Friday, February 03, 2012

At Work with Linux: Ubuntu 11.10, Linux Mint 12, Fedora 16

I spend some time in the lab this morning tidying up the VMs. As I wrote about earlier I deleted the VM devoted to OpenSUSE. After that I started up my baseline VMs for Ubuntu 11.10 and Linux Mint 12, ran the updates, performed some simple checks, then put them back on the shelf for cloning.

Updates to Ubuntu have, for the most part, been without drama. Updates to 11.10 are equally without drama. The updater for Ubuntu performed its task flawless. When finished I rebooted the VM to check that it at least started correctly.

I've had a question about whether the distributions would keep up with the Firefox release schedule. The answer is a good news/bad news kind of answer. The good news is that yes, Ubuntu (and Linux Mint below) do keep up with Firefox, at least up to 9.0.1 in both of these. The bad news is that Firefox 10 has been released, and it's landed on all the Windows boxen and VMs in the lab. The only Linux distribution that is fully up to date is Fedora 16 (see more below).

Bringing Linux Mint 12 up to date was as painless as bringing Ubuntu 11.10 up to date. I just find it somewhat surprising that the update UI is so different between the two distributions. I can't say which one is better; they both get the job done without getting in the way.

Once the update was finished I performed a nominal check, restarting the VM to make sure it started properly and all services were operational. Again, checking Firefox, it was at version 9.0.1. I'm assuming that because Linux Mint is downstream from Ubuntu, that it forces Linux Mint to be in lock-step with Ubuntu's versions, so that if Ubuntu is just stepping up to 9.0.1 then Linux Mint steps up to 9.0.1.

Once the Ubuntu and Linux Mint VMs were updated and shut down, I installed an instance of 64-bit Fedora 16. I actually installed it twice, once to see what it was like with all defaults, then a second time to strip out all the bits I didn't want, and add in the few I did, in particular gcc and the kernel development bits. On first start, after installation had finished, I was presented with the Gnome 3 "Failed to Load" dialog. I expected this and wanted to see how Fedora would operate. It operated flawlessly, if only in plain old 2D mode on the desktop.

I'm still running with VMware Player 4.0.1 build-528992 in the lab, and have no plans to update something that appears to work just fine as is. So it was with a certain keen interest that I installed the VMware Tools in Fedora 16. For the most part it turned out rather uneventful, if boring. I took all the default settings (as usual).

At the tail end I got a kernel abort. What's interesting (and rather delightful, actually) about current kernels is their ability to trap the error, tell you about it, and continue on without crashing and burning. Rather than dig into this one, I decided to reboot.

A full reboot later and the VM came up, with a "fire alarm" signal on the upper panel. Part of the construction of this VM included updating all the files. I use 'yum update' to perform this, but before I could do that I had to let yum know about the network proxy.

I need to document this yet again because of so much poor information about how to do this on the web. To tell yum about a proxy, you need to do the following:
  1. su to root (su -)
  2. cd to /etc and edit yum.conf
  3. In the [main] section cursor down to the line 'installonly_limit=3' and add beneath that line the following text on a new line: 'proxy='
Once you've done that, and assuming you've spelled the proxy's name correctly and used the right port, then you can, again as root, perform 'yum update' to pick up all the updates.

I'm in the process of installing Fedora 16 with the KDE desktop in place of OpenSUSE. I'll write up a little note about that sometime next week.


  1. Interesting, Bill, and wow, you've got some nice background pictures in there (don't usually bother/care about these, so they could even be provided by the software vendors without me knowing; please ignore my ignorance in this case).

    At work, some of the colleagues and me use the "IBM Open Client", in the flavor based on RHEL6. And sometimes, these yum updates fail, and cannot find the repo servers configured - strange, because we see them alright, but yum doesn't.

    At home, I much prefer Debian to anything else. I do have a dual boot setup with Ubuntu as well, just to be able to support those who use it (wife, brother), but Debian gives me everything I need. Without the latest Mozilla browsers / mail clients of course, since I'm using Debian stable, not testing or unstable (on which Ubuntu is based).

    But it's about time to look at those newer versions - the next Debian will have Gnome3, and Ubuntu lets me see part of it with its 'Unity' desktop. Would be interesting to finally get some Munki or other device, and to calibrate colors here...

  2. On the Linux distros keeping up with the latest releases from Mozilla - the frequent updates from Mozilla are both a blessing and a curse.

    This happened to me on my office Windows 7 laptop actually, a successful Thunderbird update notified me that my installed version of the Lightning plugin was not compatible. I was horrified, all my appointments for the day were in Lightning. I went to the addons page and installed the latest build of lightning but all my appointments were gone.

  3. Hi Bill,

    Like you I enjoy trying new Linux distributions, in fact thats what made me a regular visitor to your blog years back.

    I am wondering if you have tried these two Linux distributions - Netrunner and PinguyOs? Both based on Ubuntu / Debian.

    The base distros of Ubuntu etc don't give you a smooth experience out of the box and one has to spend time customizing a lot so I tend to prefer distros with the customizations built in.

    I was a die hard KDE user but shifted to Gnome due to the wireless and Firefox experiences being better out of the box on Gnome. Being a KDE user, PinguyOs made Gnome usable for me so I highly recommend it.

    I was going through the Linux Mint KDE RC post comments section and someone there recommended Netrunner as a good KDE distro. Since I was Originally a KDE user I could not help but try a KDE based distro in the hope they fixed the Firefox KDE wrapper issues and the wireless issues. I installed NetRunner today and am happy to report it has been a pleasant experience so far. I highly recommend you give PingGuy and Netrunner a go. If you are trying Pinguy I can vouch for the experience provided by the 11.4 release, I can't say much of the 11.10 Beta Gnome 3 based release as I have not tried that as yet.

  4. Wolfgang, those images are stock from the distribution. I gave up long ago going out to places like

    Corporate, I appreciate the heads-up about Pinguy and Netrunner. However, since these are virtual machine installations, a lot of the pain of trying to install on hardware is considerably reduced, and some of the hardware support is irrelevant, such as wireless. The reason for stock Ubuntu (and to a lesser extend Linux Mint) is that's the unofficial corporate standard.

    Right now I'm quite happy that we are allowed to run and support Linux, and more than satisfied that there is a reasonable selection of distributions for us to choose from. Those distributions parallel what we find with our partners and sponsors.

    My duties in the lab, which include keeping an eye the current state of Linux and offering my "considered" opinion when somebody asks, are secondary to my other tasks in systems and software engineering. Our lab, and the operating systems it supports, is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Which, I believe, is a good thing.


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