Is it about service or money?

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Why I moved from ThrustVPS to Linode for cloud hosting: An open letter

I’ve just moved the hosting for this system and all of the other sterndata.com web services from ThrustVPS to Linode, even though Linode is more than twice the price of ThrustVPS. When I first set up my virtual private server (VPS), I searched on price and settled on ThrustVPS for $15.99/month.  I got my systems up and running fairly easily and the folks at ThrustVPS were reasonably easy to deal with. Until today.

The first sign that something was wrong was a note in my email that the server had rebooted.  I didn’t reboot it, so I knew something was wrong.  I jumped into the site’s control panel and… and… and… it timed out.  Now, the site was completely unavailable.  I put in a “critical” trouble ticket on ThrustVPS’ site that the system was down. About an hour later, I got an email from a customer service rep saying “Please hold.”  That was over 12 hours ago. I’m still holding — whatever that means when it comes in an email — and the physical host server for my virtual machine is still down. There’s been no further communication from ThrustVPS.

I understand that bad things happen

I’ve run servers and system. I understand that bad things happen and you can’t always answer the question, “When will my system be back up?”  Heck, it takes time just to figure out what might have gone wrong. I can live with some downtime, especially because I made the choice not to purchase a service with any real guaranteed uptime, nor did I invest in any fault tolerant configurations.  

Don’t leave me hanging

The reason I’m dumping ThrustVPS is not that Something Bad Happened.  Rather, they left me hanging.   They completely failed to communicate.  They could have saved the business with a few simple sentences:

Our system, 14.xn.tx.damnvps.com, failed early this morning.  While we are still investigating the situation, we believe it was caused by xxxxxx.  Our engineers are attempting to xxxxxx.  We wil contact you again in one hour and apprise you of our progress. We apologize for the interruption in your service and thank you for your patience.

Had I received an hourly status update, I’d know that (1) someone cared and (2) someone was doing something. I’d have been rooting for the guys who had to come in to work on the Sunday before Christmas to put me back online.  Instead, they stayed silent.  Do they care? I couldn’t tell you.

So I said goodbye ThrustVPS, hello Linode

I’m doing a review of one of the sites on this server with a client tomorrow morning. I need to have a functional site.  The guys in the Chicago Drupal Meetup Group are big fans of Linode. It’s been on my radar since the initial search for a virtual private server.  The technology is good. I’ve had no problems with strange routing like I did with ThrustVPS. 

Yeah, it’s $39.99 per month. I’m hoping that the difference is in the support. The reviews are positive and I’m hopeful.

The moral is

The moral is that service keeps customers and communication, backed by execution, is a critical component of service.  When Bad Things Happen, don’t hide them. Tell your customers what’s going on. Be as honest as possible.  If they know you’re working hard, you’re making progress, and you’re keeping them informed, they’ll stay with you. If you tell them to “please hold,” they’re gone.

Google Music Manager, Google Music, and a Fedora work-around

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Google Music  is another "music in the cloud" service.  Like the Amazon music service or Apple's upcoming iCloud service, Google Music lets you buy music or copy your existing music (up to 20,000 titles) into the Google cloud and play it from any Internet-connected device.  At this time, there' s no player for iOS, but it works well within Safari on iOS. There is an app for Android.

The first step in using Google Music is installing the Google Music Manager, which manages the upload process.  The installation went smoothly on my Mac, but was problemmatic on my desktop Fedora machine.  This is also the machine that holds the bulk of my music collection.

Google Music Manager stubbornly refused to use the network connection on the Fedora box.  Several searches indicated the problem might be that Fedora 15 no longer uses "eth0" as the default network adapater.  I tried the work-arounds for that without success.  Then, I found a post on an Ubuntu forum that pointed me in the right direction.

Here's the process:

1) Obtain the MAC address for your network card using ifconfig in terminal.  

$ifconfig
em1       Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:11:11:C5:10:CB  
          UP BROADCAST MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
          RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000 
          RX bytes:0 (0.0 b)  TX bytes:0 (0.0 b)
          Interrupt:16 

wlan0     Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:11:95:BC:E5:F3  
          inet addr:192.168.123.10  Bcast:192.168.123.255  Mask:255.255.255.0
          inet6 addr: fe80::211:95ff:febc:e5f3/64 Scope:Link
          UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
          RX packets:2534922 errors:0 dropped:795 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:2624661 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000 
          RX bytes:1233597209 (1.1 GiB)  TX bytes:2194066402 (2.0 GiB)

I'm using the wireless connection, so the relevant MAC address is 00:11:95:BC:E5:F3 on wlan0. 

2) In terminal:

cd .config/google-musicmanager
sqlite3 Peer.db

In sqlite:

update CONFIG set Value='00:11:95:BC:E5:F3' where Name='MachineIdentifier';
.exit

Google Music is currently a beta product and requires an invitation for access. As of right now, I have seven three invitations. If you'd like on, please leave a comment here. Be sure to fill in your email address so I can send you an invite.

Fedora 15 (Lovelock) released: Time to try Linux

Fedora 15 was released today.  The images are ready for download and the torrents are running.  Don't fear the penguin.  Linux is your friend.

 


From: Jared K. Smith <jsmith@fedoraproject.org>
Reply-to: users@lists.fedoraproject.org
To: announce@lists.fedoraproject.org
Subject: Announcing the release of Fedora 15 (Lovelock)
Date: Tue, 24 May 2011 10:04:23 -0400

Let the celebrations begin!  Fedora 15 is officially here!

Fedora is a leading edge, free and open source operating system that
continues to deliver innovative features to many users, with a new
release about every six months. We bring to you the latest and
greatest release of Fedora ever, Fedora 15! Join us and share the joy
of Free software and the community with friends and family.  We have
several major new features with special focus on desktops, developers,
virtualization, security and system administration.

=== What's new in Fedora 15 (Lovelock)? ===

==== For desktop users ====

A universe of new features for end users:

* GNOME 3 desktop environment — GNOME 3 is the next generation of
GNOME with a brand new user interface. It provides a completely new
and modern desktop that has been designed for today's users and
technologies. Fedora 15 is the first major distribution to include
GNOME 3 by default.  GNOME 3 is being developed with extensive
upstream participation from Red Hat developers and Fedora volunteers,
and GNOME 3 is tightly integrated in Fedora 15. GNOME Shell, the new
user interface of GNOME 3, is polished, robust and extensible, and
several GNOME Shell extensions and the GNOME tweak tool are available
in the Fedora software repository.  Thanks to the Fedora desktop team
developers and community volunteers.

* Btrfs filesystem —  Btrfs, the next generation filesystem is being
developed with upstream participation of Red Hat developers, Oracle
and many others. Btrfs is now available as a menu item in the
installer (only for non-live images. live images support just Ext4)
and does not require passing a special option to the installer as in
the previous releases.  Btrfs availability has moved up a notch as a
incremental step towards the goal of Btrfs as the default filesystem
in the next release of Fedora.  The btrfsck program for performing
filesystem checks is under active development upstream with
participation from Fedora but the one included in this release is
still limited and hence users are highly recommended to maintain
backups when using this filesystem (backups are a good idea anyway!).
Thanks to Josef Bacik, Red Hat Btrfs developer, for his upstream
participation and integration of this feature in Fedora including a
yum plugin (yum-plugin-fs-snapshot) that enables users to rollback
updates if necessary, taking advantage of Btrfs snapshots.

* Indic typing booster — Indic typing booster is a predictive input
method for the ibus platform. It suggests complete words based on
partial input, and users can simply select a word from the suggestion
list and improve their typing speed and accuracy. Thanks to the
development led by Pravin Satpute and Naveen Kumar, Red Hat I18N team
engineers in Pune, India.

* Better crash reporting — ABRT, a crash reporting tool in Fedora,
can now perform a part of crash processing remotely, on a Fedora
Project server.  Remote coredump retracing avoids users having to
download a large amount of debug information and leads to better
quality reports. The retrace server can generate good backtraces with
a much higher success rate than local retracing.

* Redesigned SELinux troubleshooter — SELinux troubleshooter is a
graphical tool that watches and analyses log files and automatically
provides solutions to common issues.   In this release, this tool has
been redesigned to be simpler but provide more solutions at the same
time.  Thanks to Dan Walsh, SELinux developer at Red Hat, for leading
the development of this functionality.

* Higher compression in live images —  Live images in this release
use XZ compression instead of gzip as in older releases, making them
smaller (about 10%) to download or providing more space for
applications to be made available by default.  Thanks to Bruno Wolff
III, Fedora community volunteer, for integrating this functionality in
Fedora Live CD tools.  Thanks to Phillip Lougher for his work on
squashfs and Lasse Collin for getting XZ squashfs support in the
upstream Linux kernel.

* Better power management — Fedora 15 includes a redesigned and
better version of powertop and newer versions of tuned and pm-utils
for better power management.  The tuned package contains a daemon that
tunes system settings dynamically to balance between power consumption
and performance. It also performs various kernel tunings according to
selected profile. The new version of tuned brings several bug fixes,
improvements and profiles updates for better efficiency. Thanks to
Jaroslav Å karvada, Red Hat developer, for integrating the newer
powertop and pm-utils, as well as performing power measurement and
benchmarking. Thanks to Jan V�elák, Red Hat developer, for developing
tuned and integrating the newer version in this release.

* LibreOffice productivity suite —  LibreOffice is a community-driven
and developed free and open source personal productivity suite which
is a project of the not-for-profit organization, The Document
Foundation.  It is a fork of OpenOffice.org with a diverse community
of contributors including developers from Red Hat, Novell and many
volunteers.  OpenOffice.org has been replaced with LibreOffice in this
release.  Thanks to Caolán McNamara from Red Hat for his upstream
participation and for maintaining LibreOffice in Fedora.

* Firefox 4 web browser — A new major version of this popular browser
from the Mozilla non-profit foundation is part of this release.
Firefox 4 features JavaScript execution speeds up to six times faster
than the previous version, new capabilities such as Firefox Sync,
native support for the patent unencumbered WebM multimedia format,
HTML5 technologies and a completely revised user interface. Thanks to
Christopher Aillon from Red Hat and others for integrating Firefox 4
in this release.

* KDE plasma workspaces 4.6 and Xfce 4.8 desktop environments —
Fedora 15 includes new major versions of these alternative desktop
environments.  Fedora also provides dedicated KDE Plasma Workspaces
and Xfce installable live images that include these desktop
environments by default. Thanks to Red Hat developers and other Fedora
community volunteers, part of KDE and Xfce special interest groups.

* Sugar .92 learning platform — Sugar is a desktop environment
originally designed for the OLPC project which has now evolved into a
learning platform developed by the non-profit Sugar Labs foundation.
This version provides major usability improvements for the first login
screen and the control panel, as well as new features such as support
for 3G networks.  Thanks to Peter Robinson and Sebastian Dziallas,
Fedora community volunteers, for leading the integration of this
environment.

==== For developers ====

For developers there are all sorts of additional goodies:

* Robotics Suite — Fedora 15 now includes the Robotics Suite, a
collection of packages that provides a usable out-of-the-box robotics
development and simulation environment. This ever-growing suite
features up-to-date robotics frameworks, simulation environments,
utility libraries, and device support, and consolidates them into an
easy-to-install package group. Refer to
https://rmattes.===spot.com/2011/05/fedora-15-robotics-suite.html for
more details.  Thanks to Tim Niemueller and Rich Mattes,  Fedora
community volunteers for their participation.

* GCC 4.6 —  GCC 4.6 is the system default compiler in Fedora 15 and
all the relevant packages have been rebuilt in Fedora 15 using it.
Developers can realize compiled code improvements and use the newly
added features, such as improved C++0x support, support for the Go
language, REAL*16 support in Fortran and many other improvements.
Thanks to Jakub Jelinek from Red Hat for upstream participation and
leading the integration in Fedora.

* GDB 7.3 —  This new GDB release 7.3 together with Archer and Fedora
extensions improves the debugging experience on Fedora by making the
debugger more powerful. The majority of these features were written by
Red Hat engineers, thus benefiting all gdb users. New features for the
Fedora 15 release include support for breakpoints at SystemTap markers
(probes), support for using labels in the program's source, OpenCL
language debugging support,  thread debugging of core dumps and Python
scripting improvements.  Numerous important packages within Fedora are
pre-built with SystemTap static markers, and these can now be used as
the target for breakpoints in gdb.  Thanks to Jan Kratochvil and other
GDB developers from Red Hat for their upstream participation and
integration of this functionality.

* Programming language updates —  Python 3.2:  The system Python 3
stack has been upgraded to 3.2 (the system Python 2 stack remains at
2.7), bringing in hundreds of fixes and tweaks; for a list of changes
refer to https://docs.python.org/dev/whatsnew/3.2.html.  OCaml 3.12:
OCaml 3.12 is a major revision of the OCaml programming language, the
camlp4 macro language, libraries, and CDuce for XML processing. Rails
3.0.5:  Rails 3 is a large update to the Ruby on Rails web framework.
It brings many new features such as a polished routing API, new
activemailer and activerecord APIs, and many more new enhancements.
Thanks to Dave Malcolm, Richard W.M. Jones and Mo Morsi, Red Hat
developers leading the integration of the respective features in this
release.

* Maven 3 — Maven 3.0 offers better stability and performance
compared to previous versions and a lot of work under the hood to
simplify writing Maven plugins and further improve performance by
building projects in parallel.  Refer to
https://maven.apache.org/docs/3.0/release-notes.html for more
information.   Fedora still provides maven2 package to support
backward compatibility where needed. Thanks to Red Hat developer,
Stanislav OchotnickÜ for the work in this feature.

==== For system administrators ====

And don't think we forgot the system administrators:

* systemd system and session manager —   systemd is a system and
session manager for Linux, compatible with SysV and LSB init scripts.
systemd provides aggressive parallelization capabilities, uses socket
and D-Bus activation for starting services, offers on-demand starting
of daemons, keeps track of processes using Linux cgroups, supports
snapshotting and restoring of the system state, maintains mount and
automount points and implements a powerful transactional
dependency-based service control logic. It can work as a drop-in
replacement for sysvinit.  A related change is /var/run and /var/lock
are mounted from tmpfs and results in a simpler, more faster and
robust boot-up scheme and aligns to the default configuration of
several other distributions. Thanks to Lennart Poettering,  Rahul
Sundaram. Michal Schmidt, Bill Nottingham and others from Red Hat for
leading development and integration of systemd as the default init
system in this release and many Fedora community volunteers for their
extensive testing and feedback.

* Dynamic firewall — Dynamic firewall makes it possible to change
firewall settings without the need to restart the firewall and  makes
persistent connections possible.  This is for example very useful for
services, that need to add additional firewall rules including
virtualization (libvirtd) and VPN(openvpn). With the static firewall
model these rules are lost if the firewall gets modified or restarted.
The firewall daemon (firewalld) holds the current configuration
internally and is able to modify the firewall without the need to
recreate the complete firewall configuration; it is also able to
restore the configuration in a service restart and reload case.
Another use case for the dynamic firewall mode is printer discovery.
For this the discovery program will be started locally that sends out
a broadcast message. It will most likely get an answer from an unknown
address (the new printer). This answer will be filtered by the
firewall, because the answer is not related to the broadcast and the
port of the program that was sending out the message is dynamic and
therefore a fixed rule can not be created for this.  It also has a
D-BUS interface to allow clients or services to request firewall
changes.  firewall-cmd (part of firewalld package) is a very simple
yet powerful user space alternative to the iptables command: for
instance,  firewall-cmd –enable –service=samba –timeout=10 opens
the appropriate ports for Samba for only ten seconds.  Since the
current implementation is a proof of concept, in this release, it is
available in the Fedora software repository but not installed by
default. The plan is to make it the default firewall solution in the
next release. Thanks to Thomas Woerner from Red Hat for developing
this feature.

* BoxGrinder appliance creator —  BoxGrinder is a set of free and
open source tools used for building appliances (images/virtual
machines) for various platforms (KVM, Xen, VMware, EC2).  BoxGrinder
creates appliances from simple plain text appliance definition files.
Thanks to Marek Goldmann and others from Red Hat for upstream
participation and bringing this feature into Fedora.

* Spice integration in Virt Manager —   With Fedora 15, virt-manager
has been updated to support Spice, the complete open source solution
for interaction with virtualized desktops.  It is now possible to
create a virtual machine with Spice support without touching the
command line, easily taking advantage of all the Spice enhancements
directly from virt-manager.  Spice provides better performance and
additional functionality (such as copy/paste between guest and host)
compared to using VNC.  Thanks to the spice-gtk library, a new client
can be developed in Python or C, or with gobject-introspection
bindings.  Thanks to Marc-André Lureau,  Red Hat developer, for
leading development of this feature.

* Consistent network device naming —  Servers often have multiple
Ethernet ports, either embedded on the motherboard, or on add-in PCI
cards. Linux has traditionally named these ports ethX, but there has
been no correlation of the ethX names to the chassis labels – the ethX
names are non-deterministic. Starting in Fedora 15, Ethernet ports
will have a new naming scheme corresponding to physical locations,
rather than ethX.  By changing the naming convention, system
administrators will no longer have to guess at the ethX to physical
port mapping, or invoke workarounds on each system to rename them into
some "sane" order. This feature is enabled on all physical systems
that expose network port naming information in SMBIOS 2.6 or later.
Thanks to Jordan Hargrave, Matt Domsch and several other engineers
from Dell for their long term upstream participation and collaboration
with Fedora in integration of this feature.

* Setuid removal —  Fedora 15 removes setuid in several applications
and instead specifically assigns the capabilities required by each
application to improve security by reducing the impact of any
potential vulnerabilities in these applications.  Thanks to Daniel
Walsh from Red Hat for leading the integration of this feature.

*  Improved support for encrypted home directory —  Fedora 15 brings
in improved support for eCryptfs, a stacked cryptographic filesystem
for Linux. Starting from Fedora 15, authconfig can be used to
automatically mount a private encrypted part of the home directory
when a user logs in.  Thanks to Paolo Bonzini from Red Hat for
integration of this feature.

* RPM 4.9.0 package manager — RPM 4.9.0 brings a number of immediate
benefits to Fedora including the pluggable dependency generator,
built-in filtering of generated dependencies, additional package
ordering hinting mechanism, performance improvements and many
bugfixes.  More details at  https://rpm.org/wiki/Releases/4.9.0,
Thanks to Panu Matilainen from Red Hat and other RPM developers for
their participation and help in integration of this feature in this
release.

* Tryton ERP system —  Tryton is a three-tier general-purpose
application platform and basis for an ERP (Enterprise Resource
Planning) system.  Currently, the main modules available for Tryton
cover accounting, invoicing, sale management, purchase management,
analytic accounting and inventory management   Thanks to Dan Horák,
Fedora community volunteer for integration of this feature.

And that's only the beginning.  A more complete list with details of
all the new features on board Fedora 15 is available at:

* https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/15/FeatureList?anF15

== Download and upgrading ==

OK, go get it.  You know you can't wait.

* https://get.fedoraproject.org/?anF15

If you are upgrading from a previous release of Fedora, refer to

* https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Upgrading?anF15

For a quick tour of features in Fedora 15 and pictures of many friends
of Fedora, check out our "short-form" release notes:

* https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/F15_one_page_release_notes?anF15

Fedora 15 full release and technical notes and guides for several
languages are available at:

* https://docs.fedoraproject.org/?anF15

Fedora 15 common bugs are documented at:

* https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Common_F15_bugs?anF15

=== Fedora spins ===

Fedora spins are alternate versions of Fedora tailored for various
types of users via hand-picked application set or customizations.
Fedora spins include those providing alternative desktop environments
like KDE, Xfce and LXDE by default but also more specialized ones such
as Fedora Security Lab, Fedora Electronics Lab and Fedora Design
Suite.  More information on these spins and much more is available at

* https://spins.fedoraproject.org/?anF15

== Looking forward to Fedora 16 (Verne) ==

Our next release, Fedora 16 codename is named after and to honor,
Jules Verne.  Jules Verne is considered a father of science-fiction.
He was a science-fiction writer and futurist, best known for novels
such as "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea".  More information at

* https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Jules_Verne

Fedora's awesome design team is already busy at work creating artwork
based on this concept and you are welcome to join the team

* https://mairin.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/design-team-imageboard-test-server-and-we-need-fedora-16-theme-artists/

Even as we continue to provide updates with enhancements and bug fixes
to improve the Fedora 15 experience, our next release, Fedora 16, is
already being developed in parallel, and has been open for active
development for several months already. We have an early schedule for
an end of Oct 2011 release:

* https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/16/Schedule?anF15

Features planned for Fedora 16 include the default use of Btrfs as the
next generation filesystem, GRUB 2 bootloader by default, further
enhancements to systemd system and session manager, dynamic firewall
by default and much much more.  Watch the feature list page for
updates.

* https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/16/FeatureList?anF15

Join us today and help improve free and open source software and lead
the future of Linux.

== We need your help! ==

Our rapid release cycle and innovative features are a direct result of
development of thousands of upstream projects and collaboration by a
large distributed and diverse community with many volunteers and
organizations across the globe, participating in the free and open
source software community and within Fedora. Fedora strives to bring
these thousands of upstream projects together and serves as a
integration point for them and for our users and contributors.  Red
Hat, the leading provider of open source solutions is a partner in our
community and major sponsor of the Fedora project. To continue to
advance and bring you the best of free software quickly and robustly.
we are always looking for more people to join us in the Fedora
community. You don't have to be a dazzling software programmer to
participate and join us in developing Fedora although if you are one,
you are welcome too! There are many ways to contribute beyond
programming. You can report bugs, help translate software and content,
test and give feedback on software updates, write and edit
documentation, design and do artwork, perform system administration on
our infrastructure, help with all sorts of promotional activities, and
package free software for use by millions of Fedora users worldwide
and more. Whether you are a Linux kernel hacker or just a newcomer,
there is always something for everyone to pitch in.

To get started, visit https://join.fedoraproject.org today!

Gnome 3 and AWN – The new desktop

Fedora 15, now in pre-beta testing, uses Gnome 3 Shell as the standard desktop.  This is a controversial decision, much discussed on the mailing lists.  Unlike prior versions of Gnome, the desktop no longer looks like a version of Windows XP. There's no menu and there are no files on the desktop.  Instead, the top left has the word "Activities". The top right holds icons that show the status of various system things like connection status.  Where do you start?   It all comes together when you put the mouse over the word "Activities".  The screen shows a "favorites dock" on the left and tiles all open windows. There are two new words on the screen, Windows and Applications.  Windows is the view of open windows; Applications is a grid of installed applications. 

When I first tried Gnome 3 Shell, it was inscrutable.  Now that I've become a Mac user, it's very familiar.  The one thing it lacks is a permanent on-screen place to show what's happening and links to my favorite applications.  Thanks to someone on the Fedora test list, I've found Avant Window Navigator and completed my Mac desktop on Linux.  For me, it's the best of both worlds.  I'm using the new, clean desktop from Gnome and I don't have issues when moving back and forth between my two Linux machines and my MacBook.

For my fellow Fedora users, "yum install avant-window-navigator awn-extras-applets".

 

Dropbox: Application of the Year

1 Comment

box_reasonably_smallDropbox is cloud storage made easy.  Dropbox synchronizes a folder on your computer with a secure site on the Internet.  Any file you put there is immediately copied off site, safely away from your computer.  That’s good, but it gets better.  If you join any of your other computers to your Dropbox account, that folder is then synchronized to that computer, too.  The computers can run Mac OS/X, Windows, and Linux.  Files move back and forth effortlessly.  It just works.

There are mobile apps, too, so you can access files from your phone.  As you travel, snapping pictures, you can use Dropbox to transfer them to your computer — they’ll be home before you are.  If you’re not at your computer, you can still access your files via any web browser.

Dropbox also enables sharing. You can pick one or more folders and make them public, or share them with one or more individuals.  That means you don’t have to mail files back and forth. The latest copy is always on your computer, kept up to date by Dropbox. This is a great tool when you’re working in teams.  Everyone in the team has the files available locally, and the files are automagically kept in synchroniztion. Network traffic is minimal:  If the computers are on the same network segment, the files are shared locally, so only one of the computers has to talk to Dropbox’s servers.

Dropbox also supports versioning, so you can get back to an earlier version of a file or recover a file accidentally deleted.

Is Dropbox viable?  I don’t know.  The business model may be a variant of the underpants gnomes.  They seem to have decent funding, get good press, and show good customer growth based on viral marketing.

 

Shameless Plug:  If you sign up for Dropbox via this link, you get the usual 2GB of storage, plus an extra 250 MB in your free Dropbox, as do I.  Following that, if you tweet about Dropbox, you’ll get some more free space. Post something on Facebook for yet more space.  Free accounts can be expanded to 8GB!

Linux Dropbox hint:  If you’re sharing files with other computers on your LAN, open port 17500 for both TCP and UDP connections.

Redhat releases version 6, thanks Fedora Community

Redhat has released Redhat Enterprise Linux 6.  This note from Redhat to the Fedora user community mailing list helps explain the relationship between Redhat and Fedora:

Following on last week's successful F14 launch that we did together. This week, Red Hat launched Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. This is an exciting event not only for RH-ers but also for our co-contributors in Fedora.

For this reason, I wanted to deliver some personal kudos directly to the Fedora community. Lots of Fedora contributors can see their direct influence in shaping and co-developing of the best Linux in the world. We are proud to be able to work side-by-side with our community members in Fedora. The benefits of open source collaboration converge in Fedora where the confluence of upstream, community and industry come together.

This is the first Fedora -> RHEL major release in which the community members have had full access to all areas of the distro. This level of transparency has resulted is our most feature complete and robust release to date. Not only is RHEL stronger for it, but Fedora and its community directly benefits also. A win-win situation.

Take a look at free video drivers for instance. Since demanding Fedora users have so many variations in hardware, and participated in reporting issues, the drivers improved far faster than would be possible in RHEL. The same applies to more enterprise type features like virtualization. Common tools that apply across many different types of user or workload have come a long way, because of community participation. We're proud to keep working alongside the community to keep making these features stronger.

Thank you, Fedora contributors, users and fans worldwide. You are an awesome team and its great fun to be doing it together.

Tim Burke
Vice President, RHEL Engineering

— announce mailing list announce@lists.fedoraproject.org

Fedora 14 (Laughlin)

Fedora 14, the latest revision of the Linux distribution produced by the Fedora Community and Redhat, has hit the streets. 

Fedora is a Linux-based operating system, a collection of software that makes your computer run. You can use Fedora in addition to, or instead of, other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows™ or Mac OS X™. The Fedora operating system is completely free of cost for you to enjoy and share.

The Fedora Project is the name of a worldwide community of people who love, use, and build free software from around the globe. We want to lead in the creation and spread of free code and content by working together as a community. Fedora is sponsored by Red Hat, the world's most trusted provider of open source technology. Red Hat invests in Fedora to encourage collaboration and incubate innovative new free software technologies.

The four foundations of freedom, features, friends, and first are the core values of the Fedora community.

— From http://fedoraproject.org/en/about-fedora

The upgrade of my desktop from a clean install of Fedora 13 to Fedora 14 went well. There was a minor glitch with Thunderbird, but it seemed to go away as soon as I filed a bug report and posted a note to the community email list. So, now it's time to move on to the server.  The process is pretty easy.

  1. At the command line: preupgrade-cli  "Fedora 14 (Laughlin)"
  2. Come back in a while
  3. Reboot

If you're reading this, then the upgrade of www.sterndata.com from Fedora 13 to Fedora 14 has succeeded. 

Inevitably, something will go wrong: A plan for backup

A while ago, I wrote a piece about the need to backup your home computers.  After tweaking the full-backup script on my desktop today, I thought it would be useful to update the information. 

Before we get into it, I hear you say, “But Steve, I’m not technical.  I don’t understand about scripts and I have a PC.”  For you, I recommend either Mozy or Carbonite.  Both are “set it and forget it” systems that, for about $55 a year, will backup your computer into the cloud and keep that backup current whenever it is connected to the internet. Installation is trivial and both have excellent technical support.

I’m backing up 4 computers with four backup methods:

  • Fedora Linux Desktop
    • backup of my home folder to a Linux server
    • backup of entire file system to external USB drive
  • Apple MacBookPro
    • backup of entire file system to external USB drive using Time Machine
  • Sony Vaio notebook (MS Vista)
    • image backup of hard drive to external USB drive
  • Fedora Linux Server
    • backup of entire file system to external USB Drive

The Sony Vaio image backup uses CloneZilla.  CloneZilla is a free product that works like Symantec Ghost or other commercial image backup programs. I boot the computer from the CloneZilla CD, plug in the external USB drive, and create an image of the hard drive.  I use image backup because I’m protecting this system from a failing hard drive. The most likely restore scenario is a “bare metal restore”, not a file restore.

The Linux systems use a simple rsync script for full file system backups. It’s attached below. The main file, “do-backup”, does the backup.  The companion file, “do-backup-excludes”, excludes certain virtual parts of the file system from the backup. Restores are easy because the file system is duplicated (through 5 iterations) on the backup media.  Files can be restored by a simple copy or by using rsync.

I backup my desktop home directory to the server using a script based on rdiff-backup.  Unlike my do-backup script, rdiff-backup uses a combination of rsync and diff files to produce a backup with multiple increments. Restores from increments other than the most recent backup must use the restore functions of rdiff.

The Apple MacBookPro uses Time Machine for backup and like most things Apple, it just works.

Skype on Fedora Linux

After only a bit of tweaking and googling, I have Skype working on my Fedora 11 Linux desktop.

 

Step 1:  Set up a .repo file for Skype and install Skype via yum.

Step 2:  Understand it won’t work with pulseaudio and install alsa-oss.  (Thanks, Jerry Feldman).

Step 3:  Set the sound configuration to use the "plughw" component for the sound card.

 

Skype repo file:

$ cat /etc/yum.repos.d/skype.repo
[skype]
name=Skype Repository
baseurl=http://download.skype.com/linux/repos/fedora/updates/i586/
enabled=1
gpgkey=http://www.skype.com/products/skype/linux/rpm-public-key.asc
gpgcheck=0

Alsa-OSS:

yum install alsa-oss
modprobe snd-mixer-oss
modprobe snd-pcm-oss