Welcome!

Server Monitoring Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Ken Schwaber

Related Topics: Server Monitoring, Linux Containers

Server Monitoring: Article

Getting frugal: Red Hat Network's low-cost upgrade to Red Hat 9

It took longer than expected, but Joe Barr is pleased with RHN's budget-friendly upgrade

(LinuxWorld) — These are tight economic times. One of the things I can't afford to do any longer is to run out and buy the latest distribution of Linux to hit the shelves, whether it be from Mandrake, SuSE, Xandros or Red Hat.

Little good it would do me if I could; Susan is using the laptop and I am down to a single computer in my home office. This is my work machine and I prefer to leave it on the same distribution and release for long periods. Recently I decided to put my Red Hat Network (RHN) subscription to greater use. I normally use RHN to run up2date at least weekly so I can keep up with the latest security fixes and updates. This week, I decided to download the ISO images of "shrike" and upgrade my desktop from Red Hat 8 to Red Hat 9.

Galeon and wget

The first step was grabbing the images. My RHN subscription gives me priority access, and I was seeing from 225 to 250 KBs via my RoadRunner cable connection. I won't complain about the speed, but I did have a lot of trouble getting a complete download of disc 2. I tried it about 10 times, and the transfer would just die suddenly at various stages of completion. When I finally got a full download of disc 2, the CD I created from it was no good. Rightly or wrongly, I blame those problems on Galeon.

I got a tip on the #redhat channel on irc.freenode.net to use wget instead of Galeon's built-in ftp. The wget technique was good. I got a complete download of disc 2 on my first attempt. The CD I created from that download (using cdrecord) with the speed set to 2X) worked perfectly. Not counting the wasted/aborted downloads, I estimate it took about 2 hours to download the three CD images. Burning them a little added roughly another 2 hours to the total time. I can't be more accurate than that because after I started each burn I got up and did something else for awhile.

PartitionSizeRed Hat 8Red Hat 9Size
hd15 Gb//15 Gb
hda610 Gb/home  
hdc19 Gb/backup/backup9 Gb
hda6120 Gb/bigdog/home120 Gb
I had decided not to do the upgrade thing because I wanted to do some big changes in my partitioning. A reader suggested in the forum attached to my recent story on adding a new hard drive to an existing system that I should have mounted the home directory on my new hard drive. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to do exactly that. The chart above shows how my three drives were partitioned before and after my installation of Red Hat 9.

The installation begins

Before beginning the installation, of course, I made backups of critical data. I shut down Evolution before starting the backup to make sure I didn't lose mail received after I did the backup. Killing two birds with one stone, I copied my home directory from its old location on hda6 to where it lives now on hdd1. That was as easy as typing cp -R /home/warthawg /bigdog. The "-R" argument makes the copy recursive, so that all subdirectories under /home/warthawg are copied as well. Because I was copying the entire directory, all of the hidden files (those with a . in front of their name) were copied. I also saved copies of my XF86Config and my hosts files.

Then it was into the installation process itself. As I noted earlier, I tested the CDs before starting the installation. That took about 15 minutes total. I had to choose the manual partitioning option to accomplish what was needed. I didn't see any mention at all of fdisk. I had my choice of using DiskDruid or letting the installation handle it all. The GUI tool made it relatively easy to delete the existing partitions on hda and create a new partition in their place. It also made naming the mount points a snap, so I had /home on my new drive and kept /backup where it was. I didn't format any of the partitions except the new one on hda and the swap partition.

I chose the workstation installation and, for a little more than a half-hour, sat there watching the infomercials and occasionally changing the CD. After all the packages had been installed, the installer rebooted and I started the final phase of the basic installation. Red Hat 9 features some new, pretty graphics to guide you through the steps of adding a user, setting the time and date, checking the sound card and registering with RHN.

Updates and patches

I got a scare when I was finally asked to log in for the first time. GNOME balked at startup, complaining about not being able to access needed files. I thought I had majorly messed something up. In fact, I had messed something up, but it was trivial to fix. I had copied my original home directory as root and root was the sole owner of everything in the directory. I typed chown -R warthawg.warthawg /home/warthawg as root from a command line, then tried again to log in as a normal user. All was well, but not all was done. I had more to do in order to be back in business as I had been under Red Hat 8.

I started Evolution to make sure all my mail was still there, and sure enough, it was. Then it was time to grab any updates available. I visited RHN to transfer my entitlement to the new system, then ran up2date to grab any existing fixes. Sure enough, there were patches for 14 packages, with gcc being the largest. The entire update process took a little more than 10 minutes.

Next came the Nvidia patch for the new (2.4.20-8) kernel. That was as easy as visiting the Nvidia Web site and downloading the driver, then running the self-contained installation. When that was finished, I copied the /etc/XF86Config to a backup location, then edited the configuration file according to Nvidia's instructions. I logged out, logged back, and the NVIDIA driver came to life. Of course, I had to start NWN for a few minutes. Just to make sure the new driver was working properly, you understand.

One last item for the XF86Config. I don't understand why, but the Red Hat installation still needs deuglification as per the LinuxPlanet HowTo. I just copied the font directories from my saved XF86Config from Red Hat 8 into the new one. It makes a big difference in appearance.

Another gotcha bit me when I decided to surf a bit. Galeon wasn't installed. It was easy enough to grab it with up2date, though. About a minute later, it was installed and I was surfing with all my old bookmarks intact. I also had to grab a new copy of the Acrobat Reader to handle my PDF chores, because I had forgotten to save it before starting the installation.

What's new in Red Hat 9

Threading tops the list. Red Hat 9 contains the first implementation of the Native POSIX Threading Library (NPTL). While the technology is a bit over my head, my understanding is that the version of NPTL shipped with Red Hat 9 is more about fixing broken standards in the current threading library than about improving performance. The buzz I hear indicates that NPTL on the 2.6 kernel may mean a significant performance improvement with just about any threaded application, including Apache, MySQL, Evolution, and Nautilus.

The rest of Red Hat 9's story seems to be about the addition of more applications to the distribution: OpenOffice.org, Ximian Evolution, and CUPS for print management. There are some fit and polish touches, though. For instance, I noticed the dialogue box in Free Cell is more visually pleasing. Where Red Hat 8 was rich with its new look, most of Red Hat 9's beauty lies under the hood.

Is it worth it?

In summary, my low-cost upgrade from Red Hat 8 to 9 took a lot longer than normal. Nevertheless, at the end, I had my old familiar desktop and all the accoutrements with which I had started. Red Hat 9 slipped onto my system like a comfortable pair of slippers.

There were several reasons for the extra time it took, not the least of which were the download and CD-burn times. The special partitioning needs I had — the ones that kept me from doing an upgrade rather than a new installation — also drove up the installation time.

Would I have rather been installing from retail CDs with documentation and support? You bet. Am I glad the low-cost method was available, even though it took a little longer and required a little more of me? I sure am. Am I thinking of switching back to Mozilla from Galeon? Yes to that, too. Bless Linux for the choices.

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...