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Adventures of a noob: Gentoo (part1) - Know your grub!

Learnt with pain:

One of the most important things if not nearly the most important thing in installation of gentoo by a person not considering himself a guru in linux is configuring the bootloader. The reason is very simple. Migrating from other OS, you most probably would like to keep your stable working operating system for a little bit while messing with gentoo. The installation is sometimes long and quite painful process along which any simplest problem might prevent you from actual using gentoo for everyday operations. Example would be an issue with a graphics driver which would not allow you to properly configure xorg and therefore you would have to use console for a while. I don't know about you, but personally I can't use Links and alike to check my email. My eyeballs turn red, nose starts bleeding and all that bad stuff. And because checking e-mail is something so ridiculously important for a University student nowadays, I would need a working X. The workaround for this particular problem is just using LiveCD which has a guied browser. But the point is understood: you would want to keep another working OS unless you install gentoos everyday like crazy and can do it without a monitor! Hence, you should always have a properly configured boot loader.

Personal Experience:

Here I want to illustrate how bad it is to underestimate the importance of configured bootloader.

It was winter of 2008-2009, the winter break at college so I went home. I was an alltime Ubuntu user at the moment and (as mentioned in earlier posts) decided to try Gentoo. I got to the point (about that in the next post) where I had working gentoo with no Xorg and no network. The xorg part at that point was just the matter of learning how to configure it manually. For network - somebody should have told me about DHCP!!! Anyway, I basically couldn't do anything on it (when I said "working gentoo" I meant the kernel was actually loading :-D). The computer at home had Windows (for mama) and Ubuntu for myself. I erased ubuntu during the process of gentoo installation, but of course the grub was still there! And since it was configured long ago automatically by Ubuntu, ...nothing loaded. The only possibility for me was the LiveCD on which I pretty much lived for quite a bit. The most painful part was when my mom came over once and said "I need to check my email". It was very hard to explain a 40-year old piano teacher why the computer could only produce green text on the black screen and why in the hell that "was ok". I loaded the livecd but it turned out she had all the passwords saved on her windows. For a month I was claimed to have broken the family computer and somehow erasing all of the "collected for long time" by real careful users' passwords. I made her happy when I finally figured out GRUB and could eventually load her windows WITH ALL THE PASSWORDS ALREADY THERE!!! So much joy...

Advice from a noob:

Guys on give a really nice description of GRUB and guidelines of how to work with it in the handbook. Pay attention to that, go to different sources if it doesn't make sense, look up the grub's config on your distro, but you have to know your grub!


X-Server-Xorg 1.6 and Input-Hotplug

Little more than a month ago Debian unstable was hit by  Xserver-Xorg 1.6 which brings about some changes and new features.
The main changes are with input device handling (mouse, keyboard, touchpad, etc.), which from now on can be handled by HAL instead of
HAL (hardware abstraction layer) or more precisely hald (hal-daemon) is a service that governs connected devices in realtime (see [2]).

The most important new feature is input-hotplugging (i-h), which handles input devices dynamically.
This results in a considerably simpler and leaner xorg.conf.
After a few weeks of experience with the new features I recommend switching to input-hotplug.  Unfortunately there is no tool yet to handle switching, so depending on your system there might be more or less manual changes needed.

The following howto  explains the most common cases (desktops and notebooks with 1 monitor connected) Part 2 is soon to come and will describe how to handle more than 1 monitor with xrandr and xorg.conf.
Please also read the related links under Web-Links all down the page, I cannot cover the complexity of the matter in this howto.

First of all we save our "current" xorg.conf:

     # cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.old

Now we can clean up xorg.conf, it will look (depending on your graphics card) something like:

Section "ServerFlags"
        Option          "DontZap"       "0"

Section "Device"
    Identifier    "Device 0"
    Driver        "radeon"
    BoardName    "ATI Technologies Inc M52 [Mobility Radeon X1300]"
    BusID        "PCI:1:0:0"

As you can see all input device sections are gone.

Do not copy the above example but modify your own xorg.conf!

The stanza "DontZap"  in the Section "ServerFlags" provides that the key combination  "Ctrl-Alt-Backspace" to restart the x-server still works.
If you do not want that option, set it to  "1"  (instead of "0") or delete Section "ServerFlags"  completely.
Depending on your graphics device you may or even have to add additional options in Section "Device" (e.g. UXA 3D-Acceleration, TV-Out, etc.).

 To enable touchpads we need to copy a file, depending if your make is Synaptics or Alps.

In the appendix you find a synaptics.fdi file, which needs to be copied to/etc/hal/fdi/policy.
Alternativlly the package xserver-xorg-input-synaptics has a .fdi file as well (see [3]).
The synaptic.fdi in the appendix (as well as the other .fdi files in there) is generic.
For touchpads you might want to install gsynaptics to easily enable and change values after copying the file.

      # cp synaptics.fdi /etc/hal/fdi/policy  (synaptic.fdi is in the appendix)
      # cp /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/11-x11-synaptics.fdi /etc/hal/fdi/policy

In [4] there are some example fdi files:
- for touchpads
- for tablets
- for activating  special keys with e.g HP and other notebooks (see [5])

Unfortunatelly not all input devices have working fdi files yet.
Should your touchpad be from Alps please use the file alps.fdi from the appendix.
Accordingly for tablets by Wacom please use wacom.fdi  from the appendix or the fdi file in [6].


[2] /usr/share/doc/hal-doc/spec/hal-spec.html
[3] /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/11-x11-synaptics.fdi
[4] /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/
[5] /usr/share/hal/fdi/information/10freedesktop/30-keymap-hp.fdi
[6] /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/10-linuxwacom.fdi
X-StrikeForce Input Hotplug Guide
sidux wiki xorg howto
Brice Goglin's Blog - Howto






What is a distro?

I recently gave up on the idea that a distro is a set of modified packages and a core system. Because when I made the only major disto change of my linux life, yes, I was changing the way computer looked, and the core system was quite different, but that was a minor change, somthing that I could get over relitivly quickly. So what had changed when I moved?

 It was the expectations. When I had been using Ubuntu, no one expected very much of me, and was willing to acomidate any strange or irrational decisions. However, when I came to Arch Linux, it was compleatly different. I was expected to be quite proficient in comand line, and while this did not mean that help was not provided, it was provided to be concumed, not to be shunned and ignored. Like a teacher, the community expects the student to want to learn, and it gives it's best in return. This isn't a blog about the benefits of the Arch Linux community over the Ubuntu one, it is a blog about how it is not the technology that makes up the distro, it is the community. While the technology gives a central point for the community to form, very quickly it becomes more or less equal to it's child. This isn't a one way relationship though, the community drives the technology, and the technology provides the basis for the community. The community very often takes it's expectations from the technology; the ubuntu forums are beginer friendly, as is ubuntu, but this does not always happen. What I am trying to say here is that the disto as a community is different from the distro as a technology, though the both depend on each other.

In conclusion, a distro is not a technology, yet it is not a community. It is a fusion of all these things, forming one great oblong (I like oblongs) bulge on the computers of  thousands of personas everywhere iver the world.


10 days till Fedora 11

Fedora 11 Leonidas has many new features:
  • 20- second startup
  • New versions of desktop environments: Gnome 2.26, KDE 4.2, XFCE 4.6
  • New versions of desktop applications: Firefox 3.5, 3.1
  • New package format- rpm 4.7

    Kubuntu Karmic Alpha 1 Released

    Just a quick note letting you all know that Kubuntu Karmic Alpha 1 has been released. If you are looking to contribute to an open source project, there is no better time than now. The Kubuntu team is looking for a few good contributors. We can always use supporters, documentation writers, packagers, developers, translators and more! If you are interested in contributing, I urge you to join #kubuntu-devel on

    Note: This is an alpha release, so it is not for the faint of heart, it is for those of you who are a bit crazy and like living dangerously. It is not for production use at all, and if you do use it for production use and get fired, it is not our fault!


    Soon or Later, Pardus 2009 will be mine!

    Probably some of you know that i wrote news about Pardus 2009 at my personal blog.[1][2] After new Linux.Com, i will write here too. Developers still working on Pardus 2009. Yesterday at the Ozgurlukicin.Com Pardus Community (Yea its Turkish>>for freedom it means) published an interwiev with Pardus 2009 Version Manager, Onur Kucuk.According the interwiev, with Pre-Alpha 3 version developers can use KD4 and have support of ext4. I hope i can write more news in the future(but now time 03.58AM).

    See you^^ 



    Now thats Customer Service!

    Today I got back to work after a very busy morning and sitting there at my desk was a package. I picked it up to see what it might be and it was from Canonical. Ah ha! I remember about a month ago I signed up to have a free copy of Ubuntu 9.04 shipped to me after it was released. Didn't cost me a thing, just gave 'em my email address, address, and name and here it is.


    How bout that for customer service? And not only that but this was a real silk-screened CD. Complete with a nice case and a few Ubuntu stickers. This would cost Hundreds of Dollars if it was a Microsoft product. I haven't been in much of an Ubuntu mood lately, what with the Mandriva release and all. But after this kinda treatment I think I'll give it a shot! Kudos to Ubuntu for going the extra mile.


    Ubuntu 904


    Distros as I see them.

    Over the years, ok not so many I have only been using Linux for about nine years now, I have managed to try the big hitters in the Linux world, the Slackwares, Red Hats, and Debians, and many variations and this is what I have found to be true.  Red Hat and Novell Distributions seem to be geared towards Enterprise systems with a lot of offerings for businesses, Debian distros are more geared for end-users, and Slackware seems to be for the tweakers.

     Ok so what do I like and why.  Source-based distributions (have to mention OpenSDE here) are fun to play with but hard for someone like who is based almost entirely in a GUI environment thanks to my Windows training.  Debian I love as a server distro and haven't found a need to use anything else.  Opensuse I love on my desktop.  If you run Gnome I find you hard to use, sorry remember Windows Guy, and I tend to swing towards distros that use KDE because of this.

     What I look for in a distro is simple.  KDE is a must and now that 4 is stable I like it over 3.  Wireless support because I use it on my laptop.  A strong repository,  I don't know about you but with me I have tried some of these obscure distros with weird package management, that they hope will be the next RPM, DEB, or TGZ (not sure if this is what Slackware is still using, could Google it I guess) but doesn't have support for your favorite tools, or applications, and you can't find the app that you need at that moment.  Standards, ok this goes to the repository bit too, how many differant versions of anything do we need.  Granted most of the distros nowadays are based in Debian or RPM (note: I didnt say Red Hat because Novell fits this category too) and so the standard for me tends to be one of these two package management system and Common Toolset.

     If I were to build my own distro.  So this is the part where I get creative and you can all yell at me later because I am being unrealistic.  <edited due to unreasonable thinking>  This section will be filled later.

     In conclusion, still much to learn.  However, my favourites are  Opensuse and Debian, and if someone wants to chime in and give me a few suggestions I don't mind, especially source based I wouldn't mind trying that again.


    Good Community

    After news alert on my gmail i login as fast as i can. I really like new system, especially blog and group system is great! For a strong community we always need these kind of works. Normally i use blogger my recent posts but im gonna use this blog for write some news, experiences about Pardus Linux.

    Anyway gj Linux.Com^^ Will be here.


    Ark Linux switching to eglibc

    Later today, the development branch of Ark Linux will switch from glibc to eglibc.

    We've been considering this move for quite some time, but being the small distro we are, we didn't want to risk breaking compatibility with others.

    Now that Debian has decided to make the move, we can safely follow -- and still be the first RPM based distro with eglibc. ;)

    The initial eglibc build in our repository will be from the 2.10 branch.

    Slackware Package Format Changed

    From the Slackware-Current Changelog:

    Fri May 8 18:49:03 CDT 2009
    Hello folks! This batch of updates includes the newly released KDE 4.2.3,
    but more noticeably it marks the first departure from the use of gzip for
    compressing Slackware packages. Instead, we will be using xz, based on
    the LZMA compression algorithm. xz offers better compression than even
    bzip2, but still offers good extraction performance (about 3 times better
    than bzip2 and not much slower than gzip in our testing). Since support
    for bzip2 has long been requested, support for bzip2 and the original lzma
    format has also been added (why not?), but this is purely in the interest
    of completeness -- we think most people will probably want to use either
    the original .tgz or the new .txz compression wrappers. The actual
    Slackware package format (which consists of the layout within the package
    envelope) has not changed, but this is the first support within Slackware's
    package tools for using alternate compression algorithms.

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    Page 17 of 18

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