OpenSUSE Linux Rants

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December 28, 2006

My New Year’s Resolution

by @ 4:49 pm. Filed under humor

It’s that time of year where we start reflecting on the things that are important to us, and who we are way down. We consider ourselves and ways we can improve. As such, we make New Year’s Resolutions. After chatting with a few people, they have asked me what mine is. I keep telling them that I am not changing anything. They look at me as if they’ve just seen a ghost. I say, “1600×1200 suits me just fine.”

December 26, 2006

RSS Aggregators on openSUSE 10.2

by @ 7:45 am. Filed under My Opinion, review, SUSE Tips & Tricks

OK, so Christmas was great and everything. Presents and family, and honey-roasted ham… we spilled no fewer than 3 drinks on the dining-room floor that I personally mopped this very morning. No idea how many were spilled on the carpet. Much fun was had by all.

I also wanted to talk about RSS. This, to me, is the single greatest means of transmitting useful information that there is besides email. And maybe instant messenger.

Really briefly, RSS means “Really Simple Syndication”. It’s like a channel to which people can subscribe to receive the latest content on a given website. It is great for news, blogs, forum threads, or anything else that may be time-sensitive. You simply copy the URL of the RSS feed and paste it into an aggregator. This program then downloads and parses all of the RSS feeds to which you are subscribed. It may then give you ways to manage the articles, search through them, or whatever else. In any case, RSS is the man.

RSS feeds initially hit my scene around July of 2004. The first aggregator on my machine was RSSOwl. It had lots of great features but it seemed like it crashed a lot.

Akregator was the next RSS reader installed for trial. It seemed usable enough. There were a couple of bugs, which I reported, but overall, it was very usable. It fared much better than RSSOwl, but couldn’t filter things very well. What it does offer is the ability to search through the feeds, but does not allow one to save the searches for availability later. That annoys the snot out of me. It also does not allow direct filtration. Again, I need a box of Kleenexes. Overall, Akregator does seem quite a bit snappier and more responsive. It does all of the basics really well. It definitely misses some of the essentials, such as filters and saved searches.

I then learned that Thunderbird could aggregate RSS feeds, and would let me filter them into different folders, too. Ever since ths fact was discovered, my RSS feeds have been aggregated by nothing else. Thunderbird allows for import and export of the feeds in an OPML file (which most aggregators do now). Mostly, I appreciate it and use it because of its rule-based filters and its stability. Two huge beefs I have with Thunderbird: 1) It is slower than mold growing uphill in Winter. As we already know, waiting gives me cancer. And 2) When I have “Unread” selected in the filter bar at the top, and I go into a given folder containing feeds, it doesn’t only show the Unread news articles. It shows them all. Sometimes, I have to click around on different folders and come back to even show any at all, when I know darn well it’s full of them.

Thunderbird is agonizingly slow as an aggregator, and has some funky bugs that really shouldn’t be there. However, I do greatly like the filters.

I have also taken a look at Liferea. It has some excessively cool filtration, searching, and the ability to save searches as virtual folders. It is quite a bit more responsive than Thunderbird, but not quite as much so as Akregator. It is also quite unstable on a 64-bit machine, and crashed 4 times just tonight. Overall, I think it has the most of the features that I personally am looking for.

RSSOwl found its way onto my machine again, tonight. It seemed like it would be a good idea to see how far it had come in the last couple of years. To be honest, the stability had improved quite dramatically. RSSOwl had redeemed itself and had made quite a positive impression.

Unable to make up my mind, it was time for the old comparison spreadsheet trick. The first task was to come up with some criteria that were important to me personally. Next, a weight was given to the importance (to me) of each criterion. Having done that, I listed all of the aggregators that were to be tested.

We had a bullet-proof system (or something) for selecting the best aggregator.

Below is a graph with the results of my evaluations of each of the aggregators. In the first column is each of the criteria. In the next column is how important that particular criterion is to me personally. Then there are the individual aggregator columns. In the left column is my grade for that aggregator. In the right column is my grade multiplied by the weight. At the bottom of each column is the total score for each aggregator. The image links to a spreadsheet that you can download. If you want, you can adjust the importance of each criterion to see which aggregator may fit your needs the best.

I also checked to see how long it would take to start up. I instructed each aggregator to download all feeds upon startup. The startup times listed below thus include the time to start the application and download all RSS feeds.

Aggregator Scores

 

As it appears that Liferea is my favorite RSS aggregator in terms of functionality, it is way too unstable for a 64-bit machine. Second most interesting to me is Thunderbird, which I have been using for about a year and a half. RSSOwl and Akregator are fine, but lack some necessary functionality, though they are both stabler and more responsive than Liferea and Thunderbird.

One of my very biggest problems is that I have about 150 RSS feeds to sort through. That is quite a bit of information overload. Hence the need for good saved searches or virtual folders.

Now for the big question: What slick little tips and tricks does anyone have to manage your RSS feeds, search through them, sort them, or otherwise optimize your experience? Any thoughts on managing the information overload?

I’m hoping that someday, someone will come out with Bayesian filtering for topics. That would be very helpful for me. In the meantime, please share your pointers.

December 23, 2006

Automate Insertion of YAST Installation Sources on Your openSUSE 10.2 Machine

by @ 7:35 am. Filed under bash, freebies, How-To, SUSE Tips & Tricks

Installation sources are wonderful things. That’s where the packages come from that we install on our SUSE machines.

So how do we add them in YAST? Is there a way to add them via the command line? Is there any way to automatically add them? Is there a list somewhere of repositories to add?

I would like to take on the task of answering each of these questions.

Adding installation repositories in YAST

This process is relatively painless, outlined as follows:

Open YAST.

Type in your root password.

In the window that appears, click INSTALLATION SOURCE on the right.

In the window that appears, click ADD.

You are taken to another screen asking you what Media Type the new source is. Select the type (many times it will be FTP or HTTP). Click NEXT.

In the next screen, fill in the SERVER NAME, and DIRECTORY ON SERVER. Click NEXT.

You will see some progress dialog boxes popping up and going away as the new installation source is added.

When you are done, click on the FINISH button.

See? That isn’t so bad. It can get tedious, though, if you have lots of installation sources to add.

Adding installation repositories via Commandline

This process is way more painless than adding the installation sources through YAST, outlined here:

Open a terminal window. Become root with the ‘su’ command:

$ su
Password: [Enter root password here]
#

The syntax for the command is:

rug service-add [URL] -type=ZYPP “[NAME OF REPO]”

To add an actual service, you’ll run a command like:

# rug service-add http://ftp.gwdg.de/pub/linux/misc/suser-guru/rpm/10.2/RPMS/ --type=ZYPP "Guru"

 

Adding installation repositories via Shell Script

I have put a bunch of repositories into a shell script. Remember, kids, that your mom always told you not to just randomly add installation sources. She didn’t? Well, she should have because it’s good advice. Because anyone can put anything into their repository, understand the following sentence: I make no guarantees that this shell script will not add a repository that will totally bork your system. That said, I have had no problems whatsoever with them. Because of this, I am providing this shell script for whoever wants it.

Download the script here

It will add a handful of installation sources for your shiny new openSUSE 10.2 system.

One strange thing…. when it adds the OSS repo, sometimes it will exit with a “Failed to parse XML metadata” error. If it does, just re-run the script. It will not put in duplicates, but it will likely add the OSS repo successfully. Also, this particular repo takes like 9,349 centuries (half an hour) to add in, so just kind of be patient with it.

Also, if you have nvidia or ATI, you may want to add the appropriate repository to the script.

What repository to add? From the lists below.

Lists of available repositories

Where are the lists of repositories?

Here is a link to the one on opensuse.org, called “Additional YaST Package Repositories.” What’s also interesting is that one of my articles published by Novell is one of the first things referenced on that page.

Here is a link to the list found on E@zyVG’s blog, called “openSUSE 10.2: The Most Complete List of Repositories.”

Again, do not just blindly add every repository you can find. That will very likely blow up your system. The ones in the shell script should work, but YMMV. Enjoy.

December 21, 2006

E@zyVG: openSUSE 10.2: The Most Complete List of Repositories

by @ 8:43 am. Filed under General SUSE, SUSE Tips & Tricks

Check this out: E@zyVG has provided the most excellent list of installation sources for openSUSE 10.2 that I have seen yet!

He says, “Here is the most complete list of repositories that you can ever-ever find on this planet, Earth, for your openSUSE 10.2 Linux. If you do manageto find few more, just holla :)”

The entire list can be found here.

Very nice work, bro!

December 20, 2006

For your Favorite Voyeur

by @ 9:41 am. Filed under sweet deals

Creative Live! Cam Video IM Pro Webcam – comes out $5 after rebates and Google Checkout discounts. I got two of these babies. Enjoy.

December 19, 2006

For your Enemy Territory Enthusiast

by @ 9:11 am. Filed under sweet deals

*FREE* CyberHome CH-SRD600R Surround Sound Headphone System – CH-SRD 600R. They are $50 with $20 off for Google Checkout and a $30 mail-in rebate. Make sure you select the free shipping option. Sorry, have to eat and run, but I wanted to share w/everyone. My name is now Santa Claus.

http://www.buy.com/retail/product.asp?sku=203933345&adid=17662&adid=17662

December 13, 2006

Linux popularity by the cold, hard numbers

by @ 10:49 pm. Filed under General Linux

As I have always said, “Numbers talk and hoo-ha walks.” Now “hoo-ha” is a polite term for what comes out the back end of a bull. In this case, it directly relates to opinions. The more important the project, the more violent I get when I hear, “I think that…” First of all, unless you can communicate with Deity, your opinion is as interesting as used toilet paper. What option is the most likely to succeed statistically? What do the trends say? Listen to the numbers.

OK, that all said, it isn’t news that Ubuntu is incredibly popular. What I thought was interesting, however, is something I saw on Alexa. Evidently, more people are visiting opensuse.org lately than are visiting ubuntu.com. Again, this has nothing to do with opinions or mine is better than yours. I just thought that with the incredible popularity of Ubuntu, it was interesting to see this fact.

Maybe it is in response to Shuttleworth, or maybe it is people flocking to opensuse.org to see what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, I do not have the numbers for that.

Anyway, here is the graph (click for a bigger version):

Lots of visits to opensuse.org

 

This simply denotes traffic, not necessarily popularity. If you look at Google Trends, for example, there is still quite a bit more searching online for Ubuntu than SUSE:

Ubuntu searches more frequent than SUSE searches

 

What’s really crazy is that Debian gets the most traffic, yet is almost the least searched.

K, well, there you are. I’m out of here.

December 11, 2006

DVDs, MP3s, and everything else on openSUSE 10.2

by @ 8:32 am. Filed under General SUSE, review, SUSE releases

After receiving the news of the final release of openSUSE 10.2, it seemed a good idea to take a look at it on my laptop. Additionally, it seemed a good idea to give Andreas Jaeger (Nice guy, by the way. We had lunch at Ruby Tuesday once.), Michael Loeffler, and all the great SUSE people the benefit of the doubt. With 10.1 there were major issues with the package manager. It was reasonable to believe that they’d be on high alert to keep any such problems from happening with 10.2. Thus, it was downloaded, put on the nearest blank DVD, and promptly installed onto my laptop, the specs of which are as follows:

Yes, a beast unparalleled in power and speed, I know.

For some reason unknown to all of humanity, when reviewing a given distribution (or version thereof), you have to include at least something about the installation. This next bit will satisfy such requirements.

The installation process of openSUSE is as foolproof and easy as it can possibly be. It felt quite familiar with one sincerely major improvement.

First, let me preface this by explaining that waiting for things gives me cancer. I would rather embed railroad spikes into my face than wait for stuff. This is further aggravated when there is no kind of feedback that something is ocurring that will eventually lead to accomplishment of the desired goal.

As a total random and hypothetical example: Let’s say that during the installation of your favorite Linux distribution, it checks for an Internet connection. As part of this test, it will install an update source for you so that you can get security patches and such updates. Let’s say that this process takes no less than 15 minutes (yes it does, I timed it). And provides no feedback that it is working properly and has not hung.

This pretty much equals me in a straight jacket in a padded room and no sharp objects within 12 miles of said room.

Well, that’s what would happen during the installation of SUSE 10.1. I would have to grab my favorite Lycia/Enya/Lewellyn CD, go out onto my living room couch, and get my therapist on the phone while coping with the trauma of waiting for this to finish. Once I tried waiting through this step just sitting in front of the computer. I woke up the next day with thirteen stitches in my face and my cat had mysteriously disappeared.

Much to my delight, in openSUSE 10.2, throughout the steps of detecting the Internet connection and setting up installation sources and update sources, I counted about 65 feedback dialogs with slick little progress bars and even textual descriptions of what was happening. Boy, late at night with a little caffeine, ADD can make this part actually quite mesmerizing. All the progress bars, dialog boxes, and everything are actually quite interesting to watch. It is also very helpful to know that one is waiting for something that is actually making progress.

Did I mention that I liked the progress bars while waiting for stuff? That is one very nice thing for users to have: feedback when something is happening, so that we know why we’re waiting for things.

Oh, it also took only about 60 seconds to set up the update source as opposed to around 15 minutes in 10.1. The openSUSE folks sure made some progress with the experience design, if nothing else.

One thing that received nothing from me but a 30-second blank stare was this bizarre menu that appeared when I clicked on the K Menu (KDE all the way, baby):

SUSE Menu

 

Come again? What the heck is that? Before getting too excited, I tried out the right-click function on that menu. There was an option that said, “Switch to KDE Menu Style,” which I attacked unflinchingly. To my delight, the familiar K Menu gear icon appeared. Clicking it yielded the menu I had come to know and love.

I’m not sure what was happening there with that other menu, but I personally don’t like it a bit. Anyone who knows, please help me understand that one.

As a bit of obsessive compulsion, I have this small guide that I’ve written for myself that allows me to customize KDE to work EXACTLY how I want it to. That’s nice, because when I expect something to work a certain way, and it doesn’t, it usually ends up broken, melted, or launched off the nearest overpass. To avoid such incidents with KDE, my handy little setup guide comes in quite…. well…. handy.

After getting that all squared away, I headed into Firefox. openSUSE 10.2 comes with Firefox 2, which is quite slick, I must say. It’s very nice to use. Especially with my favorite plugins: Adblock Plus, Fasterfox, and Bookmark Sync and Sort. If you have any that you recommend, please let me know so I can enjoy them, too.

Next, you’d think that I would install all my software. Well, before you can do that, it’s a good idea to set up your installation sources, so that you can get all the latest software the first time you install it. Otherwise, you install the software, put in your install sources, and then update the software. As this implies waiting, and because of my aversion to cancer, I don’t do it that way.

The installation sources I used for openSUSE 10.2 (32-Bit) are as follows:

Note the nVidia install source. If you are using ATI, I recommend http://www2.ati.com/suse instead of the nVidia one.

If you are unfamiliar with how to set up installation sources, see the “Installation Sources” section of my guide for doing this on SUSE 10.0.

After I set all these babies up, I clicked FINISH, and a dialog box came up that said, “Synchronizing with ZENworks.” Unfortunately, this box was up for like three minutes with no feedback. Just as I was deciding whether to reach for the Xanax or a claw hammer, the box disappeared, and the Installation Sources window closed with it.

So far, we are in great shape.

I then headed into YAST and updated packages to any newer versions that may exist. If you are not familiar with how to do this, please see the “Global Package Version Update” section of my guide for doing this on SUSE 10.0.

<DISCLAIMER>

Realistically, I must throw this in: I don’t recommend performing a system-wide unconditional update on all packages for a production machine. ESPECIALLY if that machine is a server. ESPECIALLY if that machine is a server you are running at work.

</DISCLAIMER>

So, I just went head and did an unconditional system-wide package update, because having bleeding edge packages makes you a l33t h4X0R.

Next up: Making the thing play DVDs.

Really, it’s about this easy:

Uninstall whatever version of xine that you have installed.

Add Packman as an installation source.

Install the xine package from Packman (you may want to disable all other install sources, just to make sure it comes from Packman for sure).

Install the libdvdcss package, also.

Sleepy Hollow actually plays quite decently on that laptop.

Next, go into YAST and install Amarok, Helix, Mplayer, w32codec-all, and all packages related to xine. That will get you playing MP3s and the various video files you’ll find around on the Internet.

Multimedia-enabled, I went ahead and installed my other programs like gaim, thunderbird, xchat, and a subversion client.

My first impressions? I like the improvements. It is the first one that feels like something my mom could use, and something my dad could likely install. Gone are the days of Linux being for tech geeks only. If you have been thinking about trying out Linux, now is a great time to install openSUSE 10.2. I think you’ll be glad that you did.

Here are some other reviews, etc., about openSUSE 10.2:

December 8, 2006

I am giving out 2 Gig USB Flash Drives for Free

by @ 9:23 pm. Filed under sweet deals

My people over at buy.com have set up a sweet deal. Grab a 2 Gig USB Flash Drive that, after rebates and Google Checkout, comes out totally free. No, I don’t know them, or have any affiliations with them or anything. I just wanted everyone who wanted one to get one. The day before yesterday, they ran out, so I could only get one. But I saw it posted again, and wanted to tell everyone. Very cool deal. Pick up a couple and give one away for Christmas. I’ll never tell them how cheap you are. Get it here. Rebate One Rebate Two

Pass it on to everyone you know.

December 7, 2006

openSUSE 10.2 now available!

by @ 12:20 pm. Filed under SUSE News, SUSE releases

My good pal Michael Loeffler had this to say this morning:

After lot of work, we proudly announce the
availability of openSUSE 10.2 formerly know as SUSE Linux 10.x

It’s available for download on
http://download.openSUSE.org in x86, x86-64, and ppc versions –
via ftp from our mirrors and bittorrent.

openSUSE 10.2 will be offered as boxed product in Europe through retail as
usual. In North America the box will be available through
http://www.shopnovell.com. Due to production lead time first boxes will show
up on shelves and onlineshops mid of December.

For download we offer as ISOs the 5 CD open source version plus our
add-on CD with proprietary portions, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader,
RealNetworks RealPlayer, and Sun Java Runtime Environment.
DVDs for all architectures are available and contain the open source version
plus proprietary add-ons.
For the first time we offer a language add-on CD which offers support for
languages which are not part of our base language set up.
The Live DVD will be release next week.

We do our best in providing enough bandwith for quick and painless download.
But especially in the first days after launch it could be slow sometimes. In
those cases check our mirror list at
http://en.opensuse.org/Mirrors_Released_Version or try a day later.
We’d appreciate if you use bittorrent to share the download with others. For
more informataion http://en.opensuse.org/BitTorrent_and_openSUSE

Additionall ftp trees are available – with only open source
packages and with non open source packages. The open source tree
contains packages build from more than 3100 source RPMs and offers some
packages which didn’t fit on the media.

As usual, we ship all the latest open source packages available at the
time. But we want to give special mention to the redesigned GNOME and KDE
desktop, Firefox 2.0, ext3 as new default file system, support for internal
SD card readers, new power managment and last but not least our improved

package management.

We’d like to thank you all for testing heavily, reporting bugs, giving
feedback on mailing lists, etc., and in general for supporting and
participating in creating openSUSE 10.2

Have a lot of fun!

Michael, Andreas and Adrian

P.S.: Overview for CD insallation:

* CD1-2 only for a minimal text installation (English)
* CDs 1-3 for a default KDE or GNOME installation in German or English
* All 5 CDs for other selections
* Addon-NonOSS CD for the proprietary software
* Addon-Lang CD for addtional languages

Delta ISOs for updating RC1 to goldmaster are on the server, please
check mirrors for details.

Michael Löffler, Product Management
SUSE Linux Products GmbH, Maxfeldstraße 5, 90409 Nuremberg

December 2, 2006

openSUSE 10.2 goes Gold

by @ 9:41 am. Filed under SUSE News

Here’s the word from Andreas Jaeger:

We’ve mastered yesterday openSUSE 10.2 RC5 and declared it as
goldmaster.

Looking at the comments on the opensuse mailing list and on the
websites I hear that 10.2 could become a "great distribution". I hope
it does and like to thank all of you for your part in it, especially
for:
* Translating software in even more languages than before
* Testing openSUSE 10.2
* Reporting bugs and fixes
* Maintaining packages in our openSUSE build service that got synced
into the distribution (I know the sync is a manual process now and
I’m looking forward to improvements)
* Helping others testing 10.2
* Suggestions on how to improve 10.2

Our build folks have created the first set of ISO images and will
continue to create all of them – and the complete ftp distribution –
early next week. We’ll start syncing soon the images to the ftp
mirrors so that they have all files on thursday, 7th December, for the
announcement.

CD production is starting now and I hope to see some shiny green
openSUSE 10.2 boxes on the shelves before Christmas.

There are still a lot of bugs open for 10.2 and I’m sure real usage
over the time will find some more. We will release via online update
security updates for 10.2 as usual and release also the most severe
bug fixes. But most bug fixes will only be done for 10.3, our next
release coming out next summer.

You will not see much of me during the next weeks. I’ll be visiting
our Prague development team next week with limited email access and
afterwards go on vacation. I’d like to thank Adrian for taking care
of releasing 10.2 to the public!

Thanks again to all of you for making openSUSE 10.2 possible and a
success!

Andreas

Very nice. I can’t possibly wait.

December 1, 2006

Accessing Environmental Variables in Linux

by @ 7:57 am. Filed under bash, SUSE Tips & Tricks

I have just enough time to post a quick note about yet another cool thing Linux has to offer. When you are working from the command-line, there are some environmental variables that can be very useful to know about when writing bash scripts. For example, if you wanted to know the username of the user currently logged in, you might access the $USER environmental variable. If you wanted to determine this user’s home directory, you would use $HOME. In reality, there are a whole bunch of environmental variables that you may find useful for bash scripts and whatnot.

To take a look at these variables and what they are set to, try this out:

[0054][scott@linux:~]$ echo $USER
scott
[0054][scott@linux:~]$ echo $HOME
/home/scott
[0055][scott@linux:~]$

   

To examine environmental variables further, take a look at the env command. Pop open a terminal window and run that. It displays about two screens full of environmental variables. If you are ever in need of knowing what these variables are set to, whip out your trusty env tool and see what it says.

For bash scripting, another great resource for variables accessible from within scripts is here in the TLDP.org Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide.

Oh, and check out the new poll I have posted (right side of the page => ).

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