Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is RHEL5 the New XP of Linux World?

red hat enterprise linux 6 delays releaseIf you blamed Redmond for the late release of Vista (almost 6 years after XP) then think again, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 is the new XP of Linux World. And the same user-reaction is building towards it.

As per official documents Red Hat declares of following a 18-24 months release cycle. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 was released on 2007-03-14, and it's about 3 long years now, still there is no official announcement. The question here is how long will Red Hat possibly stick with 2.6.18 kernel line and the contemporary packages. The present status of Red Hat Desktop is a stable but obsolete distribution.

Of course, the server side story of big corporates is different. They would still stick to the standardized and stable base - RHEL5. Though Red Hat does not make it explicit, seems it only aims for servers in big corporates. Even its desktop offering is meant for biggies only. Had it at all aimed at a general desktop, we could have seen a major release sometime in 2009.

Linux desktop has made some great jumps over the past three years. There have been KMS, CFS, the new 2.6.31 desktop oriented kernel, virtualization and a lot more in terms of userspace and application program updates. Interestingly late-to-the-party Debain is catching up with these developments. But Red Hat...

1. Is Red Hat finding it difficult to maintain 4 releases at a time, that's why the delay in RHEL 6?
2. Has it changed its release plans (without making it public) and preferred a feature-based release to a time-based release.
3. Are the corporate clients too happy with RHEL 5 (like XP) and there would be no pleasant acceptance of a new release?
4. Or Red Hat aims only for Servers and RHEL 5.4 serves that purpose best and there is no need for a release?

Visitors, please post your comments on RHEL6 here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why Should You Compile Your Kernel and How

If you are running Mepis, Mint, PCLinuxOS or other desktop oriented distribution, and your installation detects all your devices and works perfectly fine, you don't need to waste your time compiling you own kernel. That's what I had mentioned earlier in this blog.

But sometimes you may require to add/remove some features, drivers or change some settings, then you should go for compiling your own. Take my case for example. A week ago, I had to setup a home desktop for a total noob (doesn't know L of Linux). He was just interested in running a system that works after some initial configuration. He is not supposed to do updates, any sort of fixing and he is connected to web on his desktop through broadband. After much thought I settled on installing a customized Debian Lenny that would just work without any hitch or instability.

And I set on to recompile a kernel totally meant for boosting desktop performance. I prepared a .config file shedding every bit of unnecessary components and some setting changes. They are:

1. Changed kernel to "Low Latency Preemptible for Desktop" (Debian kernel is optimized for server, you can't change it even if you choose a desktop install), it's a must for desktop kernels
2. Changed Processor type to "Core2Duo or Newer" (my friend has a core2 machine)
3. Removed support for almost hundreds of drivers for old/legacy and modern devices, except for those which are built into that desktop
4. Removed support for unnecessary block-devices, esoteric filesystems, etc.
5. Changed memory settings
6. Removed ipv6 support
7. Tweaked CPU scaling features

How Did I Compile it

First I installed the following packages

#apt-get install kernel-package ncurses-dev bzip2 module-init-tools initramfs-tools procps fakeroot zlib1g-dev libgtk2.0-dev libglib2.0-dev libglade2-dev

Checked the kernel version using the following command

#uname -r

Downloaded linux source matching the version of installed kernel from Debian repository. The reason behind it is that you can modify the .config file and the recompiled kernel will integrate well with the existing set of userspace packages and applications. Of course you can put a newer or older kernel source for recompiling. But then, you should be more cautious while creating a .config file through "make menuconfig".

Whether newer or older kernel source, try to pull that from your distribution repository. It's will suit better and it may bear some patches specific to your distribution.

Copied source to newly created folder

#cp /usr/src/linux-source-2.6.26.tar.bz2 ~/newkernel/

Extracted the source and moved to the sources directory

#tar xjf linux-source-2.6.26.tar.bz2
#cd linux-source-2.6.26

Then copied a working template for the kernel .config to this directory. You should do this unless you want to drastically change the kernel .config file.

#cp /boot/config-$(uname -r) ./.config

Checked processor (it'll be useful in choosing cpu type and settings)

#cat /proc/cpuinfo

Configured kernel options (Don't change settings aggressively if you don't know what you are doing)

#make menuconfig

Now cleaned the bed for real work

#make-kpkg clean

Then started the real compilation

#make-kpkg --rootcmd fakeroot --initrd --revision=dev.1 kernel_image kernel_headers

Note:
1.You can change “dev.1” with yours.
2.You may skip building “kernel_headers” if you don't need to build kernel modules


Then moved to the directory where I had freshly cooked kernel images.

#cd ..

Installed .deb package using the following command

#dpkg -i *.deb

After installation, I checked the menu.lst and /boot directory to ensure the initrd, vmlinuz files are properly created and linked in the grub menu.

Benefits of this compilation:
1. My custom kernel weighed just 8MB.
2. It takes 8-10sec less to boot
3. The desktop feels snappier than the default Lenny Desktop install
4. It takes much less memory and resources.
5. The boot screen is quite neat even in verbose mode.

The above procedure works well on Debian Lenny and Mepis 8. You might have to google the web for more appropriate help relevant to your particular distribution.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

PCLinuxOS 2010 is Shaping Up

pclinuxos 2010While browsing pclinuxos repos I came across "http://ftp.klid.dk/ftp/pclinuxos/apt/pclinuxos/2010/RPMS.main". The version label "2010" in that ftp URL caught my attention. Finally, PCLinuxOS is shaping up for a 2010 release!

Last time it was a great decision by Tex and the Gang to stick with KDE 3.5.10 on their 2009.2 release. They played safe for the welfare of the community and the users, while many desktop-wannabes plunged into KDE4 line. Now that KDE 4 has become a lot more stable and feature-complete, it's time for a release.

Seems PCLinuxOS has been following a feature-based (not time-based) release schedule (call it rolling release, it's ready when it's ready, or whatsoever). And it's good for all. In all guesses PCLinuxOS will ride on kernel 2.6.31 or above under the skin of KDE 4.4 (soon to be released). Of course, there are a lot of other goodies - tools, apps, and may be many overhauling of boot process, artwork and the overall integration.

Just my pinch of thought. Like before, there has been no announcement from pclos team. It's ready when it's ready.

Share your thoughts