivered issues.  That's fine.  I don't even know how many issues were left on my last subscription.  As a parting gift they were able to provide a link to 6 free issues of Linux Pro magazine... as well as a download link for the final Linux Journal Archive optical disc which contains every issue, now including the last one... in HTML format.  That is normally a $25 value.  I downloaded it.  They said the download was good until the end of the year... at that point I assume their website and everything else will be dismantled to stop any additional financial burden on them.

Linux Journal you will be missed! 1994-2017

Video: Recording a screencast within an LXC container

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Fri, 09/08/2017 - 22:00

I took the GUI Fedora 26 container I made in the previous video and decided to see if I could do screencasting within the container.  Seems to work just fine.  I think the microphone would have worked within the container if I hadn't been using it on the host to record the video on the host of recording a video within a container.  Inception all over again.  Enjoy!

Higher resolution / quality downloadable version:
lxc-screencasting-20170908.webm (4m:34s, 35.2MB)

Video: LXC, from Start to Finish

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Fri, 09/08/2017 - 21:14

LXC is a native form of containers available in the mainline Linux kernel for several years now.  Unlike Docker, LXC provides a full "system" container and can even be used for GUI desktop environments.

In this video I show how to install and setup LXC on a Fedora 26 host as well as how to create your first container (also Fedora 26) which is very minimal... and how to build it up via package manager to a complete GUI container including video and audio playback accessed via the x2go remoting protocol that runs over ssh.

I have also made GUI containers of other distributions including CentOS 7, Ubuntu 16.04, Debian 9, and OpenSUSE 42.3... using the pre-made OS Templates shown listed in the video... using their native packages managers, mostly the same packages, and all running systemd and accessible via x2go.

Screencast recorded under Fedora 26 with simplescreenrecorder from the rpmfusion repository.

I did make a few minor mistakes and typos along the way, but making mistakes is how we learn, right?

Higher resolution / quality downloadable version:
lxc-start-to-finish-20170908.webm (34m:19s, 196MB)