boogdesign posts

Longer posts on standards based web design, portable web development and Linux, intermingled with some stuff on my other nerd interests.

Rob Crowther, London, UK based Blogger, Web Developer, Web Designer and System Administrator - read my Curriculum Vitae

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Categories: Linux, Debian / Ubuntu, Fedora / Red Hat, Gentoo, SuSE


09:16:41 am Permalink Fedora Core 5

Categories: Linux, Fedora / Red Hat

I am just now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of one of the worst upgrades I've ever experienced. I downloaded the FC5 ISOs earlier in the week, in CD form because there was a server with only a CD drive I wanted to try installing it on, burnt them all to CD and rebooted. I ran the media check which discovered the first disk was faulty so I rebooted, reburned and checked again - this time it passed. I then went through the familiar Anaconda setup screens and selected my FC3 installation for upgrade. Everything seemed to be going fine until it hit a file that it couldn't read and I was given the options to retry or abort. After selecting retry a few times without any change I clicked on abort and it seemed like the installer just hung - except there was some very busy disk activity, so I let it carry on for half an hour before eventually giving up and rebooting.

I gave all the CDs a good polish and tried again - this time it got past the first disk and onto the second. A few hours later I was able to put the fourth CD in and everything was looking good until another unreadable file was found, retrying didn't work and when I hit abort this time the installer reported an error and quit. I decided I'd had enough of this upgrade and tried to reboot into my old system only to discover that the menu.lst file had already been replaced and all I could boot into now was Windows!

I spent some time trying to repair the situation with the boot disk in rescue mode but it soon became apparent the system was FUBAR beyond my capability to fix it, so I started to transfer all the files off so I could reformat and do a clean install. Meanwhile I started downloading the DVD ISO because at least I could leave that running overnight.

Next day after work I started again doing a clean install, I selected a fairly complete set of packages and set it running before going to bed. In the morning I was horrified to find that, once again, the DVD that passed the media check with no difficulties also contained an unreadable file, which also caused Anaconda to error out when I selected abort. So I attempted one more time, but this time chose a minimal Gnome setup - keeping the packages down to as few as possible - kicked it off and went to work. That evening saw success, of a sort, the minimal installation had worked and I was finally able to log in to FC5, it did look very nice but I'm not sure it was worth the wait! I then began the long process of downloading all the updates and all the other packages I'd tried to install in the first place - in about six hours time I'll have a useable system again.

Moral of the story - don't be tempted by shiny new things when your old stuff is working perfectly well...

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08:50:36 am Permalink SuSE and fglrx

Categories: Linux, SuSE

Spent several hours trying to install the fglrx driver on my SuSE 10 machine last night. Followed this step by step guide as well as the one on the Novell site and finally the one from the ATI site before I finally figured out what the problem was - although I'd installed the kernel-source package, it came from the original installation source and so didn't match my running kernel version. Ran YOU, got everything updated, went back to the original instructions and everything worked although instead of repeating step 9 as suggested, I simply rebooted to get the loaded modules sorted out.

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12:41:14 pm Permalink Debian one more time

Categories: Linux, Debian / Ubuntu

As there's a brand new release out and I have recently acquired a spare laptop and harddrive I decided to try installing Debian once again. The new installer really is a big improvement, the only downside was that I was planning to run KDE and the 'Desktop Install' option puts in Gnome by default - I was assuming I would get asked for my preference, trying to remove Gnome afterwards proved to be too difficult for me, so I've ended up with both installed. Still, this was the first time I managed to install Debian and immediately boot into a graphical environment, no manual configuration of X, so progress is definitely being made!

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12:02:24 am Permalink Upgrading HDDs with Linux

Categories: Linux, Fedora / Red Hat

My major achievement last week at work was adding a new hard disk drive to one of my Linux servers This probably doesn't seem like such a major achievement to many people, but the way I've managed it in the past is to re-install the OS on the new drive and copy stuff across. The last time I tried to add a disk to an existing server I got it badly wrong and got nowhere fast. Of course, I've learned a lot since then...

I have an FTP server at work which runs RH9.0, the /home directory was mounted on an 8Gb SCSI drive though the rest of the system runs off a 20Gb IDE - of course, if I was building it again now, I'd have done it the other way around :) Anyway, the FTP server gets regular use and the /home partition filled up to 99% last week. Deleted a load of old files but that seemed like something of a temporary fix so ordered a new HDD from our suppliers.

I opened up the server and plugged the new disk in (this was something of a challenge in itself with 6 year old hardware, but not an interesting one) and restarted. This was the procedure I followed:

1. First of all, find out if the drive was even found - 'less /var/log/messages' and scroll through until you get through to the most recent boot. I found that /dev/hdb had been detected just fine.

2. Create some partitions - 'fdisk /dev/hdb', I added three primary partitions giving me hdb1, hdb2 and hdb3 (the big one).

3. Format the partitions - 'mke2fs -j /dev/hdb3', of course I could have used some other file system but ext3 seemed the path of least resistance with Red Hat.

4. Create a temporary mountpoint - 'mkdir /mnt/bdrive'

5. Edit /etc/fstab - adding '/dev/hdb3 /mnt/bdrive ext3 defaults 0 0' - not strictly necessary, but can make life easier.

6. Mount the target partition - 'mount /mnt/bdrive'.

7. Copy all the files - 'cp -a /home/* /mnt/bdrive/', the '-a' switch means all the files get their permissions preserved and symlinks get copied.

8. Wait a fair while...

9. Unmount the target partition - 'umount /mnt/bdrive'

9a. To be on the safe side, run a disk check - 'fsck.ext3 /dev/hdb3'

10. Unmount /home - 'umount /home', in my case I stopped a few services running which I knew dealt with files on this partition.

11. Edit /etc/fstab again - this time we need '/dev/hdb3 /home ext3 defaults 0 0', plus comment out the existing /home line or target it at a different mount point

12. Mount /home - 'mount /home' and restart any services, and all done!

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11:14:57 pm Permalink Upgrade to SuSE 9.2

Categories: Linux, SuSE

Because it actually costs money to get the latest version of SuSE I'd decided I wouldn't bother updating it, just download updated versions of things I was interested in. I'd already manually upgraded to KDE 3.3 and found updated versions of some of my more commonly used software (like Firefox) so I was quite happy for a machine I didn't really use that much. Then I bought a Linux magazine with a SuSE 9.2 Professional DVD on the cover and I figured, what the hey?

I booted off the DVD, it went through the usual Linux install environment detection and then started up YaST. YaST duly detected my existing installation of SuSE and asked if I wanted to update it or overwrite, I selected update and off we went. The process took over an hour, though it might have been a bit quicker if I'd been paying more attention because it stopped a few times to tell me it failed to install a package - which required me to click an OK/Cancel requester. I'm not sure this is such a good idea - what sort of state would my system have been in if I'd given up halfway through the install? Why not just carry on regardless and tell me about the failures at the end?

Anyway, it got to the end and then told me about a few package conflicts it couldn't resolve, mostly due to me installing some non-SuSE packages I think, I uninstalled a few things and then did the automatic update, then rebooted. The new framebuffer loader is a bit prettier than the previous one, also a bit more professional looking IMHO (as befits a 'Professional' product). Got to the login screen, which still claimed to be SuSE 9.1, and logged in for the first time to KDE. Everything seemed to be hunky-dory except various important things had been downgraded as part of the install (Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim). I eventually located some up to date Mozilla packages for 9.2, and then found some RPMs for the other important stuff and everything was hunky dory.

SuSE seem to have sorted out the kernel updates (in 9.1 I was having to manually update my Grub menu.lst every time I got a new kernel through YOU), now Grub is configured to boot vmlinuz and that is a symlink to the most recently installed kernel. They also have a nice feature called Patch RPMs - RPMs which have in them only the updated files - which makes downloading updates far quicker than, say, Fedora. Overall I quite liked it, it was a bit more hassle than I remember my last Fedora upgrade being (and definitely more hassle than Ubuntu), but I suppose I'm not upgrading to the latest version in this case.

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10:00:25 pm Permalink Cups-PDF continued

Categories: Linux, Fedora / Red Hat

Just a short note to confirm that I tried this at work - a Red Hat 9 server I have hosting our intranet. I built an RPM from the SRPM available on the Cups-PDF website, which was easy enough once I'd installed a few devel packages through yum. Set up the printer as before and then shared it through Samba (which happened automatically - because Samba is configured to publish all printers). A few colleagues and myself ran some test jobs through and they were mostly successful, one failure occurred with an overly complicated Visio drawing which left Cups spawning Ghostscript processes every few hours which took up all available processor resources, but for converting Word documents it was fine.

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12:24:33 am Permalink Cups-PDF on Fedora Core 3

Categories: Linux, Fedora / Red Hat

I discovered Cups PDF today, it is a 'virtual printer' which allows you to create PDF documents by printing which can then be shared throughout the network, in much the same way as Acrobat does on Windows. This is something I'd tried to achieve before, although last time I was trying to use a shell script I found on the internet combined with a Samba share and it never worked. I downloaded the 'output to home directory' version of the RPM since I ultimately wanted to allow users to collect the results of their printed output themselves. The RPM installation was unproblematic, though there were a few spurious 'user not found' warnings, and I then tried to follow the advice of various howtos on the Internet - basically loadup up the Gnome printer configuration utility, add a new 'local printer' and then select the 'virtual pdf' from the list. Only there was no 'virtual pdf' in the list. I checked and double checked I'd done everything, and I even followed along with the manual install instructions to check the RPM had put files in all the right places, but no option was appearing in the printer utility. I was beginning to suspect this was because the Red Hat printer config utility was different from the Gnome one. After failing to find help through Google I decided to search my fedora-user archives in Gmail and the second thread I found led me to the solution: use the built in Cups configuration utility, which is by default available through a web browser on http://localhost:631 if cupsd is running. Here I clicked on the option to add a printer, put in a name and a description on the next screen along with 'localhost' for location and on the screen after that was a drop down list for 'Device' with 'Virtual Printer (PDF Printer)' near the bottom. Selected, saved, and tried to print through Firefox straight away - the document is created in a folder 'cups-pdf' in my home directory! Now to try it at work...

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