Google Apps for Domains

I spend way too much time and effort tweaking my SpamAssassin settings on my server just so I can get my email and spam situation manageable.

Anyways, I’m getting sick of the trouble so I am trying out Google Apps for Domains. This allows me to use my own domain name, but using Gmail for email and other Google web based applications (such as “Docs” and “Calendar”) all for free. It is basically the whole set of Google applications made to work from your own domain. The best part is that it can be configured to work without interfering with your actual website. So you can still run your blog, web page or forum.

There are some significant benefits since Google is managing a lot of the software on their side.

Email
In Gmail I can create easily email address aliases or use “subadressing” without messing with things like CPanel or Exim. This is very useful for mailing lists among other things.

Calendar
Even though Google Apps was designed for multiple users, it is just affective for a single user. The Calendar feature can be used online or it can be made to work with desktop applications like Evolution.

Setup
If you want to use this free service, all you need is a domain name (you don’t necessarily need hosting). I was a bit hesitant to mess my main server, so I decided use my unused mjmwired.com which I have through 1and1. Google does a very good job providing information for configurations through some of the most popular domain name providers. Using 1and1 config options, I can redirect subdomains such as mail.mjmwired.com directly to the Gmail login for my domain.

Google Apps for Domains can be used for individuals or even communities or groups (of up to 50 people) for free. The enterprise options provide even more features (at a cost). If you ever considered trying it out, it is not too expensive to get a $7 domain name and the setup takes merely a few hours.

So far I’ve found it quite convenient, and I might migrate further to Google Apps in the future. Even though I too have my reservations about Google’s Privacy issues, this feature is too nice to ignore.

Xine Crashing in Fedora 10

If you are using Xine from RPMFusion and experiencing crashing immediately after loading in Fedora 10, it is probably due to this bug.

Quick work-around is to use Alsa instead of PulseAudio. Open a shell and launch Xine as follows:

[mirandam@phoebe ~]$ xine -A alsa

To make this setting stick, do the following:

Right-Click in the Xine window > Settings > Setup….

In the gui tab, change the Configuration experience level to Advanced, then hit Apply at the bottom of the window.

Next go to the audio tab, change the audio driver to use to alsa, hit Apply, then close the window.

Restart Xine and the problem should no longer occur.

Fedora 9 Update and Nvidia Update

It was announced in August that the Fedora Project suffered a security breach. As a result after a certain date, all software updates were disabled. As of recently, the updates were enabled with new signatures in place.

I recently updated my Fedora 9 32bit (i386) installation. The last time I updated my system was the last week of July, before the security announcement was made. The following are the steps I took to complete my update.

First I ran:

yum update

This listed very few updates, however I saw the following error:

--> Finished Dependency Resolution
kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686-173.14.12-3.lvn9.i686 from livna has depsolving problems
  --> Missing Dependency: kernel-uname-r = 2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686 is needed by package kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686-173.14.12-3.lvn9.i686 (livna)
xine-lib-extras-nonfree-1.1.15-1.lvn9.i386 from livna has depsolving problems
  --> Missing Dependency: xine-lib(plugin-abi) = 1.24 is needed by package xine-lib-extras-nonfree-1.1.15-1.lvn9.i386 (livna)
Error: Missing Dependency: kernel-uname-r = 2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686 is needed by package kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686-173.14.12-3.lvn9.i686 (livna)
Error: Missing Dependency: xine-lib(plugin-abi) = 1.24 is needed by package xine-lib-extras-nonfree-1.1.15-1.lvn9.i386 (livna)

To resolve it, I just did:

yum remove kmod-nvidia xine-lib-extras-nonfree

This removed:

Removing:
 kmod-nvidia                      i686   173.14.05-4.lvn9  installed   0.0
 xine-lib-extras-nonfree          i386   1.1.12-1.lvn9     installed   1.2 M
Removing for dependencies:
 amarok-extras-nonfree            i386   1.4.8-1.lvn9      installed   376
 kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.4-30.fc9.i686 i686   173.14.05-3.lvn9  installed   7.5 M
 kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.6-55.fc9.i686 i686   173.14.05-4.lvn9  installed   7.5 M
 xorg-x11-drv-nvidia              i386   173.14.05-1.lvn9  installed   7.0 M
 xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-libs         i386   173.14.05-1.lvn9  installed    17 M

I knew that a new repository would be configured, so instead of downloading any updates from the previous repository, I just ran the following:

yum update fedora-release

After that, I did the actual update (the “yes” option -y is recommended considering the amount of updates):

yum -y update

This listed, for me, 35 new packages, 443 updated packages and 2 packages to remove – for a total download size of: 991 MB !!!

After the download completed, and before the actual installation/update occurred, I saw the following (which is what is expected):

warning: rpmts_HdrFromFdno: Header V3 DSA signature: NOKEY, key ID 6df2196f
Importing GPG key 0x6DF2196F "Fedora (8 and 9) " from /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-fedora-8-and-9-i386
Is this ok [y/N]: y

After all the updates were installed, I fixed the xine-lib-extra-nonfree update issue (basically adding what I had previously removed). The following ran with no problems:

yum install xine-lib-extras-nonfree amarok-extras-nonfree

NVIDIA Driver Issue

When trying to update/install the Nvidia binary driver using yum:

yum install kmod-nvidia

The same error from above persisted:

--> Finished Dependency Resolution
kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686-173.14.12-3.lvn9.i686 from livna has depsolving problems
  --> Missing Dependency: kernel-uname-r = 2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686 is needed by package kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686-173.14.12-3.lvn9.i686 (livna)
Error: Missing Dependency: kernel-uname-r = 2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686 is needed by package kmod-nvidia-2.6.25.14-108.fc9.i686-173.14.12-3.lvn9.i686 (livna)

Apparently, this problem is due to Livna build system being down. The following is the recommended alternate solution:

yum install akmod-nvidia

Then you just need to reboot and you are done!!! (This is already required due to the new kernel).

However I ran the following to test the akmod system. This is OPTIONAL as the following will automatically happen after rebooting:
First Identify the newest installed kernel:

[mirandam@charon ~]$ rpm -q kernel
kernel-2.6.25.6-55.fc9.i686
kernel-2.6.26.3-29.fc9.i686

Create the proper matching kmod files for that kernel:

[mirandam@charon ~]$ sudo /usr/sbin/akmods --kernels 2.6.26.3-29.fc9.i686
Checking kmods exist for 2.6.26.3-29.fc9.i686              [WARNING]
Building and installing nvidia-kmod                        [  OK  ]

Then I was done. Every step worked for me to bring my Fedora 9 system up to date. I rebooted and the akmod detected I had already created the necessary kmod files.

I should have done all of this earlier. For more help and issues, please read:
https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Enabling_new_signing_key

I am glad that issue has been resolved.

Fedora 7 Review

I have been using Fedora 7 for 2 weeks now and feel I’ve setup and configured almost all of the software and hardware as I would like. The following are my observations and assessments of this release.

Installation: Media

Many people have complained that the methods for installing Fedora 7 (F7) were poorly thought out. There are 2 types of ISO’s available for download: Live Images and basic DVD Installs. The Live Images boot to a useable instance of Fedora in memory and provide a method to install the contents of the disk onto the drive. Similar to Knoppix and Ubuntu, but new for Fedora. The DVD install contains the basic set of software and is identical to previous releases.

There is however one major caveat: If you wish to install by CD-ROM you must use a LiveCD. Previously releases provided a multi-CD set which was identical to the contents of the DVD. This has been discontinued. Hence if you have installed via CD you will have to download a great deal more independently and a further limitation is that you cannot upgrade via Live Image.

To make matters worse the forums and mailing lists are flooded with people complaining about the inability to boot or improper detection of CD or DVD drives. I destroyed 1 DVD-RW and 2 DVD-R before I got K3b (in F7-Test release) to burn correctly. Even worse, the DVD kept “disappearing” during the initial steps of the install. However eventually it did finally make it all the way to installing.

Installation: Package Selection

Anaconda (Fedora’s installer) has not significantly changed since Fedora Core 6. The most significant change in F7 is that is merges the 2 main repositories: Core and Extras into one. That being said, one might expect significantly more software available on the DVD media. Quite the opposite, the DVD contained significantly less than previous releases (more later). I followed my common package selections and performed the install.

I was thrilled to find NTFS-3g included in the package selection. It is great to see NTFS read and write support out of the box – considering countless users dual-boot with Windows.

While I personally do not need an “Install Everything” option, I am greatly disappointed with the lack of any form of Disk Space Usage indication. The installer does count the number of packages (~1100) but that does not help much. In the end I installed about 4.0GB of from the 2.8GB DVD.

First Boot Startup: Smolt

Like previous releases, F7 does several setup steps upon the first boot. The most notable addition is the ability to use Smolt to provide Fedora developer a snapshot of the hardware details of your machine. While this may appear to be a privacy issue, I have seen many users on forums provide their smolt-id to help diagnose problems. This is incredibily better then having to ask for lspci output and similar redundant questions. The first boot has this disabled but does strongly encourage users to submit the information. While I have no personal problem with this, I wish more people with low-end systems would use Smolt!

Software Setup: Desktop

I logged into Gnome (default in Fedora) and went first to the terminal to begin my software customizations. I find it very annoying that the terminal has yet again been moved! This time again from “Accessories” to “System Tools”.

Other than the new background the only major attention grabbers were the login animated logo screen has been removed and the “Fast User Switching” shows up in Gnome. I should mention that this functionality has been in KDE for quite some time. The silly thing about it is that I only have 1 main user. Why would I want this enabled? It only shows my name. I added some other users but depending on how you add them it may have problems. For example: I manually added “User” who cannot login (set shell to /sbin/nologin), I do not think that account should show, but it did. Is this a “lets copy someone else without thinking things through”-feature? I don’t find much use for it.

One new feature included is the automatic creation of some commonly used directories: ‘Documents’, ‘Download’, ‘Mail’, ‘Music’, ‘Pictures’, ‘Public’, ‘Templates’ and ‘Videos’. By design if you delete them they come back – a feature by the name of xdg. The irony is not they come back but that no applications use them! Firefox downloads by default to the Desktop and not Downloads! Similar behavior can be seen in Multimedia applications and Mail applications.

Firefox 2 – while it really is not that new, Fedora Core 6 only had version 1.5 with no support for FF2. The disappointment I have with FF2 in F7 is that it kills my CPU. My Athlon-64 throttles the CPU from 1Ghz to 2.4Ghz (I use the CPU Frequency Scaling Monitor in Gnome). The problem is that EVERY SINGLE PAGE LOAD spikes the CPU to max 2.4Ghz – JUST to load the page. This happens for simple sites as well and also when I’m scrolling in FF2. I never saw this behavior in FF1.5 (or for that matter with FF2 in Windows). The browser seems to get worse with more tabs. I do not know if I should blame Mozilla, Fedora or GTK/Cairo/something-or-other-widget – either way I am very disappointed in the performance.

Included Software

Considering the 2 main Fedora repositories Core and Extras were merged, there was not a considerable amount of new software included on the DVD. The inclusion of NTFS was nice, and KDE users would be happy to see Amarok included. But for the most part a great deal of default software was removed. Many of the compatibility libraries and related software were removed. I manually had to install: Vim X11, Thunderbird, GFtp, X-Chat and K3b. These were all previously included in Fedora. Why the change? While some exclusions are minor, I was surprised to see K3b removed from the installation media. This is a highly polished CD/DVD writer application.

Of all the exclusions on the default install, the one that will NOT be missed was Beagle. This is the (clumsy and quirky) desktop search application which consumes unnecessary CPU and Disk, but yet fails to work really well.

System Changes

SELinux: Security Enhanced Linux
While not a major change some new utilities were added to better support SELinux – namely the SE Troubleshooter Applet. At first I found it helpful and used some of its reports to “fix” issues with files or options in SELinux. However the problem with it is that after a short time of using it, I became overwhelmed with the amount of warnings it provided. Many for things I did not realize I was running and many for very minor things that should not be restricted. An annoyance was that many times when I followed the “recommendation” to resolve the issue, it had no effect. Even though I always end up disabling SELinux, I was hoping this would help me leave it enabled. However it only re-enforced my opinion that I’m wasting my time with it.

YUM: Software Installation with Automatic Handling of Dependencies
A significant improvement was made to YUM. The time it takes to perform software installations (# yum install package) was reduced. It made the “yum experience” much more pleasant. However I was greatly disappointed to read that this comes with the price of higher system resources. Luckily I use YUM sparingly and keep track of every package I install.

Memory Consumption – I cannot be sure if this is the result of Fedora 7 or whether or not I had a memory hog running in Fedora Core 6 – BUT my memory consumption is incredibly lower in F7 than FC6. A few hours with F7 leaves about 1GB used and 1GB free (that’s free NOT cached), whereas the same time period in FC6 would leave about 1.9GB used and 100MB free. I don’t know the culprit, but with the exception of VMWare installation I have everything I had in FC6 installed in F7. Odd, but I’m not complaining.

Hardware Support

The news surrounding the release mentioned notable improvements in wireless. However I am not able to test this. The biggest change I found was in the handling of drives. I do not know if it is related to the new libata features in the kernel, but countless people have problems with their CD-ROM’s or DVD-ROM’s – many during the installation (considering that FC5 and FC6 worked correctly on the same hardware). There are some reported issues with partitions and RAID system, etc – however I did not run into these either. While I had problems with the DVD-ROM I was able to resolve it. … As an opinion/comment – I am curious why so many more hardware quirks showed up with this release? Kernel? Library? Well, something new seems to be causing regressions – one of my greatest frustrations with Fedora in general.

ACPI – Power Management
Some improvements and changes were made to power management that would affect how Fedora handled Suspending and Resuming. While the changes are supposed to improve the experience for more people, some previously working suspend/resume functionality maybe quirky. At first I thought I was immune to this. I tested S3 – Suspend to RAM and it worked (with Nvidia) and S4 – Suspend to Disk failed (as expected with Nvidia). However after only a few days with suspend my USB system stopped resuming correctly at random times! I was forced to manually remove USB modules/drives using and reload them using modprobe. I thought I had seen the end to this in Fedora Core 4!

Conclusion

I think overall the installation was the worst part of Fedora 7, everything else seemed simple enough to work around. While I do feel a marginal speed improvement in the general feel of the operating system, I do not feel like there was a notable improvement over Fedora Core 6. The improvements to some applications such as YUM are welcome, but they really cannot excuse the new quirks (i.e. ACPI).

My basic view of improvement when it comes to a new release is that it should take less time to setup everything and that setup should be done with more ease. In this case that did NOT happen.

Unless there is some immediate need for something new in Fedora 7 (which does not apply to many people), I think people should either wait to upgrade from FC6 or just hold off for Fedora 8. In the meanwhile Ubuntu or OpenSuse look nicer everyday. I do not mean to dismiss the great deal of hardware put into the infrastructure for Fedora, but frankly this release just lacked some much needed quality.

Fedora Core 6 – 64 bit

After hearing many complaints about trouble using Fedora Core 6 with a 64 bit processor, I decided to test it myself. For the most part almost everything is identical however there were some issues I found. I decided to write a mini-guide with some notes and tips for 64 bit.

Personal Fedora Core 6 64 bit Notes

The only seriously confusing problems I had was with the co-existing of both i386 and x86_64 libraries and packages, commonly referred to as multilib. The rpm command is improved when adding:

%_query_all_fmt         %%{name}-%%{version}-%%{release}.%%{arch}

to the file: /etc/rpm/macros

I noted that having duplicate libraries and applications did make the installation a bit larger, apx. 0.5GB. While this isn’t very large, I could not figure out what was the reason that some 32 bit apps are included while others aren’t.

The 64 bit Firefox did not load the 32 bit browser plugins, so I removed Firefox.x86_64 and installed Firefox.i386 this allowed the browser plugins to work correctly.

Additionally the Nvidia driver installation had some yum problem due to some 32 bit dependencies. I removed those and that problem was resolved.

I currently have a power management problem with kernel 2.6.20-1.2933.fc6 x86_64 as my desktop won’t properly suspend (mode S3).

In conclusion I found the multilib to be such a nuisance. I would consider switching entirely to 64 bit if there was perfect 64 bit support for everything. In that I mean if there was absolutely no need for any 32 bit parts. I didn’t notice a significant speed increase and I am not aware of any major benefits I’m losing by staying with 32 bit Linux.

Curious Multimedia Dependancies

The jokes made about confusing Linux dependancies may at times seem funny, but they reflect a sad truth. After my previous complaint about gui nuisances in Rythmbox, I installed of copy of FC6 – 64bit to a spare partition. Following my own FC6 Guide, I came upon the MP3 section.

Adding MP3 support to Rythmbox (GTK based GNOME media player) requires:
yum install gstreamer-plugins-ugly
This downloads 7 packages which are less than 1MB and most come from the Livna repository.

However the popular MP3/media player in KDE, Amarok, is not included in the distribution so when you install it your yum command will look like:
yum install amarok amarok-extras-nonfree
This pulls down 26 packages totalling 31MB!!! However 18MB alone are for the single Amarok package.

The funny thing was near the end of the yum download list:

Updating for dependencies:
 libgpod           x86_64    0.4.2-0.1.fc6   updates     202 k
 rhythmbox         x86_64    0.9.8-1.fc6     updates     4.0 M

So basically installing Amarok with MP3 plugins will require you to install Rythmbox — a totally unrelated media player.

At first this may seem confusing but the real reason for this is the dependancy on libgpod which is a helper library to interface with your iPod. Since amarok requires libgpod as does rhythmbox, an update to libgpod will pull down an update to both media players. While this isn’t very confusing if you take a moment to think about dependancies, it would make someone wonder why they have a GNOME media player when they only use and install KDE applications.

At first I thought it was curious. However most Fedora users know that it is pretty rare to live without any GTK or GNOME apps on their computer. Even if they entirely prefer KDE.

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. :-)

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.