Django Projects    Posted:


Over the past 6 years, I've built a lot of things with Django. It has treated me very well, and I have very much enjoyed seeing it progress. I got into Django when I helped the company I was working for transition away from a homegrown PHP framework toward something more reliable and flexible. It was very exciting to learn more about Django at a time when the ecosystem was very young.

When I started with Django, there weren't a lot of pluggable apps to fill the void for things like blogs, event calendars, and other useful utilities for the kinds of sites I was building. That has changed quite a bit since then. The ecosystem has evolved and progressed like mad, and it's wonderful. We have so many choices for simple things to very complex things. It's amazing!

Unfortunately, during this whole time period, my development efforts have shifted from creating my own open source projects to share with the world toward more proprietary solutions for my employers. If it's not obvious to you from my blog activity in recent years, I've become very busy with family life and work. I have very little time to give my open source projects the attention they deserve.

For at least 4 years, I've been telling myself that I'd have/make time to revamp all of my projects. To make them usable with what Django is today instead of what it was when I built the projects. Yeah, this time has never showed up. Take a look at the last time I wrote a blog article!

I have decided to disown pretty much all of my open source Django projects. I've basically done this with one or two of the more popular projects already--let someone else take the reigns while I lurk in the background and occasionally comment on an issue here or there. I truly appreciate those who have taken the initiative here. But there are still plenty of projects that people may find useful that need some attention. I'm putting it up to the community to take these projects over if you find them useful so they can get the love and attention they need.

Here is a list of Django projects that anyone is free to assume responsibility for. Most of them are silly and mostly useless now. Some are unpleasant to look at and could use an entire rewrite.

The fact that I'm giving up these projects does not mean I'm giving up on Django. On the contrary, I'm still using it quite heavily. I'm just doing it in such a way that I can't necessarily post my work for everyone to use. I honestly don't expect much of this disowning effort, since the projects are mostly stale and incompatible with recent versions of Django. But please let me know if you do want to take over one of my projects and care for it.

Comments

New Feature in django-articles: Articles From Email    Posted:


One of the features that I really like about sites like posterous and tumblr is that they allow you to send email to a special email address and have it be posted as a blog article. This is a feature I've been planning to implement in django-articles pretty much since its inception way back when. I finally got around to working on it.

The latest release of django-articles allows you to configure a mailbox, either IMAP4 or POP3, to periodically check for new emails. A new management command check_for_articles_from_email can be used to process the messages found in the special mailbox. If any emails are found, they will be fetched, parsed, and posted based on your configuration values. Only articles whose sender matches an active user in your Django site will be turned into articles. You can configure the command to mark such articles from email as "inactive" so they don't appear on the site without moderation. The default behavior, actually, is to mark the articles inactive--you must explicitly configure django-articles to automatically mark the articles as active if you want this behavior.

One of the biggest things that you should keep in mind with this new feature, though, is that it does not currently take your attachments into account. In time I plan on implementing this functionality. For now, only the plain text content of your email will be posted. Please see the project's README for more information about this new feature.

Please keep in mind that this is brand new functionality and it's not been very well tested in a wide variety of situations. Right now, it's in the "it works for me" stage. If you find problems with it, please create a ticket or update any similar existing tickets using the ticket tracker on bitbucket.org.

You can install or update django-articles using the following utilities:

  • pip install -U django-articles
  • easy_install -U django-articles
  • hg clone http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/django-articles/ or just hg pull -u if you have already cloned it
  • git clone git://github.com/codekoala/django-articles.git

Enjoy!

P.S. This article was posted via email

Comments

2Ze.us Updates    Posted:


There has been quite a bit of recent activity in my 2ze.us project since I first released it nearly a year ago. My intent was not to become a competitor with bit.ly, is.gd, or anyone else in the URL-shortening arena. I created the site as a way for me to learn more about Google's AppEngine. It didn't take very long to get it up and running, and it seemed to work fairly well.

AppEngine and Extensions

I was able to basically leave the site alone on AppEngine for several months--through about September 2009. In that time, I came up with a Firefox extension to make its use more convenient.

The extension allows you to quickly get a shortened URL for the page you're currently looking at, and a couple of context menu items let you get a short URL for things like specific images on a page. Also included in the extension is a preview for 2ze.us links. The preview can tell you the title and domain of the link's target. It can tell you how much smaller the 2ze.us URL is compared to the full URL. Finally, it displays how many times that particular 2ze.us link has been clicked.

That as all fine and dandy. It was the second Firefox extension I had ever written, and it's still running strong. In June or July of 2009, I started working on a little program to make it easier for me to interact with Twitter the way I wanted to. This was a great opportunity for me to incorporate 2ze.us into the application so any URL I wanted to post to Twitter would automatically be shortened for me, using my own shortener.

Porting to WebFaction And PHP

Anyway, around the end of September 2009, I noticed that there were a lot of problems with 2ze.us. It was slow and sometimes completely unresponsive. Certain URLs would redirect to their full URLs, while others wouldn't. The Firefox extension stopped working nicely. Oh yeah, and AppEngine rolled back to a previous revision of the code without me telling it to. That's when everything just died. It didn't take long for me to decide to migrate my project from AppEngine onto my awesome WebFaction hosting.

At this point, I was faced with a small dilemma: keep the code in Python, or port it to PHP. I opted to port it over to PHP, because I didn't want all of the overhead of a full Django instance for a site that needed to be very zippy. And I was unacquainted with other Python options.

By early October 2009, I had managed to turn the project into a PHP beast, running on Apache. It was a lot more responsive than AppEngine ever let 2ze.us be. There were a few bumps along the road, what with the extension and Twitter client relying on various parts of the site. Eventually it got to a point where I could just let it sit and work.

Chromium Extension

Sometime around the end of December, I decided to write another extension for 2ze.us, only for Google Chrome and Chromium this time. This extension isn't quite as feature-packed as its Firefox brother, but it gets the job done.

Clip2Zeus

Shortly after "completing" the Chromium extension, I had what seemed like a pretty original idea. Who knows if it really is, but I still haven't seen another tool quite like the one that I made as a result of this idea. I thought, "Now, why should I need to install an extension in each Web browser I use on each computer I use? Is there a better way?"

The answer came quickly: a standalone, desktop application. Write one program that handles shortening URLs for you. My laziness told me to make a program that monitors your system clipboard for URLs. If a URL is detected, try to shorten it, and update the clipboard contents in place. Boom. Done. All extensions become useless beyond things like the URL preview (which is very useful, imo).

The next question I asked was, "Do I make it platform-dependent? Should I stick it to the majority of computer users and write my tool for Linux only? For OSX only? For, uh... Windows only?" Again, an easy question to answer. Support them all or don't even bother writing the application.

A week's worth of midnight hacking saw the birth of Clip2Zeus 1.0a. It's a cross-platform compatible desktop application that does exactly what I just mentioned. When it's running and detects a URL on your system clipboard, it will try to shorten it and update it in your clipboard. If you copy a block of text, the application will only modify the URLs in that block of text--meaning the block of text will still be in your clipboard, but it will have shorter URLs.

I use the program every day at work (on OSX). It's been very fun for me to see a short URL any time I copy a nasty URL to my clipboard. Imagine that; I'm a big fan of my own work...

Tornado

Lately, I've noticed that the site was getting kind of slow again. Sometimes it would take several seconds for Clip2Zeus to shorten URLs in my clipboard, when it was normally instantaneous. Every once in a while, Clip2Zeus would completely fail to connect to the website.

One of my friends has asked me a lot of questions about the Tornado framework in the past months. I had read a few things about Tornado when it was open-sourced last year, but I didn't really feel the need to dabble with it. These questions prompted me to tinker a little.

Last night I re-ported 2ze.us to Python, using the Tornado framework this time. So far I'm very impressed with its responsiveness. The framework offers a lot of neat little utilities, and it is very fast (as reported by dozens of other reputable sources).

On top of the speed increase that came with the transition to Tornado, my RAM usage on WebFaction has come down by nearly 100MB. Just by turning off the one Apache-backed website. Now I'm nowhere near my RAM cap! Wahoo!!

Enough rambling. Like I said at the beginning of this article, a lot has been happening with this project in the past year. I didn't even think about all of the time I put into projects related to my simple little side project. Looking back, I'm quite satisfied with how things have unfolded.

Statistics

Here are some simple statistics for 2ze.us. Since March 2009...

  • 5,252 URLs have been shortened using 2ze.us
  • 2ze.us links have been clicked 198,267 times
  • 315,951 URL characters have been turned into 11,532 characters

In April 2009...

  • 217 URLs were shortened
  • 2ze.us links were clicked 617 times

In February 2010...

  • 1,182 URLs were shortened
  • 2ze.us links were clicked 32,830 times

Not too shabby for a side project.

Comments

Monitor Multiple Remote Files Using Multitail    Posted:


There comes a time in each of our individual lives that we just learn to love log files. We learn to love utilities like tail and grep as we pore over countless lines of information, seeking out the stuff that really matters. We like to show off our debugging prowess as innocent bystanders look on in absolute wonderment.

While that's all fine and dandy, I'm always on the lookout for utilities to make my log monitoring less painful. A few weeks ago, my supervisor introduced me to a program that he's been using for quite some time: multitail. In essence, it's tail with some really neat features, such as the ability to:

  • "tail" multiple files (or commands, like netstat) independently in the same terminal
  • highlight text using regular expressions
  • search log messages and see only the matching lines
  • merge multiple files into one log window
  • scrolling back in the history of a log file
  • highlighting "themes"

I've been using multitail for a couple of weeks now (it took me a while to warm up to it after my supervisor introduce it), and I'm quite satisfied with it. One thing I really, really like about multitail is that I can kinda sorta almost monitor multiple remote files. What does that mean, you ask?

Well, my development environment includes at least 5 virtual machines, each of which will be logging different but equally important information. I want to be able to "tail" a specific log file on each of the virtual machines in one window. Now, it took me a while to learn how to do this, which is why I'm sharing the information with you.

And here comes my usual disclaimer: this may not be the most efficient way to do what I want to do, but it's currently working for me. I'm open to other solutions too!

Anyway, I can run a command like the following to monitor multiple remote log files:

multitail -l 'ssh user@host1 "tail -f /path/to/log/file"' -l 'ssh user@host2 "tail -f /path/to/log/file"'

Such a command would ssh into two computers, host1 and host2, and run tail -f /path/to/log/file on each. Multitail allows you to monitor the output of both tail commands in a single window, reducing clutter on your desktop. You can also arrange the files/commands you're "tailing" into various rows and columns. I tend to have a 2x2 grid of log files when I use multitail at work.

I've also started using multitail to monitor the access and error logs for my Django sites on WebFaction. I simply ssh into my account, run an alias for a ridiculous multitail command, and watch as both log files scroll on by.

Again, this is just another aspect of my work environment that is fun and useful to me, and I wanted to spread the joy. Multitail may or may not be a utility you like to use, but it suits my current needs and desires quite well. YMMV. And, once again, I'm always on the look-out for other tools to make my work life more interesting and productive!

Comments

Afloat: Window Management For OSX    Posted:


Today I wanted to be able to watch the PyCon Live Stream while using OS X at work. A quick Google search returned an awesome program: Afloat. It lets me change the window settings for just about any OS X application. Right now I've got the live feed just lingering there in the background, pinned to my desktop. Loving it!

Comments

Tip: easy_install / pip    Posted:


With all of the exciting updates to Mercurial recently, I've been on a rampage, updating various boxes everywhere I go. I'm in the habit of using easy_install and/or pip to install most of my Python-related packages. It's pretty easy to install packages that are in well-known locations (like PyPI or on Google Code, for example). It's also pretty easy to update packages using either utility. Both take a -U parameter, which, to my knowledge, tells it to actually check for updates and install the latest version.

That's all fine and dandy, but what happens when you want to install an "unofficial" version of some package? I mean, what if your favorite project all of the sudden includes some feature that you will die unless you can have access to it and the next official version is weeks or months in the future? There are typically a few avenues you can take to satisfy your needs, but I wanted to bring up something that I think not many people are aware of: easy_install and pip can both understand URLs to installable Python packages.

What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, when you get down to the basics of what both utilities do, they just take care of downloading some Python package and installing it with the setup.py file contained therein. In many cases, these utilities will search various package repositories, such as PyPI, to download whatever package you specify. If the package is found, it will be downloaded and extracted.

In most cases, you can do all of that yourself:

$ wget http://pypi.python.org/someproject/somepackage.tar.gz
$ tar zxf somepackage.tar.gz
$ cd somepackage
$ python setup.py install

Both easy_install and pip obviously do a lot of other magic, but that is perhaps the most basic way to understand what they do. To answer that last question, you can help your utility of choice out by specifying the exact URL to the specific package you want it to install for you:

$ easy_install http://pypi.python.org/someproject/somepackage.tar.gz
$ pip install http://pypi.python.org/someproject/somepackage.tar.gz

For me, this feature comes in very handy with projects that are hosted on BitBucket, for example, because you can always get any revision of the project in a tidy .tar.gz file. So when I'm updating Mercurial installations, I can do this to get the latest stable revision:

$ easy_install http://selenic.com/repo/hg-stable/archive/tip.tar.gz

It's pretty slick. Here's a full example:

[user@web ~]$ hg version
Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.2.1)

Copyright (C) 2005-2009 Matt Mackall <mpm@selenic.com> and others
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO
warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
[user@web ~]$ easy_install http://selenic.com/repo/hg-stable/archive/tip.tar.gz
Downloading http://selenic.com/repo/hg-stable/archive/tip.tar.gz
Processing tip.tar.gz
Running Mercurial-stable-branch--8bce1e0d2801/setup.py -q bdist_egg --dist-dir /tmp/easy_install-Gnk2c9/Mercurial-stable-branch--8bce1e0d2801/egg-dist-tmp--2VAce
zip_safe flag not set; analyzing archive contents...
mercurial.help: module references __file__
mercurial.templater: module references __file__
mercurial.extensions: module references __file__
mercurial.i18n: module references __file__
mercurial.lsprof: module references __file__
Removing mercurial unknown from easy-install.pth file
Adding mercurial 1.4.1-4-8bce1e0d2801 to easy-install.pth file
Installing hg script to /home/user/bin

Installed /home/user/lib/python2.5/mercurial-1.4.1_4_8bce1e0d2801-py2.5-linux-i686.egg
Processing dependencies for mercurial==1.4.1-4-8bce1e0d2801
Finished processing dependencies for mercurial==1.4.1-4-8bce1e0d2801
[user@web ~]$ hg version
Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.4.1+4-8bce1e0d2801)

Copyright (C) 2005-2009 Matt Mackall <mpm@selenic.com> and others
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO
warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Notice the version change from 1.2.1 to 1.4.1+4-8bce1e0d2801. w00t.

Edit: devov pointed out that pip is capable of installing packages directly from its repository. I've never used this functionality, but I'm interested in trying it out sometime! Thanks devov!

Comments

Automatic Config Replication With Mercurial    Posted:


I've done a lot of neat things since I started my new job earlier this month. I'm really excited about the things I've learned and experimented with, and I would like to share some of the concepts with my visitors.

At work we use a lot of virtual machines in our individual development environments. Most of these virtual machines use very similar configuration settings, but the settings are not a standard part of the installation. That is because we build our virtual machines using the same installation tools that our customers would use. The configuration I'm talking about is just stuff specific to our development environment.

Creating and configuring these virtual machines is one of the first things my mentor showed me how to do my first day on the job. He commented on how quickly I would probably start learning all of the configuration tasks because we tend to setup our development VMs several times a month. That was all fine and dandy, and I did get a pretty good feel for what needed to go into a development VM that first day.

However, after doing it so many times, I realized how much time I was using just trying to get the VM set up just right. It wasn't hard to configure--it was just time-consuming. It wasn't long before I started thinking of ways to optimize the process.

One of the ideas I came up with, which seems to be serving my purposes perfectly, is that of using Mercurial to quickly and easily get the exact same configuration from one box to another. It also has the added benefit of keeping a history of the changes I make to my configuration as time goes on.

I won't go into exact detail on how I have things setup at work, but I would like to try to describe a similar scenario that should illustrate my goal just as well.

Getting Started

One of the first things I would encourage you to do is follow along. It will make the concept sink in much faster, and you will probably see other applications very quickly. Please note, however, that if you're following along exactly, it could be a very time-consuming process. I will be using 3 virtual machines as I write this, but you could just as easily use 5, 10, or 100,000. Likewise, you could eliminate the virtual machines altogether if you're in an environment with several physical computers.

One virtual machine will act as the "master" server, or the one that will be configured first. The other virtual machines will act as "slave" servers, which will simply receive configuration updates that happen on the master server. We will also modify this behavior to be a bit more interesting toward the end of the article.

Virtual Machines Galore!

First off, I will create some basic virtual machines using the net install version of Debian 5.0.3. I really only need to create 1 VM and then clone it a couple of times. I am willing to furnish my virtual machines to those who are interested in using them. I will install some additional software in the VM to make sure the demo works smoothly. Among the packages that I will install are:

  • Python
  • Mercurial
  • OpenSSH server

Initialize a Repository

Once I have all of that set up in my virtual machines, I will initialize a Mercurial repository on the master server to maintain the configuration files that I am interested in. Let's just use the /etc directory for the time being. There's a pretty good chance that most of our system-wide configuration will all be contained somewhere beneath /etc.

cd /etc
hg init

Now let's have a gander at the files that we can have Mercurial manage for us:

hg st

Wow! That is quite a set of files, isn't it? Thankfully, they should mostly be plain text files. Mercurial is very efficient at managing text files. Let's now add all of the files in /etc to our repository, so they can be tracked and easily pushed out to other systems.

hg add

That command will happily add everything that hg st printed. Obviously, we can get a little more picky about what we do and do not add to our repository, but that's not the goal of this article. Now, this step merely tells Mercurial that it needs to pay attention to changes in these files. The files have not yet been committed to the repo. Let's do that, so we have a backup of our configuration files in their pristine state:

hg ci -m "Initial import"

The -m "Initial import" is just a comment, to describe what happened to warrant a commit to the repository. It is for your use and the use of anyone who has access to your repo.

Clone The Configuration

Now let's try to push the configuration we just committed on the master server to one of the slave servers. Since my virtual machines are all essentially in the same state, there should be no conflicts, right? Try running the following command on the master server:

hg push ssh://root@slave1//etc
root@slave1's password:
remote: abort: There is no Mercurial repository here (.hg not found)!
abort: no suitable response from remote hg!

Blast! We can't simply push the configuration files out to another computer. For that to work, we'd first have to have the repository itself exist on the slave server. Let's try this another way. One the slave server, run this command:

hg clone ssh://root@master//etc /etc
root@master's password:
abort: destination '/etc/' is not empty

Doh! Mercurial won't let us clone the repository from the master server! That's because Mercurial wants to clone to a new directory, with nothing already in it. One way to get around this hairball of a show-stopper is to just copy the repo using conventional UNIX utilities. Execute this command on one of your slave servers:

scp -r root@master:/etc/.hg /etc/

The .hg directory contains all of the repository information, and it's really all we need to snag in order to clone the repository. This might not be the most elegant solution in the world, but it will suffice for the time being. Once the scp command completes, we should have a full copy of the configuration file repository. Run this command to verify:

hg st

If your setup is anything like mine, you'll probably have a few files that are listed as being modified. Chances are that these files will vary from host to host anyway, and they are probably not worth keeping in a version control system. That would just be begging for conflicts.

I wrote an extension for Mercurial that should make this part of my tutorial a little less hacky. On your other slave server, run the following commands:

hg clone http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/hgext /root/hgext
echo "[extensions]" >> /root/.hgrc
echo "neclone = /root/hgext/neclone.py" >> /root/.hgrc

This extension gives you a new Mercurial command called neclone (N. E. Clone, or "not empty clone"). As we saw earlier, Mercurial doesn't let us clone a repository into a directory that is not empty. This extension allows us to do that. It works almost identically to the regular clone command... takes the same options and everything.

Still on your second slave server, run these additional commands:

hg neclone ssh://root@master//etc /etc
cd /etc
hg up -C

The last step is optional, and soon to be included as part of the extension. It will update your working copy to the latest revision in the repository. Beware that it overwrites any uncommitted changes you may have made to files that are tracked by Mercurial.

So now both slave servers should have a clone of the configuration repository from the master server.

Being Picky

Let's start to be a little picky about the files we are tracking in our repository. Some of the files appears as being modified on my slave server after copying the .hg directory from the master server are:

  • adjtime
  • alternatives/pager
  • alternatives/pager.1.gz
  • mailcap
  • network/run/ifstate
  • udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules

I think it's safe to remove these from the repository, to avoid conflicts with other systems. To tell Mercurial to stop tracking files it is tracking, without actually deleting the file from the filesystem, you can use the following command:

hg forget adjtime
hg forget mailcap

And so on. Go ahead and do that for each of the files that appeared to be modified on your slave server immediately after copying the .hg directory. I'm going to add /etc/hostname to the list of files to forget too.

After doing that, each of those files should appear as being marked for removal when you run hg st. Don't worry, this is normal. The files will not be deleted from the filesystem, but they will be deleted from the repository. Go ahead and commit those changes to the repository on your slave server.

hg ci -Am "Removed some files from version control"

Now let's push those changes out to the master server:

hg push
abort: repository default-push not found!

Since we copied the .hg directory directly using scp, our slave won't know where the changes need to go when we run the push command with no explicit destination repository. To fix that, let's create a file in /etc/.hg/ called hgrc on the slave server. In that file, put the following text:

[paths]
default = ssh://root@master//etc

The hg push command should now push directly to the master server. Yay! The problem we face now is that every other slave server in the group is out of date. How can we fix that? We'll use Mercurial hooks.

Automating Config Replication

Mercurial offers some very useful hooks that we can use to automatically push configuration changes out to each of our slave servers. We will use the commit and changegroup hooks to do the magic. Let's create a script that will live on the master server to take care of pushing our changes out to each slave server. Create a new file in /etc/ on the master server called propagate.sh:

#!/bin/bash
hg up
for node in 'slave1' 'slave2'
do
    ssh root@$node "cd /etc; hg pull -u"
done

Let's also make sure this script is executable:

chmod +x /etc/propagate.sh

This script assumes that your /etc/hosts file or your nameserver are configured appropriately to allow slave1 and slave2 to be resolved to IP addresses. The reason we're SSH'ing into each slave server and using hg pull instead of simply using hg push ssh://root@$node//etc is because you can't force an update on a remote server using push. You can, however, request an update when you're using pull.

Obviously, this script is not the most sophisticated of scripts. It might work well for my demonstration, with only a few servers, but once you get beyond that it would be a nightmare to maintain the list of servers the script has to connect to. You can use whatever means you'd like to keep track of the servers you want to replicate your configuration to. I don't want to bother with all of the crap I'd get for suggesting one thing over another, so it's now your call.

Now it's time to configure the Mercurial hook to execute that script when the master server sees a changeset get into its repository. Open up /etc/.hg/hgrc on the master server, or create it if it doesn't exist. Make sure it has at least the following in it:

[hooks]
commit.propagate = /etc/propagate.sh
changegroup.propagate = /etc/propagate.sh

Let's try it out! Run these commands on your master server:

echo "" >> /etc/hosts
hg ci -m "Added a blank line to the hosts file"
root@slave1's password:
remote: Permission denied, please try again.
remote: Permission denied, please try again.
remote: Permission denied (publickey,password).
abort: no suitable response from remote hg!
Connection closed by slave2
warning: commit.propagate hook exited with status 255

Blast! The script failed because it wanted us to type in a password, but it was not in interactive mode. Let's fix that with a little preshared key magic. I won't go into the details about how this works, but the following commands on your master server should get us rolling:

ssh-keygen
cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys2
scp -r ~/.ssh root@slave1:~
scp -r ~/.ssh root@slave2:~

Warning

Keep in mind this is not secure and should probably not be how your production machines are configured, especially with the root user.

For simplicity's sake, just accept all of the details and don't set a passphrase. These commands enable us to SSH into our slave servers without using a password. If you get an error such as:

remote: Host key verification failed.
abort: no suitable response from remote hg!

...it just means you need to manually log into your master server from the slave machine that threw that error. When doing so, you will have to answer "yes" to a question about the authenticity of the host you're logging into.

Testing It Out

It is now time to see if we can make a configuration change on one slave server and have it show up on the other slave server. Let's update the hosts file a little bit. Let's add the following line on the second slave server:

10.0.0.5        nonexistanthost

Now let's commit the change and push it off to the master server:

hg ci -m "Added a dumb line to the hosts file"
hg push

My system actually told me that that it had copied the change out to another host. I know because I saw these lines:

remote: pulling from ssh://root@master//etc
remote: searching for changes
remote: adding changesets
remote: adding manifests
remote: adding file changes
remote: added 1 changesets with 1 changes to 1 files

Now when I look at the first slave server, I should see that new line in my /etc/hosts file. Also, the log on each server should have the same entry that I just made about adding "a dumb line to the hosts file."

Seem Like A Lot of Work?

A lot of what we just did probably seemed like more work that it is worth, right? Well, being a nerd typically comes with a few qualities. One quality which I have observed many a time in my most geeky of friends is that they will spend hours and hours up front on a program or script just so they can save 2 minutes in the future. They work hard to be lazy.

There is a lot of boilerplate configuration that takes place in this particular scenario. I realize that. What I haven't shared with you, though, is how I automated the boilerplate configuration as well as the propagation of configuration. I'm tired of putting this article off, so I will have to leave those details for another article. Sorry!

Why?! There's a Better Way (tm)

There is always a better way. Always. Go ahead and use whatever you feel is the most efficient method for keeping configuration files in sync across several computers. This is just one more option to add to your toolkit. Don't worry, I won't be offended if you don't like it or don't use it. It works perfect for me and it's free, and I just wanted to share!

Comments

Giving OpenSUSE 11.1 An Honest Chance    Posted:


I've decided that if I ever want to really understand Linux, I'll have to give as many distributions as possible a chance. In the past, I've tried to use OpenSUSE on my HP Pavilion dv8000 laptop, but it never seemed quite as robust or useful as many other distributions that I've tried on the same machine.

With the recent release of OpenSUSE 11.1, I downloaded the final 32-bit DVD ISO as I normally do for newly released distributions (even if I don't plan on using them--it's an addiction). I proceeded to install the GNOME version of it in a virtual machine to see what all the hubbub was about. Evaluating an operating system within a virtual machine is not the most effective way to do things, but everything seemed fairly solid. As such, and since I have always had difficulties keeping any RPM-based distro around for any length of time, I plan on using OpenSUSE 11.1 through March 2008 (perhaps longer if it grows on me). If it hoses my system, I will go back to something better. If it works, I will learn to use and appreciate it better.

The Installation

The first step when the installation program starts is to choose what language to use, after which you choose the type of installation you're going to be doing. Your choices are:

  • New Installation
  • Update
  • Repair Installed System

You also have the option of installing "Add-On Products" from another media. At this step, I chose to do a new installation.

Next, you get to choose your time zone. The interface is very intuitive. You get a map of the world, and you click on the region you want to zoom in on. Once you're zoomed in, you can select a city that is near you to specify your time zone. Alternatively, you can choose your region and time zone from a couple of drop down lists.

After setting your time zone, you get to choose which desktop environment you want to install. Your choices are:

  • GNOME 2.24.1
  • KDE 4.1.3
  • KDE 3.5.10
  • XFCE 4.4
  • Minimal X Window
  • Minimal Server Selection (Text Mode)

I will choose to install GNOME because it seems to be the desktop of the future, especially with the hideous beast that KDE has become in the 4.x series...

Now you get to play with the partitioning. Usually the installer's first guess is pretty good, but I've got a different arrangement for my partitions, so I'm going to customize things a bit.

The next step is to create a regular, unprivileged user account for your day-to-day computing needs. This screen is pretty self-explanatory if you've ever registered for an e-mail address or installed any other operating system.

One thing that seems to have been added to OpenSUSE 11.1 is the option to use your regular user password as the root password. This is probably a nice addition for a lot of people, but I'd rather feel like my computer is a little more secure by having a different password for administrative tasks.

You're also give a few other options, such as being able to receive system mail, logging in automatically, and modifying your authentication settings. Other than the administrative password option, I left everything the same. If you're like me, and choose to have a different administrative password, you will be prompted to enter the new password at the next step.

Finally, you're shown a summary of the installation tasks that will take place. I'm going to customize my software selection just a bit so I don't have to do it manually after the installation is complete. For example, while I do like GNOME to a degree, I prefer to use KDE 3.5.x, so I will choose to install that environment as well just in case I need the comfort of KDE programs. Also, since I like to use the command line interface for a lot of things, I will choose to install the "Console Tools" package, just because it sounds useful. Lastly, I will choose to install a few development packages, such as C/C++, Java, Python, and Tcl/Tk. These changes bumped up my installation size from about 2.8GB to just over 4GB.

After reviewing the remaining tasks, all you need to do is hit the "Install" button. You will be prompted to verify your desire to install OpenSUSE, after which the package installation will begin. While the installation is taking place, you have the option of watching a brain-washing slideshow, viewing the installation details as it progresses, or reading the release notes.

The actual installation took nearly 40 minutes on my laptop. While this isn't necessarily a great improvement over past releases, I'm sure the story would have been much different had I not customized the software I wanted to have installed. The introduction of installation images a few releases ago drastically improved installation times. If you don't customize your package selection, you'll probably notice the speed difference.

When all of the packages have been installed, the installation program begins to configure your newly installed OpenSUSE for your computer, with a "reboot" in between. This is when all of your hardware, such as your network adapters, graphics adapter, sound card, printers, etc are probed and configured. Strangely enough, this step seems to take a lot longer than it does in Windows, which is usually not the case with Linux. What is OpenSUSE up to I wonder?

When all is said and done, the installation program finishes on its own and loads up your desktop.

Annoyances

There are a couple things that really annoyed me right off the bat about OpenSUSE 11.1. The first was that the loading screen and installation program didn't use my laptop's native resolution. My screen is capable of 1680x1050. The installation program chopped off about 1.25 inches of screen real estate on either side of the program. I don't know if this was an intentional occurrence or not. It seems like the artwork in the installation may have been limited to a non-widescreen resolution. If so, that's completely retarded. I'd like to think that more computer users these days have a widescreen monitor than not, at least the ones who would be playing with Linux.

The second annoyance was that the installation program wouldn't use my external USB DVD drive, which I like to think more reliable than my internal DVD drive. I mean, everything would start up fine--I got the boot menu, the installation program loaded fine, and things seemed like they would work. That's up until the package repositories (the DVD) were being built. Then the USB drive just kept spinning and spinning. Once I popped the disc into my internal drive the program proceeded as expected.

Your Desktop

I thought it was interesting that I chose to install GNOME, but since I chose to install KDE 3.5.10 alongside it that's what it booted me into after the installation was completed. No real complaints, though, since I prefer KDE anyway. Nonetheless, I switched back to GNOME to stretch my limits all the more. At least the desktop took up the full resolution that my screen can handle, unlike the installation program and boot screen.

Things seem fairly responsive... nothing like Slackware though. I just received a little popup notification with an excuse for the lag I might be experiencing: the daily indexing has commenced and should be finished soon. Whatever it's up to, it's taking up a consistent 100% of my CPU. How nice. I hope whatever it's indexing ends up being useful.

Sound worked right from the get-go, which is nice. Hardware acceleration for my Radeon Xpress 200M doesn't work, nor does my Broadcom wireless card. These will be fixed soon.

The Wireless

It looks like the most important step in getting my wireless to work was executing these commands as root:

/usr/sbin/install_bcm43xx_firmware
modprobe b43

I did a lot of stuff to try to get my wireless to work before I executed those commands, but nothing did the trick until I tried them. Also, to make the wireless available each time you reboot without requiring the modprobe b43 command, you need to edit your sysconfig.

To do that, open up YaST and find the "/etc/sysconfig Editor" option. Expand the "System" node, and navigate to Kernel > MODULES_LOADED_ON_BOOT. Then put b43 in the value box. Apply the changes. The next time you reboot your computer, the wireless should be available from the get-go.

The Video Card

This section only really applies to folks with ATI graphics adapters.

I found a tutorial on ubuntuforums.org, strangely enough, which described the process for getting ATI drivers to work on OpenSUSE 11.1. The first step is to download the official ATI drivers for Linux. Each of these commands should be executed as root:

wget https://a248.e.akamai.net/f/674/9206/0/www2.ati.com/drivers/\
linux/ati-driver-installer-8-12-x86.x86_64.run

Next, you need to download the kernel source and ensure that you have a few other utilities required for compiling a kernel module:

zypper in kernel-source gcc make patch

Now you should be able to run through the ATI driver installation utility, accepting all of the defaults:

sh ati-driver-installer-8-12-x86.x86_64.run

If you're on 64-bit OpenSUSE, you need to take an extra step to make the driver available:

rm /usr/lib/dri/fglrx_dri.so && ln -s /usr/lib64/dri/fglrx_dri.so \
/usr/lib/dri/fglrx_dri.so

Backup your existing xorg.conf configuration file and configure Xorg to use the new driver:

cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.orig
aticonfig --initial -f

Finally, configure Sax2 with the ATI driver:

sax2 -r -m 0=fglrx

Upon rebooting your computer, you should be able to use the hardware-accelerated 3D capabilities of your ATI card. To verify that things are up and running, execute fglrxinfo as a normal user. This command renders the following output on my system:

display: :0.0  screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: ATI Radeon Xpress Series
OpenGL version string: 2.1.8304 Release

Other Thoughts

After having played with OpenSUSE 11.1 for a couple hours, I think I might be able to keep it around for a little while. Despite the lack of speed exhibited by other Linux distributions, the "stability" that OpenSUSE seems to offer is attractive to me. It will likely take some time to get used to RPMs over DEBs for package management.

How bad can it be? I mean, it comes with OpenOffice 3.0.0, which is nice. It can handle dual-head mode on my laptop thanks to Xinerama, which no other distro to date has been able to do. This gives me a little more screen real estate to work with, which helps out a lot when I'm developing a Web site or working in an IDE. The package managers are slow, but how often do you really install software anyway?

Again, we'll just have to see how things pan out. Let's hope it turns out to be a positive experience.

Comments

Installing Slackware 12.2 On Your EeePC (701 4G, in my case)    Posted:


Welcome to my second article about installing Slackware on an Asus EeePC. This is a follow-up article to the one I posted in May 2008 soon after Slackware 12.1 was released. In this article, I will assume that you're doing a fresh installation of Slackware 12.2 and that you have access to an external USB CD/DVD ROM drive.

In all honesty, the installation process is extremely similar to what I did with 12.1. However, looking back at my previous article, I realize that my steps may not have been the most useful in the world. This time around I will try to be more helpful.

Getting Slackware

The first, and most obvious step, is to get a copy of Slackware. Simply head on over to http://www.slackware.com/getslack/ and retrieve the appropriate ISO(s) using whichever method you prefer. I downloaded the DVD version of Slackware. If you download the CD ISOs, you really only need the first 3 ISOs. The remaining 3 are source packages for the binary packages you install from the first three discs. Rarely do you need the source code for these packages.

After retrieving the Slackware ISO(s), you must burn them to a disc of some sort: ISOs that are ~650MB should be burned to CDs and anything larger should (obviously) be burned to a DVD. Be sure you burn each ISO using the "burn disc image" functionality in your disc writing software--simply burning the ISO file onto the disc in a regular data session will not do what we need.

Booting The Install Disc

After you have a good copy of the installation disc (the DVD or the first of the CDs), put the disc into your CD/DVD ROM drive and reboot your computer. To ensure that your computer boots from the disc rather than the hard drive, hit F2 when you see the initial boot screen. Then go to the "Boot" tab and verify that your external CD/DVD drive takes precedence over the internal SSD. While we're in the BIOS, let's hop over to the "Advanced" tab and set "OS Installation" to "Start". This will increase the chances that your external drive will be recognized or something.... mine didn't work until I made that change. When you're all done with that, exit your BIOS, saving your changes.

The computer will reboot, and it should access your installation disc immediately after the initial boot screen disappears. Once you boot from the installation disc, you should be presented with a screen which allows you to pass some settings to the installation kernel.

The installation boot screen

To make the installation go faster, use the following boot string:

hugesmp.s hdc=noprobe

This makes it so the installation will see the internal SSD as /dev/sda instead of /dev/hdc, which also boosts the read/write times by about 13 times.

During the boot process you will be asked to specify your keyboard map. Unless you want something special here, just hit the enter key to proceed.

Partition Your SSD

Next you will need to login as root and partition your SSD. You can do this using one of the following two commands:

fdisk /dev/sda
cfdisk /dev/sda

Here are some steps in case you're not familiar with these utilities:

  1. Remove all partitions (unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: d to delete (you may have to select multiple partitions to delete if you have more than one for some reason)
    2. cfdisk: Select all partitions individually with up/down arrow keys and use the left/right arrow keys to select delete from the menu at the bottom. Hit enter to run the delete command when it's highlighted.
  2. Create one partition that takes the whole SSD (again, unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: n (for new); enter; p (for primary); enter; 1 (for the first primary partition); enter; enter (to start at the beginning of the drive); enter (to select the end of the drive)
    2. cfdisk: Select the new command with the left/right arrow keys and hit enter when it's selected. Make it a primary partition, and have it take the whole SSD (3997.49MB in my case).
  3. Set the type of the new partition to be Linux
    1. fdisk: t (for type); enter; 83 (for Linux); enter
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the type command at the bottom and hit enter when it's selected. Choose 83.
  4. Set the new partition (or the first, if you decided to make more than one) to be bootable
    1. fdisk: a (for bootable); enter; 1 (for primary partition 1); enter
    2. cfdisk: Select the bootable command from the bottom using the left/right arrow keys. Hit enter when it's selected.
  5. Write the changes to the partition table and quit
    1. fdisk: w
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the write command from the bottom. Hit enter when it's selected. Type 'yes' to verify your intent, acknowledging that your previous data will be "gone". Then select the quit command.

Installing Slackware

As soon as your partitioning has finished, go ahead and run setup to begin the actual installation program.

The first screen of the installation program

Since we don't have a swap partition, can jump straight to the TARGET option. Use the arrow keys to highlight this option and hit enter. Select /dev/sda1 from the list, and format it with ext2. On the EeePC, most people prefer this format since it is a non-journaling filesystem. That means fewer writes to the SSD, which supposedly translates to a longer lifetime.

After the SSD is formatted, you will be asked to select the installation source. Again, I'm assuming that you want to use your fresh Slackware 12.2 disc, but you are free to choose what you want if you know what you're doing.

Selecting the installation source

I went with the default "Install from a Slackware CD or DVD" and told it to auto scan for my disc drive. It was found at /dev/sr0.

Choosing Your Packages

Next, you are given the opportunity to tweak the package series which will be installed on your EeePC. I chose the following series: A, AP, K, L, N, TCL, X, and XAP. I planned on using XFCE instead of KDE on my EeePC simply because it is much more light-weight and still capable of what I need. If you want KDE, be sure to check the appropriate series.

Selecting the packages to install

Once you mark each of the package series you wish to install, hit the "OK" button. You'll then have to choose which prompting mode to use. I chose menu, simply to be a little more picky about which packages I wanted installed. Installation took approximately 28 minutes with my package selection and setup.

Configuring Your System

When all of the packages are done being installed, you will be presented with some other screens to finish up the installation process.

  1. Choose whether or not you want to make a bootable USB... I skipped it.
  2. Choose how you wish to install LILO. I chose simple.
  3. Choose your frame buffer mode for the console. I chose 640x480x256.
  4. Specify any optional kernel parameters. Ensure that the hdc=noprobe from earlier is here to speed up your system considerably.
  5. Specify whether you wish to use UTF-8 on the console. I chose no.
  6. Specify where to install LILO. I chose MBR.
  7. Specify your mouse type. I chose imps2.
  8. Specify whether or not you wish to have gpm run at boot, which allows you to use your mouse in the console. I chose yes.
  9. Configure your network.
  10. Give your EeePC a hostname. This can be whatever you'd like.
  11. Specify the domain for your network. This can be whatever you'd like as well.
  12. Configure your IP address information. I just chose DHCP.
  13. Set the DHCP hostname. I left this blank.
  14. Review and confirm your network settings.
  15. Choose which services you wish to have running immediately after booting.
  16. See if you want to try custom screen fonts. I usually don't bother.
  17. Specify whether your hardware clock is set to local time or UTC.
  18. Choose your timezone.
  19. Select your preferred window manager. I chose XFCE.
  20. Set the root password.

At this point Slackware has been installed on your EeePC and you can exit the setup menu and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reboot your computer.

First Boot

You should now go back into your BIOS and set "OS Installation" back to "Finished", exit and save changes, and reboot again.

Slackware's default LILO boot screen

You should then see the Slackware boot screen. By default, it has a 2-minute timeout, which seems absolutely absurd to me, so we'll change that later. Just hit enter for now and watch your new Slackware boot. The first boot will usually take a bit longer than subsequent reboots because all sorts of things need to generate their first configuration file.

When your system is ready, you'll be presented with a login prompt. Just login as root, using the password you specified in the last step of the installation process.

Tweaking Your Slackware

Here are some of the first things I do when I install a new copy of Slackware:

Add An Unprivileged User

This step is very important, because one thing that sets Linux apart from other operating systems is security ;). If you run your Linux system as root all the time, you're begging for problems.

To create a new unprivileged user, I use the adduser command. It walks you through the process of creating a user. This is the user you should use to do your day-to-day computing. Only use the root user when performing system administration tasks. Trust me :)

Tell X Windows to Start Automatically

I have no problem with the command line interface in Linux. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. However, on a device such as the EeePC, not having a GUI just doesn't seem all that practical. It's also not very impressive to your potential converts when they look over your shoulder and see that your tiny gadget just displays a black and white screen when you turn it on...

So, to help ourselves be a little more productive and to impress our followers, let's tell X Windows to start up automatically when we turn on the computer. To do that, we want to edit /etc/inittab and change the following line:

id:3:initdefault:

to be:

id:4:initdefault:

You can use whatever program you feel comfortable with, such as vi or nano. The next time you reboot your computer, you should see a GUI as soon as all of the services are fully loaded.

Along with this step, I suppose we can mention the configuration of X Windows. I usually run xorgsetup as root to get things up and running. Usually there is also a bit of tweaking to get things like the scroll wheel on the mouse to function. This part in particular took quite some time for me to figure out.

Enable The Scroll Wheel on the Trackpad

Some of you might be able to live without being able to scroll a page or whatever without using the scroll feature on most mouse devices these days, but I'm not one of them. Here is my entire /etc/X11/xorg.conf file:

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     "X.org Configured"
    Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
    InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
    InputDevice    "SynapticMouse" "AlwaysCore"
    InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
EndSection

Section "Files"
    RgbPath      "/usr/share/X11/rgb"
    ModulePath   "/usr/lib/xorg/modules"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/TTF"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/OTF"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/Type1"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/misc"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/75dpi/:unscaled"
EndSection

Section "Module"
    Load  "xtrap"
    Load  "GLcore"
    Load  "record"
    Load  "dri"
    Load  "dbe"
    Load  "extmod"
    Load  "glx"
    Load  "freetype"
    Load  "type1"
    Load  "synaptics"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier  "Keyboard0"
    Driver      "kbd"
    Option       "XkbModel"  "pc104"
    Option       "XkbLayout"  "us"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier  "Mouse0"
    Driver "mouse"
    Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
    Option "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
    Option "Buttons" "5"
    Option "zAxisMapping" "4 5"
    Option "SHMConfig" "on"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier "SynapticMouse"
    Driver "synaptics"
    Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
    Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
    Option "SHMConfig" "on"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier   "Monitor0"
    VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
    ModelName    "Monitor Model"
EndSection

Section "Device"
        ### Available Driver options are:-
        ### Values: <i>: integer, <f>: float, <bool>: "True"/"False",
        ### <string>: "String", <freq>: "<f> Hz/kHz/MHz"
        ### [arg]: arg optional
        #Option     "NoAccel"               # [<bool>]
        #Option     "SWcursor"              # [<bool>]
        #Option     "ColorKey"              # <i>
        #Option     "CacheLines"            # <i>
        #Option     "Dac6Bit"               # [<bool>]
        #Option     "DRI"                   # [<bool>]
        #Option     "NoDDC"                 # [<bool>]
        #Option     "ShowCache"             # [<bool>]
        #Option     "XvMCSurfaces"          # <i>
        #Option     "PageFlip"              # [<bool>]
    Identifier  "Card0"
    Driver      "intel"
    VendorName  "Intel Corporation"
    BoardName   "Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller"
    BusID       "PCI:0:2:0"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Screen0"
    Device     "Card0"
    Monitor    "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth 24
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     1
    EndSubSection
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     4
    EndSubSection
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     8
    EndSubSection
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     15
    EndSubSection
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     16
    EndSubSection
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     24
    EndSubSection
EndSection

A lot of that stuff might not be necessary, but it's what works for me. Normally the process for enabling the scroll wheel is pretty easy, but something seems to have changed in this respect with the release of Slackware 12.2. I had to edit the /etc/modprobe.d/psmouse script to make this line:

options psmouse proto=imps

look like:

options psmouse proto=any

After making that change, things seemed to work a lot better.

Make LILO to Boot Faster

There are a couple tricks we can use to make LILO boot our EeePC slightly faster. The first is to add the compact option somewhere, and the second is to decrease the menu timeout.

Open up /etc/lilo.conf with a text editor of your choosing as root. Add a single line with the word compact somewhere. I put it under the line that says boot = /dev/sda so the top of lilo.conf looks like this:

# LILO configuration file
# generated by 'liloconfig'
#
# Start LILO global section
# Append any additional kernel parameters:
append="hdc=noprobe vt.default_utf8=8"
boot = /dev/sda
compact

I also changed the line that said timeout = 1200 to be timeout = 50 to make LILO only hang around for 5 seconds instead of 2 minutes.

After making these changes, we must reinstall LILO to the MBR with the new settings:

lilo -v

Here's my /etc/lilo.conf with most of the commented lines removed:

# LILO configuration file
# generated by 'liloconfig'
#
# Start LILO global section
# Append any additional kernel parameters:
append="hdc=noprobe vt.default_utf8=0"
boot = /dev/sda
compact

# Boot BMP Image.
# Bitmap in BMP format: 640x480x8
bitmap = /boot/slack.bmp
bmp-colors = 255,0,255,0,255,0
bmp-table = 60,6,1,16
bmp-timer = 65,27,0,255

prompt
timeout = 50
change-rules
reset
vga = normal
# End LILO global section
# Linux bootable partition config begins
image = /boot/vmlinuz
root = /dev/sda1
label = Linux
read-only
# Linux bootable partition config ends

Network Tweaking

While the wireless adapter seemed to work great for me out of the box this time, the ethernet adapter is still not functional. I compiled and installed the atl2 driver to solve the problem. You can get it from http://people.redhat.com/csnook/atl2/atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2. Here are the steps I took to install it:

wget http://people.redhat.com/csnook/atl2/atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2
tar jxf atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2
cd atl2-2.0.4
make
cp atl2.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/net/
depmod -a
modprobe atl2
ifconfig

The next tweak I added for networking was to boost boot times... The DHCP address request hangs the entire boot process out of the box if you don't have an ethernet cable plugged in while booting. To remedy this problem, add the following line to the first section of your /etc/rc.d/rc.inet1.conf:

DHCP_TIMEOUT[0]="5"

This will tell your computer to continue booting if an IP address hasn't been assigned after 5 seconds of waiting.

Enable Frequency Scaling

We all like out battery to last a long time, right? Well, the EeePC 701 doesn't have the greatest battery in the world, but we can help increase the battery life by enabling the CPU frequency modules. I put this stuff in my /etc/rc.d/rc.local script:

 1 #!/bin/sh
 2 #
 3 # /etc/rc.d/rc.local:  Local system initialization script.
 4 #
 5 # Put any local startup commands in here.  Also, if you have
 6 # anything that needs to be run at shutdown time you can
 7 # make an /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown script and put those
 8 # commands in there.
 9 
10 modprobe p4-clockmod
11 modprobe cpufreq_ondemand
12 modprobe cpufreq_conservative
13 modprobe cpufreq_powersave
14 modprobe cpufreq_performance
15 
16 cpufreq-set -g ondemand -d 450Mhz -u 900Mhz

Add Your SD Card to /etc/fstab

I have an SD card that I leave in my EeePC all the time, and it's formatted with ext2 just like the internal SSD. Without this tweak, I have to mount the SD card each time I turn on the computer, which gets bothersome. My fix is to add the SD card to /etc/fstab, which takes care of mounting the device at boot.

First, you should make a directory that will be used to mount the device. I made one as such:

mkdir /mnt/sd

Now you need to determine your SD card's UUID. I started out by unmounting my SD card and taking it out of the slot. Then I executed this command:

ls /dev/disk/by-uuid

Next, I popped the SD card back in and executed that command again. The UUID that appears the second time but not the first time is your SD card's UUID.

It's time to add the magic line to your /etc/fstab. Add a line such as:

UUID=[your SD card's UUID] /mnt/sd ext2 defaults,noatime 1 1

somewhere in the file. While we're digging around in /etc/fstab, we might as well add the noatime option to the internal SSD to help reduce disk writes. Save the file and exit the editor. Then mount everything (using mount -a) or just the SD card (using mount /mnt/sd).

For posterity's sake, here's my entire /etc/fstab file:

/dev/sda1        /                ext2        defaults,noatime         1   1
UUID=30293ff4-5bee-457a-8528-ec296f099e9a /mnt/sd ext2 defaults,noatime 1 1
#/dev/cdrom      /mnt/cdrom       auto        noauto,owner,ro  0   0
/dev/fd0         /mnt/floppy      auto        noauto,owner     0   0
devpts           /dev/pts         devpts      gid=5,mode=620   0   0
proc             /proc            proc        defaults         0   0
tmpfs            /dev/shm         tmpfs       defaults         0   0

Preventing Shutdown Hangs

Sometimes the sound card seems to make Slackware hang when you're shutting down. Everything seems to turn off fine, but the little green power LED still shines bright. The solution to this problem appears to be adding the following line:

modprobe -r snd_hda_intel

to /etc/rc.d/rc.6 right before the "Unmounting local file systems." line (around line 195).

Enable Volume Hotkeys and Sleeping

Slackware 12.2 is already listening for ACPI events by default, so we just need to insert our custom stuff into /etc/acpi/acpi_handler.sh:

 1 #!/bin/sh
 2 
 3 IFS=${IFS}/
 4 set $@
 5 
 6 #logger "ACPI Event $1, $2, $3, $4, $5"
 7 
 8 case "$1" in
 9     button)
10         case "$2" in
11             power) /sbin/init 0;;
12             sleep) /etc/acpi/actions/lid.sh;;
13             lid)
14                 if grep -q closed /proc/acpi/button/lid/LID/state
15                 then
16                     /etc/acpi/actions/lid.sh
17                 fi
18                 ;;
19             *) logger "ACPI action $2 is not defined";;
20         esac
21         ;;
22     hotkey)
23         case "$3" in
24             # Fn+F2 Wireless/Bluetooth button
25             # Fn+F7 Mute button
26             00000013) amixer set Master toggle;;
27             # Fn+F8 Volume down
28             00000014) amixer set Master 10%-;;
29             # Fn+F9 Volume up
30             00000015) amixer set Master 10%+;;
31         esac
32         ;;
33     *) logger "ACPI group $1 / action $2 is not defined";;
34 esac

And to handle the closing of the lid or pressing the sleep button, we need to create a new script in /etc/acpi/actions/ called lid.sh:

 1 #!/bin/sh
 2 # script by Fluxx from linuxquestions slackware forum
 3 # discover video card's ID
 4 ID=`/sbin/lspci | grep VGA | awk '{ print $1 }' | sed -e 's@:@/@'`
 5 
 6 # securely create a temporary file
 7 TMP_FILE=`mktemp /tmp/video_state.XXXXXX`
 8 trap 'rm -f $TMP_FILE' 0 1 15
 9 
10 # switch to virtual terminal 1 to avoid graphics
11 # corruption in X
12 chvt 1
13 
14 /sbin/hwclock --systohc
15 
16 # remove the webcam module
17 rmmod uvcvideo
18 
19 # write all unwritten data (just in case)
20 sync
21 
22 # dump current data from the video card to the
23 # temporary file
24 cat /proc/bus/pci/$ID > $TMP_FILE
25 
26 # suspend-to-ram
27 # (samwise) not using this it stuffs up the screen brightness
28 echo -n mem > /sys/power/state
29 
30 # suspend-to-disk
31 #echo -n disk > /sys/power/state
32 
33 # standby
34 #echo -n standby > /sys/power/state
35 
36 # force on for now...
37 xset dpms force on
38 
39 /sbin/hwclock --hctosys
40 
41 # restore the webcam module
42 modprobe uvcvideo
43 
44 # restore video card data from the temporary file
45 # on resume
46 cat $TMP_FILE > /proc/bus/pci/$ID
47 
48 # switch back to virtual terminal 2 (running X)
49 chvt 6; sleep 2
50 chvt 2
51 
52 # remove temporary file
53 rm -f $TMP_FILE

And we need to make sure the script is executable:

chmod +x /etc/acpi/actions/lid.sh

These scripts should enable us to use the mute key, the increase/decrease volume keys, and the sleep key. They should also allow us to close the lid of the EeePC to put it to sleep. Occasionally, when you wake up the computer, you will just see a blank black screen. To get around this, switch back to VT2 by using the keystroke Ctrl+Alt+F2.

Install Special Packages

Slackware comes with a lot of awesome stuff right out of the box, but it is missing some very important utilities at the same time. Included in this list, for me, is a program called wicd, or a network connectivity manager. This is similar to the "Network Manager" utility found in other mainstream distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSuSE. Slackware has yet to include such a utility by default.

Anyway, wicd can be found in the extra directory on the Slackware DVD or the 3rd (?) CD. To install it, find the package on the disc (or download it from the Internet) and execute the following command:

installpkg wicd-1.5.6-noarch-2.tgz

Be sure to check out the extra directory on the Slackware install disc. There are some neat tools in there. Some excellent resources for Slackware packages include:

There are some utilities out there to help you in your quest to resolve package dependencies. Two of the major ones that I've used in the past are swaret and slapt-get.

Using Slackware 12.2

My Slackware 12.2-powered EeePC 701 4G

I have to give the Linux kernel hackers props--the 2.6.27.7 kernel is amazingly fast! I'm sure the fact that I'm running a fairly stock Slackware installation (as opposed to something like Ubuntu) helps the speed quite a bit too. This past semester I had Linux Mint 5 (XFCE edition) installed on my EeePC, and that seemed fairly responsive. Slackware blew me away though, and I can still do everything I want to do!

The webcam and sound card work out of the box, just like the wireless. I rarely use the webcam, but it's fun to play with, and my mom appreciates seeing me on Skype occasionally. The wireless connection quality exceeds what it was with the madwifi driver I was using with Slackware 12.1 and other distros like Linux Mint. Programs are ultra speedy and responsive, even with the processor clocked at 450Mhz. I love it!!!

Boot times could be better, but I'm not too concerned with it. My setup takes approximately 50 seconds from boot to a useable desktop interface. Not horrible by any means, but perhaps not the best for a netbook when all you want to do is check your e-mail.

I would like to see the Network Manager that so many other distributions offer in Slackware some day. The wicd application is nice, but it's not nearly as intuitive as Network Manager, and it seems to be relatively limited in its capabilities in comparison. I know I'm not alone in my desire to see Network Manager included, or at least available, for Slackware. It would be tremendously beneficial in a world where wireless networking and laptops are more and more pervasive. Using the command line to adjust your wireless connection settings each time you have to hop to a new access point is just annoying.

In the end, I'm excited to have Slackware on my EeePC once again. I think it will be around for quite a while this time.

Please comment with any advice or problems that you have in regards to installing Slackware 12.2 on an EeePC.

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ReStructured Text    Posted:


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