2001 05 31

                    LINUX NEWS
             Thursday, May 31, 2001
       Read By 6,000 Linux Enthusiasts Weekly!


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

IBM to Offer Use of Mainframe
Startup Unveils Personal Server
Layoffs at Mandrake
Kernel 2.4.5 Released

3) Linux Resources

An Introduction to Printing
Distribution Roundup
Linux to Order
DNS, Oversimplified
Defining What a "Linux Job" Is

4) App o’ the week

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1) Sean's Notes
Through some rather lucky timing, I managed to get my new
hard drive and an evaluation copy of RedHat 7.1 nearly on
the same day.  So, I decided that it was time for a fresh
install of my machine.  I thought that I'd share some of
the things I found out while getting this going.

One of the biggest changes in 7.1 is the use of the 2.4 kernel.
With some large partitions on my machine, I was looking forward
to using ReiserFS and saving a lot of time on unclean shutdowns
(power is unreliable in my building, so I get the occasional
shutdown of all my systems).  Alas, the installation phase
wouldn't let me choose the filesystem type, nor could I find
any documentation saying the capability existed.

When installing a new hard drive, I always enable the "bad
blocks checking" just to be safe.  Unlike NT's "exhaustive
scan of your hard drive", this process takes some time.  It
was getting to be so long that I decided to start over, and
skip the formatting of that partition.  Alas, when I gave the
partition a name (/spool) but didn't elect to format, the
install bombed with a critical error (even though the install
would have been fine).  Lesson learned -- leave the extra
partitions out entirely next time, or be prepared to wait.

Other than that, the install went just fine.  I was really
impressed, as the only drive in my system was /dev/hde, which
was sitting on a HighPoint 370 controller.  I didn't expect
the system to even see it, but everything went flawlessly.
Once this was all done, I quickly checked the performance of
my drive (hdparm -t /dev/hde), and was extremely disappointed.
By default, it would appear that hard drives are set for
absurdly safe settings, like 16 bit, no DMA, etc.  RedHat
created an /etc/sysconfig/harddisks file that lets you pass
options to hdparm on bootup.  Enabling all the options, and
adding "-p5" to the end (PIO mode 5) brought the speed up to
something more respectable.  People wishing to tweak settings
like this would be well advised to read /etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit
and search for "hdparm".  There are some comments in there on
how to set up the harddisks file properly for multiple drives.

RedHat 7.1 offers some interesting security features.  During
the install, you are prompted for a firewall setting.  "High"
doesn't let anything except DNS and DHCP in.  "Medium" is a
bit more tolerant (but still locked me out of my computer
from SSH), and "none" adds no protection.  For those
interested, though the system is 2.4, the firewall settings
are done in ipchains style (/etc/sysconfig/ipchains).  The
hooks are there to edit /etc/sysconfig/iptables and have
iptables rules used if you want the added functionality.

Still on the security angle, RedHat moved to xinetd instead
of the standard inetd in 7.0.  xinetd does away with the
monolithic /etc/inetd.conf, and relies on individual files in
/etc/xinetd.d for each service.  This way, more control can be
put on each individual service, including ACLs that used to be
defined in /etc/hosts.allow and deny.  Even more surprising,
everything was turned off by default!  Congrats, RedHat!  The
list of services (chkconfig --list) turned on by default has
shrunk somewhat, so this still needs to be worked on.

One of RedHat's methods to make a buck is to sell update
service through the Red Hat Network.  The price is pretty
hefty, around $20US/mo.  For the home user, Red Carpet from
Ximian seems a much better choice, but since this boxed set
includes 60 days of free service I think I'll give it a shot.
The set also includes a CD of trial games from Loki, and a CD
full of applications like StarOffice.  This Linux fan couldn't
get the included StarOffice RPM installed, but I suspect it
didn't like my partitioning scheme.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with my installation.  The boxed
set, while being significantly more expensive than the old
download and burn, does provide good value for the money,
especially for the newbie.  Depending on the set you buy, you
get between 30 and 90 days of web and telephone support.  Six
CDs come in this collection, including the powertools, source,
games, and extra apps. There is also a sheet of RedHat stickers
you can use to adorn your boxes and show off your Linux pride.
Some of the guides are in printed form, and provide a good
path to follow to get everything installed and functional.

Long live the Penguin,


Visit the Linux News Board at

2) Linux News

IBM to Offer Use of Mainframe
IBM has been touting their zSeries mainframes as a great
platform on which to run Linux. To further this assertion,
they're allowing people to register for use of a public
machine. It's got 10 processors and 2.1TB of storage,
capable of handling over 1,000 simultaneous users.


Startup Unveils Personal Server
Call it a personal firewall with a twist. This appliance-like
Linux box seems to have all the bells and whistles wrapped
up in a cute looking package. The target audience is non-
technical folk, so expect to see a fairly decent interface.
A pretty steep price for the personal market, but it does
offer a lot of features.


Layoffs at Mandrake
As a sign of the tightening of belts within Linux companies,
Mandrake has laid off a bunch of senior management and some
engineering staff. Mandrake is a fine distribution, so I hope
this move helps keep them afloat.


Kernel 2.4.5 Released
This time around, it looks like some stability, networking,
and filesystem fixups. I'm rather pleased to see the slower
pace of upgrades in the early stages of 2.4. It's showing
that Linux is becoming much more stable and mature.


3) Linux Resources

An Introduction to Printing
In traditional UNIX fashion, printing isn't as simple as it
seems. A client-server framework exists so that you can scale
the system from one to a thousand clients and printers easily.
Features like filtering let you dump raw images to a printer
and it will be converted automatically. Learn how it all
works here.


Distribution Roundup
Sorting through all of the distributions is no easy task.
This site classifies aspects of some more popular (and some
lesser known!) distributions, along with a lot of links to
reviews and information.


Linux to Order
Linux to Order is a big download site for everything from
distributions to individual packages. The interface is nice,
and there are a lot of custom bundles of software. For a
reasonable price, you can save yourself the download and have
them burn a custom CD from any of the software on the site.


DNS, Oversimplified
The name of this site pretty much says it all. In a down-to-
Earth manner, this site takes you through troubleshooting
your DNS installation.


Defining What a "Linux Job" Is
There is a myth that only programmers use Linux, but nothing
could be further from the truth. This article explores various
ways that people work with Linux, and what the author thinks
the future will hold.


4) App o' the week
This week's app might help you solve two problems at once,
because it consists of two separate programs that work well
together. wipl is a program that generates some interesting
network usage statistics on a per client basis. wrr can then
re-assign bandwidth to your machines in a fair manner.


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