11 August 2009

A bit more on CentOS 4.8 and the K6-II

Yesterday's post on the K6 covered getting a CentOS 4.8 beta candidate installed on ancient hardware; The careful reader may have noticed that I had an unexplained list item early on in that outline:

Add to /etc/yum.conf

This is not something that just occurred to me unbidden, but rather came from an awareness that the upstream has had the dreaded 'Regression' from time to time in its RHEL 4 series, where a patch needed to support the K6/i586 architecture was not consistently present. In reading the bug comment notes, it seems that the 'boneyard' available to the member of the kernel testing team tasked with this is not so full of carcasses as mine, and so he cannot test his fixes as well

So, I took affirmative steps to preemptively 'partition away' the need for an updated working kernel from our 4.8 beta install candidate, and yet be able to get to a working chassis with the kernel from the 4.5 final image, which is known to work. Good thing. The regression is back in the 4.8 kernel SRPMs, and the needed patch got dropped, it seems (this from an initial workup -- detail testing will be needed to see)

The workaround is straightforward; Akemi 'toracat' Yagi maintains a testing 'plus' archive, containing kernels with the needed patch, and I can confirm that her candidate works fine. see: http://centos.toracat.org/kernel/centos4/centosplus-testing/i386/

Thanks, toracat

Advancement of technical skills with CentOS project tools

I posted this piece inside a post on a runaway mailing list thread on the CentOS mailing list. It represents my opinions, and are not some policy statement of the CentOS project. To a degree it reprised earlier pieces on how to advance one's technical skills with CentOS, but it is worthwhile carving it out, so I have a reference point to discuss sub-pieces of, here. Others have other views

If a person wishes to be advanced in the CentOS project, contribute to the project. [It is not clear to me WHY people think there is some huge benefit for being a 'project insider' as it is really just a chance to do more work. Early access to QA is just not that hard to earn] We are not likely to hold your hand much, but will answer questions well framed. Be a self starter. Do something material. Some things to do to gain my notice as a contributor of merit:

  1. The bug tracker is open self serve for people to sign up. Add its RSS feed, and read every one as it crosses. Start working through the bugs to replicate or note an inability to replicate issues; Work through the bug tracker from latest to earliest, seeing if there is a similar upstream bug, or a fix, or if an issue is CentOS local. Note your results. That would be useful
  2. The centos-docs ML is open for proposals of new content into the wiki. Add its RSS feed, and read every commit diff as it crosses. Fix broken stuff that can be fixed at once. Some even believe it is more useful to re-write documentation locally rather than feeding improvements upstream so that it flows back down and out into RHEL, Fedora, etc as well as just CentOS [I do not, and refer you to Fedora to push non-centOS specific content out more widerly]
  3. Set up a local mirror of SRPMs, not just of the released Enterprise sources of upstream, but its RawHide as well. I have a daily diff report in my email queue each morning to scan for new material to review. Start building and testing and filing bugs to make the .spec files more general and less distribution specific, so that cross pollination can occur. You may get rejected (I often am), but at least try to improve the breed
  4. The same problems repeat time and again in the Forums. Add its RSS feed, and read every new post as it crosses. Add pointers or content as needed, and 'cc' into updates on the thread. I have noticed a excellent trend, that lately the three or four regulars are moving content more to the correct tree location, and asking questioners to do their research, and dropping out-links to answers rather than doing so in line. I like to do this as well when I form an answer, there on on a mailing list that is archived, as it provides the linkage hints Google needs to note 'reputation' and to weave answers together
  5. Join the main IRC channel or mailing list, and confirm you can answer every question posed for a solid week; if not, fill in your knowledge gaps with experimentation. At that point, start thoughtfully pointing a person toward the answers. Spoon-feeding is NOT a good thing, and does not gain any points in my eyes, as that is not the stated purpose of the channel

    The mailing list is looser as to /on topic/ but when a person repeatedly recommends 'non-CentOS' approaches over acceptable CentOS product, I'll certainly notice ... and that is perhaps not a good thing for further advancement. I _USE_ tinydns some places where it is the right fit, but I don't mention it here
  6. Once you have demonstrated skills, ask to be admitted to the next QA effort (we get three of four point update chances a year), and do QA. People who sign up and are admitted often slack off [don't participate in the ML, don't file reports, are not in IRC], and by that inaction demonstrate they are are not interested in progressing further. People _do_ get busy with real life or have to rest from burnout and take time off
  7. Once you have demonstrated skills, ask for some special project to build some element of needed infrastructure that is not otherwise getting done, and do it. John Pierce's post earlier this week certainly caught my eye, as he demonstrated self-starter problem solving skills in a complex space I had not seen before. He is now on my 'watch list' to draw into the project

More personal opinion: Will any of those 'earn' a centos.org mailing address as someone lamented they lacked earlier in this thread? Sometimes, but frankly, we don't give those out easily. I saw a remark earlier:

In the meanwhile some things ... are getting a bit clearer so I guess we are on the right track

'We' can perhaps be read here as a generic 'things are on the right track' -- but frankly, the only 'we' that I would look to for authoritative statements as to the project are people with a '@centos.org' in their email address. There is back channel coordination, infrastructure, and much more

10 August 2009

Beta testing CentOS 4.8 with an AMD K6-II

Painful does not begin to describe how laborious it seems, after using more modern kit.

It appears that the AMD K6-II instruction set is a superset of that used on the i586 series. Some folks seem to be still running such, and we have a number of resolved bugs in the tracker, detailing various ways to get the units running

Based upon exhortation and advice in the CentOS QA mailing list and some IRC banter, I was induced to drag one of these poor exhausted clunkers out of my boneyard, and do some testing on it

These installation instructions SHOULD work on i586 as well, but I no longer have an examplar to confirm with:

  1. Download and install using 4.5 i386 ISO from vault.centos.org and start it up the following options

    Boot it with: i586 text nomce

  2. Manually install openssh-server, enable, and set up with iptables, so you can hop on the unit from a remote box to work on it
  3. Add to /etc/yum.conf

  4. Perform a general run updates against the intervening changes prior to 4.8 -- (seemingly 4.7 and intervening updates when I perform this testing) -- lots there, but get it close to current.

    Install 6 Package(s)
    Update 150 Package(s)
    Remove 0 Package(s)

    ... took forever as I only have 128k ram for this old beast --- 308 transaction steps
  5. Do an interim reboot
  6. Point at my local mirror of the CentOS 4.8 release test candidate and let it rip --

    first pass only:

    without the later pending updates:

    Install 1 Package(s)
    Update 83 Package(s)
    Remove 0 Package(s)
    Total download size: 117 M
  7. Do a second interim reboot

    Mysteriously, I got an 'unclean shutdown' FSCK required message as to /boot here ... no idea why
  8. Run yum again, for a second pass with the updates

    Install 0 Package(s)
    Update 9 Package(s)
    Remove 0 Package(s)
    Total download size: 9.8 M

  9. Do a final interim reboot
  10. I completed by my test suite without incident

I am advised similar steps may work from later than a CentOS 4.5 ISO, and that i586 should work as well. As I lack the hardware to test this, your mileage may vary

Poor old boxes. Let them rest. Save power. I need a shower. Yuck

03 August 2009

Life in the Fast Lane

Cobblestone cat with beer
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kickin' down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

  -- Simon and Garfunkel

I picked up my wife at the airport late Wednesday night as she returned from a trade association conference related to her job. As we drove home, she talked about the unusual that happened there. It seems 'New Media' and 'Social Networking' tools have popped up on their radar, but her peers are wrestling to understand the motivations, and how to participate. It seems she astonished them, describing the FOSS stories and tools used that I 'bring home' as I recount the day at the dinner table: websites, wiki, mailing lists public and private, user group meetings, IRC, blogging, Twitter, VOIP, and so forth. They were 'wowed' that an old guy like me had used Twitter and a quick Google tour into the Wikipedia, to answer a son's question raised by an Admiral in a meeting at his job consulting for the federal government in metro DC a while back in seconds of a question coming up

I suppose I take the pervasive availability of such tools, which largely are implemented through a foundation on the fruit of the 'Software Libre' movement for granted, and live a comfortable existence in this virtual reality. Although my hair has been gray for a couple of decades, it is not the me of my self-image, where I still feel 25 and full of vigor. That I whistle, and know the words of pop tunes from 40 years ago and play word games on the tunes at the coffee shop with the barrista does not jar me, although if I get a young one, they clearly have no idea what I am riffing on

That to one side, I still revel in the wonder of the tangible world; a world of taking the family to the State Fair, or working with my hands, wood, and tools repairing a grandchild's wagon. I wrote the first draft of this piece -- a blog post -- with pen and paper with no plan on my mind beyond reconnecting with myself after a hard week, not just the CentOS matters, but in my local physical world as well; I should perhaps rather say, this piece wrote itself, flowing out of my hand's motions, creating, and editing on the paper before me, with strike-through's, insertions, and circled blocks of test indicating movement of thoughts into a flow

rat race with ice cream
I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morningtime drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you, all is groovy!

Thinking back as to how I write, I sorely miss the older times of a ready steno-typist, secretary trained in shorthand, and later a ready 'Dictaphone', and the 'gal Friday' legal secretary who helped organize my worklife for many years. I did the creative work, and she straw-bossed the rest behind the scene, as I turned to face the next 'fire'. Each hard work in its own right, and a great and productive partnership. She's dead of lung cancer now -- was a smoker. Ah well

The economics of such luxuries are prohibitive to most in an era where a person who cannot touch-type is perhaps now considered not yet fully literate. Welcome to the next lap of the rat race in this brave new world

When the positions of transcriptionist, book-keeper, and sales clerk, along with the others mentioned above disappeared, and 'progress' came to the smaller enterprise, they were replaced by the small individual computer, word-processing, Quick Books, etc. Oh, and a subtle transfer to self-service responsibility to do all the work with less facility for delegation. Layers of support costs disappeared, as did the middle management, as entities had to flatten the organizational chart, or be outraced by their competitor

Of course, the workload did not go away, any more than a completely 'paperless office' has emerged, The load shifted up to what were formerly more 'knowledge work' folks -- supervisors, or in a small enough firm, the entrepreneur owner, or just was no longer done ... sometimes the customer is 'drafted' to scan bar-codes and pay a cold machine, and no human hand on the part of the vendor can be found. Just try to find a phone number for eBay or Amazon live support some time

commo antennas

We as a culture have weakened and removed spare resource capacity needed to build and nurture long term repeat customers, in favor of cost efficient transactionalism. Gresham's Law, all over again

Ba da da da da da da ba bap a dee...

During the week I too must prioritize, and work away at the hottest items in Covey's Quadrant One, as my schedule dictates them to me, Less important dreams and promises, desires and goals are left for an open dated 'later.' In my heart of hearts, however, I know that later will never come. Those 'heart's desire' are left behind on the horizon of each new day, for dead

I can offer no remedy, save a caution that when building that schedule, to not mistake a capability to act immediately, with a mandate to do soRushing into the future

Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If it's something we can't buy
There must be another way

We are spirits in the material world

  -- The Police, Sting

06 Aug 2009: edited for a typo/grammar fix, layout error