Fedora 11 install success

After I posted about my problems installing the latest Fedora I managed to get several good installs. I’ve tried everything I could think of to reproduce the previous problem so I could report it, but I can’t make it happen.

What was causing my continued failures was that the installer was trying to finish or upgrade the existing botched install. Once I formatted the install partition to start from scratch I had success. Anaconda used to ask if you wanted to upgrade an existing system or do a fresh install (it no longer does) so it hadn’t occurred to me that I was trying to upgrade a broken system.

So I’ve done 5 or 6 installs on my 64 bit system and a live CD install on my 32 bit system and I can say that Fedora is still Fedora. It’s got the latest stuff, it has a nicely integrated visual theme and it’s customized just enough to set it apart. I’m glad they don’t take the Ubuntu route of changing so many things from upstream (like the nautilus modifications and the brain-dead lack of a root account). I love how I can enable repositories during the install so when the install is done I have a completely up to date system with no yum update necessary.

I can’t really do a “review” because most of the good and bad comes down to package details that aren’t Fedora specific. Any distro with these same packages will be roughly the same. I found that many packages were newer than on my Debian/squeeze system, but some were older. When you get this big, it’s really just a matter of how quickly maintainers upgrade to newer versions, and how easy it is to get dependencies resolved.

A few problems are worth mentioning. During the install I chose to let anaconda install GRUB to see what it would do. You can add other operating systems and it asks for a label and a partition to boot. When I later tried to reboot into Debian I just got a GRUB error. I checked things out in Fedora and found this for the GRUB stanza for Debian:

 title Debian
rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

I almost laughed out loud. If you don’t speak GRUB, they just passed the boot process off to my Debian partition rather than booting Debian directly. This works fine for Windows, but Linux distros don’t usually install a bootloader on the partition since GRUB can easily boot any number of OSes from the MBR. It’s a lazy approach but I’m more annoyed by the fact that the installer leads me to believe it’s going to do the right thing then doesn’t. What Debian does is dig through all the other partitions and automatically create GRUB entries for every other OS. Those are the kind of little details you expect from Debian since it’s been around forever. Fedora is more likely to pick the solution that works for most and let you fix it yourself if you want something special.

Also the installer doesn’t kick out the CD at the end of the install so I have to fight the drive during the reboot to keep from booting right back into the installer. Again, it’s just a small detail.

The way Fedora handles non-free software is third party repositories. It used to be that rpm.livna.org was the place to go and there were a few others for some specific packages. It’s all handled by RPM Fusion now.The instructions are simple but graphical/point-and-click. I wound up getting in this lengthy cycle of typing in the root password over and over (a la Windows Vista) to get the system to do what I just told it to do. On later installs I just did it all from a terminal as root and things went more smoothly. This isn’t Fedora’s fault, but considering how important third party repos are to a lot of people they should at least be concerned.

I took the time to set up a desktop roughly like what I already use (FVWM with mostly GNOME apps) and found it pretty easy to do. I’m sure I could live with it if I didn’t already have the perfect Debian system. I’ll add that I’ve NEVER done a Fedora install this close to release (except for test releases on a test system) and a lot of problems get sorted out in the first few weeks. I’m currently running 32 bit Fedora on my number 2 desktop so I’ll see how it goes.

Fun with allergies

Apparently I’m not the only one suffering from allergies lately. Daniel Silverstone posted about his experiences in the UK so I thought I’d respond.

I only take Loratadine 10mg (brand name Claratin in the US) and find it effective. I’ve never taken more than the prescribed amount so I can’t speak to side effects, but I do have a remedy for when Loratadine doesn’t work – vitamin C.

In addition to it’s other benefits, vitamin C is an antihistamine. Earlier this week I took my allergy pill and an hour later I felt no better so I started taking C. I take two 500mg pills and an hour later I take 2 more and keep going until I see results. Once I’m in a full blown allergic reaction it takes a while for the level of C in the blood to build up and do it’s job (3 hours this time).

A gram an hour is extreme, but this particular day it was necessary. Sometimes I might do 500mg an hour. If I feel like I’m getting a cold I use the same strategy and it seems to help.

Vitamin C is acidic so overdosing will eventually cause diarrhea, but it’s a pretty benign side effect. If you get diarrhea it’s time to back off. There are less acidic forms of C but they’re hard to find and I’ve read they don’t get absorbed well. I’m not a doctor of course and I’m not telling anyone what to do, but I’ve been doing this for 15 years and it works for me.

Fedora 11 install fail

I’m not a distro hopper. I don’t run out and try every new version of Linux that comes out. Just not my style these days. I run Debian. Debian works. End of story.

I just rebuilt my main desktop though, and with tons of processor and RAM and a new mostly empty hard drive I’ve been getting the itch to try something else out. Fedora 11 released a couple days ago and I’ve always liked Fedora (I ran Core 1 up through Fedora 6 before switching to Debain) so I grabbed the x86_64 install DVD off of bittorrent yesterday.

Tonight I started the install and everything seemed familiar. Nice blue graphical installer and Fedora graphics. Just enough options to get things done right but not enough to confuse you. I picked mostly default options, but did a custom partition layout (just one big ext3 primary partition for /) and edited the grub configuration (so I could still boot Debian) but that’s about it. I was surprised that although ext4 is the default, you can’t use it as a bootable partition. So I picked ext3.

There’s a page where you configure installation repositories and in addition to the “Installation Repo” (which is the install DVD) I added x86_64 and x86_64 Updates. It set up networking and downloaded repo information and everything seemed fine. Finally I clicked OK and it started installing packages. The install really seemed to fly.

A short while later I saw a window pop up that told me there was an uncaught exception. Looking at the details I saw a python stack trace and what seemed to be some problem with setting the root password. I thought maybe I didn’t enter the password right (which should have been checked a few steps earlier when I set the password) so I just exited the installer and tried again.

This time I paid closer attention and did things pretty much as before. This time things went along smoothly but when it went to resolve dependencies to install packages a different error window popped up. This time there were package conflicts. Some files in the Gconf2-2.26 package were conflicting with files from Gconf2_dbus-2.16. Seems pretty strange that there would be unresolved dependencies from the install media.

So I rebooted and tried again. Third times a charm, right? Well apparently not this time. I ran into the same dependency problem so I backed up and unchecked the extra repositories, choosing to install only from the DVD. Surely the install DVD didn’t have packages that conflicted. I was wrong. I got the same error.

Finally I went back and unchecked the DVD as a repo and chose only the online repos to install from. It took a lot longer to prepare and I thought I was in business. No luck. Same error.

Between the second and third attempts I let the installer check the install DVD to make sure it was OK and it was fine.

Since then I checked the Fedora website as they usually have a list of known problems and mine wasn’t listed.

So… busted installer? Bad release? Problems because the repositories are overloaded this soon after the release? It’s hard to tell. I can’t say I’ll rush back to try it again in a few weeks, but if I hear through the grapvine that the problems have been fixed, I might try again. Until then, Debian testing still works just fine.

For the curious my system is an Asus M4A78 Plus motherboard with a fresh BIOS upgrade, AMD Phenom 8650 triple core, 4 gigs RAM and a Seagate Barracuda 250G SATA drive. The graphics card is an Asus EN8400GS with 512 megs and an nVidia 8400GS chipset.

Life update

I get paralyzed in the procrastination of perfectionism when I look at this blog. So much has happened that I can’t say anything without explaining months of history. To counteract this craziness here’s a quick update.

I’ve been divorced for nearly 2 months now. I don’t feel like discussing it here (although it would be fun) but it affects so much of my life that it must be said.

So for more than 9 months I’ve been rebuilding my life from scratch (again). Not only have I moved but I’ve had to replace a lot of my stuff. When you decide to become one with someone you no longer need 2 of everything, so a lot of my stuff got vetoed when I got married.

I’ve started working from home which is a huge change. It’s not my first choice, but it’s the way my department is going so I felt I could no longer buck the trend.

I realize more and more that being with other people is critical to my happiness, so I’ve had to do lots of work to deal with this solitary life-style. It’s been overwhelming at times but there are advantages to being able to recreate yourself. I feel like I went through this just a few years ago when I got married so I’ve been able to revive the parts of my former single life-style that were good, and scrap the rest.

I’ve started running again which not only makes me feel good about myself, it helps me get out and be with people. I’ve got a guy I run with once a week and I’m running my second 5K for the year this coming weekend.

I’ve started hiking with a group of guys once or twice a month which is really great. I got hooked on hockey and followed the Cincinnati Cyclones through the playoffs. I now have more time to get things done on the computer, but the more time I spend the more projects I come up with. I’m currently running Debian testing (64 bit) on a newly rebuilt AMD Phenom system, which should be more than enough for a few years.

I’ve also changed churches basically because my new church is a lot more involved in many of the things I’m interested in.

I’m grateful to be completely out of debt and have a stable job through all this. I’m also glad to have a lot of friends who have given me tremendous support. I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.