Firefox 4 for Fedora 14

Wow! That’s a lot of F’s!

Courtesy of Tom ‘spot’ Calloway, install Firefox 4 on Fedora 14 (or Fedora 13):

# su -c 'wget -P /etc/yum.repos.d/'
# su -c 'yum install firefox4'

To run:

# firefox4 &

In Gnome: System > Preferences > Preferred Applications
Change ‘Web Browser’ to Custom, and for Command: firefox4 %s

To remove Firefox 3.6:

# su -c 'yum remove firefox'


Legacy Man

Legacy Man

by Mauriat Miranda
(with apologies to Billy Joel)

It’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday
The regular files are looking neat
There’s an old dev sitting next to me
Trackin’ bugs in his Excel spreadsheet

He says, “Son, can you debug this memory
I’m not really sure how it works
But it’s bad and discrete and I knew it complete
When I wrote a younger man’s code.”

La la la, di da da
La la, di di da da dum

Write us a hack, you’re the legacy man
Write us a hack tonight
Well, we’re not in the mood for an upgrade
And you’ve got it compiling all right

Now John in support is a friend of mine
He helps me debug in C
And he’s quick with a fix or promoting Linux
But there’s some apps that he’d rather see

He says, “Bill, I believe this is boring me.”
As his mouse clicks away through his trace
“Well I’m sure that I could sell iPhone apps
If I could get out of this place”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Now Santosh is a database analyst
Who never has time for his wife
And he’s talkin’ with Louie, who codes like a newbie
And probably will do for life

And the IT are enforcing policies
As the senior devs slowly check nodes
Yes, they’re using an app they call hopelessness
But it’s better than writing new code

Write us a hack, you’re the legacy man
Write us a hack tonight
Well, we’re not in the mood for an upgrade
And you’ve got it compiling all right

It’s a pretty big patch for a testing day
And the managers change the release
‘Cause they know that today, there is nothing I’d say
To cause their process to cease

And the desktop, it looks like a Commodore
And the Microsoft disks are near
And they run all their builds and think bugs are all killed
And say, “Man, how is this workin’ here?”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Write us a hack, you’re the legacy man
Write us a hack tonight
Well, we’re not in the mood for an upgrade
And you’ve got it compiling all right

All-In-One Configuration Tools

As I mentioned previously, I run many sites on my web server. Yesterday I decided to clean up some sites that their owners had neglected or not used. One such site was running Apache Tomcat Java Server, which I did not care to leave running.

Now I, like many users of commercial hosting plans, pay for cPanel/WHM which includes a myriad of options/configurations/settings to do almost everything on the server. Back in 2007, I had used the cPanel Addon to install Tomcat. It was an incredibly easy “1-click Install”. I never checked, but I just assumed it worked. Similarly I thought it would be just as easy to uninstall Tomcat. I clicked “Uninstall” and all went well and I didn’t see any immediate problems. Or so I thought …

Last night the Apache Webserver failed. I did not realize till this morning (6 hours later). After some digging I found that it was because Apache could not find some Tomcat/Java module. So much for a proper uninstall. I did not have time to debug the issue, so what did I do? I simply re-installed Tomcat. I just could not afford any more downtime! … I know, I know: Shame on me!

This incident is like many commonly seen in the Linux world: An all-in-one graphical configuration tool can do wonders, but somewhere due to interaction between components it can causes all sorts of unforeseen problems. The root problem here is that it is incredibly difficult to know all the intricacies and nuances for administrating multiple software systems. Add to that the occasional need to manually edit config files, and you create an unmanageable mess.

Do you remember linuxconf? … Back in the day (pre-2002) Red Hat included a configuration tool called linuxconf which could manage multiple system options using a variety of graphical and non-graphical interfaces. While this worked wonders for novices performing simple tasks (mounting disk partitions, adding users, setting network addresses), it caused all sorts of issues for more complex services (web server, mail server, samba). Unfortunately at that time, there were very few complete comprehensive tools for configuring complex servers. Users who got burned using linuxconf, eventually learned that the only guaranteed way to setup things was to read man pages and documentation, and then editing config files manually.

Redhat did eventually abandon linuxconf with RH8.0. And while many users did complain, ultimately it was a smart decision. Software projects cannot be held accountable if some 3rd-party tool mangled their config files. Even more importantly, how can someone be certain the tool made the change they requested without looking at the config output? You can’t.

Sadly even though I expected cPanel to do its job (considering it is not free), I should have been more careful on a live production server. While I’m not saying that every single “all-in-one” tool is a failure, I am saying that trusting any tool without validation is a very poor choice.

Google Chrome on Fedora

Try out Chromium. Courtesy of T ‘spot’ Callaway:

Using your favorite text editor (as root), create chromium.repo in /etc/yum.repos.d/, with the following contents:

name=Chromium Test Packages

Then run (as root):

# yum install chromium

From spot’s blog:

The packages are i386/i586 only (and the i586 chromium is a bit of a lie, it isn’t compiled with the correct optflags yet) because chromium depends on v8, which doesn’t work on 64bit anything (yet). Also, plugins don’t work at the moment and some of the tab functionality doesn’t work right, but as a general web browser, it seems functional enough. (And, it seems to pass the Acid3 test, which isn’t surprising at all, since WebKit does and Chrome uses WebKit.)

Looks interesting!

Mailing List Permalinks

Currently I am subscribed to 19 mailing lists and there are a handful more that I plan on joining (when I get around to it). The benefits of a mailing list (especially in the Linux world) is the massive amount of useful information that is often shared by developers and experienced users that may not be found elsewhere (assuming you ignore the useless discussions).

I often link to web page posts to mailing lists on this site. For example, anything posted to the fedora-list can be seen at the fedora-list Archives. Or if you have ever read Fedora News this is done a lot!

What I would really like is for a quick method to get from the email in my mail client to the email’s URL at the given mailing list archive. I think of this as some sort of “mailing list permalink”. Since not everyone signs up for mailing lists, I want a quicker way of sharing useful information sometimes buried in the archives.

With the number of mailing lists I use, the only practical mail client is Google’s Gmail, and of course I pretty much only use Mozilla Firefox. So I imagine a Firefox Extension and/or a Grease Monkey script could insert a link into each Gmail message, or perhaps a “Right-Click > Search for this email at the archives” option on the context menu? … Alternatively, I would even consider switching to a desktop email client (Mozilla Thunderbird is really the only choice) if I could install some sort of plugin/extension to do the same thing.

Has anyone ever considered this? Does some combination of software achieve this? I welcome any ideas or suggestions on how to do this. I plan to investigate this further and maybe even start up my own project if I get some time.

Installer Formats and Adobe Reader

While open source PDF readers have significantly improved, many people still use Adobe Reader. While Adobe has had a mixed history of supporting their software in Linux/Unix, recently they have significantly improved.

There is a well written post about installer formats on the Acroread Unix blog. I recommend just reading over the post, even if you do not use Adobe software. They have a simple list of the most popular formats (BIN, RPM, DEB, PKG, TAR.GZ) as well as minor pros and cons of each. The information really is not specific to Adobe.

When software is not open source (specifically when users cannot repackage in whatever format they like), it is good to provide information like this to educate users (customers) who may not be admins.

Evince and Acrobat PDF Form Edits

Newer versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader have provided the feature for users to edit the contents of form fields in a PDF file. Depending on the permissions set by the author of the PDF file, Acrobat Reader will allow or deny the ability to save the file with the form edits in place. The United States IRS has allowed for this functionality in recent years in its official tax forms, which is great for people who might otherwise need to fill out forms with pen. This way a record can be saved entirely electronically.

Adobe in the past has had a hit or miss record of providing up to date versions of Acrobat Reader for Linux. (Although as of late the support has significantly improved). Open source PDF readers have typically missed some feature that Acrobat Reader supported – in this case the form field editing – which is why I still install Acrobat. However the one thing I always forget about open source applications in general is that they often rapidly improve. I just tested Evince (a PDF reader) in Fedora 10 Gnome and sure enough form editing was working fine!

Ever since I have been doing tax forms with PDF files, the nuisance I’ve had was that the State of Michigan Treasury provides their tax documents with editable fields – BUT saving the file is not permitted! Needless to say this is quite frustrating! Acrobat Reader warns the user that edits should be printed since they cannot be saved. I was using Evince when I realized that the application ignores these restrictions and saves a copy of the file with field edits in place. And the best thing: Acrobat Reader will read them and still complain I can’t change them, which is fine since my edits are there already. I was truly impressed with the open source reader, even the PDF alternatives in Windows did not do this for me.

Anyways, I was pleased with the improvements, I have been telling people for the past 2 years that I don’t use open source PDF readers since they have missing functionality! Even though the permission issue was bypassed I will still be writing to the State of Michigan to complain about the restrictions (if you are in the same position as I, please do so as well).

ps. KDE users: I tested Okular as well but the interface was a little quirky when it came to the field editing and I found the application a bit unstable. I will re-test a little later, but the basic functionality seemed to work just like Evince.

Various Linux and Fedora News

A great deal of the following is all old news.

Adobe has has Flash Plugin for x86_64 Linux architecture in Beta since Oct 2008. The only thing, is that since it is provided in a tarball (.tar.gz), you are better off builing an RPM (spec file). Note that the 32bit i386 version still works perfectly with nspluginwrapper.

Similarily Sun has released the Java JRE web plugin for x86_64 archictecture. Installation is the very identical to 32bit. Just make sure you are using Version 6 Update 12 or newer. It only took 5 yrs? Keep in mind openjdk works well for most scenarios in 64bit linux.

A few weeks ago, KDE 4.2 was released. I’m sure its better than the problematic 4.0 and marginally improved 4.1. For some information for KDE 4.2 on Fedora follow Rex.

I was pleased to see Knoppix 6.0 released. Once upon a time Knoppix was THE Live CD everyone used. Now with Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuSE and many other distro’s releasing Live CD’s anyone can really take their pick on what suits them best. Even so, I will download 6.0 and finally replace the Knoppix 5.0 CD that has been travelling with me for the past few years.

Unrelated to any software release, apparently many people have been having issues with the System Bell. For a quick tip on disabling the Fedora 10 system bell. Yeah, that beep is annoying.

Livna troubles: Most Fedora tutorials depend on the Livna repository for software installation. However due to DNS problems Livna has been unavailable. People should wait a few days. Of course it should be noted that Livna was only critical for libdvdcss rpm which is needed to watch DVD’s in Fedora.

Meanwhile on the Fedora mailing list, another whacky thread has errupted. This time: WHY I WANT TO STOP USING FEDORA!!! (yes, it is all in CAPS!). That obviously spawned a bunch of new related threads. While I do read a lot there, that mailing list is getting less useful each day (especially for newbies).

As for me, I’m still quite behind in my email (I apologize if you contacted me). I have not fixed my computer hardware. I know I need to get some updates on some of my Fedora Guides. (Thanks to all the people mailing me hints and tips – I really appreciate it).