Daylight Savings Time Change RedHat 8.0

In the past I’ve never actually changed my time settings on my computer, usually when booting into Linux the NTP (Network Time Protocol) server does the trick. However the local operating system (whether Linux or Windows) usually retains timezone settings in some way. I do not know if the RedHat/Fedora method is consistent with other Linux distributions. My personal desktop is running Fedora, Ubuntu, Windows 2000 and XP – all rather modern software with updates, so I wasn’t the least bit worried. However I seem to have forgotten my PVR (Personal Video Recorder) computer.

In 2004 I built a home theater type PC to play and record digital media (DivX, MP4, MPEG2, MP3, etc.) and set it up with my television and my amplifier. I had made the original draft of the idea in 2003, and even though RedHat 9.0 was available I had built my design on RedHat 8.0. So essentially I forgot about the DST change, until today, when I found out some TV shows were all 1 hour off.

I really did not do any form of investigation on how to fix this. My first thought was that I needed to update the NTP rpm and that would fix it. So I foolishly uninstalled the previous RPM and pulled a RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) source rpm and installed it. That’s when it occurred to me it had nothing to do with NTP. I knew that NTP uses UTC (Universal Time Coordinates), but I wasn’t thinking. So a quick look on the web tells me that timezone data in RedHat is directly handled by glibc. How nice, one of the core parts of the operating system. I wasn’t in the mood to do that much updating. So I followed the instructions provided here. Basically all I needed to do was replace the timezone data filestzdata and restart the NTP daemon.

Worked for me.
Good thing I’m not a server administrator.

Mar 17, 2007: Looks like Jason had the same issue on his Myth box. :-)

Flash 9 Final Released for Linux

Although there is no update on the official Linux Flash Blog from Adobe, it does appear that a final NON-beta version of the Flash 9 Plugin has been made available for Linux.

The release version is 9,0,31,0 (the last beta was 9.0.21.78 on Nov 20, 2006).

So update!!!

Fedora Users: The official Fedora Flash repository has not been updated. However if you pick:
Option 2: .rpm
Download the Flash Player .rpm for Linux

Install it simply with:

rpm -ivh flash-plugin-9.0.31.0-release.i386.rpm

And restart your browsers!

Updates: 1/17/2007:

Both the blog the repository have been updated!

Virtualization and Emulation Choices in Linux

I have a decent computer with a large hard drive. My initial intent was to boot multiple different operating systems (as can be seen by the 6+ EXT3 partitions). However the latest technology hype is the need for virtualization or emulation. In effect, this would allow loading one operating system inside another without any reboot.

I use the term “hype” because the consumer demand (i.e. non admins, non developers, people with real lives) is very low. My personal issue, as is shared by Linux users in general, is often the need to boot into windows for a single website or for developers testing a webpage. Additionally some users prefer to test a new Linux without having to lose their primary system. Not everyone has a convoluted partition scheme like I do.

So I did some hunting (well not much). Being the frugal fedora friendly fellow that I am, I wanted a general purpose low cost solution. The choices I have are VMware Server, Xen and QEMU.

VMware Server

VMware is a professional NON-open source software. It provides virtualization so that the client operating system running inside the server can see the resources of the host directly. This is good.

The good:

  • Full virtualization
  • Free download
  • Provides prepackaged RPM’s
  • Can run Windows inside Linux

The bad:

  • Registration key requires full address, email, phone and other information
  • Not open source, EULA, etc.
  • Known to have problems with system updates

Xen

Xen is an fully open source package for unix-based operating systems. It provides virtualization with support from the kernel.

The good:

  • Supported directly through Fedora
  • Kernel support drastically improves performance

The bad:

  • Requires separate kernel
  • ACPI does not properly work in xen-enabled kernels. Hence no cpu frequency scaling or suspend. (very bad)
  • Some drivers have problems running inside a Xen client operating system.
  • Cannot run Windows on all hardware

QEMU

QEMU is an open source CPU emulator. Emulators have to re-interpret every instruction from the client operating system, hence significant speed loss. It supports various cpu’s including x86, x86-64, ARM, PPC, etc. It has a kernel accelerator module which helps performance.

The good:

  • Supported directly through Fedora Extras
  • Can run Windows inside Linux
  • Can run 2 completely separate architectures together

The bad:

  • Very very slow
  • Kernel accelerator is proprietary with a restrictive license

Thoughts and Concerns

I have not yet tested VMware server because I personally think that the information collected is not worth it. I would rather pay a nominal fee ($10-20) for a key. I have tested WMWare Player (no registration required) which can load virtual machines created in the Server. I found it incredibly slow and some non-trivial setup steps.

I do not plan on bothering with Xen due to the loss in ACPI functionality. I don’t think I want my computer hardware limited just so I can load another operating system with less memory running slower which is already limited due to the virtualization. Some newer CPU’s from Intel and AMD have been reported to support features that will allow Windows to run in Linux in Xen. Of course, obviously will require new hardware. Additionally Xen still has quite a few bugs. Perhaps once it is running smoothly and the hardware becomes standard I will switch to that solution.

So far, I am using QEMU which seems to work well enough. I have tested Windows 98, NT4, 2000 and Fedora Core 3 all with adequate performance. I even once tested FC5-64bit inside of FC5-32bit (3 hour installation and 30 min boot is NOT worth the time) — (there is a Youtube video loading XP on the PlayStation 3 using QEMU). Even though QEMU can be horribly slow it does serve its purpose. I have seen IE6 in Windows 2000 emulated loading pages faster than Firefox 1.5 native in FC6!!!

I have a working solution currently. I am keep a watch on the emulation and virtualization technologies hitting the market. Not having to reboot to test something would be wonderful. My ultimate configuration would be a 64-bit host Linux with a virtualized Windows XP 32-bit and virtualized Linux 32-bit. … The time will come eventually.

Sun Java Changes

Sun has made a significant step for providing users and developers better access and freedom with Java. Sun announced this week they will be open sourcing key parts of Java under the GPL. In effect most users should not see a direct impact on their Java usage, however in the long term Java will have a more widespread usage, subject to fewer problem and more readily available on different systems.

Due to licensing and Sun’s tight control of Java (TM), an open implementation of a Java compiler (GCJ) is being actively developed. Previously any Java developer risked the possibility that an adverse change in policy by Sun could affect their Java development. Although the intention is good, the vast majority of developers still used Sun Java, leaving GCJ very immature. Distributions like Fedora included GCJ, but prohibited Sun Java. However since most GPL software is acceptable in Linux distributions, Java will most likely will show up in Fedora, Debian and others which formerly banned it. At least it should make for an easier installation of Java in Fedora Core!

In other developments, Sun has release the Java 1.6 RC (Release Candidate). Included in the Desktop Features are improvements to the GTK look and feel. Hopefully this should make Gnome Eclipse users happier!

For those who wish to try Java 1.6 along side 1.5 in Fedora Core:

Download the JRE (jre-6-rc-linux-i586.bin) from … Sun Early Access Downloads.

As root:

# sh jre-6-rc-linux-i586.bin
# mv jre1.6.0 /opt/jre1.6
# alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java /opt/jre1.6/bin/java 3
# echo 3 | /usr/sbin/alternatives --config java

# java -version
java version "1.6.0-rc"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0-rc-b104)
Java HotSpot(TM) Client VM (build 1.6.0-rc-b104, mixed mode, sharing)

I don’t recommend testing the web browser plugin (as if Firefox doesn’t have enough reasons to crash). However playing around with Eclipse may be nice to see if you notice any changes!

NTFS No Longer “Forbidden” in Fedora

It appears as though NTFS support in Fedora is no longer considered to be a “Forbidden Item“. A request has been made to include NTFS-3G into Fedora Extras.

This has always seemed silly to me. The kernel has had NTFS read-only support for years. The kernel source shipped by Fedora includes the source to the driver. However someone thought that it violates some rules if shipped in binary format, but not in source. Anyways, it took long enough.

Pretty soon, people will be able to access NTFS partitions out of the box, and if the NTFS-3G works as well as people claim then the read-write functionality should be there also. … I hope.

Update: For people looking for NTFS on Fedora.

New Hardware: 64 Bit

AMD released their first X86 based 64 bit processor over 3 years ago. While the original processors, Opterons, were for servers, the desktop variants, Athlon 64, soon followed. Due to the open nature of the Linux kernel, distributions of Linux supporting the 64 bit architecture were readily (and freely) available before Windows.

In the past year, the Athlon 64 has made its way into laptops and more users are finding 64 bit versions of their favorite Linux distributions satisfactory for their needs. Hence I finally upgraded to 64 bit hardware. My delay in upgrading was primarily due to the common problems faced by early adopters. Often Linux users are hurt much worse than Windows users in this arena.

In any event, the original hardware for the Athlon 64 included features such as AGP 8X Video, Serial ATA (SATA) and Gigabit Ethernet. All of which are no longer considered “new”. The advent of Dual Core Processors, PCI Express and DDR2 Memory has further lowered the cost of older hardware.

I swapped out my previous motherboard (Asus A7V8X-X) with a Asus A8V. And the previous Athlon XP 2500+ CPU (1.8GHz) was replaced with a Athlon 64 3800+ CPU (2.4GHz). This decision allowed me to reuse the 1 gigabyte of Dual Channel DDR 400Mhz RAM and a Nvidia GeforceFX AGP Video Card.

Linux booted up perfectly fine on the first try – all drivers properly detected and there was absolutely no manual changes in configuration required. However for Fedora Core I may need to revisit the required running services. (Windows on the other hand required multiple reboots with uninstalls and re-installs of driver packages.)

I plan to revisit most of my guides and instructions in the next few weeks to address any differences between 32 bit and 64 bit Linux.

Net Neutrality Defeated

In a serious blow to the freedom of the internet as a whole, the US House of Representatives defeated the Net Neutrality vote that would have prevented telecommunication companies from discriminating how and which websites can be accessed by end users. The effects which by far are not exagerated are listed on the It’s Our Net website.

The bottom line is your internet provider (broadband, dial-up, etc) is not restricted from treating all websites equally. For example, if Comcast were to feel a particular website was consuming too much bandwidth, that website can be restricted or possibly taxed. This will undoubtedly effect every website and every web user.

How does this affect Linux? Linux and most open source owes its great success to the ability for any user to access and contribute via the internet. Any company with an agenda or incentive is now able to obstruct that.

As it is many telecommunications companies act as local monopolies, with this new development I can only see further loss of consumer rights and freedoms.

Fedora Core 5 on Dell D810 Laptop

Over the last weekend I installed Fedora Core 5 on a Dell Latitude D810 laptop.

Unlike Jason’s laptop criteria, I basically required a Dell laptop. I wanted the D610, however it was unavailable and I had to settle for the D810. Even though I customized it, I really did not have any control over what hardware specifically would be better for Linux. However one luxury I was afforded was to be able to maximize the provided features.

In fact the only features that possibly would have made a significant difference were the ATI video chipset and Wireless chipset.

On Video: My personal opinion has been the Nvidia GeForce based chipsets on laptops (I’ve used Sony laptops) typically outperform the ATI based chipsets. There was not much option here, however so long as the video RAM was dedicated I was satisified.

I had selected the maximum 1920 x 1200 screen and default open source Xorg driver for ATI seemed a little slow for 2-D drawing and motions. I tested the glxgears for about 150FPS (very slow), however with the very easy install of the proprietary ATI drivers, that was increased to about 900FPS (very acceptable).

On Wireless: This has always been a nightmare in the Linux world. It has improved over the past 3 years since I’ve used it, but too often do new hardware changes cause problems. Regardless the 2 options were an A/B/G device or B/G. I picked the B/G solution since I’ve seen even less success with A based chipsets. The B/G was from from Intel, which Intel does support for linux.

I was eager to try Fedora Core 5’s new wireless tools (NetworkManager, etc) however I was very much disappointed. I was easily able to install the Intel ipw2200 drivers. However the default network tools did not detect my SSID and there were some problems with the connection at first. The NetworkManager caused me to lose the connection and it would not re-connect. In the end I was able to get the wireless working perfectly with a reboot.

I did have 1 minor nuisance with the Dell keyboard. The Wifi Toggle (wireless on/off button) is implemented as a Blue-Function Special Key instead of a physical separate button. As you can guess, I was not able to get that key to work when running Fedora. The syslog kept complaining. Oh well, booting into Windows fixed that. More investigation is needed as I know this should be possible to work.

Other Points

I was very pleased with the Linux performance on this Dell laptop. Virtually everything worked as I expected.

The power management properly support S3 (suspend to ram) and S4 (suspend to disk – “hibernate”) with or without the ATI and wireless drivers. (Same cannot be said of Nvidia!!!)

The harddisk was SATA which worried me at first, but FC5 detected it properly. I even booted with an older CD with kernel 2.6.9 which gave no problems.

The pointing devices were nice also. The touchpad and pointing thumb-stick gave no difficulties.

As a linux laptop, I would highly recommend this laptop. It is a bit bulky and large but since it functions mostly as a “desktop” this isn’t a serious concern. I feel I lucked out with the convenience of installing Linux on this laptop, however I hope my points help people make more educated decisions when selecting laptops.