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Thursday, June 24, 2004

LINUX: Moving on to Fedora Core 2 from Fedora Core 1

Moving on to Fedora Core 2 from Fedora Core 1 - OSNews.com

By Ronald Schouten - Posted on 2004-06-23 18:46:52
at OSNews [http://www.osnews.com/]

I've been using Fedora Core 1 (FC1) for a few months now and have been quite happy with it. It is a good distribution with a minimal number of bugs (if any) that have caused me problems. Of course, it took some tweaking to get it just right, but I can accept that for the price.

FC2, Page 1/2
Since I had such a good experience with FC1, why not try the latest and greatest? Gnome 2.6 sounded great, the new 2.6 Linux Kernel improved speed and brought more features for desktop users, and the big plus, for me, is the new InputMethod Switcher. The ability to enter Japanese characters is one of the few things I need Windows for. So, I was really looking forward to Fedora Core 2 (FC2).

About the computer (feel free to skip this part)

This list is according to FC2's Hardware Browser and some additional information provided by me.

* One CR-4802TE CD Writer
* No Floppy Disk
* Two Fujitsu MPE3170AT Hard Drives
* Creative Labs SB Live! EMU10k1 Sound Card
* nVidia NV18 GeForce4 MX 4000 AGP 8x Video Card
* K7VMM+ EliteGroup Motherboard with on board NIC and disabled on board sound
* AMD 1300 Mhz Duron
* 512 MB RAM

In addition, I have the computer connected to a 4 port D-Link router, creating a two computer home network. A KVM switch is used to share the monitor, keyboard, and mouse between the FC2 machine and W2K machine.
The Download

I have always liked Redhat's site [http://www.redhat.com/] for being easy to navigate and professional in appearance. The Fedora project's site [http://fedora.redhat.com/] is no different and finding an official mirror to download the 4 ISOs from was easy. I had them in no time at all. I performed an MD5CHECKSUM, the ISOs were good, and proceeded to burn them to CD. I had never used the burning application in FC1 and quickly found out I could not use the basic Nautilus application (///burn). Redhat.com had some Redhat Linux 9 documentation on burning ISOs using XCDRoast which was fairly accurate and got me going (there were some discrepancies though).

The next day I tried to install FC2 and ran the media testing tool. The test failed, or at least that was my take on it. 5 seconds after beginning the test I got a blue screen filled with nonsense characters and the computer froze, needing a hard-reset. I tested the remaining CDs and received the same result. At this point I'm thinking, "What a terrible way to indicate that the CDs have a problem." Luckily, the local Half Price Computer Books [http://halfpricecomputerbooks.com/] began selling Linux distributions and I could bypass what I thought was my CD burning ineptitude. $15.99 CDN later I'm back trying to install FC2. I test the media again (mainly to prove how clever I was to buy the CDs instead) and I get the same blue screen with nonsense characters!!!!!

I went ahead with the installation and that went without a hitch. So my conclusion is that the media testing utility is broken in FC2. Not too big a deal but I did needlessly waste time and money on this glitch.
On to the Installation

The installation process was virtually identical to FC1 (as far as I can remember) with a spiffy new FC2 graphic in the beginning. I chose the graphical installation, with auto-partitioning, and selected "custom" as the installation type. I was given enough control over the installation to get what I want without being overwhelmed with detailed questions that I have no idea how to answer.

One problem I did notice is that prior to entering the graphical installation mode the contents on the screen fit nicely within the screen boundaries. As soon as I entered the graphical installation mode the contents were skewed to the right. I can easily adjust this but I found it odd to have this discrepancy. My Windows machine connected to the same monitor does not have this problem so it is a bit annoying to have to adjust the monitor settings when switching between machines (a KVM switch is used to share the one monitor with two computers).

One feature that I would have liked to have during installation is the ability to set the computer's name. I do recall an option to assign a name but the example given was something like, "computername.domainname.com" which didn't seem applicable to me at the time. Perhaps a second example like "computername.localdomain" (with some explanation) would be helpful for us home-using networking neophytes (if in fact this does set the computer's name)?

When the computer rebooted and went through the initial set-up phase the important stuff worked flawlessly. The video card and monitor were detected correctly, the test sound played clearly, and I had access to the Internet. Surprisingly my Windows computer was visible on the Network but I was unable to access it. No matter, I'll fix that later.

I really would have liked my second hard drive to have been mounted automatically, but no such luck. Editing /etc/fstab is easy. So easy in fact that it seems pointless to not have it done automatically. LindowsOS 4.5 had no problem detecting and mounting this ReiserFS drive, can't the Fedora Project do the same?
Next step: Redhat's Update Agent

I ran Redhat's update agent. Clicked "Okay" or "Next" in a few dialogue boxes and away it went. In approximately 10 minutes all the updates had been downloaded and applied. This was much faster than I recall from FC1 so whatever the change was, nice work. At the end I received the oh so pleasant blue check-mark icon. Instant gratification is good.

Up to this point I consider the basic installation complete and now it is just a matter of enabling services and customizing the system.

FC2, Page 2/2
Renaming the Computer

I searched the System Tools and System Setting menu options and saw no tool that could help me accomplish this task. Oh well, I'm used to Googling for information in order to perform some basic tasks. The various queries I tried didn't give me any relevant results nor did a search of the Redhat Web site. I did find a thread on a newsgroup that asked the exact question, but of course it went unanswered.

In my searching I did find this great site for FC2 tips though: http://home.gagme.com/greg/ [http://home.gagme.com/greg/]. I'll be back to this site later.

Without instructions I tried the next best thing: remembering what I did with FC1. This eventually worked but not after some serious frustration. First, I tried adding the following line to /etc/hosts:
127.0.0.1 newcomputername.localdomain newcomputername

This seemed too easy but I couldn't remember what else to do so I tried rebooting. The computer booted much slower and the login screen still said "localhost.localdomain" in the lower right-hand corner. Grrrr.

A little more Googling and I learned about the hostname utility available from the command line. So I open a terminal and bring up the man pages like so: man hostname. From the "instructions" it sounds like I can rename the computer by switching to root and entering the command hostname newcomputername. Seemed to work. When I type hostname to retrieve the computer's name I get the "newcomputername". Yeah! I reboot but alas it still boots slow and still says "localhost.localdomain" in the lower right-hand corner of the login screen. Grrrr!

Back to surfing through the tools in gnomes application launcher. I tried System Settings > Network and then select the hosts tab from the dialogue box. Changed "localhost.localdomain" to "newcomputername", rebooted and finally it worked. Booted well and said "newcomputername" in the lower right-hand corner of the login screen. I am now elated and exhausted.

One down, more to go.
Set-up Mozilla's Mail Client

Well this turned out to be impossible. Two mail clients are listed under Internet: "Email" and "Evolution Email". This was the same in FC1 (although Email, a.k.a. Mozilla Mail, was listed a level lower). When I clicked on "Email", Evolution 1.4 actually opened. Odd, I guess the menu entry is wrong. So I click on "Evolution Email", and Evolution 1.4 opens again. Grrrr!! Fine, I can live with a screwed up menu since I was going to create a shortcut anyway. A little Googling and I find out how to open Mozilla Mail from the command line: mozilla -mail.

I thought for sure I would have solved the problem with this, but no. Instead I get the error "/content/messenger.xul cannot be found" Grrrr!!!

Seems I was destined to use Evolution Email in the end. This has been a pretty good experience so far. Quite a slick application and I much prefer it to the latest version of Outlook I am forced to use at work; however, I still prefer a more bare-bones client since I don't use the calendar, tasks, or contacts features.
Mount the second hard-drive

FC1 didn't do this automatically either and I took good notes from the last time I configured /etc/fstab so this went pretty smoothly. At the command line, SU to root and create a new sub-directory in /mnt. I'm unimaginative when it comes to naming hard-drives and simply named it "hdb1".

Now open /etc/fstab in an editor and add the following line to the bottom:
/dev/hdb1 /mnt/hdb1 reiserfs default 1 1

Rebooted and it worked like a charm. That was nice and problem free for a change.
Get the Apache Web Server running with PHP

The main reason I have chosen to run the Fedora Project's distribution is because of its reputation for being easy to install and configure and for its focus on the Gnome Desktop Environment. There are lot's of other distributions that are more user friendly but they are part of the KDE camp.

Another reason for choosing the Fedora Project's distribution is the very convenient and powerful server settings tools. I love being able to configure Apache from a simple GUI. This is not the case with FC2.

When I opened the HTTP tool under System Settings > Server Settings I was able to make all the changes I want. However, I couldn't save any of the changes. I tried all sorts changes from extensive to hardly any (I.e. just changing the admins e-mail address) and still I could not save. I can only conclude that the save button is broken and hope that it gets fixed with a future update.

I was able to edit httpd.conf manually to make the necessary changes, and PHP was already enabled, so it really wasn't that much of a hassle. But still, the save button really should have worked. Thankfully, the Services tool still worked and I could stop and start Apache with ease.
Japanese Language Input

While customizing the Gnome panel I found the InputMethod Switcher utility. This seemed wonderful. I envisioned an applet sitting in my panel that would allow me to click it and start entering Japanese characters into supported applications. Not so fast though. Adding this utility did not work. I see no new icon on the panel.

Why is it never easy? Oh well, I'll come back to this later.
Closing

As you can see, setting up FC2 has not been without frustrations. I will, however, stick it out and try to get everything working. FC2 offers many great features which I have not touched on, like: speed (system feels much more responsive - this could be the extra 256 MB of RAM too), Gnome 2.6 is nice (spatial nautilus is one of the improvements that is taking some getting used to but other features are excellent).

Given my reasons for upgrading, I would not upgrade again but since I have it installed I will stick it out and try to get the important stuff working. Next stop, enabling YUM and getting all the multimedia stuff going!
About the author
I've been running GNU/Linux distributions for the past 2 - 3 years as my main desktop computer for personal and educational use. I've gone through Redhat Linux 8.0, Mandrake 9.0, LindowsOS 4.0 and 4.5 (before it changed to Linspire), Fedora Core 1 (FC1), and now Fedora Core 2 (FC2). I really like Gnome and the Fedora Project seems like the best distribution for supporting Gnome and being somewhat user friendly. I would like to try all the other distributions out there but I also have to be somewhat productive. Prior to becoming obsessed with GNU/Linux distributions I only had experience with the various incarnations of MS Windows (not counting a very brief stint with RadioShack's CoCo III as a child). I'm a professional Web Developer living in Victoria, BC, Canada with fairly good computer knowledge but could probably be put to shame by the average Slashdot reader.

But enough about me...

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