The VPS Search

After using shared hosting services on Linux servers for the past few years, I was thinking about experimenting with a VPS (virtual private servers). Currently shared hosting services are highly competitive. If you shop around you can find great deals to host a simple website most with a comprehensive feature set. However these are all very limited. My basis for a VPS was to acquire a server that had room to grow but yet more manageable and more affordable than a dedicated server. These were some of my considerations.

There are VPS solutions as cheap as $30/month for a fairly basic setup. By basic I’ve seen: 5GB disk space, 100GB transfer bandwidth and CPanel service. However availability and/or reliability of the cheaper service tend to make them a poorer choice. Through my research I found that a fairly typical price was between $40-60/month. And some competitive features were 7-10GB disk, with 100-150GB. Even then, the typical “step-up” options were almost doubled features with a price of $100/month. Logically this doesn’t seem very practical as you can obtain some dedicated servers for $100 or even do a co-location server for less. Hence my target was $50/month.

The more I read, the more I realized that reliability is a serious concern with VPS’s. Apparently many people have experienced considerable downtime or hard to diagnose problems. My guess would be poor technical support as it is very easy to misconfigure or corrupt a virtualized operating system. I came to accept that some VPS providers may have more downtime compared to shared hosting providers. Again this is only preliminary research.

Many providers do offer some sort of monitoring service (either free or extra charge). These can vary from simple ping commands from an external server at timed intervals. Or significantly more complex tools, however they all seem to imply that monitoring is in your best interest.

Almost all VPS providers will use some distribution of Linux. Technically, it could be another form of Unix (or even Windows with “Remote Desktop”). Additionaly most will have a preference to a Redhat variation (Redhat 9.0, Fedora Core, CentOS, RHEL). The benefit here is that I can duplicate a great deal of testing at home before I deploy a complex setup on the VPS.

Virtuozzo (the VPS management software in Linux) relies on some tweaking done to the virtuallized booting kernel in VPS. Hence when I saw Fedora Core 2 available, I blindly assumed it used a 2.6 based kernel, when in fact it was a 2.4 variant. On other VPS’s running CentOS, I’ve seen similar characteristics. — The bottom line is that it is beneficial to have a more up to date distribution even if you really shouldn’t modify it too heavily (i.e. Redhat 9.0 is almost 3 years old).

Software on the distributions will be fairly typical to any Linux: apache, database, mail, etc. However for management there are some options such as CPanel or Plesk or even perhaps a service specific option. If you want to save money (between $7-20/month) you can forgo the specialized options and even elect Webmin. However I doubt that it is nicely geared to be helpful for webhosting on a VPS or for running multiple shared websites.

This is final most significant factor. Depending on the partitioning of the VPS on the host machine, the VPS may or may not be able to grow. Example: If a 100GB disk layout was cut up in to 10 separate 10GB partitions and 1 user required an upgrade, this would not be possible!. They would have to buy a new VPS or transfer to another physical host. Hence it is very important that you understand your growth. Keep in mind that 1GB of disk space already goes to the Linux installed. Basic upgrades like software packages and bandwidth may be available, but physical resources may be fixed upon setup. Know these facts in advance.

Getting a VPS took me a little more time than I expected, but the research was much less than when I learned shared hosting in 2002. I plan to be up and running with my selection in the next few days.

From what Rob mentioned from his VPS experience, selection was probably the easy part!

Fedora Core 5 Test 2 Review

Using a template for distribution evaluation, I have installed and tested FC5-test2. Unfortunately since I did not install FC5-test1 due to installer limitations, I cannot compare this with test1. However, from what I’ve seen so far it seems much better than the poorly created FC4.


I chose to install using the install from ISO images on disk option (available via the linux askmethod boot option). I burned CD1 to a CD-RW and booted. I installed to a spare 8GB partition. Overall Anaconda (the installer) has been further streamlined with fewer options. The partitioning options seems a bit confusing, seeing as the default option is to “Remove all partitions on selected drives and create default layout.”. Not wise for the newbies (newbies should NOT be installing a Test Release). Another change was the firewall configuration and SELinux configuration were moved to the “firstboot settings”.

The SELinux configuration gave many more options with regards to specific parts of the operating system. I typically avoid SELinux due to the difficulty in managing it, but it seems the gui options are very welcome. However, I looked over many of the options and frankly a novice would find them very confusing and cryptic. As a single user desktop, I don’t see the significant added benefit to such a system.

Installer: Software Selection

The most significant (or insignificant) change was the altered package installation menu. There is no Install Everything option and due to the selection layout, may cause more people to miss some necessary packages. Additionally, there is no disk usage estimate. I’m sure this will be fixed in a future release, but it makes it hard to manage hard drive utilization. In the end I used about 3.8GB.

Overall the packages including resembled FC4 including Java and Eclipse (which I don’t use and prefer other installation sources).

The PUP installer for yum seems much worse than yumex, which exists in the Extras Repository but is not included in the standard install. Not sure why.

The services installed were incredibly unnecessary. There seem to be more than were in FC4. I don’t understand why things like bluetooth, cpuspeed or even isdn are enabled when all of these are hardware dependent. Most people will not support most of those. I’ve heard that the services and init system will probably be soon re-done. I can’t wait.

Software Setup

The login was typical as it has been for recent Fedora releases. I did notice both a Failsafe Gnome and a Failsafe KDE login option, which I’m sure will come in handy.

As usual Gnome is the default installation. During the first boot I made some additional basic setup options. I booted into GNOME 2.13.4 which from first glance seems similar to the Gnome 2.10 available in FC4, however I’m sure there are significant updates. (The open file dialog is still pathetic.) I noticed the the top toolbar now shows a “power plug” for Gnome Power Manager, however it does not work (more later).

I did not notice any significant new software. I tried the Beagle Search app, but it complained I needed to start the Beagle daemon. I tried the link to start, but it didn’t work. I also tried the F-Spot Photo Manager but it starts with a dialog box that, won’t fit on my 1024×768 display and I didn’t see the big difference between it and gThumb. I tried my camera with it, read below.

Firefox 1.5 is available but I could not get the Flash plugin to work correctly.

The Gnome network manager seems to have improved, I was able to access my Windows Network very quickly and easily. With FC4 I saw multiple inconsistent connection problems.

Even though I normally use Gnome, I also breifly tested out KDE. As usual KDE was polished but (by default) ugly in Fedora. I noticed multiple new options but nothing specific to my hardware peripherals or even power management. I did notice a Switch User option which reminds of OS X and Windows XP.

Software: Server and Development

Since I do a great deal of software development and web development, I have not tested this release to see how well it will accommodate all my software or scripts. Since the most serious updates were in Java and the inclusion of Mono, I doubt the GCC 4.1 will affect me. As with FC4, the GCC 3.2 compiler was also optionally included. Looks like I may also have to compile a GCC 3.4 for some testing and downgrade my PHP4 (maybe recompile that also!).

Hardware Support

As always with every new distribution release a newer kernel is included which will typically improve support for most hardware. I had no specific problems that I could not resolve.

The Nvidia driver would not work properly without a driver patch. … Sound was perfect out of the box as it has been since FC3. However some apps did some complaints. XMMS acted strange and the KDE artsd server complained.

Power management (ACPI) in my opinion is partially broke. The Gnome Power Manager fails when I try to put my desktop to either Suspend or Hibernate (I know both of these options do work!!). If I try command line S3 (suspend) the system locks up. If try command line S4 (hibernate), the system works 100% perfectly and I am able to reboot from S4. Oh well, the GUI doesn’t let me, maybe I will play around with it later.

Hardware Support: Peripherals

My All-in-One Card Reader detected perfectly but the SD or Compact Flash would not automatically mount as they did in FC4. I can manually mount then, but I wanted it to work in the GUI. In FC4, Gnome would usually give a permission error and mount as read-only.

I was disappointed that the camera pop-up dialog box did not appear when I plugged in my Canon S500 (which worked perfectly in FC4). The F-Spot software worked adequately at importing without any problems.


Currently I am reading the fedora-test-list mailing list provided by Redhat to follow up on some issues with Tes2. Otherwise, I plan to hack out some configuration options just to get a good grasp on how the final Fedora Core 5 will function.

As a beta release, FC5-Test2 seems like a good start. The gross slow-downs I had with FC4 seem to be okay, and since many applications have started to accomodate GCC4, I feel a system wide improvement. Nothing much to see, but the little nuances and improvements are always welcome in Linux. And as always there are regressions. I was disappointed at the minimal hardware improvements for my peripherals (I haven’t tested them all).

I will spend more time over the next few weeks till Test3, and plan on starting my Personal Fedora Installation Guide for FC5.

Fedora Core 5 Test 2 Released

The second beta for Fedora Core 5 is available for download and testing. The bittorrent page is updated as well as the main Fedora download page.

I do not think the main Release Notes have been updated yet, but some of the release highlights include:

  • A completely revamped look and feel including a bubbly new theme, wallpaper, screensaver and logo has been provided that is visually appealing and demonstrates the exciting and user friendly nature of Fedora.
  • GNOME 2.13.2 and KDE 3.5 Release Candidate 2 desktop environments are available.
  • GNOME Power Manager and GNOME Screensaver are available as a technology preview within this release.
  • 2.0 final release is included. now uses system versions for many of the libraries leading to increased performance and efficiency.
  • Xorg X11R7 Release Candidate 3 has been included in this release. This is the first modular version, which helps in providing additional features and bug fixes at a faster pace.
  • Mono, an open source development environment for .NET, is available in this release. Also included are Mono-based applications such as the Beagle desktop search tool and F-Spot, a photo management tool.
  • Kernel 2.6.14 is included. Software suspend is enabled in this release.
  • Pup, a graphical updater using yum, is available in this release.
  • Fedora now sports a brand new logo and changes in the animated mouse cursor theme.
  • gcc 4.1 compiler is included and the entire set of Fedora packages is now build using this new compiler version which brings in new security and performance enhancements.
  • The PCMCIA framework used by laptops and mobile devices has changed with kernel version 2.6.13-rc1 onwards. The older pcmcia-cs package using the cardmgr/pcmcia service has been relaced with a new pcmciautils package where the PCMCIA devices are handled directly with the hotplug system using udev dynamically in this Fedora release. This increases both efficiency and performance of the system.

As always test releases should not be used for desktop or production machines. These typically contain many bugs and may not be well tested for a variety of conditions.

I hope to review this distribution over the next week to see the changes done by the Fedora Community.

MPlayer Fedora Guide Updated

I updated my guide to compiling MPlayer on Fedora. Of course, this guide is no longer necessary to most people, since RPM’s are available, however seeing as the software is a bit complex I compile it to suit my own needs. I’ve received many emails from NON Fedora users who have found the guide useful. So I will maintain it.

Some things have changed in the past 7 months. LIVE.COM, which provided streaming library support for MPlayer, was renamed to LIVE555. No doubt having to do with Microsoft purchasing Additionally XviD finally release v. 1.1 after almost a year since their last release, and they support GCC4 now. Other than that, there were some minor URL’s which required changes.

There has been a great deal of development in MPlayer behind the scenes, and I wait patiently for the next major release. The CVS builds are pretty slick for the more daring.

Kernel 2.6.15 Released with NTFS Write

For the average user, a new kernel release usually makes no difference. If everything is already working fine, there there typically only 2 major reasons anyone should update their kernel. The first is for necessary or critical security problems (most people aren’t affected by every vulnerability). The second is the need for new features or hardware support, which is probably my primary reason to test a new kernel.

The release of 2.6.15 mentions a limited form of NTFS Write support.

NTFS write support: NTFS finally implements write support so “vim /ntfs/foo.txt” works. You can write(2) to a file even beyond the end of the existing file. Resident non-resident files and are supported. Sparse files can also be written and holes will be filed appropriately. truncate(2), ftruncate(2) and open(2) with O_TRUNC flag also works. There’re some limitations with heavily fragmented files which you won’t be allowed to change. Also, notice that creation/deletion of files and directories is still not supported and mmap(2) based writes is still not complete

Previously write support was incredibly “experimental” which means risky. I am still not willing to try this, but it seems very useful for me. However in the end, I am still not able to freely utilize the gigabytes of free NTFS disk space in Linux, which is what I require.

The standard kernel works perfectly with NTFS read. There is the Captive FS project which uses Windows XP files to read and write NTFS. I’ve used this with some success. Additionally there is the commercial Paragon NTFS which works somewhat better than Captive, but costs $70.

Yahoo Launch on Firefox in Fedora

Fedora users can access full Launch.Yahoo music videos with Firefox. The basic trick is to use the GreaseMonkey Firefox Extension and making use of MPlayer and it’s browser plugin and encoder system.

Watching Streaming Music Videos

1. First make sure you have MPlayer installed in your Fedora and the mplayerplugin-in working correctly. You can check by going to: about:plugins in Firefox.

2. Install the GreaseMonkey Firefox Extension.
If you are using Firefox 1.0.x, install version 0.5.3.
If you are using Firefox 1.5.x, install version 0.6.4.
Once installed, the GreaseMonkey icon will appear in the bottom right of the FireFox window.

3. Install pkLaunch.
To install Right-Click over “Open pklaunch-0.8.user.js”, and select Install User Script….
A window will open showing pkLaunch and that “” and “” have both been added as “Included pages” for this script.

4. Click on any music video at Yahoo Music.
A window will open titled “data: – Yahoo Music”.


Saving Music Videos to Disk

The following works with some degree of success. Since you are streaming, the quality may not be perfect or there may be some “hiccups”.

1. As stated above, make sure you have MPlayer installed, as well as MEncoder. MEncoder is extra component in the MPlayer package that allows you to convert audio and video.

2. In Step #4 above, when the video window opens, Right-Click in the video and select Copy URL.

3. Open a command terminal with a Paste option. I recommend either gnome-terminal in Gnome or konsole in KDE.
(Note: if you prefer xterm you need to paste to a text editor first and highlight before continuing.)

4. In the command terminal window enter the following but do NOT hit [Enter]:

mencoder -ovc copy -oac copy -o myvideo.wmv “

Note: the the ending quotes. Then paste the text copied in Step #2. It will be long! After pasting, close the command with a set of quotes: ” … and hit [Enter].

This will copy the data from the server. Since it is streaming, it will take at least as long as it takes to view the content (> 3Min).

When done, you should be able to play the video file in MPlayer. I do not know if the file will be viewable in Windows.

Tested Versions:
FF 1.0.4, FF 1.0.7, GM 0.5.3, MPlayer 1.0pre7, mplayerplug-in 3.14
Should work with FF 1.5, but I haven’t tested it yet.