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Linux from Scratch: A Cautionary Tale, Part 1

October 30th, 2011 1 comment

And I’m started with Linux from Scratch! Here are some helpful pointers for anyone considering running LFS on their own. Caution: this is highly nerdy and keyworded to hell to hopefully allow your favourite search engine to grab solutions from this post.

Getting Started, AKA: Use a Distribution You Know

LFS needs an existing Linux environment. Don’t try and use unetbootin on the LFS liveCD (I used lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2145-min.iso to get started, but there is a newer revision 2160 available on one of the mirrors.) unetbootin in this configuration is just a bag of hurt and you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get your root volume to work, so just burn a CD.

If I was building LFS again I’d have started from a stable Debian base or other Linux distribution where I’m comfortable and have network access – there are a number of reasons below I suggest this, but you really want your host system kernel to be 2.6.25 or higher.

Make sure to have all the patches from linuxfromscratch.org/lfs/view/stable/chapter03/patches.html are downloaded and in a location you can access from your host distribution. USB sticks are OK for this if you don’t have network access (mount the stick, and then copy the patches and packages to the sources directory). Use DownThemAll or a similar mass downloading application/extension on the patches page to save time and grief.

Watch What You Mount

Augh, out of space! It’s quite possible to mount /mnt/lfs on two partitions at the same time by missing a directory, like this:

$ mount /dev/sdb3 /mnt/lfs
$ mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/lfs

Oops – I missed /boot at the end of the second mount command. To confirm this before copying any files, “mount” should show only one partition active at /mnt/lfs. Since my /dev/sdb1 partition was only 200MB I got to the GCC extraction step and was promptly disappointed. I ended up unmounting everything, recreating the filesystem (mke2fs -v /dev/sdb1) and then remounting (mkdir -pv /mnt/lfs/boot; mount -t ext2 /dev/sdb1 /mnt/lfs/boot).

For more tales of installation havoc, keep reading…

Read more…




I am currently running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for a home server, with a mix of Windows, OS X and Linux clients for both work and personal use.
I prefer Ubuntu LTS releases without Unity - XFCE is much more my style of desktop interface.
Check out my profile for more information.

How to enable reboot/shutdown in KDE on Gentoo

October 30th, 2011 No comments

Yeah… apparently the ability to restart or shutdown your system using a normal user account from within KDE SC is not something that is installed by default. In order to accomplish this you need to compile and install the kde-misc/kshutdown package using the following command from a root terminal:

emerge kde-misc/kshutdown

I also had to create a new file called /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords in order for this to work. Inside that file just put the following text

kde-misc/kshutdown-2.0




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Gentoo, KDE, Tyler B Tags: , ,

Gentoo (A.K.A. “Compiling!”)

October 30th, 2011 No comments

For this version of the experiment I have chosen to try my hand at installing Gentoo. Gentoo, for those who don’t know, or who weren’t following Jake’s posts during the original experiment, is a fully customizable distribution where you have to compile and install all of your applications from source code downloads. Thankfully they do offer some excellent package management tools, Portage in particular, that help automate this process.

Preamble

I suppose a bit of background is the best place to start. During the original experiment I ran Fedora which, while having a whole host of issues of its own, was more or less a straight forward experience. Since that time I’ve dabbled here and there with other distributions, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Linux Mint, among others. For this experiment I wanted a bit of a challenge. I now know the basics, and then some, about running a day-to-day desktop Linux system but I still don’t fully understand all of the inner workings that are going on under the hood. That’s where my choice of Gentoo comes in.

Getting Started

I began by following the rather excellent Gentoo Handbook which thankfully got me to the point where I was able to boot my machine, without the installation media, into a kernel that I had personally configured and compiled. To say that this was smooth sailing probably isn’t accurate, but considering what was actually involved in getting to this point, and how quickly I managed to do it, is a testament to how easy the guide actually is to follow along with.

One thing I would stress to Linux users who may want to try Gentoo and are coming from a more user friendly distribution like Ubuntu is to make sure to get a list of hardware before you start. Run lshw in your Ubuntu (or whatever) install and save the output somewhere. This will show you the list of hardware devices and more importantly the drivers required to run them correctly. I ran into a snag early on where my network card wasn’t working even though Gentoo claimed to be loading the drivers correctly. A quick modprobe later of the driver that was shown to be in use from my earlier install, tg3, and I was back and Internet enabled. Sadly even the lshw output didn’t provide a whole lot of direction when it came to picking and choosing some of the more obscure configuration options for my kernel.

The Challenge

So what do you do when you can finally turn your computer on and boot into your kernel? Well install X I suppose. Unfortunately it was this step that caused me more grief than any of the others. You see apparently you’re supposed to remember what graphics card is in your machine before you try and build a kernel that supports it…

Following along with the X Server Configuration Guide I made it all the way up until the point when I had to specify which “in-kernel firmware blobs” I wanted to compile into my kernel. After, literally, hours of compiling X and then a series of trial and error attempts I finally found a combination that seemed to work. For my own reference the only firmware blob I seem to require is

radeon/R700_rlc.bin

The Wait

I finally had a system that could start X and present me with multiple(!) graphical terminals. By this point I had sunk about ~5 hours into this project. Now it was time to try setting up a desktop environment. My two main choices were GNOME 3.x or KDE SC. I opted for KDE for two reasons:

  1. I hadn’t used KDE 4.x in a couple of releases and didn’t mind it last time I had tried it
  2. I have yet to try GNOME 3.x but since it is quite the departure from the 2.x series I figured I would go with what I know for now and maybe try GNOME 3.x later

Pulling up the Gentoo KDE guide I began my compilation of KDE SC.

emerge -av kde-meta

More than 400 packages needed to be compiled and installed. My system, a Core2Duo at 2.4Ghz and 4GB of RAM, took approximately 24 hours to finish this single process. Gentoo is certainly not a system that you can expect to have up and running in an afternoon if you’re expecting to have a fully working desktop environment.

Miscellaneous

USE Flags are ridiculous. I understand the concept for them but the fact that you have to continuously add to this list in order to compile programs you explicitly told it to install is a bit much. If you don’t know what a USE Flag is consider yourself lucky. For those thinking about installing Gentoo, don’t worry you’ll know soon enough.

Be sure to change the root password and add any user accounts after you chroot into your new installation. Otherwise you’ll end up like me and boot into a system that you can’t log into!

Next Steps

Well I’d like to finish setting up my desktop. I now have KDE installed but there seems to be some missing components that I hope won’t require a re-compilation… I’ll let you know how that turns out. I also need to sort out my wireless card and get that working. But hey at least for now I can browse the web in my new installation!




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Gentoo, KDE, Tyler B Tags: , , ,

Experiment 2.0

October 30th, 2011 No comments

As Jake pointed out in the previous post we have once again decided to run The Linux Experiment. This iteration will once again following the rule where you are not allowed to use a distribution that you have used in the past. We also have a number of new individuals taking part in the experiment: Aíne B, Matt C, Travis G and Warren G. Be sure to check back often as we post about our experiences running our chosen distributions.

Rules

Here are the new rules we are playing by for this version of the experiment:

  1. You must have absolutely no prior experience with the distribution you choose
  2. You must use the distribution on your primary computer and it must be your primary day-to-day computing environment
  3. The experiment runs from November 1st, 2011 until January 31st, 2011
  4. You must document your experience
  5. After committing to a distribution you may not later change to a different one

Achievements

For fun we’ve decided to create a series of challenges to try throughout the experiment. This list can be found here and may be updated as we add more throughout the course of the experiment.




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Linux Mint 17.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.
Categories: Linux, Tyler B Tags: ,