CentOS Server and Desktop Updates

I’ve been using my previous hosting provider (PowerVPS) for over 10 years now! They had incredibly reliable service so I never switched. But for the past few years so many smaller companies have been providing much more competitive options. However I was just too lazy to make the switch.

Just for fun: the last tweet by @PowerVPS was to me from the last time I purchased a server from them!

The mistake I made was setting up a server with CentOS 5 instead of 6 at the time. So now, almost everything is way out of support.

I decided I did not need all the features a full VPS with CPanel provided (primarily a full web based administration tool and countless plugins). I know I have enough experience just to setup the critical things I cared about. After some research I decided that Linode (*) was the best balance of price and features. The best part was I could pick a clean minimal install of the latest version of CentOS!

So it took me about 2 weeks to get everything working and I still have some sites to migrate but for the most part I’m very happy with what I’ve got working. I fully intend to write up a lot of this stuff and share it.

  • All server software is from up-to-date binary packages from reliable repositories. (No more manual compiles of Apache, etc. just to be current)
  • I switched all my site development code to be deployed through a combination of ssh and git (more on this later)
  • I have fully switched over to secure sites! Have https on almost everything! Courtesy of Let’s Encrypt
  • Everything runs so much faster and smoother than I ever had in the past 5 years!

On the desktop side, I finally switched my main Linux desktop to CentOS 7 – a whole year after I intended to do it. But that really is a good thing since my CentOS 6 setup was so solid that everything worked. I was just getting tired of not being able to try out new software (more on this later). I did update to Windows 10 as well and have been playing with the Ubuntu Linux system embedded in Windows, and I must say I’m really impressed (more on this later as well).

So I’m ashamed that I stated over a year ago that I would resurrect this blog! But a recent kick in the pants finally got me working on cool stuff that I’ve always enjoyed. Greatly looking forward to writing up a lot of the stuff I’ve been working on!

(* Linode is a referral link)

Resurrecting my Linux Blog

The last 4 and half years had left me with no spare time to pursue my interests in all things Linux. Recent career choices have given me the breathing room to change that. I intend to bring up my site back to what I’ve always wanted it to be: useful to me and hopefully useful to others.

Lots has changed in the linux and open source world, but even so I’ll slowly start contributing again. (I’m really rusty)

To the countless people who have emailed me and I never replied, I am truly sorry. Thank you to all those who have sent private words of encouragement.

Chrome 28 and newer for CentOS 6

Officially Google no longer support Chrome for CentOS 6 (ref). The recommendation (for now) is to either switch to Firefox or Chromium. I decided to go with the second option.

Obtain the YUM repository settings here: chromium-el6 repo.

First uninstall Google Chrome

# sudo yum remove google-chrome

To install:

# sudo wget http://people.centos.org/hughesjr/chromium/6/chromium-el6.repo -O /etc/yum.repos.d/chromium-el6.repo
# sudo yum install chromium

Do not launch Chromium immediately, if you want your Chrome settings to transfer over do the following:

# mv ~/.config/google-chrome ~/.config/chromium

(Alternatively you can copy cp -a or link ln -s)

If you want the Google Chrome PDF and/or Flash plugins (I did), then the extra step(s) are required:

# cd /tmp
# wget https://raw.github.com/hughesjr/chromium_el_builder/master/chrome_libpdf_copy.sh
# sh chrome_libpdf_copy.sh
# cd /tmp
# wget https://raw.github.com/hughesjr/chromium_el_builder/master/chrome_pepperflash_copy.sh
# sh chrome_pepperflash_copy.sh

I am not happy with Google’s lack of support but I have become dependent on Chrome sync across all my computers and devices. I hope that Google changes/updates their process or that RHEL7 releases soon.

Reference: http://lists.centos.org/pipermail/centos/2013-June/135238.html

Yum Groups

The Fedora 18 installer does not allow single package installations, instead it prefers to install by package groups. You can also install groups after completing installation. This is especially useful since you can only select one Desktop Environment at installation. Alternatively, to have faster installations, select as few groups as possible and then only install the ones you need later.

This is just a quick note on how yum can install by groups instead of by individual packages.

To see all of the available groups run:

$ yum groups list

Example (abbreviated) output:

Available Environment Groups:
   GNOME Desktop
   KDE Plasma Workspaces
   Xfce Desktop
Available Groups:
   Authoring and Publishing
   Books and Guides
   Development Tools

Note: Quotes below are not needed when the group name is a single word, however if the group name has spaces make sure you use quotes.

Pick a group above, example Authoring and Publishing.
To see what packages the group includes, run:

$ yum groups info 'Authoring and Publishing'

To install the entire group, run:

$ sudo yum groups install 'Authoring and Publishing'

To remove the group, run:

$ sudo yum groups remove 'Authoring and Publishing'

Note: Generally removing a group is not recommended, you may remove dependencies which may make your system unusable.

Fedora Desktop and Computing

Fedora 18 was released this week and I finally got around to installing it today. To be honest, on either my laptop or desktop I have not really used Fedora much since Fedora 14. I have been incredibly happy with CentOS for over a year and a half now, and I (begrudgingly) accepted Windows 7 on my laptop.

Today’s installation of Fedora 18 made me question my use of time. I switched jobs exactly 2 years ago and found myself in the precarious position of having little to no spare time. I tried my best to optimize. Giving up dual-booting in favor of virtualization (VirtualBox and KVM) helped greatly. However I could never get Fedora18 beta or RC to boot up inside KVM. But that wasn’t the problem that bothered me. Re-running through the installation multiple times using the new Anaconda installer just got me tired of trying to understand a poorly thought out workflow. I kept questioning myself if I had in fact selected the correct options. I don’t think I would ever install Fedora 18 on some of my more complex dual-boot setups in the past.

To be fair for a clean install on a new computer for most people the installer might be a joy, but for me it just wasn’t. I’m not really complaining. I have multiple computers running some form of Linux or if I must, Windows. My existing setup works fine for me. However I just don’t think Fedora’s goals and my needs line up anymore.

I was reminded of this when I was reading Richard WM Jone’s blog post on using Fedora 17 on a Chromebook. The first bullet point is what gives me pause:

Suspend pretty much doesn’t work.

I too own a Chromebook and just like many others I have quite a few things I dislike about, but where it never fails: power management. It suspends and starts up in seconds, lets me do my browsing/work and then I can close the lid and forget about it. The last time I had this experience with a laptop was with Fedora 9. After so many years, I’m disappointed problems can still exist for power management. My desktop CentOS suspends and hibernates perfectly, so I know things can be made to work, but I just don’t have the time to find out how.

Outside of work, I spend most of my time on my Android smartphone. Occasionally I monkey around with a tablet, but the Chromebook is incredibly nice for quick tasks. And then when I have the dedicated time: I will use my desktop or laptop for more major work. What do all of these devices/setups have in common? – Answer: they don’t change much. As we all know, change is the heart of Fedora – the latest and greatest software. I commend the Fedora team and all the volunteers who manage to somehow keep it all together.

If ever find the time, I would love to come back to Fedora. I finally got it working in my Virtualbox and I’ll write up some of my notes eventually. If you plan on installing Fedora 18, the official Fedora Installation Guide has evolved amazingly. I highly recommend reading it.

Improve Fonts in Chrome in CentOS 6

I am currently running the latest version of Firefox (8.0) and Google Chrome (15.0.874.121) in CentOS 6 64-bit using the Gnome 2.28 desktop.

Both work fine, however Firefox renders fonts significantly better than Chrome.

The Fix: The following steps fix the problem.

1. Open the file .fonts.conf in your home directory, if it does not exist create it:

$ touch ~/.fonts.conf

2. Add the following contents to the file:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">
<fontconfig>
        <match target="font">
                <edit name="autohint" mode="assign">
                        <bool>true</bool>
                </edit>
        </match>
</fontconfig>

3. Log out completely from Gnome (reboot not required).

Before and After

CentOS Desktop

I’m migrating away from Fedora as my desktop operating system. I’ve been testing CentOS 6 which was released recently and I feel I would be much more efficient using it instead of Fedora.

I still have quite a few quirks to resolve, but I have no doubt I’ll find the solutions.

I bought a new desktop some time ago with the intention of running virtualization, so I plan to still test and use Fedora time to time, but I can no longer keep up with the rate of change. If things stabilize to some degree I might come back, but for the time I am quite content with CentOS.

People are still welcome to contact me regarding Fedora stuff and any of the content on my site. I will do my best to support it.

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/ http://repos.fedorapeople.org/repos/spot/firefox4/fedora-firefox4.repo'
# 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'

ref: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Firefox_4