Archive for August, 2006

My FC5 Upgrade

After months of running FC5 on my laptop, I finally upgraded my main machine. I’m usually fairly conservative about upgrades. In this case the driver was that Classpath needs some newer development libraries, and I wanted to be able to continue working on this machine instead of on my laptop. Also I plan to move my laptop to FC6 test 2 so that I can test out the cutting edge a bit better.

This upgrade (actually I reinstalled) went quite well. It had a few nits… pretty much the same things as last time.

One odd thing about waiting so long to do an install is that the initial yum update (first thing I run on a new OS install) is huge — in this case, a 600M download. I don’t think there’s anything to be done about this, it is just a fact of life. Still, this is so voluminous that it would almost make sense for me not to do a CD-based install (I already had the CDs… so this time it still did) and instead just install over the net.

After my big update the mirror lists seemed to stop working. I thought I read something about this, but I was lazy so I just disabled the mirrors and pushed forward.

I clicked the “developer” option in addition to whatever was selected by default. Unfortunately this missed a number of developer tools I actually use: eclipse, emacs (!), and I think x-chat. (The eclipse install, with all its dependencies, is ridiculously big. Maybe that is why it isn’t in by default. But there’s no excuse for Emacs!)

I also like to install some of the tools using gcj — azureus and rssowl. And I installed inkscape, since it is cool. Also I like to have the terminal in my nautilus menu, so I install nautilus-open-terminal (this approach is a pain, but I suppose that is the point).

Finally I had to build my own xchat-systray-integration from its SRPM (fixing a couple build buglets in the process). I don’t know why this isn’t just built in to x-chat, I find it indispensible. Likewise, for some reason mail-notification is not installed by default. This time, I remembered that and installed it, but not before I had logged in.. at least this time I didn’t switch to KDE like I did previously.

X started up with the wrong display type and resolution. Luckily I had remembered to save my old xorg.conf, so I was able to fix this up pretty quickly. X now seems to put my monitor into low-power mode after it is idle for a while. Great improvement!

My printer driver doesn’t exist — under FC4 I went through a multi-day struggle to get this printer working. I’m afraid to test it now. I forgot to back up this config file, so I’m thinking I will get to fight it all over again.

NetworkManager isn’t the default — a decision that most likely makes sense, given the wide variety of systems out there. (Perhaps it should be the default for laptops, I don’t know.) I enabled it, though, because I wanted an easy way to hook up to the VPN from my desktop. My old setup for this was rather painful. I exported my VPN configuration from the laptop and copied it to the desktop machine. It’s a pity it isn’t somehow simpler to preserve all this info. I suppose I ought to be doing upgrades and not clean installs.

My overall experience was quite good, much nicer than some of the other updates I’ve been through. We still seem to have trouble with some hardware, but that has long been a sore point for Linux in general.

There’s been a thread on the Fedora list lately about how Ubuntu is more user-focused; it arose due to an editorial. Perhaps we’d see more favorable comparisons if someone here went to outer space…

I suppose the fuss must really come down to a small number of concrete things: proprietary X drivers, proprietary wireless drivers, a live CD, and seamless upgrades.

For the driver issue I’m solidly in the Fedora camp, even though it has been personally painful. Andrew Overholt ended up shipping me a somewhat old pcmcia card so I could make my laptop go wireless again… the advice I got from other folks was to buy a card, but not a very new card. Silly!

As to a live CD and upgrades: we need those. I know the latter wasn’t historically popular in the RPM-based community. I never understood why, it seems like an obviously useful feature. By “upgrade” here (and confusingly, not elsewhere in this post) I mean a real Debian-style upgrade, where the system can be upgraded in place over the net via some yum command. (I did do this once but the experience was mixed and as I understand it this isn’t supported.)

Oh, dammit, I just realized today that I forgot to save my somewhat odd mail configuration. Next time I am going to upgrade (the anaconda way) rather than reinstall. I’m just incapable of remembering all the configuration bits.


I got easily addicted to Phil’s frysk blog. Now when he doesn’t post I get angry. Irate. Enraged, really… lucky thing he doesn’t live nearby.

Write faster Phil!

While in Toronto I wanted to get a demo of the new ftrace utility, but that never happened. I think Cagney thought it was weird that I would ask, since really the output just looks like strace and it isn’t like there’s a nice wobbling window or dizzying 3D effect to be had. In any case the point of ftrace isn’t that a replacement for strace is super-cool, but that it is very, very simple to write using the frysk libraries. (I’m going to install rawhide on this laptop so that I can try it for myself… I have a couple other frysk-related things I want to play with as well.)

A Scanner Darkly

I went through a Philip K. Dick phase shortly after college. I still have all his books sitting on a shelf here at home. I’ve been generally disappointed by the films made from PKD’s books, with the exception of Blade Runner — though that really doesn’t resemble the book much and should be considered as a completely separate work of art. (Oh, ok, “Barjo” is also a reasonable adaptation, but it is not one of PKD’s better-known — or even science fiction — stories.)

A Scanner Darkly is an excellent adaptation. It is very close to what I recall of the original book. The choice of turning the film into a kind of animation works very well for this story. The story deals with addicts whose view of reality slowly skews, and the animation sometimes lets us feel this, as objects occasionally float oddly against their backgrounds.

Robert Downey is great in this movie. But as I’ve said before I love the crazed raconteur style. He excels at it here; some scenes (like the bicycle scene) had me laughing and rocking back and forth in my chair. (It was mildly awkward since I was sitting between a coworker and a coworker’s friend, and I didn’t know them very well…) Maybe this stuff is only funny if you knew a bunch of stoners back in the day.
Overall though I didn’t connect to the movie as well as I did with the book. (Lesson to filmmakers: it is probably better not to stick to closely to the book. These comparisons rarely go in the film’s favor.) While the comedy scenes were great, the more serious parts of the film seemed a bit flat. Also it was a bit hard to get inside the characters’ heads, so even though I knew what was going on, it still didn’t quite add up.

Nevertheless I’d recommend it.