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

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Category: Gentoo


03:25:44 pm Permalink pam-login and shadow on Gentoo

Categories: Linux, Gentoo

I have a small partition on my work laptop on which I have installed Gentoo. Most of my work stuff requires the use of windows so it doesn't get used that often, but yesterday I decided it was high time I got everything up to date. I ran an 'emerge --sync' and then an 'emerge -uDp world' and saw that pam-login was blocking shadow. So I did an 'emerge -C pam-login' and then checked again and everything was fine so started the update process and left it to update. The problem was that, because I'd left it so long, there were 400 odd packages which needed updating, including some fairly hefty ones such as X and KDE, so by the time I was ready to go home it was only at about the 68th package. I cancelled the update and shut the laptop down so I could take it home and re-start the process the next day.

I arrived the next day and tried to set the laptop to updating again but I found it booted up and then hung at the point where I should be logging in. I thought at first I'd maybe left KDM in an untenable state, but none of the virtual consoles were available and I couldn't connect via SSH. I did a bit of research into pam-login and discovered that it contains the '/bin/login' executable, except that now, of course, that binary comes from shadow instead. Unfortunately shadow is the last package that gets installed as part of the update (at least it was on the more up to date Gentoo machine I compared it with), so stopping the process part way through meant I was missing this rather important component.

The solution is easy enough - I downloaded the latest minimal install ISO from the Gentoo website, booted up from that on the laptop and then used the chroot instructions from the Gentoo Handbook to get back into my system. A simple 'emerge -u shadow' solves the problem after that. Morals of the story are:

  1. When you remove a package for dependency issues, check what it does first
  2. Trying to upgrade over 400 packages in one go is probably not a sensible strategy, next time I'm going to break it down a bit into functional groups (though next time, I might not wait so long before updating...)

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01:18:54 pm Permalink Trying again with Gentoo

Categories: Linux, Gentoo

Since both my laptop and my 'spare' laptop were running the same distro (Ubuntu) I decided there wasn't enough variety in my life so I've installed Gentoo again, this time on the 'spare'. The documentation is still excellent but a few steps were missing: pcmcia is not enabled in the default genkernel config, so I had to recompile it a couple of times, first to get the pcmcia support enabled, and then again to get the drivers for my WLAN card. I found the following genkernel command line handy:

genkernel all --install --no-clean --udev
 --gensplash=emergence --menuconfig

The '--no-clean' means just the additions get compiled rather than recompiling everything from scratch. In total it took about five hours to get something which would boot with networking and framebuffer. Right now it's busy compiling X.Org.

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05:36:18 pm Permalink Ubuntu replaces Gentoo

Categories: Linux, Gentoo, Debian / Ubuntu

I've given up on Gentoo for now, more due to my struggles with the default configuration for Gnome than anything else (gconf schemas up the spout after I changed the X keyboard). Since I was taking the laptop on holiday I wanted something which required a bit less maintenance. I first installed Progeny Developer Edition, which looked quite nice and installed easily enough but seemed to be lacking in recent updates. I then went for Ubuntu instead and, as with my previous experience installing on a laptop, it installed very easily and it was then very easy to get everything else I wanted on. Only thing I'm missing from Gentoo is my Toshiba laptop utils to let me run the fan the whole time while I'm plugged into the mains.

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06:28:44 pm Permalink Gentoo Re-visited

Categories: Linux, Gentoo

OK, so I chickened out and downloaded some 'pre-built' Pentium III ISOs for Gentoo, re-formatted drives and started again. This time I got a useable system up and running (PCMCIA WiFi card automatically detected and configured), then I stole this XF86Config file and had X up and running. Built Gnome (by entering 'USE="bindist" emerge -k gnome' - easy) and got it to boot into that by enabling the GDM service on boot. Enabling services is done through the 'rc-update' command, which is way easier than all the messing around with run levels on Red Hat, but I also miss all those handy graphical setup utilities that you get by default in RH.

Now to install applications, which is a bit on the slow side. Managed to get ALSA installed and working, but haven't got XMMS to install yet, also got GIMP installed but Open Office, after spending about 12 hours compiling, crapped out with an error. Having another go with Open Office now (emerge --resume), but I suspect I won't know if it works for a few hours yet. Will have to have another go with XMMS because liteamp doesn't seem to stable to me (managed to crash it by pressing play when there wasn't an item in the playlist).

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10:10:42 pm Permalink Gentoo

Categories: Linux, Gentoo

Decided to give Gentoo a try, since the graphics looked so sexy on the cover disk of a recent Linux magazine. This distro is designed to be compiled from source, the theory being that you end up with a perfectly customised and optimised system. It also has a FreeBSD-style software installation system called portage, since the installation system was one of the things I really liked about FreeBSD I thought it would be worth a go. Also, my laptop, being essentially the same as my work laptop except lower spec, was largely superfluous, so worth experimenting on. Downloaded the 'minimal' live ISO and spent a day following the instructions to get a basic system installed, creating and formatting partitions and building my own kernel and so on. It seemed to go OK apart from being unable to install GRUB (didn't like my BIOS I think), but I got LILO to work. Of course, once I booted it up it was kernel panics left, right and centre as I discovered I'd built modules that were incompatible with the PCMCIA support. Built X and Gnome, but didn't manage to get them running :(

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