Gerencia installation notes

Notes taken during my fresh install of mdv2008.1 on gerencia.

In May 2009 the root filesystem of gerencia (Celeron 366 MHz, 372 MB RAM) was corrupted by numerous unclean shutdowns caused by a failed UPS battery and user indifference. Between my desire to perform destructive testing for bad blocks on the hard disk and the out of date distribution installed (mdv2007.0), I decided to do a fresh install.

I set the BIOS to boot from CD, and set a BIOS password.

I copied the contents of /home to a USB stick for later restoration. The USB stick was formatted VFAT, however, so characters in filenames and music file tags that are illegal in VFAT were lost or scrambled, requiring hours of fixing by hand with easytag. Next time, tar the files before saving them to removable media.

I repartitioned and formatted the disk thus:

Mount point   Device      Size  Notes
/             /dev/hda1   6 GB
/new_install  /dev/hda5   6 GB  Empty; reserved for next installation
/swap                   760 MB  2x RAM
/home         /dev/hda7  26 GB  Remaining space

All partitions are EXT3, replacing XFS that had been used. It is suggested by reliable sources that EXT3 better tolerates unclean shutdowns.

I attempted to install mdv2009.1, primarily for the new LXDE, but Free does not install and One does not even boot. Instead I opted for an install from 2008.1 One Xfce edition, which gave no trouble. LXDE was not available for 2008.1 and it wasn’t worth compiling.

In retrospect it would have been better to install Free, not One, and thus avoid the necessity of searching for and removing unneeded software (unneeded language support, unneeded video drivers, etc.). I afterward downloaded the Free 3 CD set and added them to the urpmi sources, because the box will not have an Internet connection. To do this, insert CD1 in the drive and give the following command as root:

urpmi.addmedia --probe-synthesis "Mandriva 2008.1 CD1" cdrom://i586/media/main

Repeat for CDs 2 and 3, substituting 2 and 3 for [x] respectively:

urpmi.addmedia --probe-synthesis "Mandriva 2008.1 CD[x]" cdrom://i586/media/main[x]

I ran the installer in the users’ preferred language, assuring that all available localizations will be installed. Set a root password of the client’s choice and set up users with null passwords.

I installed the Xfce and IceWM environments. The former is sluggish on this hardware; the latter not so user-friendly. Neither are fully localized. Xfce is preferred by users, but I look forward to trying LXDE next time. The previous installation was Fluxbox, which was light and responsive on this hardware but disliked by the users.

Immediately after installation, what I should have done was, in order:

  1. Set up online urpmi sources, including PLF. Insure they point to good, nearby mirrors, not in Antarctica or somewhere. Insure CD sources come before online sources.
  2. Remove unneeded software (especially needed if installed from One; see above).
  3. Update. Assuming there is a kernel update, reboot. Once new kernel is tested, remove reference to old kernel from boot loader.
  4. Install wanted software (see below).
  5. Tweak (see below).
  6. Deactivate, but do not remove, online urpmi sources. Leave only the CD sources active.

Software installed included:

  • Office suite: OpenOffice. Only for MS compatibility; it is too heavy for regular use. Next time install openoffice.org-openclipart as well (long download).
  • Word processor: Abiword. Slow. Next time install Ted.
  • Spreadsheet: Gunmeric. Quite snappy.
  • Browser: Midori. Despite having a 10 MB dependency, it loads faster than Dillo.
  • Audio player: Audacious. It consumes 35% of the CPU and 7% of RAM merely playing; surely there are lighter alternatives.
  • Image viewer: Gqview. The porcine Gthumb was removed.
  • Camera interface: Gtkam. Not tested.
  • File manager: Thunar. Has a bad habit of running away and consuming all the CPU. Xfe has since been suggested as more stable.
  • Hardware monitors: lm_sensors, hddtemp. Neither were needed, as they added nothing that wasn’t detected already before their installation.
  • CD ripper: Sound-juicer. gstreamer-0.10-lame-0.10.7 needed to rip to MP3. Being a Gnome app this is probably not the lightest available.
  • Audio file tag editor: Easytag. Too heavy. Thunar’s tag editor plugin is very light and adequate for most jobs.
  • Video player: None; the hardware is inadequate.

The display manager gdm required tweaking. As root, run gdmsetup. Open the security tab and check “Activate autologin”. Select DEFAULTUSER, and enter 10 seconds as the delay. Close. Now DEFAULTUSER will be logged in automatically if there is no manual login within 10 seconds.

I did not change them, but gdm’s default face icons are in /usr/share/faces. They are 32×32 PNGs named user.png, one for each user.

The music library is in /home/DEFAULTUSER/Music, and msec by default will change the permissions on this directory to not allow other accounts to access it. To change this I opened msec (MCC – Security – Tune permissions on system). Click on “add a rule”. For path, enter /home/DEFAULTUSER. For user, choose DEFAULTUSER and for group, choose users. User permissions are r,w,x. Group and other permissions are both r,x. Set the sticky bit. Click on “Ok”. This allows all users read only access to the entire DEFAULTUSER directory and its subdirectories, and instructs msec to enforce this permission.

I disabled the firewall, given that the box will not be connected to any network and the CPU has no cycles to spare. Likewise I hunted for unnecessary daemons to deactivate or (better) uninstall. TODO: document specifically which daemons.

I performed the following tweaks in the DEFAULTUSER account:

  1. By default the audacious player uses a bitmap font that does not display accented characters. To fix this, open Preferencias – Apariencias. Clear the checkmark beside “Usar fuentes de bitmap”. This makes the player font too big to fit in the space available for it. To fix this, change the fuente reproductor to sans bold 6.
  2. I set audacious to play back with a crossfader. Open Preferences – Audio and in “Complemento de salida actual” select “Crossfade Plugin”. Playback will stop; restart it.
  3. I installed the Xfce System Load Monitor and the Sensors Plugin (right click on upper task bar, Añadir nuevo elemento). Sensors Plugin only shows CPU fan RPM.
  4. I lightened up the window manager a bit by setting windows to not display their contents while being moved or resized (Main Menu – Configuración – Window Manager – Avanzado, then cleared all check boxes in the section “Redimensionado y movimiento opaco”).
  5. I removed the Xfce tips startup screen.

I performed the following tweaks to every user account in Xfce:

  1. In Audacious I opened the playlist /home/DEFAULTUSER/Música/playlists/restaurante.m3u and confirmed that it played. I set Audacious to random and repeat play.
  2. I set Audacious to automatically run whenever it is started: In Audacious, Preferences – Audio – Reproduction, and check the box marked “Continuar ejecución al arrancar.
  3. I added an autostart command in Xfce for audacious: From Main Menu – Configuración – Aplicaciones para autoarranque – Añadir, I set the following:
    Name: Audacious
    Descripction: Reproductor de música
    Command: /usr/bin/audacious /home/DEFAULTUSER/Música/playlists/default.m3u
  4. I entered each user account in Xfce and removed the prompt on logout (Main menu – Configuración – Sesiones e inicio – General, and cleared all options). This way, when the user chooses to log out, he is simply logged out and taken straight to gdm without being offered any confusing options in unlocalized English. I did not, but should have, changed the file associations in the file manager Thunar to reflect the lighter apps available. For example, OpenOffice and Excel spreadsheets should have been associated with Gnumeric, not OpenOffice. TODO: Is there a system-wide file where these associations can be changed?
  5. I rebooted the box and logged in to each account to insure that all the settings noted above hold across reboots.
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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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