On the bleeding edge

Fedora 20 - Alpha desktop
Fedora 20 Alpha
Got curious about the "did someone say Alpha" URL at the fedora download page.

Hmmmm. Thought I'd give it a shot. What's a few MB of bandwidth? But first ...

So I grabbed the K desktop, or KDE Live CD, the x86-64 Alpha flavour, and gave it a shot. Some folks prefer the Gnome desktop, some don't. Gnome is snazzier, but if one is accustomed doing stuff with a Windows desktop and little else, KDE will be a bit closer to the familiar.

Woah, its a 921MB .iso download so ... oh well, its not like I don't have lots of DVD blanks. But I am not anxious to waste the twenty minutes it would take to burn another coaster on my wonky DVD drive (yes, Wonky ... its an Industry Toim). Wonky, Its An Industry Toim as in Marisa Tomei's character in My Cousin Vinny "Industry Toim" perspective, but first ...

So fire up Virtual Box and set up a new virtual machine. But first, to keep things organized, move the downloaded .iso image file to a vm folder, and massage the New button in Virtual Box Manager.

In the VM create, Fedora (64 Bit) is one of the versions that shows up after setting the Type to Linux. If you grab the x86 flavour boot image file, that is fine too, just keep your architectures straight. Don't confuse me, I'm thinking here. If you try to boot an x64 .iso image but leave the guest set at "plain" or x86, it won't quite fly. One can set the guest to x64 and boot up with an x86 image, that will work. But first ...

Onward, through the fog, give it 800MB of RAM, that is plenty for a try out. Go a full 1GiB, or 1024MB if you have lots of RAM. For a Windows desktop with 4GiB, that is not quite enough to run a 1GiB guest. One must leave enough memory for the host OS. Every time I go the full 1024MB on a VM with the laptop, with 4GiB RAM, start the virtual machine, one can hear the processor fan kick in. Maybe more on that later, but first ...

Create a hard drive, a VDI (Virtual Box Disk Image) type works fine, and one can go with the "Fixed size", or the the default "Dynamically allocated" grows the disk image .vdi file as it uses up its space.

Point the file location at a new folder under vm, yes, keep things neat. Set the size to at least 10GiB, while 8GiB might be enough, it will be a tight. Might hit somewhere near the 95% used, or more, when a big batch of updates need to be applied. More on that later, of course, but first ...

The first teenager that says something like "Back In The Day" gets a smack upside the head with a floppy disk. Don't remember who said that one first, I don't make this stuff up, I just write 'em down. Anyways, pretty sure there's another screen shot around here with a similar System boot device list.

System boot list
I have seen eight inch floppy based computer systems.

Seen them in operation too, yes indeed, working operation.

Quite a bit before getting an actual and genuine professional position in the Information Technology industry. So no actual 8" floppy drive systems have ever been on my resume bullet point list, I don't go quite that old skool. Can't be too lucky, or too careful these days. But first ...

Anyways, uncheck the floppy drive from the boot list on the System settings, and move the hard disk up to the top. Its a new hard disk, and it won't be worth a boot (yet). If you really prefer the Easy button, visit the the Storage section.

Storage attributes
If you really need the Easy Button, point the CD/DVD drive to your Live .iso file. Not required, and it will have to be taken out later to get the guest addition bits to run, more on that later, GA is kind of important. But not quite yet, but first ...

So with Virtual Box we're emulating hardware in software. Neat trick. 'Nuff said on that. No dual boot setup needed to worry with and pollute your mind or your desktop, just to try out a new OS.

Might get around to a post or three on mysql, will definitely promise a hit up or two for Apache, and there is definitely some PHP stuff in the works as well. More on those bits later. But first ...

If you're happy with the disk size, boot order, and memory size, massage that virtual box Start button. If you went the Easy route and pointed the CD/DVD to the boot .iso it should be on its merry way. Otherwise, you'll have to dig around and find the download .iso file, then get prepared for take off. Next time there should not be quite as much digging, Virtual Box does have a nice habit of remembering things previously done with other VMs.

Eventually you should get a nice, clean, GUI desktop, with a Install icon in a desktop folder. Probably with networking disabled, so don't expect a browser to have much luck. Go ahead and massage that Install icon. Or dig around the desktop first if you'd like to get a feel for the lay of the land.

It took me a couple tries to get the install rolling, the Installation Options screen went stubborn on me- the radio button "I want to review/modify my disk partitions" did not want to take a click. For a little while. And for a few moments it looked as if the installer had not yet picked up the disk partition setup, but it eventually took off. One of those "wait for it ... wait for it" scenarios.

As briefly mentioned before, I really like to bump up the swap partition to a full 2GiB, or 2048MB, even if it is just for a quick try out, a POC (Proof of Concept) mode. The root, or / partition, will have to be decreased a "bit" (no pun intended) to grow swap. A calculator might come in handy, and is not considered cheating by any means. Measure twice, cut once, like the experienced carpenter always says.

Making changes to swap is a good exercise, something one might have to do on a real system, in real time. Its a bit tricky, depends on which OS flavour is in question, but might touch that topic later. But first ...

If you're really feeling adventurous, surf up the Fedora download options or formats page and try out the DVD or one of the other desktop flavours, maybe later. But first, using a Live image, with its smaller download, is the quicker path, while going the full DVD route chews up the bandwidth and download time. And does have lots more options. And lots more complications as well. Try the Live, easy route first.

Anyways, long story short, the Fedora 20 (Alpha) KDE Live .iso went fine for me, not much different. The first update count was over 500 packages, I *think* it was 520-something, maybe 525, that took a bit of time. So the Alpha has been out for a while, darn.

Getting the Guest Additions working with the VM was a breeze. That one usually trips me up, as there are a couple packages not included with the Live install "out of the box" but this one was pretty easy to get GA working. More on that later, but first ...

When the Install starts loading up stuff to the VM disk a couple icons will need a massage. First things first, set a root user password, and write it down, if you must. And create a user, going with just your initials means fewer keystrokes. Same deal with the user password, and write it down if you have to. One can check the "Administrator" check box, but that is optional too. Might make things in the GUI easier, but there's an even "more better" way to get superuser rights at the command line, will get to that soon as well.

If one struggles with coming up with decent strong passwords, there is an app for that. Really. Although it is a bit old school, you can get a random password generator web page after getting Apache and a bit of perl working on the box. Definitely more on those later. But first ...

Next up, Updates, and the Guest Additions. If you want to share a folder on your desktop to the VM guest host, or let the host machine see a folder on the guest, GA are a must have. And for pasting content into the guest, or copying content from the guest to your clipboard, that requires GA as well. But first ...


but first

Virtual Box system settings
Time to back up a moment, and take it from the top.

If you've already got Virtual Box downloaded and installed, you may just want to take a pass on this one.

Or if your preference for having a virtual machine up and running is VMWare® that is perfectly fine as well.

VMWare® is a fine product, and quite popular as well. At work we have quite a few virtual servers hosted on VMWare® and it works fine, lasts a long time.

The business end of that deal falls under another team's responsibility area so professionally, my dealings with that particular program are quite limited. Last time I really gave it half an effort at a "kick the tires" check out from a system administrator perspective, it was quite a long time ago. The offerings have changed so I'd be fairly certain its quite a bit different now. Was trying out the free workstation (?) version, and it was OK but the admin console was not fond of working in Firefox so there were a few glitches.

Anyways, time to move along.

If the Virtual Box software has been downloaded, but not installed, go ahead and fire up the installer. There will be gripes about the software not being a Microsoft© certified program, but for me and my desktop that is no big thing to be concerned about. Not really up on the details of whats required to get a passing mark on that deal but I'd be fairly certain that its not a task that could be qualified as quick, nor would it be an easy one by any stretch of the imagination.

The installer will also pop your network hardware and/or drivers a few times during the install as well, it adds its own network adapter, with a DHCP setup, and a few other things, to give out IP addresses to the virtual guest machines.

For Windows 7, it will probably need a startup via the right click/run as Administrator trail as well. Can't tell for sure, have not installed virtual box on the Boss' (She Whom Must Be Obeyed) desktop just yet, and not certain that it would be a good idea, or not, to do so. And when Mama's Not Happy, No Body's Happy. 'Nuff said.

I'm still stuck with XP. As are many of the work mates, we can all be quite stubborn (or maybe just lazy) at times. Find something to use, like it, or not, but get used to it and drive it 'till the wheels fall off. A couple things with the Windows 7 changes annoy me, like for a program used often, drop it onto the task bar short cuts. Fine.

But if you want another instance of that same program up and running, now one must right click, and navigate that menu. Arrrrgh. And what happened to the show desktop shortcut? Oh, its still there, some where ... but different. Arrrrgh. Just when you get used to something, maybe even like it a bit, the powers that be decide it needs to be changed. But first ...

Get used to working the command line. A CUI can be your friend, as good keyboarding skills are usually quite a good thing to have handy. Especially for unix and linux systems, there are many ways and means around a command line interface that can be so much more efficient. A graphical user interface might be familiar, and easy to navigate (if you know where to start digging) but there are some places where command line is much more efficient with tasks, given a bit of experience and knowledge, than a GUI interface.

cmd.exe properties dialog box
cmd.exe Properties dialog
So fire up your cmd.exe box.

One way, click Start/run and just type in cmd and press enter. Or cmd.exe and press enter.

Or dig through the Programs then Accessories program group, its not too much different for Win7.

Bring up the Properties dialog box by doing a click, left or right, on the drive:backslash icon in the top left corner, hit the Properties item.

You might like cmd.exe a bit better after enabling QuickEdit mode. And there just might be one or two things in that old school ms-dos QuickEdit mode that I like even better than Linux. Really.

Be sure to visit the Layout tab, bump up the Height and Width values, and when it comes to width, just like Pontiac™, Wider Is Better. On the Font tab, Lucida Console is nice, if available, set a happy font size for your comfort, here smaller can be better. As long as its legible, try 10. Back at the Layout tab, go for at least 120 on Width. Wider, Better. Also change the Window Size Width same as the width in the Screen Buffer section, and Window Size Height at 25 or so. And the Screen Buffer, Height, more is much more better. 9000 works.

One chore in dealing with a Windows host is finding out who are the folks that have administrator rights on the box. If you know the short cut using the run box, no big deal, its just a Start / Run / lusrmgr.msc and you're there- no hunting around in control panel, nor the Administration program group, or the My Computer icon, what ever the current GUI trail is to get to that particular system item.

But if you have a command box open try this one ...

net localgroup administrators
  domain\Domain Admins
  domain\Local Admins
  The command completed successfully.

So you want to save this for later? Perhaps drop it into a spreadsheet? Or paste the results into an email? Just left click and drag to highlight the desired text bits, and ... arrrrgh, tap the Enter key to get the text into the clipboard.

The enter keystroke is somewhat annoying, but overall, the ms-dos QuickEdit does a slightly better job of selecting just the desired text bits. At a linux (or unix too) command line, text copy and paste is available too, just click and drag, or depending on the text content, just a double left click might highlight the one desired line with a <return> character added in for good measure, click the center mouse button to paste. But when it comes to grabbing multiple lines of text, e.g. just a column of text items, the linux/unix select, copy, paste routine pretty much keeps you limited to full lines. No other options with picking out the desired text. Arrrrgh. Or not, maybe there's another way, just might figure that out some day. Later. But first ...

So command line stuff can really be your friend. Really. I might be able to hit sixty or 70wpm typing, but only if the backspace gets counted. Arrrrgh.