As you may have gathered, I really like RHEL 7 and its clones. I have run into one problem though. In Chapter 24 of the RHEL 7 Release Notes they enumerate quite a bit of hardware that they have dropped support for. Included are about 3 pages of RAID controllers and some NICs. I have a few HP Proliant DL380 G5 servers at work that have the HP Smart Array P400 RAID Controller in them and they are no longer officially supported with the release of RHEL 7.0. They work just fine with RHEL 5 and RHEL 6. HP actually has drivers that they provide for RHEL 5 and RHEL 6 but almost no one uses them because the hardware just worked with the stock RHEL kernels. Since the G5 machines (that's generation 5 not PowerPC G5) are 6 or 7 years old now, HP has stopped providing firmeware updates nor will they be providing drivers for newer Linux distros.
Just to verify, I booted one of the servers with the RHEL 7 install DVD and nope... it says there are no hard disks available. :(
The devs over at ElRepo have saved my day. I filed a request for enhancement (RFE) in their Mantis bug tracker system asking if they could build the CCISS driver package for the EL7 kernel. I had an answer within a hour or two... and a test package within a couple of hours. If you aren't familiar with ElRepo, they are a fairly popular third-party repo for EL. Not quite as popular as the Fedora Project's EPEL repo though. One thing ElRepo specializes in is drivers.
I do recommend staying away from third-party repos and drivers as much as possible but given the fact that the stock RHEL 7 installer says my servers have no hard drives I was stuck. If you don't have any hard drives, you can't do an install. I have never had to use a driver disk with the RHEL installer but I guess such things exist. Not being familiar with them, I just took the kmod-cciss package the ElRepo dev built, copied it to my local repository, added it to the package list of my CentOS LiveDVD kickstart file. Then I used livecd-creator to build a LiveDVD. My personal respin includes GNOME, KDE, Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, Inkscape, virt-manager, SPICE, etc... and now the ElRepo kmod-cciss package as well. After building the ISO I burned it to DVD and booted a problem server with it. Bingo, EL7 sees the controller and the disks attached to it now.
Not having used third-party drivers much in the past I was fairly ignorant about them. There are kmod, akmod, and dkms type driver packages. Do you know the differences between them? I mean with something as important to the operation of the system as RAID controller that presents all disks to the system... you don't want it breaking when you upgrade the kernel, right? It is my understanding that kmod-based packages aren't tired to a specific build of the kernel. So the kmod-cciss package I got from ElRepo should (in theory) work with every kernel update for EL 7.0 that comes out. When EL 7.1 comes out, it'll probably be a slightly different branch... and before trying to switch to future 7.1 kernels, I'd probably need to update the kmod-cciss package... or at least that is my understanding.
Anyway, so far it is working great. We'll see if I have any regrets as time goes by. I will definitely take care to be very aware of when kernel updates get installed and always keep a known-to-work kernel around just in case.
One of the Scientific Linux developers sent out an announcement to the SL-devel mailing list just a couple of hours ago about SL 7 Alpha being released. They have a netinstall CD iso and a 6GB DVD. I got the entire tree downloaded in about 30-ish minutes... and got to work building a LiveDVD as well as OpenVZ OS Templates... using the scripts I had used for CentOS and Oracle... again with a tiny bit of editing.
Everything built and I have a LiveDVD that is 1.5GB in size that includes GNOME3, KDE4, Firefox, LibreOffice, GIMP, and Inkscape. What more does a person need? :)
Just noticed I have a ton of updates for a few RHEL 6 boxes... and to me that indicates there is a new update release. So I logged into Red Hat Network and sure enough RHEL 6.3 has been released. I like finding out about it early in the morning and downloading it before everyone else has noticed.
With CentOS and Scientific Linux both pretty adept in rebuilding 6 now, I'd expect new releases from both within 6 weeks or less. Scientific Linux might be at a disadvantage because they lost one of their main guys but they have replaced him. CentOS on the other hand recently announced that some company was sponsoring two CentOS developers so they could work full-time on CentOS. Who will win?
I haven't had a chance to check out the release notes yet but I will soon. I'm hoping a lot of the KVM, libvirt, and virt-manager stuff that has been in Fedora for a while will have filtered back to this update.
Update: July 9th, 2012 - CentOS 6.3 is syncing to the mirrors today so it has won.
In the last post I mentioned that I migrated from CentOS 4.9 to Scientific 6.1... and that certain aspects of this Drupal 4.7.x site were broken because of an incompatibility with PHP 5.3.x.
Downgrading a distro
Well, I decided to move from Scientific Linux 6.1 to Scientific Linux 5.7. EL5 offers both PHP 5.1.x and PHP 5.3.x and Red Hat announced a few weeks ago that they are extending the support lifecycle of both RHEL5 and RHEL6 from 7 years to 10 years. Migrating back to EL5 fixes the issues (knock on wood) that I was having with Drupal... but yet I can easily move to PHP 5.3.x at some point in the future if I so desire.
Doing EL major version upgrades
Two friends of mine happened to have CentOS 4.9 OpenVZ containers as well. They also run a number of services I'm less familiar with and weren't really versed enough with Linux to migrate their data like I did. In an effort to help them out, I looked into how to upgrade from EL4 to EL5. That really IS NOT supported or recommended but I thought I'd give it a try and see how it went. If it failed, I'd roll back to the original system. If it succeeded I'd keep it. After much work I *THINK* I figured it out. At least it worked for me in the particular situation I was dealing with. I started off with a page on the CentOS wiki about Upgrading from 4.4 to 5. I did not do a boot media based upgrade (I'm working with containers) so I did it strictly with rpm and yum.
I followed the instructions but they were written some time ago and were a bit outdated. So the first container I did took the longest because I was finding my way. Basically this happens in a few steps.
- Install the EL5 repos
- Manually download the core packages recommended and install them.
- Hopefully when you are done rpm is still working. If yum is broken, manually install a few more packages to make it work.
- With a working yum, upgrade everything else
- Turn off any new services that happen to be on by default that you don't want
- Find any stray packages left over from the previous release
- Fix your service configs by comparing your original service configs with the new ones
Read on to find out more of the nitty gritty details.
Red Hat Inc. rules the "enterprise" Linux market with their Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product line. Novell Inc. (now owned by The Attachmate Group) is second with their SUSE Enterprise Linux product line. To the best of my knowledge, there aren't any free SUSE Enterprise Linux clones but there are a number of free RHEL clones. CentOS is the most well known RHEL clone but with the seeming unending delay of the 6.0 release (July 11th is my guess), CentOS has received quite a bit of criticism leading some users to investigate alternatives. As a result, Scientific Linux is getting a lot of long overdue attention given the fact that it too is a solid enterprise clone... that has been around for a long time... that has a lot of support behind it.
MontanaLinux is proud to present an interview that was conducted via email with Troy Dawson who is a long-time Fermilab employee and Scientific Linux developer.
About Troy Dawson
Montana Linux: Please tell us about yourself... as much as you feel comfortable with... as open or as closed as you want to be... family, education, work, hobbies, etc.
Troy Dawson: My name is Troy Dawson. I have a Bachelors degree in Physics and a Masters degree in Computer Science. I have worked at Fermilab since 1993. I was initially an accelerator operator, and then transferred over to computing in 1999.
I've been working with Linux since 1999.
I am married with two kids. I am very active in my church. I think my main hobbies are family, church, and computers.
I've been making a personal Fedora remix for a while now... since Fedora 10. While that might sound hard, thanks to Fedora's livecd-tools package and their livecd-creator script, it is really quite easy. I even made a screencast about it. I recently started making a remix of Scientific Linux 6.0 and wanted to share.
As you may recall, I prefer Fedora on my personal desktops but on servers I prefer Red Hat Enterprise Linux or a RHEL clone. There are actually a few clones to pick from and I've been using CentOS for a number of years. One thing I like about CentOS is that one of its goals is to stay as true to RHEL as possible by attempting to be 100% binary compatible with it, bugs and all. Unfortunately the CentOS developers have gotten somewhat backlogged with the onslaught of RHEL releases over the last few months (6.0, 5.6, and 4.9) and have taken a lot of criticism for release delays as well as falling behind on security updates in the process.
Trying out Clone #2
CentOS is definitely the most widely used RHEL clone with an estimated 6 million users who are eagerly awaiting the releases of CentOS 6.0 and 5.6. I can't really fault the CentOS developers for the delays because they are a completely volunteer organization and do development in their spare time.
Another popular RHEL clone is Scientific Linux (SL) which is put together by a small number (two or three?) of developers who are paid to work on it by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). SL's main goal is to produce an enterprise grade Linux distribution to meet the needs of scientists and people working with scientific data. SL strays a bit from the stock RHEL package set by adding some additional science related software including some changes to a few core packages to accommodate additional filesystems (reiserfs and AFS). SL is also known for its additional "tweak" packages that are designed to easily change some of the application default configurations.
The primary reason I had previously avoided SL was because I really did not want to deal with their changes and additions to RHEL. Now I'm giving it a try. What has changed? SL has a fairly public development process. For example, they came out with several alpha and beta releases of SL 6.0 before releasing the final version on March 3. They have adopted several of the Fedora developer tools and have given many public presentations about their development process.
While reading about SL I discovered that with their 6.0 release they have switched to Fedora's livecd-creator for producing their Live media. They have also released the kickstart files they used to build their live media and have quite a bit of documentation including a Create your own SL6 LiveCD page. While CentOS does offer live media, they don't use livecd-creator... and their live media does NOT offer an install option. I certainly hope that changes for CentOS 6.0.
Another thing I learned was that as a result of feedback from their userbase, the SL developers have decided to drop their "tweak" packages with 6.0... at least initially... although they may offer them as an option later for those that want them.
No, this isn't a repeat blog posting... as I continually download and install various distros. Since I'm very Red Hat centric, I'm all excited about the upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 release... that is coming out... maybe in March?!?
[Update: Looks like next week... March 14th.]
Fedora 7 Beta 2
Downloaded and installed Fedora 7 Test 2. Notice that Core is no longer part of the name because Core and Extras are in the process of being merged. I downloaded the LiveCD and it worked great. I was very impressed by the artwork. I did an install from the LiveCD and it worked well... and seemed faster than the boot-install method. The only things broken that I noticed were some warning messages during shutdown after doing the install... about not being able to unmount something... but it was of no consequence... and a few of the desktop apps didn't work... like Abiword for example. Other than that, it recognized the onboard Intel video chipset of my wife's Gateway branded box and worked with accelerated video... rotating cube and all.
For the rest of the story, click on the read more link below...