CentOS Pulse #1004 - 8 June 2010
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Welcome to another issue of CentOS Pulse. After the recent release of CentOS 5.5, we can now revert back to the task of hunting down and logging the (inevitable) bugs in RHEL 6 beta -- thereby helping to improve the product which will ultimately provide the CentOS 6.0 sources.
Have fun reading,
This month I interviewed Scott Robbins, who is one of the few people to have been bitten by a giraffe as a child and who used to train protection dogs
First can you say something about yourself? ( Job, where do you live, etc ... )
I'm in my mid 50s and live in NYC ( also in the mid 50s ). I think my official job title is Technical Support/Linux Administrator. In practice, I primarily work with whatever hardware on which we have Linux running and also do some Windows, Mac & network support.
How did you start with *n*x?
Some years ago I decided I was bored with my current form of employment and, as I liked playing with computers, began to get into IT. It seemed as if gaining an MCSE would be the quickest path. Meanwhile, as some of my friends were using Linux, I tried it and found it to be a lot more fun than Windows.
Eventually, I got my MCSE and was fortunate enough to work for a company where the head of IT was a master of various forms of Unix. I began working with him on the Linux and AIX servers. Around that time I also began using *BSD, primarily FreeBSD, and began to bring that into the company as well.
How did you come to be helping with CentOS?
By this time, I much preferred the BSDs to Linux. However, my company was bought up by a large organisation that was completely MS orientated. So even though I believe they would have kept me, at least for a while, I began searching for a new job. I was then hired by my present company but there was no BSD, only CentOS and some Fedora.
When I first began with CentOS, I simply followed the fora, picking up things and did a lot of Googling -- as especially, when compared to the various BSDs, most of the documentation is, errm, not done as well as it could be. Eventually, I began helping others as I became more knowledgeable about the OS.
In the interim, I had my own web pages, in which I attempted to have understandable documentation for various applications. Often, the application itself isn't that complex to use, it's just wading through 10 hits on Google to find the one line you need to use in the configuration file.
Eventually toracat ( through the fora ) asked me to contribute to the wiki, which I then did. Much of it was simply to save people Googling all over the place to find what I'd already found.
What are your main areas of contribution?
As mentioned above, probably documentation, either in the wiki or on my own pages. These days, I simply don't have patience for the wiki -- some of the people feel that if it's not specifically CentOS, that is if it's a third party program, it doesn't belong there. Also, at times, one has to be careful about how something is phrased. Whereas with my own pages, I'm the only one that I have to worry about.
What would you like to do in the future?
I really enjoy documenting things. I get a good feeling when, on a forum or somewhere else, I see that someone has referenced a page of mine and that it has enabled them to use whatever they were trying to use. I also enjoy finally understanding something and then putting up my own page about it.
What are your favourite programs?
I tend to prefer command line applications. For example, when possible, I use mutt for email and w3m for web browsing -- which, these days, becomes more and more difficult. As an aside, an acquaintance once looked at my site and said "You need a web designer." I replied "No I don't, the idea is to enable someone stuck in a terminal to get to my site and find out what they need to find."
Although I confess to being addicted to Pysol's freecell game.
What do you see as the biggest problems with Linux today?
Linux has improved immensely. The days where one took half a day to install it, worrying about frying the monitor if you entered in the wrong specifications, are long gone. However, there is still a great lack of hardware support, though that gets better with each iteration. There are still some applications that are only available for Windows or a Mac, though that situation is improving as well. Frankly, I think that's probably Mark Shuttleworth's doing. His making of Ubuntu to be such a popular distribution has got hardware and application software vendors to begin taking Linux much seriously. I also remember reading somewhere that businessmen tended to take him more seriously than some other Linux folks because he had a proven business success record.
I think Linux tends to frequently shoot itself in the foot -- rather than blaming MS for everything, keep in mind that when you point a finger you're pointing ( stops to count to three ) back at yourself.
It seems to be copying the worst aspects ( nice GUI screens that hide everything ) and ignoring the good aspects -- such as centralized, useful, documentation. Look up something on Technet and it will be clearly explained with useful examples. Look up something in the RH docs and it will usually be spread across 6 pages and often, so superficial, it's almost useless.
Recently, there was a discussion in the Distrowatch weekly comments about OpenBSD. Folks were saying "Oh, they're elitist, they don't have a GUI installer". Others answered correctly, IMNSHO, saying "No, their installer works". They don't need to waste time on writing a new one, preferring to use their resources for more important things. It works, you don't install that often and it's properly documented.
Look at Anaconda -- in RHEL 6 beta it's been crippled. What improvements are there? Text mode is now unable to do custom partitioning. With a spin worthy of Windows Genuine Advantage, they call it streamlined and simplified.
The old one worked. Why change it, especially to make it less useful?
Documentation. Compare the average Linux man page to a BSD man page and you'll see the difference. This is a generalization of course but, overall, the *BSD pages are far easier to understand in many, if not most, cases. In Linux, you have to check man, then info, then /usr/share/doc, and finally Google. It shouldn't be that way.
I could go on with all sorts of regressions or important changes that weren't documented -- or if they were, were hidden in RH's notes. They don't seem to have a good sense of what's important to the user.
For example, RH moved the named files and didn't mention it. CentOS put it in their FAQ. However, with RH, when it was suggested in the bug report that it should be documented, it was answered with something like "Not necessary, you've documented it here". Meaning that an overworked sysadmin will have to stop and Google for it -- probably finding it relatively quickly. However, they shouldn't have to do that.
I better stop before I go on for pages. However, it does seem that documentation should be taken more seriously -- as well as some sort of accountability. Too often, when something simply doesn't work and is questioned on a forum, be it Fedora or whatever, someone will answer "Well, ask for a refund, haha". This lack of accountability is also part of the way in which Linux shoots itself in the foot. If some of these things happened at MS or Apple, the developer would be in their boss' office the next day, trying to keep their job. With Linux, far too often, the developer will say "Oh you should have done ..." and it will something either buried in a document that one wouldn't think to look at or they'll try to blame it on the user.
So, while both hardware and application support are generally improving, the documentation and, I suppose accountability, still needs to improve.
For example, noveau -- yes, it's a great idea. At present, however, it doesn't work with many NVidia cards and with Fedora, for example, it has replaced the generic nv driver. Many people now try Fedora and find that it won't even boot, it will just show them a blank screen. I think that Ubuntu recently had trouble with Intel cards. There seem to be many posts on the Fedora Fora about ATI cards as well. So you've got the three most widely used video cards ( I haven't seen anything sold without one of those three in a while ) with a reasonable chance that you won't be able to do anything ... especially with the Windows/Mac-like defaults of booting into a pretty splash screen that hides everything that's going on.
What do you do if you are not looking at a screen?
I do some martial arts training, on my own these days. As one gets older, the injuries you receive in class take longer to heal. I'm a voracious reader, preferring fantasy and science fiction, as well as well-done mysteries. I suppose that, generally speaking, my favourite sub-genres are urban fantasy ( such as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or Simon Green's Nightside ) and historical mystery.
I do a lot of inline skating, though not as much as I used to. Nothing special like skate dancing, just skating. In NYC, it's also quite useful as a means of commuting.
What is your favorite drink?
Without a doubt, Diet Mountain Dew.
3. Featured Articles
3.1. Fedora 13
For those of you who don't know, Fedora is a Linux-kernel based operating system that brings the latest in free and open source software to your desktop, laptop & server, and gives you access to thousands of different open source applications. This helpful, user-friendly operating system is built by people across the globe who work together as a Community, to create the the Fedora Project. Certain of the best features you will see in the current releases will slowly propagate into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and, hence, CentOS. So looking at the current release will give you an idea of what we may be seeing in the future.
Have you ever tried to use a new printer and been frustrated by error messages and having to hunt for the correct driver to install? With the new easy printing feature in Fedora 13, plug in your printer and Fedora automatically finds & installs the correct driver. This feature allows you to print in many different locations and churn out copies within minutes. It's one of several innovations available in Fedora 13 that will let you take better advantage of your system's hardware.
Colour management helps artists, photographers and designers to display & print their work more accurately -- using 100% free software. Accurate colour output for displays, printers and scanners help you to ensure that the photo you scanned looks exactly the same on screen. And after you touch it up or enhance it, the colours you've chosen are true to how it will print. Colour management provides true colour workflow for illustrators, designers, photographers, publishers and creators of all skill levels.
Want 3D? It has it in completely free, accelerated, video drivers for ATI, Intel and now nVidia graphics controllers. Out of the box you can run a variety of 3D games, enable cool desktop effects and even try out the next-generation GNOME Shell on Intel and ATI cards. For nVidia, just install the mesa-dri-drivers-experimental package using the PackageKit tool. And since these drivers are completely free ( as in cost and freedom ), we can continue improving them like any other free and open source software.
Pretty much copy / pasted from the Fedora Press Kit]
4. In the media
The Top 500 Supercomputer Sites List shows that CentOS is really on the up:
And the 451 CAOS Theory Blog, written by analysts from The 451 Group, have noted it:
5. Tip Of The Newsletter
If you have a good tip or know of a really useful program that you would like to share, please send us an email.
I recently discovered notify-send. This is a tiny program that appears to be installed by default on CentOS machines -- it comes in the libnotify rpm package. So, if you don't already have it, just yum install libnotify.
notify-send (that you can call from scripts or programs) gives you a pop-up notification to tell you when a long-running job has completed or some other event has occured.
notify-send --help gives you the command line options. In its simplest form, notify-send Done will give you a notification box, for 5 seconds, containing the word Done whilst notify-send Hello there will give you a notification box with the title Hello and with the content there.
6. CentOS Errata
This section highlights the most severe security updates for each supported CentOS release, whilst providing a summary and short links to the reference of the security issue.
No critical updates were released in May 2010.
No critical updates were released in May 2010.
The release of CentOS 5.5
7. Jokes and Funny Stuff
8. User Desktops
The following picture is of the desktop of a CentOS user. Please send us your picture(s), if you would like to have yours featured. Of course all machines have to run CentOS to be accepted. Please blur any private content.
9. Upcoming Events
The CentOS Promo Special Interest Group organizes the CentOS presence (booths, presentations, etc) at various conferences and trade shows. Here we highlight upcoming events. If you are interested in helping out, please join the Promo SIG.
We are all gearing up for the LinuxTag in Berlin. If you would like to come along and help, just add yourself to the wiki page. We will also be holding the second CentOS Beer event in Berlin, so feel free to join us.
10. Contributing to CentOS Pulse
We are always on the look-out for people who are interested in helping to:
- report on CentOS community activity
- maintain a (sub-)section of the newsletter
- write an article on an interesting person or topic
- provide the hint, tip or trick of the month
Please see the page with further information about contributing.
Finally if you would like to appear in the newsletter, you will have to have contributed positively to the CentOS community and then, hopefully, be noticed by one of our reporters.