Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CentOS 5.5 USB Device Mounting Annoyance

What do you expect the next version of your favourite distribution to be? Better or worse. For me upgrading CentOS 5.2 to 5.5 became a worse experience. I was running CentOS 5.2 on my office workstation (Dell Optiplex 360) for long. Never really needed/worried to upgrade cos it was only a work station, I mean no play, only work. However, of late I wanted to pull in some multimedia stuff from rpmforge (that's not available in official CentOS repo). At the same time I thought of upgrading the system also. And I went ahead... Read below for the annoyances.

The fully upgraded system now has two kernels - kernel-2.6.18-92.el5 (original CentOS 5.2 kernel) and kernel-2.6.18-194.el5 (came with CentOS 5.5 upgradation), menu.lst points to the latest kernel as default boot options.

1. Annoyances with the new kernel: Running the new CentOS 5.5 kernel was fast, responsive... audio/video worked like a charm. But oddly enough I am unable to mount any USB drives (specially the ones with sdhc cards such as phones and cameras); lsusb does show make of the device and its id, but refuses to automount it. Even doesn't accept manual mounts.

2. Newly surfaced problem with the old kernel: After being unable to mount usb devices I rebooted the system to run the old kernel. To my surprise, the old kernel automounted all the usb drives that I threw at it. But, sadly, alsa sound server did not work the way it should. It was working fine before upgradation.

Solution: I wandered across dozens of forums for a solution and could not get any. Now I've to boot to the old kernel when I need to use USB drives, otherwise, the default 2.6.18-194.el5 kernel handles everything quite well.

Please comment to this post if you have a solution for this weird problem.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Debian + Backports is Better than the Latest Ubuntu

Debian Stable has a bad reputation of being little obsolete. It's never able to catch up with time. For example, at the time of writing this post, Debian 5.0.4, Lenny is still sticking to the old Iceweasel 3, OpenOffice 2.4, 2.6.26 kernel line and some other vital packages, whereas the package versions are greatly updated in the so called popular Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuse. Some critics even say that this late-to-party nature of Debian is the reason for Ubuntu to show up in the Linux crowd.

But I don't buy to the view that Debian Stable is outdated. If you are running a server this much older packages and slow updates are a blessing. Moreover, you can catchup to the latest and greatest packages even on desktop. All you need is to add debian-backports to your /etc/apt/sources.list. A mix of Debian stable and Debian Backports will bring you all the popular packages. Here is the content of my sources.list

manmath@debian:~$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list
deb ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/ lenny main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ lenny/updates main contrib
deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org/ lenny main non-free
deb http://www.backports.org/debian lenny-backports main contrib non-free

With the above repo list I am able to run Debian stable and work on OpenOffice 3.2, Iceweasel 3.5, Pidgin 2.6.6, Kernel 2.6.32 and many other packages. Besides, Debian stable is supported by Google Chrome, Skype and a majority of other linux software vendors such as Softmaker and Codeweavers. The only caution you should take is to pick out single backports which fits your needs, and not to use all the packages from backports repo.

For example, if you need to install the latest iceweasel from backports just enter:

apt-get -t lenny-backports install iceweasel

I've always found Debian Stable+Backports to be more stable than the latest Ubuntu. What's more, with backports configured you can get the latest versions of popular packages.

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