Installing Fedora 12 and saving the environment

If you’re like me, chances are you have a system or three with DVD / CD burners in them.  Aside from their use for backups, I have tended to use my burners to create Linux install DVDs, done my install, and then given it to someone else, or (ashamedly) thrown it away.  What a waste.

I also prefer to do network-based installs, where I don’t have to download a whole 4GB DVD image, or even 700MB CD image, and burn it.  Instead, I download the 160MB “netinst” network install ISO, burn that to a CD, boot that CD, and point the installer at a Fedora mirror to grab all the packages.  This works great, but still, I’m left with a netinst CD when I’m done that I may no longer need.

Enter isohybrid, new in Fedora 12 (Beta).  I’ve got a few USB keys of various sizes, most larger than 160MB.  Instead of burning a CD (which I can still do, the process is unchanged), I can write the netinst ISO file directly to a USB key, and boot it.  Amazing!

Give it a try when you install Fedora 12 Beta, and save one more CD from becoming landfill.

$ wget http://download.fedoraproject.org/pub/fedora/linux/releases/test/12-Beta/Fedora/x86_64/iso/Fedora-12-Beta-x86_64-netinst.iso
$ sudo dd if=Fedora-12-Beta-x86_64-netinst.iso of=/dev/sdc bs=1M
$ eject /dev/sdc

Replace /dev/sdc with the actual device name of your USB key. You will want to unmount any file systems that are mounted on that key before writing to it.

Then boot that USB key, and you’re off to the races. When prompted for which local file system contains your install image, simply click “Back”, select the “URL” install method, and use a URL of your favorite mirror.

Special thanks to H. Peter Anvin for writing isohybrid and including it in syslinux.

TPMs are good for something

TPMs (Trusted Platform Modules) have long been avoided on Linux, given that their primary use cases have historically been around licensing and Digital Rights Management, concepts which are mostly foreign to Free and Open Source software.  However, as new use cases, such as “trusted boot” have emerged, developers have added TPM device drivers to the Linux kernel to enable these uses.  One often-overlooked feature of the TPM is that it has a hardware pseudo-random number generator.

A while back, Jeff Garzik and others were discussing this on the linux-kernel mailing list (summarized on LWN.net), where it was suggested that the TPM could be used to feed the rngd (random number gathering daemon) tool, just as it reads from other hardware random number generators.  The rngd program reads from hardware-based random number generators and feeds entropy into the kernel’s entropy pool.  Easy in concept, but lacking in TPM implementation.

As it happens, quite a few Dell systems include a TPM chip, including the PowerEdge 11G servers such as the R610 and R710.  So, I asked Dell’s crack team of Linux developers to see what they could do.  The result: a patch to rngd which adds the TPM as another source of random numbers for feeding the kernel’s entropy pool.

We’re working with Jeff to get this patch applied to the rng-tools upstream sources, and from there into the various distributions as their schedules permit.

So, should you find yourself running out of entropy on your servers, and not having a keyboard or mouse attached as ways to feed the entropy pool, you can run enable the TPM in BIOS SETUP, run rngd, and never lack for randomness again.

Heading to Portland for LinuxCon

I’ll be at LinuxCon in Portland this next week.  On Monday, 11:30am, I get to compete against Jon Corbet’s excellent Kernel Report and four other interesting topics, to present Dynamic Driver Injection, a method to simplify OS deployments on new servers.  If you’re at LinuxCon, I hope you will join me.

This will be my first trip to Portland.  I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Fedora services IPv6-enabled

As Mike McGrath, Fedora Infrastructure team lead announced last week, several Fedora services are now IPv6-enabled.  Thanks to our good friends at ibiblio.org, who have native IPv6 connectivity, we were able to set up one web server and one DNS name server, with more services to come over time.  The web server in particular means that nearly all Fedora Infrastructure-hosted web pages and web applications are immediately reachable over IPv6.  This week, over 5000 unique IPv6 addresses have been served.

However, this has not come without a cost.  There have been a handful of individuals having difficulty reaching our web pages.  In one case, the user needed to lower the MTU (maximum transmission unit) for his ethernet adapter from the default 1500 to 1472, to accommodate both IPv6 and his PPPoE connection.  For others, particularly those using 6to4 routing (the default method in Fedora if you don’t already have native IPv6 connectivity), some packets are getting dropped elsewhere on the Internet (pings reach our server, responses don’t make it back).  These are the growing pains we’ll have to live through, and which will resolve themselves over time as more network operators deploy native IPv6 to their end users.

If you have troubles reaching Fedora web sites, take a look at the Known Problems section on our IPv6 wiki page for common workarounds, add your own workarounds as you find them, and if all else fails, join us in #fedora-admin on irc.freenode.net for assistance.  There’s not a lot we can do about the wider Internet and its routing, but we’ll help if we can.

If you’d like to help get additional services IPv6-enabled, check out our IPv6 page for tasks we’d like to do, and offer your own ideas.

My 3 Minutes of Fame

At the Red Hat Summit last year, I had a chance to speak to a camera crew about how I got started in Linux, and my Fedora MirrorManager project, which distributes Fedora content to millions of users worldwide.  Now it’s a video in their “Spotlight On” series.

http://magazine.redhat.com/2009/02/27/video-spotlight-on-mirror-manager/

FUDConF11 Videos are up

Videos for 11 of the FUDConF11 sessions are now available.  On the schedule page, they are denoted by a small speaker icon.  In addition, seven of the videos have been converted to Flash format and are available on the Linux Foundation’s video site.  Thanks to Chris Tyler and Clint Savage for their audio and video work at the conference, and to Brian Proffitt for getting them posted on the LF site.

Fedora Election – I voted

I Voted Fedora

With one week to go in the Fedora election cycle, I encourage all Fedora account holders to participate in this semi-yearly election.  This round, 2 seats on the Fedora Board (including mine), 4 seats on the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee, and all 7 seats of the Fedora Ambassadors Steering Committee are being elected.

I’m very pleased with the nomination process this time.  We have 7 extremely capable people who volunteered their time to serve on the Fedora Board for the next year.   Each of the other elections also had more candidates than open seats – a sign of strength and depth for the Project.  Good luck to every candidate!

Fedora Election Town Halls – Come one come all!

Fedora is gearing up for its next round of elections.  Three groups are electing members over the next several weeks:

  • Fedora Project Board is electing two members
  • Fedora Engineering Steering Committee (FESCo) is electing four members
  • Fedora Ambassadors Steering Committee (FAMSCo) is electing all seven members

As requested by several Fedora members, the candidates in these elections are participating in a series of Town Hall discussions on IRC.  This is your opportunity to ask them as a group anything you would like.  Want to hear what they think is Fedora’s biggest challenge, and how they will solve it?  Join us and ask!

Schedule is as follows:

  • Friday December 5, 2008 02:00 UTC (9pm US Eastern on Thursday) Fedora Board
  • Friday December 5, 2008 15:00 UTC (10am US Eastern) Fedora Board
  • Friday December 5, 2008 17:00 UTC (12pm US Eastern) FESCo
  • Saturday December 6, 2008 17:00 UTC (12pm US Eastern) FAMSCo

To attend, join the #fedora-townhall and #fedora-townhall-public rooms on irc.freenode.net.   A moderator will be on hand in both rooms to help the conversation flow.  Candidates may speak in #fedora-townhall, while everyone may ask questions in #fedora-townhall-public.  The moderator will copy questions from the -public room into the -townhall room.

Please use these opportunities to educate yourselves about the candidates for office, so that you may make an informed vote.

Voting begins on Sunday, December 7 and runs through Saturday, December 20.

Further details, including the list of candidates and their backgrounds, are available at http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Elections.

Fedora 10 Metalinks

As of tonight, metalinks are available for all Fedora CD and DVD ISOs.  Metalinks provide a list of servers which have the same content, as well as checksum information to validate the download is correct.  Tools such as aria2 can be used to retrieve content pointed to by a metalink.

For example, to get the Fedora 10 i686 LiveCD:

$ sudo yum install aria2
$ wget -O metalink.xml \

http://mirrors.fedoraproject.org/metalink?path=pub/fedora/linux/releases/10/Live/i686/F10-i686-Live.iso

$ aria2c -M metalink.xml

I’ll work with the websites team to get single-click metalinks added to the get-fedora pages.