How to Install Third Party Repositories on CentOS

You’ll have almost every CentOS package you could ever need with a few additional community run package repositories. Here’s instructions for installing three of the more popular ones: RPMForge, EPEL, and Elrepo.

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How to Install Amarok 1.4 on CentOS 5

Update 2014-11-11: I have fixed the instructions as I discovered the old instructions no longer work smoothly. This worked for me earlier today when I needed a fresh Amarok install.

How to Install Amarok 1.4 on CentOS 5

I love CentOS 5 particularly because of KDE 3.5, which I just can’t seem to get on without, and Amarok which is a great music player. Here’s how to install it with all the bells and whistles, including mp3 support..

  1. yum install gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-plugins-ugly –enablerepo=rpmforge
  2. yum install xine xine-lib –enablerepo=rpmforge
  3. yum install amarok.x86_64 –enablerepo=epel

As you can see, you’ll need the EPEL and RPMForge repositories for CentoS 5.

These simple steps worked for me out of the box on a CentOS 5.10 x86_64 KDE Desktop OS install.

Note I personally disable all third party repos by default to avoid conflicts with CentOS packages hence the ‘enablerepo’ arguments. No ‘yum priorities’ were used on the repos.

Note also on an x86_64 install you might start getting i386 package dependencies installed which are not really needed hence I installed with a ‘.x86_64’ suffix where needed in the commands above.

Chrome is winning me over!

Kudos to Google for their work on the Chrome browser. More and more I leave work at work and so my home computers don’t need all the extensions and features of firefox for web development. And so Google Chrome really, really growing on me.

Kudos to Google for their work on the Chrome browser. More and more I leave work at work and so my home computers don’t need all the extensions and features of firefox for web development. And so Google Chrome really, really growing on me.

I think I’ve finally fully switched on my Linux workstation (at home) and my Windows laptop.

Chrome feels very snappy which is important to me when I just want to surf. It also appears very compatible rendering various web pages.

I can’t fault it. It’s a stripped down Firefox with performance as its key goal. You can’t argue with that.

Try it out!

Request for a Versioning File System on Linux

The people who make file systems are developers. As a developer myself the value of a versioning file system is so keenly clear I’m so surprised it’s not, at the very least, a standard option on every single file system ever created. So this is a request to all the file system developers out there: Please, what can we do to get a versioning file system?

The people who make file systems are developers. As a developer myself the value of a versioning file system is so keenly clear I’m surprised it’s not a standard option, at the very least, on every single file system ever created. So this is a request to all the file system developers out there: Please, what can we do to get a versioning file system?

I’ve googled for years looking for a production ready versioning file system. I think a fuse-based fs would even suffice. I may even take the plunge and see what I can do with fuse and perl. But I’m just so surprised it’s not already done.

There are projects out there like ext3cow, which looks like the Right Way(TM) to do it but seems dead, and the Wayback FS, but it looks dead, too. I love the way they tried to implement versioning on ext3cow. It looks exactly like what I’d want. Everything integrated at the console as a first-class citizen fs.

Now, I know people say just use a revision control system. But initialization and adding and committing files on an ongoing basis is just not something I’m going to do. Anything requiring manual labour will slip through the cracks one day. We have computers to do things for us. This should just be one more thing.

Other arguments include things like revisioning constantly changing files like database blobs, log files or just plain very large files (images, movies, data, etc.). I agree there are some things you don’t want to revision but the benefit to a developer of versioning would be immense.

I once lost a day’s work because of a bad console rm. Since it was in the span of a work day, what was supposed to save me? Frequent rcs commits? I don’t use rcs for backup (neither should you, but that’s a whole other story) and I don’t commit unfinished code. That’s just bad practice and is a symptom of a problem. So, daily backups wouldn’t have saved me, but a versioning file system would have. It got me so worked up that I created a poor man’s versioning “file system” in shell script using rsync to mirror a directory and timestamp backups. Unfortunately, it’s IO requirements caused stuttering when doing normal work. I think I’ll post that shell script in case any one wants to improve on it to see if they reduce the IO requirements. Ooh, good time to try github.

So, what can we do to get a versioning file system on linux? I’ve wanted one for years and I can’t understand why it’s not a priority. If I don’t have the knowledge to code a file system myself what can I do to bring this goal a little closer?

Gobolinux – an intriquing contrarian take on entrenched unix-like ideas

Gobolinux is a linux distribution with a different goal than most distributions: Try things out that should be doable on unix-like operating systems but are often complicated by tradition, ritual or most likely laziness. Gobo isn’t going to be your desktop, unless you’re a masochist, but it is an interesting commentary on some valuable principles we started with which are losing traction.

Gobolinux is a linux distribution with a different goal than most distributions: Try things out that should be doable on unix-like operating systems but are often complicated by tradition, ritual or most likely laziness. Gobo isn’t going to be your desktop, unless you’re a masochist, but it is an interesting commentary on some valuable principles we started with but which are now losing traction.

Its primary difference is that it attempts to redefine the traditional unix-like file system layout. Many criticized the author of the distribution for even thinking of trying to change this and they often cited the old principle that if you don’t follow the rules learned by unix you’ll be bound to painfully relearn them. But that principle is misapplied here. The author rightfully dares to tread on ground few have dared before.

Its second interesting difference is its attempt to free super-user privileges from the root user. This is done to some extent in existing distributions but not every packaged app obeys the rule that super-user privileges are granted to anyone with a super-user user ID and not only the user named “root.” To achieve this, Gobolinux alters each application in case it has contrary logic.

There are probably other intriguing facets of Gobolinux that I could bring up but these two points illustrate two significant areas where entrenched beliefs work against trying to improve different areas of the operating system. Openness and freedom to innovate are one of the greatest assets of open source and its a shame attempts to alter the status quo wouldn’t be met with more enthusiasm.

I say a shame because the author of Gobolinux really has come up against strong opposition to his ideas, to the point of personal attacks. See the documentation for details on the different ideas Gobolinux attempts and especially “I am not clueless,” a response to all the critics who felt the Gobolinux was a step backwards, that it was violating hard won truths and it was a pointless, fruitless attempt.

That Gobolinux might be considered a pointless, fruitless attempt is so far from a reasonable knowledge of the history of unix and unix-like operating systems that the only conclusion one can come to is that we may be losing one of the most hard won truths of them all: Survival of the fittest.

Survival of the fittest is fundamentally the most able ecosystem in which to engender the best end result. Relying on any one thing because it always has been is a sure way to go extinct. No single technology, technique or company should have a free pass for all time. That makes for unfortunate times.

Gobolinux may be one of those dead-end branches of the plant or animal kingdom but rest assured its ideas will pollinate and mate with ideas from others and something better will come of it.

So here’s to Gobolinux: May your ideas inspire generations of innovators to come.

CentOS 5 + KDE 3.5 = A nice, productive desktop

In my travails to find a nice KDE 3.5 (as opposed to KDE 4) desktop, I’ve finally landed on CentOS 5 and, with a little tweaking, I think I can finally live with this distribution.

In my travails to find a nice KDE 3.5 (as opposed to KDE 4) desktop, I’ve finally landed on CentOS 5 and, with a little tweaking, I think I can finally live with this distribution.

I can’t deal with KDE 4. Not yet. I just hope KDE brings it up to the standards of KDE 3.5 and I hope the distros polish it quite a bit more.  Unfortunately, it has some regressions in the key areas that really affect me (konsole, kedit/kwrite/kate), etc.

One little nitpick against CentOS’s KDE which I never experienced in Gentoo’s KDE: Window focus issues. These issues come up seemingly randomly when switching between konsoles. Try quickly ALT-TAB’ing between konsoles. Quite quickly it gets “stuck”. This cascades into a mouse cursor and keyboard input problem. Clicking around the desktop or taskbar eventually gets you back but it happens frequently enough to be annoying.

But, I found an alleviation to this problem that fixes most of the issues: KDE’s Desktop Settings Wizard. Just run it and it will reset all your desktop settings (you’ve been warned). Select KDE behaviour when it asks. It does seem to have fixed window focus issues. At least they don’t happen as often as they used to.

So, if you’re a KDE 4 refugee looking for a KDE 3.5 desktop like I was, try CentOS 5. It’s probably the last long-term support distro to ship with KDE 3.5. Get it while you can!

Disdaining Gentoo (Part 2)

In a previous post I mentioned I ditched gentoo for ubuntu and then switched to kubuntu shortly after. This is all in a span of a week or two. Well, I just switched again.

In a previous post I mentioned I ditched gentoo for ubuntu and then switched to kubuntu shortly after. This is all in a span of a week or two. Well, I just switched again.

I’ve switched…back to CentOS 5. I picked this desktop once before because it still had KDE 3.5. It was a 64bit version before and it didn’t feel quite right at all. A buddy of mine guessed that distros haven’t tweaked 64bit versions as nicely as 32bit versions which have been around forever.

My problem with kubuntu is mainly KDE 4. There are some regressions I really don’t like. Konsole is much more limited now. Copy&pasting in konsole seems buggy too (copied and pasted a large shell command and it works in kde 3.5 but not 4). Kedit and kwrite are gone which I find disappointing. I had gotten into the habit of using each one for different tasks.

So, my plan is to ride CentOS 5 for as long as possible or at least as long as it takes for KDE 4 to get really polished and featureful by the distros.

Disdaining Gentoo

Gentoo Linux has its problems. Gentoo once heralded the source-based distribution revolution. You could setup your system at a very low level, compile everything, tweak everything, optimize everything. It was great for a time.

Gentoo Linux has its problems. Gentoo once heralded the source-based distribution revolution. You could setup your system at a very low level, compile everything, tweak everything, optimize everything. It was great for a time.

I used gentoo for about eight years on my home desktops and production servers. My work computer is still gentoo, in fact. But in the second half of my time with gentoo, things went from bad to worse. Gentoo had its own internal struggles and, to their credit, things went mostly smoothly for end-users. Except for the breakage.

Breakage is a fact of life on gentoo. You can either save yourself the headache now by holding off updates, but once you do you’re in for a world of hurt, or you can do regular updates, say weekly, and you’ll find on average one snag per update. You’ll be lucky to get through an update without an issue. Gentoo used to be quite a bit better than this but this is what it’s devolved into.

I’ve been frustrated with gentoo for a long time. Initially the inertia to move distros took some time to overcome but about a year ago I did. I tried a whole swath of distributions looking for a nice one. I settled on CentOS. It’s alright for a desktop but it’s not going to do you many favours. Still, I stuck with it. I used it for a few months and I started to miss gentoo.

So I went back to gentoo. My thought was that maybe my legacy install was the cause of all my problems and perhaps a clean install would make things go smooth. No.

Soon after the clean install, a few months ago now, updates would break. On all of my gentoo systems it got to the point that overcoming the breakages eventually proved too much work or apparently impossible.

So, this past week I installed Ubuntu and then wiped that soon after for kubuntu. Who knows if it’ll last but at least things just work. My usb wireless device, which worked at 10-20% packet loss on gentoo works flawlessly and out-of-the-box on ubuntu.

There is a thread on the gentoo forums titled “I’M DONE – 4 YEARS of Gentoo is ENOUGH.” It was started in 2006, is still going strong, and has 26 pages of posts. It is the clear testament to the deep rooted problems that exist in gentoo.

Save your sanity.

Dear Linus Torvalds,

Dear Linus Torvalds, be humbler, be friendlier.

Dear Linus Torvalds,

You don’t know me but I’ve known who you are for years now. I’ve used the operating system kernel you’ve shepherded for nigh on twenty years now and I am in your debt.

And if I can give you anything in recompense, let me give you this advice: Be humbler, be friendlier.

Over the years I’ve seen how you deal with people and it’s not pretty. Please understand me. People respect your intelligence and wisdom in your areas. I assume your family and friends like you as a person, so I’m sure there’s something there you can work with.

The problem is, people respect you, they will even sacrifice of themselves for you, but they don’t like you. You can say “they don’t have to like me” all you like. This isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about your well-being and the well-being of those you deal with.

I’ve read your kernel debates with Andy Tanenbaum. I saw your google talk on git and, to be honest, I was a little embarrassed for you. Those you insulted took the high ground when you took the low ground. I know how you’ve acted on the linux kernel mailing list over the years. I know there are two sides to the story of Alax Cox quitting as tty maintainer.

And, I also know that you wouldn’t have accomplished nearly so much if you weren’t that stubborn, arrogant, brutally honest, usually right prick we’ve all come to know and trust when it comes to the linux kernel.

For all the positive outcomes of such a harsh personality, you can not overlook where your dealings with people will leave you when all is said and done.

Linus, when you’re an old, lonely man without anyone to call a true friend, remember how you lived your life, how you dealt with those around you, and how many people tried to help you avoid becoming what you are.

Sincerely,

mjg/09