Psychotic SUSE 12.1 Linux – A Mythological Nightmare

Last night wasn’t the first night I’ve spent with OpenSUSE. Years ago, I went through a similar restless period with Debian. I was even willing to pay for it — and there was Suse all dressed up in a fat pack of lizard skin CD’s, with a reputation for her rigid German discipline.

I admit it — I tried Suse out. Back then, and just last night. And both times, the same thought ran though my heart and soul: this is wrong! Totally, completely wrong! It haunts me still. I feel unclean. Sullied. It’s one of those perverse experiences that hit you at some core level, and you’re never quite the same. Suse is sick, twisted, as purely revolting as the shade of green she wore. The lizard brain, with its base instincts still buried in the cold stream. A different species – no, rather a mockery of our own species in its alien brain.

I hesitate to even describe my experience with Suse. But I must. And you, dear reader, would do well to leave right now and let Suse fade away into mythology, along with the cyclopses and Medusa’s hissing hair. But if you are bold enough, or perverse enough to remain curious, I worry for you.

Suse began innocently enough, with its sickly pea-colored graphical installer, which was actually not that bad. One of the first things it wanted to do was wipe out all my hard drives and build a new partitioning scheme. Honestly, I like assertiveness. But pushiness and gross assumptions turn me right off.

It wasn’t too bad figuring out how to use its “pretty/easy” partitioning, formatting and mountpoint tool. But Suse was clunky. Response times were drunken. I was happy it could handle RAID and LVM, and she even teased me into believing she could handle an LVM mounted root. Unfortunately, at the last moment, she backed out, telling me it “can’t be done”. Lies. From the very beginning. Lies. I can’t be done, dear Suse, it’s just that you’re too stupid.

So I handed a plain vanilla partition to Suse for her /boot so she wouldn’t be confused. I saw nothing about supporting iSCSI either, that I can remember. I do admit it was nice being asked if I wanted a Gnome or KDE environment to live in. Very thoughtful to ask, Suse. And then she started moving in her hundreds of packages from her 4+ gigabyte install image.

I couldn’t watch. So I took the opportunity to use the bathroom while she worked away, and eat some dinner. But when I came back, the fancy graphical install screen had turned to flashing, scrambled block patterns, like a video driver explosion, and nothing could be done. Stupid thing. But she was at least trying to be attractive.

So I physically hit the switch and rebooted. Up come that vomitable green again with a boot menu obviously written in her earlier, extreme drunkeness. Or maybe she’s schizophrenic. The point being, my only boot choices were her, or I could boot 3 Windows partitions that weren’t even bootable by Windows, or “Other Linux Distribution”. I chose her, wanting to give her a further chance. And to my surprise, she recognized that she had failed, and continued with the install. Now that was unexpected and impressive. Some Suse programmer deserves a serious food and treats reward. Thanks to him, she momentarily regained her sanity and I was soon up in desktop.Well, a giant, low-res desktop. But a desktop, nonetheless.

I tried getting the nvidia proprietary drivers installed by adding their community repository to Yast – the repository that’s listed in the software center, labled Nvidia drivers. That’s neat. But when I told her yes, I’ll have some of that, she told me the repository wasn’t there. Suse is some serious crazy. And not in a good way. Even my primitive druid man Gentoo made getting the nvidia drivers easy. Suse just teases.

Firefox did work fine, and it was even easy getting the Adobe’s flash horror installed. However, when I installed Google’s Chrome browser, it came up with an error dialog telling me I had to tell it some root for extensions. I’ve never seen that before. Then again, when you spend some time talking to an insane person, you’ll hear many things you’ve never heard before.

I just felt wrong there with Suse, in her little alien madhouse. And when I rebooted, and chose to boot “Other Linux Distribution”, one of the 3 others currently on the system, I was just sent back into Suse’s delusion. She was taking over for good. And lying about it. Making it look like I was totally free to choose on my own, but making all roads lead right back to that creeping lizard.

So let this be a lesson to you: always install your boot loader on more than one hard drive. That’s how I finally escaped Suse’s clutches, because I always can boot from any drive in the system, and Suse only thought to take over the primary one as identified by the bios. And here’s where her stupidity actually came in handy.

So I told the bios to boot off one one of the alternate drives, and I went straight home to Fedora 16. Actually, my first instinct after such a trauma was to run back to Debian from the future. But I wanted to restore my primary drive’s boot loader. And Fedora is a real up-tight stickler for having all her proper drugs necessary for her to wake up. And sweet, earthy Debian has never had any need for such things, even though it does just as much. So I let Fedora rule the boot loader, since she’s so damn picky.

And this is where I’m back to now, just me and Fedora 16. But I know Suse is lurking deep in the machine, back in those quantum-spun positions, waiting. My next order of business now is to zero out her volume and deallocate her space, in the hopes she will be gone for good. But that’s the thing about monsters, isn’t it? They hit hard, when you least expect.

PS. I’m sure Suse is great and wonderful, and it’s just my own isolated experience, blah, blah, blah. Yes, if you’re insane.

The Pan Pipes of Gentoo Linux, Always at the Source

Skyrim. It’s bad enough they built it for feeble console controller play, completely ignoring the greater capacities of PC horsepower and keyboards. But it also means spending time with that bloated, plastic Windows 7. That’s ok, though. You hardly notice the trapped feeling of flimsy lego block walls when you’re immersed in a good game.

Yesterday, though, perhaps as a subconscious reaction to the fascist shackles and narrow hallways inflicted upon us by proprietary operating systems like Windows 7 and OSX, I went a little nuts. Back to the search for my new workstation OS, I left the stench of caustic proprietary industrial chemicals and instead entered the stench of man sweat, heavy gears, lifting, and grease.

Gentoo users are what Arch Linux users imagine themselves to be: real men. You don’t even get in their club unless you pass through the Klingon pain stick ritual, where where if you come out alive at all, you’ve at least bludgeoned, bruised and bloody. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And those who survive, are brothers.

Ok, yes, slightly neanderthal brothers, I admit. You see, Gentoo has left the citadel, gone out into the wild plains, where these brothers live the natural life under the stars, pounding naked on drums while dancing around a bonfire, building and strengthening bodies and minds, and, well, do their druidic rites for whatever purposes, while the rest of the world rides in their silver spaceship to the sun.

Gentoo confuses me. He’s primal, wild and passionate. Painfully intelligent in such an exotic way. He’s a beast. And a spirit. And I can’t help but love him. He’s how I used to be. Before I was civilized by the unified space people. Before I compromised my dreams and aspirations in the name of convenience and responsibility.

Gentoo is a warrior, a kung fu master who can juggle the primal elements, and teaches you by forcing you to confront yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. It’s the essence that counts. And if that essence isn’t strong, persistent and true, you will break. That is the beauty. That is what binds us together.

Gentoo takes a lot of crap from people who say the only reason he’s there is because he’s obsessed with optimization. Gentoo is obsessed with optimization. He’s a kung fu master. But one does not know true meditation until the body and mind are one in optimized harmony. One does not know true meditation without a deep knowledge of self. And honor is what’s inside, not what is perceived by others.

That being said, Gentoo does make building a Linux box much simpler than using tape and paperclips. Their install image can be booted, or mounted locally for an install without having to reboot. Gentoo makes it easy to chroot into an environment where you can build the system, then just reboot in to carry on creating your own little world. Created however you, as the strong individual, might want it.

Over time, Gentoo has become more accommodating of people wanting to take the fast track, providing some selectable profiles that will make sure you get some of your dependencies handled for your bigger, future dreams. Like a desktop environment. You can’t help but imagine him sneering at you for taking a pre-packaged route. But he tolerates your weakness, knowing you’ll eventually find your own strength together.

Normally you wouldn’t find Gentoo “fraternizing” with someone like me, a one-night stand. But I’m not your average Joe, easily intimidated, quick to anger and burying any secret lack of self-confidence. I got in Gentoo’s face, meaning to take him on, no malice, no baggage, nothing to prove – only to see. You can’t describe such things. They can only be experienced.

And it was good. Gentoo has done an excellent job bringing all the various source packages that make up a traditional Linux OS and supporting stuff together. The dependency matrix through their packaging system, portage, is quite good. The difference is, you have to decide what you want. Do you want your IMAP client to support TLS encryption? You better make sure you compile with the dependencies in place.

If you stick to the pre-packaged sources in portage, and set your USE flags properly (which tell what you generally like compiling in support for), Gentoo is mostly hassle-free. I suppose some people may not know, but yes, Gentoo cooks every program on your system from scratch, downloading the source code for you, and doing its best to make sure you have already compiled the other things you’ll need to successfully compile what you currently want.

Users of other Linux distributions often accuse Gentoo users of obsessing about performance tweaks that Linux lets you do, such as taking advantage of very specific hardware capabilities your system might have, and experimenting with different approaches at compile-time optimizations you can sometimes exploit to boost the zippy-ness of a given program. Such things are obsessive. They can also be fun. And sometimes even useful in a practical sense.

But where I have found Gentoo most convenient is the fact that everything on my system, regardless of optimizations, I have compiled locally, myself. This means that when I want to experiment with a new software release that no distribution has yet conveniently packaged up for me, I can very easily compile it, just by downloading the source. I already have the header files or object files on my system for any dependencies this new package may require. And this can be very nice, because I don’t have to go searching for the correct “development” libraries that most binary Linux distributions would require you to install, in order to compile other programs against those libraries.

I could very happily build a life with Gentoo as my main workstation. If I weren’t a superficial bitch underneath it all. I want shiny, pretty, and I want everything done for me right now, and in the future, and I want it to not look home made. I want him to do everything for me, and I don’t want to have to do anything for him. That’s how it should be. And I’ll settle for a bit of a body fat, if he’ll take care of me. I’ll even smile.

That’s why I’m back in Fedora right now. Gentoo handled an install of root on LVM and RAID just fine, too, btw. Well, as long as you passed the right kernel parameters and built the initrd properly. You have to tell those burly men what to do. Just like Fedora requires it, but for no good reason. Debian from the future is on the flipside still, while I’m trying to make things work with Fedora. Good, faithful Debian Sid.  I wonder what you’ve been thinking, what updates have come since I’ve last been there. Maybe tonight I’ll see.

You know, Gentoo is real shit. Anything more bare to the metal that this and you’ll be crossing the boundaries over into science. Right now, no matter which desktop Linux distribution I eventually end up with, I’ve got in the back of my mind that I’ll be slipping out of the shiny citadel every once in a while, on those clear nights, with the curiosity and pull of the deep woods, to join Gentoo again – under the moon and stars, the bonfire only a small pinpoint from above, yet the raw source of all we have become.

The saga contiues: Psychotic SUSE 12.1 Linux – A Mythological Nightmare

The Trials of Cohabitation: Juggling Debian Sid and Fedora 16

Juggling more than one relationship at a time isn’t easy, even when you’re completely truthful and honest about it. You forget what you tell one, one day, and you can even mix up what they’ve told you – always at your own peril.

I had no illusions that Fedora 16 and unstable Debian from the future would get along with each other completely, living on the same hard drives. And you know, they do, for the most part.

The biggest problem was, when I brought Fedora 16 home and installed, it played that cocky/arrogant, better than you card with poor unstable Debian, completely pretending like Sid wasn’t even there. F16 completely stripped Debian from the grub2 boot menu, along with Ubuntu. But Fedora 16 was happy to coexist with that fat, filthy Windows 7 partition. Go figure.

Fedora 16 denies it, saying it’s grub’s fault, not his. That’s a little like buying a house from a builder, and when the structural beams collapse, the builder says it’s not his fault, it’s his wood supplier’s fault. Sure. The thing is, many people with multiple OS’s didn’t experience this same problem, so it leads me to believe Fedora 16 has a problem detecting other OS’s installed on other LVM volumes, or some combination of RAID/LVM. I’m sorry, the version of grub Fedora chose to use – not Fedora’s fault. Yeah.

Anyway, it’s a quick enough fix. After you boot into Fedora 16 and run a software update, it seems you get a grub that’s been fixed, and will now detect your other OS’s just fine. You just have to be sure to rebuild your grub.cfg file, which I’ve documented if you happen to have this problem, too.

Once Fedora 16 is put in its place, it’s no big deal switching between Fedora and Debian Sid. But you know what, as lovey as even unstable Debian from the future seems to be, she’s not past a little backstabbing dagger herself, when no one’s looking.

If Debian Sid does an “update-grub”, all the OS’s on the system are detected just fine. Everything looks great. But when you find yourself wanting to be with Fedora 16, you’ll find Fedora 16’s been seriously drugged. Pretty well unusable, in my situation at least, though an “emergency” kernel parameter can get you to some sanity there.

What happens is unstable Debian is being very tricky. Sneaky even. When unstable Debian sees Fedora is there, it’s grub-mkconfig will very graciously put in a grub menu entry for Fedora 16, but the root device kernel parameter it will set to a dm device, which may or may not be the correct one, and doesn’t load all the grub menu image definitions that Fedora 16 needs, either.

Now, to be fair, unstable Debian is not psychic, even in the future… yet. How is it supposed to know which special modules Fedora 16 will need to wake up properly? But it should know better than to rely on a sequentially-numbered dm device for the root volume; the world is an unpredictable place.

And you know what? Fedora 16 shouldn’t be so picky and complicated about what it needs. I can say it’s Debian’s fault for drugging her, but I can also say it’s Fedora’s fault for requiring so much medication in the first place to get going. Must be a downside in the life of an elite corporate military secret assassin spy.

My feelings so far in co-habitation? I feel comfortable and safe with unstable Debian from the future. She’s always treated me right, she’s smart, and is far more intuitive and accommodating of my quirks than Fedora 16. Yet Fedora 16 is a badass. He’s lean, mean, no-nonsense, and literal as all hell. He’s got your back, unless you do something he doesn’t like, and then he’s just as likely to shoot you himself, then blame it on the stars.

These are my two right now. I’m making no commitments. Mint’s LMDE RC just came out today. I think it needs some attention. But in the meantime, I regret to say it, because it disgusts me, and this is where I am right now — in fat, filthy Windows 7. Writing this. Waiting for the last 13% of Skyrim to finish downloading.

Fedora 16 Can Wipe Out All Other Operating Systems from Grub2 Boot Menu List – A Quick Fix

In my promiscuous dealings with Linux distributions lately, I’ve decided to document anything I’ve done to fix problems I’ve encountered. This will open happen if I find I like the distribution – otherwise I’m not bothering to fix anything; instead just leaving.

So, Fedora 16 seems to have a problem detecting other Linux distributions on your system if you are using LVM for those other volumes. Actually, it may be a combination of RAID and LVM causing Fedora to not see the other distributions. I’m not really sure, and I don’t care to dig.

The symptom was, after installing Fedora 16, the grub2 boot menu no longer had entries for any other of my installed operating systems, except for Windows. I thought it might be wicked Fedora games, but it turns out other people hadn’t experienced this problem – they weren’t running a RAID/LVM combination either.

It turns out that Fedora can actually see the other operating systems, but only after you finish your install and run a software upgrade. This seems to indicate the problem is contained in the Fedora install boot image, but that it’s been corrected in the system after you run a software upgrade.

The fix for grub2, so that your other operating systems will be listed in the boot menu, is an easy one:

grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

Of course, run this as root and make a backup copy of the file first.

And, you probably don’t need to do this, if you haven’t done something strange to try to get your other operating systems to show up, but if you need to re-write grub2 back into your disk’s MBR, it’s:

grub2-install /dev/<device-name>

Where <device-name> is your boot drive, in my case, /dev/sda — and also another run for /dev/sdb just in case, since it’s software mirrored there. That’s IN MY CASE, and not your case. So don’t just use those. I know, but some people are reckless that way.

Fedora 16 Isn’t Ruthless Underneath It All – It Just Needs Some Love and Understanding

I admit, my brief tryst with Fedora 16 the other night has been stuck in my mind. It was good. Really good. I guess I had a few preconceptions going in. When you go with IBM, when you date that FBI agent, or that covert military assassin, you just expect some kind of perfection. They’ve got to have hard-core discipline, they had to work everything out well in advance. A downright ruthless execution in the name of perfection.

But you know what? You get them alone, and they’re just human. Just like you and me. I guess it’s not easy having to live up to perfection all the time. To never make a mistake. And when I saw Fedora 16 was human, that it farted and belched like the rest of us, it just turned me off. But that’s my fault. And F16 was sure willing to point that out. Because it’s perfect, right? Even when it’s not. And that can be infuriating.

I’m with Fedora 16 right now, as a matter of fact. And we’re getting along great. There’s really some stuff to love about Fedora, if you can look past the attitude. In fact, Fedora 16 has the features of Gnome 3.2, which is mostly ahead of the features that even Debian from the future has. I have a feeling Debian unstable will have them soon enough, though. But right now, with all their corporate intelligence connections, Fedora 16 is bringing out all the latest surveillance equipment, laser blasters, and Doctor Q saying “oops, sorry that shouldn’t have exploded, you shouldn’t have done that” when you yell about his super power ultra device nearly killing you.

And that’s the thing. Fedora 16’s Doctor Q seems to live deep under a volcano that hides a vast giga-warp mothership that also exists trans-dimensionally in orbit around the planet, laying down black rectangular obelisks for we monkeys. That’s why I’m a lucky guy Fedora 16 is even tolerating my fingers right now. What could they possibly want with me? I don’t know. But what I do know is that Fedora 16 is smokin’ hot, tight, and cold as ice. Fedora 16 will make me into a better man.

That’s why you can’t mount filesystems with a type “smbfs” any more. You have to specify “cifs”. F16 will just stare at you, saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about” unless you say it the “proper” way. And again, Fedora 16 is irritatingly right – it’s cifs now, not smbfs. And it doesn’t care what damage it may cause to people who don’t keep up on everything. It’s those damn perfect rectangular monoliths interconnected with the mothership, electrocuting us into being perfect. That cat-o-nine-tails and leather again, perhaps, but with a purpose.

That being said, though, browsing a Windows network through Nautilus didn’t work. Not like I personally care much, because I mount anything like that through the fstab. And Fedora 16 yet again wiped out my other operating systems from the boot grub menu — all except for Windows. Now, I’ve heard from other people that this never happened for them, so I asked if they were using LVM, but I haven’t heard back from any of them, so I suspect it’s a detection issue that only effects OS’s installed on LVM volumes.

Also, I managed to get the Nvidia proprietary drivers built, installed and loaded properly, which I have documented in case it might help someone else save some time/effort. Of course, you can always download the drivers from Nvidia yourself and build the kernel, but following those directions uses Doctor Q’s special Fedora sauce, which makes Doctor Q happy, which in turn is good for keeping Fedora 16 happy with you.

You know what I love most about Fedora 16, though? No, not the Jules Verne submarine. No, certainly not yum. No, not even the tight and sensible international cyber warfare landmines and electric fences of selinux integration (which is gratefully out of sight and mind most of the time). It’s that all my Google email addresses and contacts and calendar just appear as if they’d always been there, after filling out an “Online Accounts” control panel doohickey. OK, I admit it’s a little disconcerting as well. But CIA agents and military assassins exist to protect me. I have to remind myself of this. Again and again. F16 is very exciting – a physique that doesn’t quit, from the ground on up to the tip top of the head.

Bitches don’t have Miro, though. But that’s ok. Miro’s a slug dog with all that hybrid python crap going on. Unstable Debian has Miro, though, and it works pretty well now. Screw it. Fedora must have something better – I mean, just look at it!. And you know what else, screw Debian with all that lazy peace-loving hippy crap, too. Ima climb on board this F16 and jet right on up, and out. Watch your heads down there, suckas.

But gosh, it is a little cold being up so high.

In all seriousness, though, Fedora 16 is prime lean beef. It’s incredibly well thought out. It’s perfectly stable so far. I only found a couple, very minor things, that weren’t right, like Gnome having no idea what a terminal program was (which can be fixed by yumming in libgnome). It’s a great release. I’m going to be using it for a while instead of Debian unstable. My killer CIA military covert intelligence gatherer deserves a second chance – cuz he’s human after all, even if he can’t admit it.

Can’t decide — saga continues: The Trials of Cohabitation: Juggling Debian Sid and Fedora 16