Linux/Kernel


You can add another to the list of computer manufacturers who are pre-loading SUSE Linux… Shuttle. (Thanks to TrustedReview’s article for the heads-up). Actually, these new small form factor PCs are now available in the UK and Austria; and can be configured with your choice of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop or openSUSE.

Shuttle LinuXPCs with SUSE Linux Operating System is available immediately in the UK. Delivery to Austria also possible

Shuttle Inc., the market leader in the Mini-PC sector and manufacturer of Multi-Form-Factor solutions, is now also selling its Mini-PCs with the Linux Operating System in the UK. The two compact PCs made of aluminium can be individually configured in the official Shuttle Systems Configurator. They are delivered pre-installed and ready to connect and include the 24 months Pick-up-and-Return Service for reliable help in the case of a warranty claim.

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Overview

So you’re working with SLES or SLED, and someone asks you if a particular package or product is supported. What do you do? Of all the options available, I refer constantly to the following pages and references to make sure I give accurate and helpful information to the querying person.

Where to Go

The top page I usually refer people to in this case is the Tech Specs section. On this page is listed SLES, SLED and Partner hardware and software support links. If I click on the “SuSE Linux Enterprise Server” link, I will reach the technical specifications page for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. We’ve seen this page in other posts, such as How Many ____’s Does SLES Support? – Part I, where we discussed Kernel Limits and File System Features.

The chief thing I want to determine when someone asks me about a particular package’s support is that we do include it in our distributions. I query the person about what version and patch level they want to know about, and then click on the appropriate link, which is listed in the paragraph below the menu tabs, “see the list of supported packages”.

This link leads me to the “SuSE Linux Enterprise Server Supported Packages page, where for example I will pick the link for “SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1 for X86“, a PDF file that I can then search for a package by pressing Ctrl-f, and typing the name I’m looking for, either in my browser, or my PDF reader that popped up.

All Together Now

My example would be someone asking me if there is support for Mono (a Dot Net compatible server solution) on SLES 10 SP1, both on the X86 and System Z platforms.

Those PDF files will tell me very quickly that there is support all the way to Level 3 for SLES 10 SP1 on X86 and the IBM System Z Mainframe.

Hopefully this will help you determine quickly what packages are included in the various distributions and patch levels, and make it easier to find what level of support is provided for those packages.

Enjoy,

RossB

SUSE Linux Enterprise is designed for the enterprise. Part of what it means to be “Enterprise-ready” is to have “rock solid” components in the distribution which have been fully tested and can be supported. Unstable and unsupportable components/packages just won’t do. BUT… Every now and then, it’s necessary to run “the latest” version of a component of the distribution. Perhaps you have a new application which requires the latest java, or a new development library, etc. So you don’t want to have to wait until that “latest version” of the package gets fully tested and “officially supported”. You’ve got to have that new version now!

You could go to the source and compile your own package for SUSE Linux Enterprise – and while not difficult, it is still kind of a pain – and certainly a turn-off for many a new Linux user. A much better option is to simply visit the openSUSE Build Service and see if your desired package is already being built for SUSE Linux Enterprise. You’ll find builds for SUSE Linux Enterprise, openSUSE, -plus- several other Linux distributions as well… Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, … So save some time, and check to see if the package you need has already been built by looking here.

Want more info on the openSUSE Build Service, check out this good overview article and this blog entry. and of course the project site which includes other great info.

MacGyver knew his stuff when it came to building a flame thrower out of popsicle sticks, chewing gum, dental floss and a styrofoam cup — plus he always had that cool Swiss Army knife. But I bet even he wouldn’t have been able to use eight PlayStation 3’s, Linux and some technical hacker-know-how to do some scientific supercomputing. But someone’s done it!

This interesting blog article from ZDnet talks about how a researcher from University of Massachusetts built a very low cost “supercomputer” capable of about 200 GFlops all running on PS3’s. While the Linux distro used wasn’t SUSE Linux Enterprise (it was Yellow Dog Linux)… and while there are several other considerations which keep the PS3 from being the scientific computing platform of choice, it’s definitely another fine example of how flexible Linux can be compared to other OS’s.

So, if you’re looking for an excuse to get approval for a purchase order of equipment for your gaming– er, “supercomputing lab”… look no further.

What is DOS? I don’t know; I’ve never used it before… until today!

Recently I’ve been working on getting SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop working on a really really old piece of hardware. As one of the troubleshooting steps I had to update the BIOS to the latest version. In order to do this the vendor told me that I had to boot into DOS and run an executable that would update the BIOS.

As I said, I’ve never used DOS before, so I had to reach out to Peter Bowen for help. Here are the steps he walked me through to create a Virtual FreeDOS Floppy disk image on your hard drive that you can boot from.

Make sure the following are installed: dosbootdisk, syslinux. Dosbootdisk is a program that lets you create a FreeDOS boot disk. Syslinux is a boot loader for Linux which operates off an MS-DOS or Windows FAT file system.

Follow these steps to boot into a DOS partition:

  • zcat /usr/share/dosbootdisk/floppy.gz /boot/floppy.img
  • mount -o loop /boot/floppy.img /mnt
  • Copy the appropriate files needed for updating the BIOS into /mnt(remember this is DOS so make sure that the file names are no larger than 8 characters and the file extension is no more than 3 characters
  • I had to remove the the following line from my config.sys file in order for the system to boot DOS=UMB,HIGH
  • umount /mnt (remember that you can’t unmount if have have if it is your current working directory ie. if you have cd’ed into it)
  • cp /usr/share/syslinux/memdisk /boot
  • Next we need to setup Grub so that you can boot into your virtual floppy disk.
  • Edit /boot/grub/menu.lst so that it looks something like this:
  • ###DOS Floppy###
    title DOS
    root (hd0,0) #you may need to change this depending on what partition /boot is installed on. Because this system is so old it requires that /boot have it's own partition that is the first partition.

    kernel /memdisk
    initrd /floppy.img

    At this point you should be able to reboot your machine, choose the DOS option and flash your BIOS.

openSUSE 10.3 is now officially released and available. Here are some of the highlighted improvements and links to more info:

  • Beautiful green artwork
  • KDE 3.5.7
  • KDE 4
  • Gnome 2.20
  • GTK YaST
  • 1-Click Install
  • Multimedia (MP3 support out of the box)
  • New/Redesigned YaST Modules
  • Compiz and Compiz Fusion
  • Virtualization (Xen 3.1, VirtualBox, KVM,…)
  • OpenOffice 2.3
  • New package management
  • Faster boot times
  • and more…!

openSUSE 10.3 GM announcement

Novell press release

ZDnet blog mention

Download openSUSE

Pre-eXecution Environment (PXE) is a method of booting computers off of a network card independent of local storage devices such as a hard drive or a DVD. PXE is very useful in thin client environments or as a quick way to deploy a new operating system to any computer. PXE is dependent on several network protocols:

  • IP: A network layer protocol in the Internet Protocol Suite. IP provides the service of communicable unique global addressing amongst computers.
  • UDP: A core of protocol of the Internet Protocol Suit. UDP allows programs to send short messages sometimes know as datagrams.
  • DHCP: A method for networked computers to obtain IP addresses and other necessary networking parameters.
  • TFTP: A simple file transfer protocol that can be implement in a very small amount of memory

Setting up a TFTP server will allow you to easily deploy operating systems to machines without having to boot them from a CD or a DVD. Since most, if not all, laptops have an auto-sensing NICs these days, it is very convenient to setup a TFTP server on your machine. This will allow you to connect your laptop to another machine by a standard Ethernet cable and deploy a new operating system. If your machine doesn’t have an auto-sensing nic you can use a ethernet crossover cable or a switch/hub.

All of the components required for setting up a TFTP server are included in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). While unsupported, you can install the necessary component packages from SLES on a SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED).

A TFTP server requires the following things:

  • A dhcp server
  • Atftp (I prefer atftp because of advanced features and support for KIWI)
  • An installation source. This can either be an image that you created using KIWI or in the case of this article a SLED DVD or ISO.
  • A method of serving the installation source, in this case Apache.

DHCP. Before a PXE booted machine can do anything it needs to get an an IP address. This means you must setup a DCHP server. Go into the YaST Software Management module and install the “DHCP and DNS Server” pattern. This includes dhcp, dhcp6, dhcp-relay, dhcp-server, dhcp-tools. Next configure your /etc/dhcpd.conf file. Here is what mine looks like:
default-lease-time 14400;
ddns-update-style none;
subnet 192.168.2.0 netmask 255.255.255.0 {
option domain-name-servers 192.168.2.50;
default-lease-time 14400;
filename "pxelinux.0";
next-server 192.168.2.50;
max-lease-time 172800;
range 192.168.2.51 192.168.2.160;
}

The key values for PXE booting are “filename” and “next-server”. Pxelinux.0 is a SYSLINUX derivative, for booting Linux off a network server, using a network ROM conforming to the Intel PXE specification. We will discuss more in a bit. For more information visit here. Next-server defines the ip address of the TFTP boot server. In this case the DHCP server and TFTP server are running on the same machine. Next we will have to configure a static IP address on our machine so that it matches the next-server value. In this example that address is 192.168.2.50 and the subnet mask is 255.255.255.0. To setup a static IP address go into yast and choose the “network card” module. Restart or start your dhcp server by running rcdhcpd start or rcdhcpd restart

ATFP: There isn’t much that needs to be configured beyond the defaults. Here is my /etc/sysconfig/atftpd file:

## Path: Network/FTP/Atftpd
## Description: ATFTP Configuration
## Type: string
## Default: "--daemon "
#
# atftpd options
#
ATFTPD_OPTIONS="--daemon --no-multicast" #I use --no-multicast to increase reliability of blasting down KIWI images, but it is not necessary

## Type: yesno
## Default: no
#
# Use inetd instead of daemon
#
ATFTPD_USE_INETD="no"
## Type: string
## Default: "/tftpboot"
#
# TFTP directory must be a world readable/writable directory.
# By default /tftpboot is assumed.
#
ATFTPD_DIRECTORY="/tftpboot"
## Type: string
## Default: ""
#
# Whitespace seperated list of IP addresses which ATFTPD binds to.
# One instance of the service is started on each IP address.
# By default atftpd will listen on all available IP addresses/interfaces.
#
ATFTPD_BIND_ADDRESSES=""

Note that the default location of of the ATFTP directory is /tftpboot. Start/restart ATFTP by entering atftpd start or atftpd restart

/tftptpboot is the directory where you store all the files necessary for PXE booting a machine. My /tftpboot directory contains the following files and directories:

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 13148 Jul 11 06:35 pxelinux.0
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Sep 24 16:33 pxelinux.cfg/
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Jul 11 06:36 sled10x86/

Let’s address each of these files and directories individually.

pxelinux.0: We addressed this file previously in the dhcp section. You can get this file from /usr/share/syslinux/pxelinux.0

pxelinux.cfg: This directory contains a file named “default”. Here is the contents of my default file:
prompt 1 #this will bring up a boot prompt on the PXE booted machine and force the user to enter the label of the system they want to boot into. This a a good way to prevent people from accidentally blowing away their computer.
# sled10
label sled10 #enter this label (sled10) into the boot prompt
kernel /sled10x86/linux
append initrd=/sled10x86/initrd install=http://192.168.2.50/install/sled10x86 splash=silent showopts

By utilizing “prompt 1” you can setup several different installation environments (SLES, SLED, openSUSE, SLE ThinClient etc.) To do this add multiple enteries. Each entry should point to the correct initrd, linux and installation source for that system. Each label should be unique.

sled10x86: This directory contains two files:

  • initrd
  • linux

You can get these files off of the SLED or SLES installation dvd in /media/boot/i386/loader/. Simply copy over the initrd and linux files to your /tftpboot/sled10x86 directory.

Installation source: As seen in the /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default file we point to an installation source hosted on the same machine (install=http://192.168.2.50/install/sled10x86 splash=silent showopts)

  • Open up the “installation Server” yast module
  • Choose the appropriate protocol (in this case http)
  • Select a directory where you want to keep your installation source (in this case /install/).
  • Choose an alias for your directory (install)
  • Click Finish
  • Copy over the contents of SLED or SLES iso or dvd to the directory you just specified.
  • Check and make sure you can browse to your source through firefox

At this point you should be able to pxe boot a machine off of your laptop or desktop. Make sure that the machine to be PXE booted supports PXE and has it enabled in the BIOS. Some computers will refer to it as “network boot”. On most machines hitting F12 after powering on will force the machine to PXE boot. After the machine PXE boots enter “sled10” at the boot prompt, hit enter, and then go forward with your installation.

Go Phillies!

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