Tag Archives: linux

Fedora 15, initial impressions

I have moved back to Fedora on my primary laptop. And not the stable. I am using the Alpha of Fedora 15. I expect bugs, so I am not going to complain about stability in an Alpha release.

I decided to dump Ubuntu as my primary desktop for a couple of reasons. I think Ubuntu is a more polished desktop, and provides a better user experience over-all, especially for a regular user, and I like its Debian heritage and package system. But I do not like Unity. I am not going to debate it’s pros/cons here it has been done all over the interwebs. I simply don’t like it, and do not think it should be built the way it is. Unity should be built upstream, as an alternative shell to Gnome, not inside Ubuntu’s closed walls, and then customized for Ubuntu later on. Canonical could learn from red-hats previous mistakes and successes in this regard.

I was also very disappointed with the way Ubuntu handled the inclusion of Banshee and with the outcomes from that debacle.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Fedora and I like the community built around it, but I was also skeptical of the Fedora choice to ship Gnome-Shell. So I gave the Alpha a spin.

And I like it. It took a little getting used to, but I moved back to the old gnome-panel interface and I missed the changes now present in gnome-shell. So much that I decided months out from release to stick with Fedora 15 as my primary installation.

I am using this as a desktop, so my comments are really only relevant in that space, but a couple of thoughts.


SE Linux.

Technically SELinux is brilliant. But on a desktop it gets in the way, and the alerts will make no sense to a regular user. After an update I had to set my policy to permissive to simply be able to login again (Not a real complaint, it is Alpha). But until work is done to make the whole thing a lot clearer to non-technical users every howto is still going to start with, “Turn off selinux”. If I build a live respin, I will probably disable selinux on install.


The preferences are sparse, and this is by design, but I think most users, after getting used to the interface, are going to won’t more customization option. For the technically minded people install “dconf-editor”. If you want things a little simpler check out “gnome-tweak-tool“.

But personally, after getting comfortable with the shell, I think it is a better way to work. I like managing my work-flow with dynamic workspaces. A few extra keyboard shortcuts would come in handy.

I also have a usability problem with the notification tray. When there are multiple icons, you hover over the icon, which then moves to display the name of the application. If you need to click on an icon for options it has moved some arbitrary number of pixels away. It is only a little thing, but it annoys me no end. I think rather than shuffling icons, the title could simply be displayed as a pop-op, hint style.

Adding things and customization

Getting things to work with Fedora is just a little bit tricky. 32 bit flash on 64 bit system requires a visit to the wiki. Yum doesn’t process architecture dependencies properly, so whenever an app was only available 32 bit, like Skype, it would take a bit of a forum search to find a solution for installation. And I think that has always hindered Fedora adoption. The learning curve is just a bit steeper than Ubuntu. Sure a visit to a  Fedora FAQ will normally fix you up. but it takes a bit of investigation.

But all that said. I am back on very familiar Fedora soil, and I couldn’t be happier. I will try when writing blog posts to include instructions for Fedora/RHEL/CentOS and Ubuntu/Debian. I work with all of them. But I am a little lazy, so instead there will probably be a mash of howto’s each one on whatever distro the problem I was fixing was based.

Google Chrome theme for Adwaita (gnome-shell)

Update: A much better looking and more official theme is now available in the chrome webstore http://goo.gl/CmRUk

I have been running Fedora 15. It is kinda buggy, (expected it’s alpha,) but I am actually finding gnome-shell growing on me.

Firefox 4 in included, but I still find I prefer Google Chrome, trouble is, it looks out of place on the desktop. I used this site and threw together a quick theme. It’s not perfect, but feel free to download it.

Backup/Restore remote disk images.

There are occasion when backing up data is not enough. You may want a snapshot of your whole system. There are some great tools out there like Clonezilla, which in turn uses partdisk, or Ghost if you don’t mind closed source. But you can do this using tools almost certainly available even in the most minimal of linux installs.
  • The image is easily restorable to the hardware it was created on. If you restore to another computer it will create unexpected issues. Usually fixable by creating a new initrd
  • The partition sizes are fixed and must be restored to a harddrive of equal or larger size.
  • dd creates a byte level copy of your harddrive, empty space is included in the backup. Without gzip a 160GB disk will create a 160GB disk image. With Gzip the image will still be very large.

Backup image to another Linux machine

If you have a Linux workstation with a large enough hard-drive you can simply backup and restore across the network. You will need root access to both boxes. Netcat is also available for Windows and Mac.

1. On the Destination Where you are storing the backup

In this example /dev/sda is the harddrive you want to backup/restore. Make sure you choose the correct harddrive.

 # nc -l 1010 > harddrive.img.gz

2. On the source computer The machine being backed-up

# dd if=/dev/sda | gzip -cf | nc -q 10 xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 1010

Restore image form another Linux machine

1. On the Targe The machine you are restoring to

  • You will need to boot into a live image, I suggest Ubuntu, from USB or a CD.
  • From the now booted, live operating system:
    # nc -l 1010 | gzip -dcf | dd of=/dev/sda

2. On the Source machine The machine with the image saved

# nc -q 10 xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 1010 < harddrive.img.gz

Unwanted accessibility icon in the panel

The other day I used a dbus command from the terminal, next thing I have an accessability icon in the panel. I didn’t want it and I couldn’t remove it.

Turns out it is not an uncommon complaint: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1013344

There are a heap more threads like this online.

Basically the option is hidden away in the Keyboard preferences.

See: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/GNOME_2.28_Changes#Universal_Accessibility_Icon_Stuck_in_Panel

Streaming divx movies to Xbox 360 with ushare

The Ubuntu repos have a upnp streaming server included in them called ushare. Install this:

# aptitude install ushare

And run it:

# ushare -x -c /directory/containing/media

-x: Xbox compliant profile
-c dir: Location of media

This works straight away, the problem is that even though the xbox can decode and play .avi files, it will not attempt to play them when streamed from ushare because of the mime type they are presented as. But we can recompile ushare to make it work

Continue reading Streaming divx movies to Xbox 360 with ushare

Ubuntu, DHCP and hostnames

I just worked out that Ubuntu won’t set the hostname according to what is returned from dhcp. This makes sense in some ways, but I was deploying a VM template and I wanted the hostname set by dhcp.

I am not using network-manager in the following examples. And honestly network-manager only makes life easier on a laptop, or desktop when operating wirelessly.

Make sure your network interface is set to dhcp, as network-manager is installed by default the relevant line may be commented out (also if your not using it, purge network-manager from your system). The relevant entries from my /etc/network/interfaces:

# The primary network interface
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

Add an script in /etc/dhcp3/dhclient-exit-hooks.d. It should check if GDM is running, as after it has started up you should not change the hostname. My script read as follows:

# If you want to enable this script, change SETHOSTNAME to "yes"


if [ "$SETHOSTNAME" = "yes" ]; then
	if test -r /var/run/gdm.pid && ps -ef | grep $(cat /var/run/gdm.pid) | g
rep -q /usr/sbin/gdm ; then
	echo "$(date): GDM running, not changing host name"
		hostname $new_host_name;

That should be it. Though you may need to remove some incorrect entries from /etc/hosts, and remove /etc/hostname if the file contents are wrong.