Fix Common Fedora Core 6 Issues

Fedora Core 1 was the first Linux distribution I used extensively. As a result, Fedora has always felt like “home” to me, and I’ve tried every version since. Recently I installed Fedora Core 6 (Zod) from scratch, and decided to put together this little document on addressing some issues that I found.

Since this is not really a review, but rather a quick “how-to” based on what I did, I make a few assumptions:

  • You have (or will) install the x86 version of Fedora. Of course, there are similarities for the other architectures, such as x86-64, but some of the issues that I address are specific to x86.
  • You have an Nvidia graphics card. I do not use any ATI cards, so I can not help here. If you want to install the ATI driver, I suggest you start by looking here.
  • In my case, I’m using GNOME. If you prefer KDE then understand that some of the menu structures will be different.
  • You are smart enough to know how to install and use Linux. While none of this should break your system, I am not responsible for any damage that may result. That’s my standard disclaimer.

Now, on to business. Whenever you see the sharp sign (or hash) “#”, it means to run the following command as the “root” user. You can become root in the Terminal by typing “su -” and then your root password. If you are reading this, I assume you already know that, so let’s get started.

Add a couple of package repositories.

To enable the installation of some extra software, let’s enable two extra repositories. The first is Livna (rpm.livna.org) and the second is FreshRPMs (freshrpms.net).

# rpm -ivh http://rpm.livna.org/livna-release-6.rpm

# rpm -ihv http://ayo.freshrpms.net/fedora/linux/6/i386/RPMS.freshrpms/freshrpms-release-1.1-1.fc.noarch.rpm

By doing this, you will easily be able to install the Nvidia graphics driver. I believe you need Livna to install the ATI driver as well.
Once they are installed, use “yum” to update your system.

# yum update

Get the correct kernel.

Due to a known bug, the Anaconda installer may install an i586 kernel rather than i686. While the system is still usable, you will run into trouble if you decide to install graphics drivers or any other kernel modules. If this is the case, this is how to fix it.

# yum install yum-utils
# yumdownloader kernel-2.6.18-1.2849.fc6.i686
# rpm -Uvh –replacefiles –replacepkgs kernel-2.6.18-1.2849.fc6.i686.rpm

At the time of this writing, the kernel number ending in 2849 is the latest. Keep in mind that the number may eventually change, and you will need to adjust accordingly. If you have yet to install Fedora 6, I believe you can bypass this bug by booting the installer with the “linux i686” option.

Install the Nvidia graphics driver.

# yum install kmod-nvidia

Once you fix the kernel issue (if you were affected), you can install the graphics driver. You will need to restart X (or just reboot) before the new driver will work. To check if the new drivers are working, open a Terminal and type:

$ glxgears

If the resulting frame-rate numbers are at least in the hundreds (if not thousands), then your graphics drivers are successfully working.

Fix your screen resolution.

After I installed the Nvidia driver, the maximum display resolution on my 19″ LCD was reduced to 1024×768. Thankfully, this was easily fixed by going to System – Administration – Display – “Hardware” tab. In my case, I selected my correct monitor type (LCD Panel 1280×1024) From there I was able to choose my preferred maximum resolution.

Install the Adobe Flash player.

Now let’s add the repository to install/update the Flash player. We’re going to download the file with the repository information to the appropriate directory in Fedora, and then use yum to install the player. There’s more Fedora-specific information on this site.

# cd /etc/yum.repos.d/
# wget http://macromedia.mplug.org/macromedia-i386.repo
# yum update
# yum install flash-plugin

Make DVDs work.

Of course, it is old news by now that a number of Linux distributions do not provide DVD or MP3 support “out of the box” for legal reasons. Still, most users would like option of using this media. One way to make DVDs work is to install Xine.

# yum install xine xine-lib xine-lib-extras-nonfree xine-skins libdvdcss

This will give you DVD support with the Xine player.

And MP3s, too.

Yes, MP3 is a proprietary codec, and Fedora does not provide default support for it based on legal reasons. I don’t blame them at all for this decision, but if you need to play MP3s, that ability is not far away. Provided that you have the extra repositories enabled, execute the following command:

# yum install gstreamer-plugins-ugly libmad libid3tag

Now you will have MP3 support in Rhythmbox.

As an aside, if you want to “rip” CDs in the Gnome environment to either OGG or MP3, then I recommend Grip.

# yum install grip

While we’re at it, I also recommend Videolan-client as a media player, as it can play lots of differing formats.

# yum install vlc

Read NTFS.

If you need to “see” your NTFS drive (if you have one), install kmod-ntfs.

# yum install kmod-ntfs

Mine is a Linux-only machine, so this is all the help I can offer.

Make Nautilus better.

I prefer that Nautilus NOT open every folder in a new window. To simply fix this, open any window, such as your home folder, then choose Edit -> Preferences. Now select the “Behavior” tab. Near the top put a check next to “Always open in browser windows.” Curiously, Ubuntu does this by default.

While this is by no means comprehensive, it should give you a good start in increasing the functionality of your Fedora Core 6 system. If you have any tips that you would like to share, please feel free to comment below.

Here are some additional resources for configuring your Fedora system:

http://www.fedoraforum.org/

http://www.fedorafaq.org/

— Brian Bondari

December 2006

To VPS or not to VPS…

That is the question. Whether tis nobler a choice in web hosting options than “shared” hosting will be determined, though I have high expectations.

If you are confused and are wondering what on earth a VPS is, I call your attention to my article on “Web Hosting Options.” Essentially, most “shared” web hosting offers are completely unrealistic borderline on being outright scams. If you read the TOS (Terms of Service) for almost any “shared” host, you will find clauses limiting your use of the server CPU. So, what good are those terabytes of bandwidth if you willl NEVER be able to use them. I’ve seen TOS contracts which state that your account will be suspended if you consume more than 1% of the overall CPU. Excuse me? I understand that hosts need to protect themselves from CPU overload, but they should be more forthcoming about it. I’d much rather see a hosting plan that features “CPU minutes” rather than oodles of bandwidth. Will it ever happen? Not with shared hosting.

This is why a VPS is attractive to me. So what if a shared plan supposedly offers ten or twenty times more bandwidth? You’ll never be able to use it before they slam you for CPU consumption. Hosers.

I plan to switch fully to a VPS by the end of the year. Yes, it will cost a little more than my current shared plan, but at least I won’t have to worry about actually having to handle more than a few site visitors at a time. I have a few articles in the works that should generate some traffic this holiday season, and the last thing I want is for my host to lock me out of my own site (again).

Web Hosting Options – The Downside of Shared Hosting

Earlier this month, an article I wrote on Ghosting Windows XP for Free found its way to the front page of digg.com nearly a year after I wrote it. The ensuing spike in traffic caused my web host (1and1) to move my site temporarily to a new server. Naturally, I received an e-mail from them stating that my account was “seriously threatening the resources of the shared server” and that I should consider purchasing an expensive dedicated server. Furthermore, they informed me that if I decline the dedicated server offer, the next time a traffic spike occurs I MUST either purchase the dedicated server or find hosting elsewhere. Sheesh.

Now, this is not an attack on 1and1. Until this incident I’ve had nary a problem with them. While I do not like being forced into a decision, I certainly cannot blame them for trying to protect their resources and the other accounts on their server. While I have moved my current domain to another host, I still have other domains hosted with 1and1.

So, what is the big deal here? Supposedly, even my “beginner” package is supposed to handle 250 gigabytes of traffic a month. Surely I was not saturating that much bandwidth, as my site has hardly any media. While the “digg” effect sucked up several gigabytes, 1and1 locked my account long before I reached the allotted 250 gigs.

Herein lies the problem with shared hosting packages from any hosting company, not just 1and1. Their sales pitch sounds stellar. Many hosts easily boast of fifty gigabytes of storage space or more, with bandwidth stretching into the terabytes, all for less than $10 a month. Many offer “unlimited” subdomains and SQL databases, which of course is unfeasible. What they decline to tell you is that the ONLY way you will be able to harness these resources is with static HTML pages and large, static file downloads.

The problem here is that most web sites no longer function in this late-90s manner. Most sites are dynamic, and include processor-intensive scripts and databases. Hosting a Content Management System (CMS), a forum, or a blog in a shared-hosting environment is fine provided that only a few users at a time are accessing the data, but a sudden surge in traffic can cause even a single WordPress installation to consume “excessive” resources in the eyes of a shared host.

Of course, none of this information is new, and I’m certainly not trying to take credit for it. Web hosts know it. Clients with popular sites know it. Casual site owners who are at the wrong end of a good “slashdotting” or “digging” painfully find out about it. If you have a shared hosting plan, you will not find out about it until it is too late. Those oodles of storage space and bandwidth promised by your host are in reality a pipe dream. Chances are that you will overload your allotted CPU time long before you approach the bandwidth limits. Sadly, this simple fact is only exacerbated since many hosts “oversell” their shared plans in the first place.

While every shared host will giddily advertise how much space and bandwidth they offer, not one that I’ve found even mentions how much CPU time one can consume. In my hunt for a new host, I decided to largely ignore the boasts of bandwidth and try to determine just how busy a given server generally is. Since most hosts offer a live “demo” account, I checked the server load in each of these demo accounts. Now, my plan is not flawless because a web host can have many servers, but I hoped this would give me a general idea of average server load. A conservative estimate is that a server should not remain above one full point for each processor/core. Several popular hosts that I checked were around this vicinity, but one not-to-be-named host had a dual-processor server that averaged between 18-20 points at the time I checked. I decided not to go with that one. 🙂

Here are sample stats from two anonymous web hosts:

service_stats2.png

(Host 1)

service_stats1.png

(Host 2)

The moral of this story is that shared hosting is only good because it’s cheap. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. What, then, are better options for people who “outgrow” their shared hosting packages?

Naturally, one can choose to personally host a web site. Do you have Cable/DSL? Do you have an old computer lying around? If so, running a server can be a satisfying experience. It can also be frustrating, especially if your connection is flaky. Also, the “upstream” speeds for most popular broadband plans are significantly lower than the “downstream” speeds. Dealing with a dynamic IP address can be like chasing a rabbit as well, though there is software to overcome this obstacle. Many people successfully run sites from their home computers, but most choose to give that duty to someone else.

With that in mind, one could jump straight to a dedicated server. Most hosts would be gleefully happy for a user to migrate from a shared to a dedicated plan. Of course, this comes at a hefty price, usually exceeding $100 a month. Price aside, all the CPU time belongs to you. If you *really* need it, a dedicated server is great, but it’s overkill for people like myself. Before the “digg” effect I received 50-60 hits per day. Now that the effect is winding down, I’m receiving about 300-500 hits per day. For me, a dedicated server is like dropping an atomic bomb on an anthill.

Another option is for a Virtual Private Server (VPS). Quite simply, this is the process of using virtualization techniques to divide a single server into multiple environments. Using software such as OpenVZ, Virtuozzo, Xen, or VMware, one can run multiple copies of “virtual” operating systems with a pre-defined amount of dedicated hard disk space, RAM, and even processor usage. For instance, a host might offer five gigabytes of space, 128 MB of guaranteed RAM, and your choice of operating system. With VPS hosting comes more power and customization as well. With a VPS plan, one usually gets root access, a dedicated IP address, and the ability to install and customize software. Because of the independent nature of VPS hosting, no one user can monopolize resources. If one user’s site on a VPS is getting blasted by Slashdot, no one else is affected. Each user is guaranteed a slice of the server “pie.”

Naturally, VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting, even though the offered space and bandwidth are usually (and falsely) more generous for shared accounts. Honestly, I’m still on a shared plan, simply because I’m still investigating VPS offers. I plan to migrate most/all of my sites to a VPS by the end of the year. While my articles may not get tons of traffic, at least I’ll be more prepared in case of a sudden onslaught.

Before the sudden bombardment of traffic, I knew very little about the various types of web hosting. The needlessly bloated space and bandwidth numbers on my shared package gave me a false sense of confidence. Little did I know that those inflated numbers are hardly achievable if one’s site has any dynamic content. My lesson has been learned, and I hope this article is useful to someone.

If you notice, aside from listing my current host at the beginning, I have not named any other hosting companies. It is not my plan to advertise for any web host, but rather to inform the reader of various types of web hosting out there. Let the buyer decide which is appropriate for his/her needs.

— Brian Bondari
October 2006

Feeling the Digg Effect

To my great surprise yesterday I received an e-mail from my web host (1and1) stating that my account was seriously threatening the server resources. Curiously, I checked my web stats.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had received over 20,000 hits by the middle of the afternoon, and that there were currently over 200 users on my site. Huh? This was quite a jump from my average of 40-50 hits per day. A quick glance at my referals indicated what I suspected: my site was getting hammered by the “digg” effect.

Specifically, the article I wrote last December on “Imaging Windows XP for free” had been picked up by digg.com, sending an onslaught of traffic to my “Beginner” hosting package. Apparently my site buckled and 1and1 moved me to a temporary server. Their e-mail to me requested that I consider purchasing a dedicated server. I oggled at their suggested prices and quickly declined the offer.

So, I’m back and running on a different server, this time NOT hosted by 1and1. Hopefully it can withstand the strain, since I noticed that I’ve also been picked up by Lifehacker.

Death of the DSL Modem

It’s that time of year again. The weather is cooling, the leaving are changing color, and the 2Wire DSL modem dies a painful death. Yes, that’s right. Just like last year, my POS DSL modem gave up the ghost again. To be fair, lightning was to blame last year. This year, it sputtered and finally popped all on its own, and I have no idea why. Perhaps e-coli is the real culprit here?

Continue reading Death of the DSL Modem

Two Online Storage Options (Box.net and XDrive)

To continue my recent interest in using multiple computers more conveniently, I’ve been seeking a new path: on-line file storage. I recently covered a way to store and synchronize Firefox bookmarks, history, and cookies (Google Browser Sync), and a way to write and store word processing documents on-line (Writely).

Today I will share a couple of ways to store regular files on-line.

If you spend much time hopping between multiple computers, such as work/home/other, sometimes it’s just convenient to keep certain files stored on-line. You always know that there will be a copy available if you need it. Even if you do not use multiple computers regularly, on-line storage is handy for archival purposes. If your computer crashes, you can rest assured that you have backups of your critical files. Let’s face it: keeping regular backups of your files is just smart, and there’s no excuse these days for NOT having backups. Hard Drives are rather inexpensive now. One can also “burn” backups to CD/DVD. On-line storage has the advantage of being off-site; in the unfortunate event that my house burns to the ground, I *still* have backups of my critical files.

On to business. There are quite a number of free file storage options available. Two that I’ve discovered that I like are Box.net and XDrive. The following is a comparison of the two.

Box.net
Storage: One gigabyte (free); 5-15 gigs (paid)
No advertisements
Easy sharing with other people
Limitations: Ten megabyte maximum file size (for free accounts)

While Box.net only offers a moderate one gigabyte of space for free, this amount should be plenty for the casual user. To make that space more attractive, Box.net offers a very slick flash-based interface. I had no trouble at all understanding how to use my allotted space. For ease-of-use, Box.net earns top honors. The largest downside is not in the amount of space, but in the restriction on file size for the free accounts. Ten megabytes is ok, but not stellar. I like to create password-protected archives of certain folders, and the resulting archives are often larger than 10 MB. I can get around this somewhat by splitting the archive into separate files, but this is somewhat inconvenient. Still, for free, one can hardly complain. Plus, there are no advertisements at all in Box.net, which is a nice benefit.

box-net.png

XDrive
Storage: Five gigabytes (free); 50 gigs (paid)
Slightly more cumbersome sharing
No limitation on file sizes
Somewhat cluttered interface

XDrive certainly offers more space for free, which is great. There’s also no limitation on file sizes that I’ve discovered. Earlier today I uploaded a single file that was over 350 MB without any trouble. These benefits come at a slight price, however. After using Box.net, the user interface for XDrive just seems clunky, and certainly more difficult to understand at first. Sharing files/folders is slightly more cumbersome as well, though not that much more difficult. Perhaps the main drawback of XDrive, in my opinion, is that it is a service provided by AOL. Yes, that’s right, AOL. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, as one who feels that the AOL software package is practically a virus, this leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth. However, one is not required to install any extra software at all, so this point is negated. Also, if you already have an AIM screen name, you can use it to sign in for XDrive, so AOL integration can be seen as a good thing, depending on your perspective.

xdrive-pic.png

Final thoughts: Both services provide a great convenience for free: easy off-site backups that are accessible from anywhere, using any operating system. Personally, I use both services, though I wish I could combine the storage space and file-size capability of XDrive with the slick interface and ease-of-use of Box.net. Still, either program will get the job done.

Happy storing, and if you know of another free service that you like, feel free to comment below.