Upgrading from Fedora 11 to Fedora 13

Having already installed (what would be) F13 on my work and personal laptops the traditional way — by installing a fresh copy (since I wanted to modify the partition layout), I tried an upgrade on my desktop.

My desktop was running Fedora11 and I moved it to Fedora13. I wanted to test how the upgrade functionality works, does it run into any errors (esp. since it’s from 11 -> 13, skipping 12 entirely), if the experience is smooth, etc.

I started out by downloading the RC compose from http://alt.fedoraproject.org/. Since all my installs are for the x86-64 architecture, I downloaded the DVD.iso. I then loopback-mounted the DVD on my laptop:

# mount -o loop /home/amit/Downloads/Fedora-13-x86_64-DVD.iso /mnt/F13

I then exported the contents of the mount via NFS; edit /etc/exports and put the following line:

/mnt/F13 172.31.10.*

This ensures the mount is only available to users on my local network.

Then, ensure the nfs services are running:

# service nfs start
# service nfslock start

On my desktop which was to be upgraded, I mounted the NFS export:

# mount -t nfs /mnt

And copied the kernel and initrd images to boot into:

# cp /mnt/isolinux/vmlinuz /boot
# cp /mnt/isolinux/initrd.img /boot

Then update the grub config with this new kernel that we’ll boot into for the upgrade. Edit /boot/grub.conf and add:

title Fedora 13 install
    root (hd0,0)
    kernel /vmlinuz
    initrd /initrd.img

Once that’s done, reboot and select the entry we just put in the grub.conf file. The install process starts and asks where the files are located for the install. Select NFS and provide the details: Server and directory /mnt/F13.

The first surprise for me was to see the updated graphics for the Anaconda installer. They got changed in the time I installed F13 (beta) on my laptops. The new artwork certainly looks very good and smooth. More white, less blue is a departure from the usual Fedora artwork, but it does look nice.

I then proceeded to select ‘upgrade’, it found my old F11 install and everything after that ‘just worked’. I was skeptical about this while it was running: I had some rpmfusion.org repositories enabled and some packages installed from those repositories. I was wondering if those packages would be upgraded as well, or would they be left at the current state, which could create dependency problems, or if they would be completely removed. I had to wait for the install to finish, which took a while. The post-install process took more than half an hour, and when it was done, I selected ‘Reboot’. Half-expecting something to have broken or to not work, I logged in, and voila, I was presented the shiny new GNOME 2.30 desktop. The temporary install kernel that I had put in as the default boot kernel was also removed. Small thing in itself, but great for usability.

Everything looked and felt right, no sign of breakage, no error messages, no warnings, just some good seamless upgrade.

I can’t say really expected this. Coming from a die-hard Debian fan, distribution upgrades are something that was the forte of just Debian. For now. The Fedora developers have done a really good job of getting this process extremely easy to use and extremely reliable. Kudos to them!

While the Fedora 13 release has been pushed back a week for a install-over-NFS bug, it needs a certain combination of misfortunes to trigger, and luckily, I didn’t hit that bug. However, when trying the F13 beta install on my laptop, I had hit a couple of Anaconda bugs, one of which is now resolved for F14 (crash when upgrading without a bootloader configuration) and the other one (no UI refresh if I switch between virtual consoles until a package finishes install — really felt while installing over a slow network link) is a known problem with the design of Anaconda, and hopefully the devs get to it.

Overall, a really nice experience and I can now comfortably say Fedora has really rocketed ahead (all puns intended) since the old times when even installing packages used to be a nightmare. This is good progress indeed, and I’m glad to note that the future of the Linux desktop is in very good hands.

Cheers to the entire team!

Debian moving to time-based releases


I have used Debian since several years now and have always been either on the ‘testing’ or the ‘sid’ releases on my desktops / laptops. I never felt the need to switch to ‘stable’ as even sid was stable enough for me for my regular usage (with a few scripts to keep out buggy new debs).

I’ve seen, over time, people move to Ubuntu though. That means people really like Debian but they also wanted ‘stable’ releases at predictable times. If one stayed on a Debian stable release, ‘bleeding edge’ or ‘new software’ was never possible. When a new Debian release would be out, upstreams would’ve moved one or two major releases ahead.

So Ubuntu captured the desktop share away from Debian. The server folks wouldn’t complain for lack of new features. So would this really make any difference?

Will the folks who migrated to Ubuntu go back to Debian?

(I’ve since moved majority of my machines to Fedora though — but that’s a different topic)

Awe-Inspiring Apple, iPhone, UI rants

I’ve always been a huge critic for bad UI designs. I always like my experience of using anything to be simple, straightforward and without any surprises. Things should work and I should find things in the easiest of ways. If I spend my time figuring out how to do things rather than doing things, I’m using the wrong UI.

That mainly is the reason for me to stick to KDE. And no matter what Microsoft says or pours into their UI designs, I just don’t think they’re user-friendly enough. For example, their word processing application has two options under for changing settings: there’s ‘Customize’ and there’s ‘Options’ under the Tools menu. Now which should I use to change my default line spacing? I always end up entering the wrong menu the first time. The woes don’t end there. I have to go through each and every tab to make sure that’s no the option I wanted.

Apple has always stressed a lot on their UI. I’ve never used one, but I’ve seen people use it. They still have one-button mice (atleast for the laptops). I can’t imagine how just one button is sufficient for all the things I do daily. For example, in KDE, Alt + Left button and pointer movement moves windows. Alt + Right button and pointer movement resizes windows. And middle click pastes selected content. Even then, I’ve seen people do a lot of funky stuff with just the one button that an Apple laptop (iBook, PowerBook, etc). I’ll have to actually use one to see how.

So Apple announced the iPhone. The site mentions they don’t yet have FCC clearing, so it’s not yet ready to be sold and to be bought. I just hope it happens very soon. That’s one gadget I know I’m going to buy. I wasn’t very excited with the iPod, even though it was revolutionary and all that. But this thing — it’s just too cool. In brief, the device has a phone, an iPod, a camera, …, and an internet communicator. (For example, it’s touch-screen-based and you can use two fingers to zoom into and out of a photo you’re viewing.) Just go through the demos for watching videos, sending SMS, making and receiving calls, … just about everything. It runs OS X and it’s not going to cost a bomb, apparently.

Slashdot story here. Report from MacWorld, where it was announced, here.

Reminder: Debian

It’s been a while I’ve contributed to Debian. And when I get bug
reports or mails from people asking on how to use the packages, it
serves as a nice reminder that I should step-up my Debian activity.

So much to do, so less time…