os

Retiring the sparc32 Debian port... or not?

According to Jurij Smakov's announcement, the Debian port for 32bit SPARC machines is about to be retired.

This is really sad in my opinion, as we should rather support more architectures instead of less architectures. After all, Debian is "The Universal Operating System" [1].

Now, I know that my opinion doesn't matter much in this case, but many other people who own sparc32 boxes seem to feel the same, judging from the thread which was started by the announcement.

Also, I do realize that nobody wants to retire the port just for fun. To my understanding there is one major problem which needs to be sorted out in order to "save" the sparc32 support in Debian (and also in Linux!):

There is no Linux kernel maintainer for the sparc32 Linux code at the moment!

This seems to be the root of the whole problem. It makes maintaining a Debian port for sparc32 really hard, as you can surely imagine. Also, there seem to be too few people who actively work on the surrounding toolchain stuff (gcc, binutils, etc) which is also very important.

My suggestion would be to not drop the Debian support for now, but rather set the status to "needs help" or something and actively search for contributors and/or maintainers. Heck, list it on Unmaintained Free Software, or write a "call for help" Slashdot article, post the issue on all Linux-/Debian-/SPARC-related mailing lists etc. etc. (or write funny blog posts, heh).

I guess if two or three experienced SPARC developers would step up and take care of the kernel and toolchain maintenance for sparc32, there would be no reason to drop it anytime soon.

Anyone?

Testing stuff with QEMU - Part 2: MenuetOS, a tiny OS written in 100% assembly language

Note: This article is part of my Testing stuff with QEMU series.

MenuetOS screenshot

From Wikipedia:

MenuetOS is an operating system with a monolithic preemptive, real-time kernel, including video drivers, all written in FASM assembly language, for 64-bit and 32-bit x86 architecture computers, by Ville Mikael Turjanmaa.

MenuetOS development has focused on fast, simple, efficient implementation. It has a graphical desktop, games, and networking abilities (TCP/IP stack), yet still fits on one 1.44MB floppy disk. It also facilitates easy, full-featured assembly language programming. This stands in marked contrast to the (as of 2007) widespread view that assembly languages are useful mainly for old and embedded systems.

Testing (the GPL'd) MenuetOS in QEMU is easy:

wget http://mesh.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/menuet/M32-084.ZIP
unzip M32-084.ZIP
qemu -fda M32-084.IMG -m 384

There's also Menuet 64, written in 64-bit assembly, but that's not open source'd for some strange reason I don't understand. But you can try that one, too (the binary images, that is), using QEMU:

wget 'http://www.menuetos.be/download.php?CurrentMenuetOS'
unzip M64-059.ZIP\?3.1
qemu-system-x86_64 -fda M64-059.IMG

OS Install Experiences - Part 5: Mandriva

Note: This article is part of my OS Install Experiences series.

Long time no install, so here goes.

Install

  1. First, I downloaded a Mandriva One CD image, burned it on a CD, and booted from that.
  2. The (graphical) installer allows you to choose language and country, but there's no German(y). WTF? Maybe I just overlooked it, but I did look twice! When choosing the keyboard layout there is a German layout...
  3. After choosing the timezone, a KDE 3.4 live system is started. If you want to install Mandriva, you click the "Install from live system" icon on the desktop. The installation is done in a wizard after that.
  4. The partitioning tool is quite nice and has an "expert mode" you can enable to see more info and get more control. It performs all actions immediately, though, (AFAICS) which can lead to trouble.
  5. You can choose between LILO or GRUB, and even edit the list of GRUB entries manually (which is nice; many other distributions don't allow that).
  6. After a while there were no more windows or messages, so I thought the install was done and rebooted. Obviously I was wrong. GRUB wasn't installed (the old one was still there), so I had to manually boot into the Mandriva installation. From there, the installation continued...
  7. After net config (even asked me for a zeroconf hostname), root password, user creation and all the usual stuff, you're dropped in a KDE session and the install is done.

Security

Continue reading here...

OS Install Experiences - Part 4: Ubuntu

Note: This article is part of my OS Install Experiences series.

Next OS — the recently released Debian-derived distribution Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake).

Install

  1. First, I downloaded a Ubuntu 6.06 CD image, burned it on a CD, and booted from that.
  2. The first installer screen allows you to choose between a normal install, "safe graphics mode", "check CD for defects", "memory test", and "boot from first hard disk". If you hit enter and wait a few minutes, you're dropped right into a fully working GNOME session (think Live-CD). No user-iteraction is required at all...
  3. If you like you can use the system for normal tasks already (web browsing, whatever). If you want to install Ubuntu, you click the "Install" icon on the desktop...
  4. After choosing the language, timezone (by clicking on your country on a nice graphical world map!), and keyboard layout, the installation begins.
  5. You must enter your user password (no root password, in Ubuntu you have to use sudo for everything which requires root permissions), user account name, and (ugh!) you must enter a full name (same annoying behaviour as with PC-BSD).
  6. The partitioning tool is graphical and quite easy to use. It takes ages to scan the disk(s) and partitions though (yes, I have quite a lot of them, but still)...
  7. That's mostly it, the installation of the packages starts now, and after it's finished, a window pops up asking you whether you want to reboot or continue using the Live CD for a little longer.
  8. What's noticeable is that I was not asked where or how I want to install a bootloader, Ubuntu simply scans the disks, tries to detect the OSes and writes itself into the MBR. Which sucks quite a bit, especially for more complicated setups like I'm using here. For example, it didn't detect the PC-BSD installation, so I can no longer boot that for now (need to fix GRUB manually).
  9. That's it, after a reboot you're dropped into GNOME and the installation is done. Pretty impressive how easy such Linux installations have gotten recently...

Security

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OS Install Experiences - Part 3: PC-BSD [Update]

Note: This article is part of my OS Install Experiences series.

I'll continue with the recently released operating system PC-BSD 1.1, which is based on FreeBSD 6.1.

This is actually the first time I installed a BSD-like OS, so I thought it would be a bit of a hassle. But I was surprised to find that the install was really pretty easy (which is a major goal of PC-BSD, as I understand it). I didn't even read a manual or installation instructions or anything...

Install

  1. First, I downloaded a PC-BSD 1.1 CD #1 image, burned it on a CD, and booted from that.
  2. The first installer screen is text-based (later it's graphical), and allows you to choose between a normal install ("boot FreeBSD"), install "with ACPI", "safe mode", "single user mode", and "with verbose logging". You can also "escape to loader prompt", or "reboot".
  3. While the installer runs, it merely shows a nice desktop background, pressing any key shows you the boot messages.
  4. After a while you can select a screen resolution for the graphical installer, run fdisk, escape into an "emergency shell", chroot into the root partition, or reboot. Default is to start the installation at a pre-selected screen resolution.
  5. You can choose the language and keyboard layout. Although you can click "back" to return to previous steps in the installer, you can not go back to the language/keyboard selection later!
  6. Partitioning. First, you can choose on which disk to install, then choose the partition to use. The list only shows the primary partitions and an "extended DOS" partition. Device names for disks are a bit different in BSD world. /dev/ad0 (counting starts at 0) is the first disk, /dev/ad0s1 (counting starts at 1) the first "partition" (called "slice" in BSD). It doesn't seem to be possible to install PC-BSD on an extended partition (please correct me if I'm wrong), so I installed it on /dev/hda2 (/dev/ad0s2 in BSD-speak), which is a primary partition. To make things more complex and confusing, a BSD slice can contain multiple "partitions" (not the same as Linux partitions!). I now have /dev/ad0s2a, which is the boot partition, and /dev/ad0s2b, the swap partition. Confused? Me too.
  7. Note that changes made to the partition table seem to be effective immediately, there's no way to go back without losing data! Debian's installer is better at this. The default PC-BSD file system is UFS, btw.
  8. The hardware will be automatically detected (worked quite well for me).
  9. You can now choose to either install the BSD bootloader in the MBR, or install no bootloader at all. Not sure what the best thing for me is here, but I decided to install the BSD bootloader (overwriting GRUB). I might have to re-install GRUB (and tell it about PC-BSD) if the BSD bootloader cannot boot the other (Linux) OSes.
  10. Now I must enter the root password, and I can also create another user. I noticed that passwords can only contain alpha-numeric characters (no %$§,.#+!? and so on). WTF? They can't be serious... Also, you must enter a real name for the normal user, it won't let you continue until you type something... Pretty annoying. There's a checkbox called "Auto-Login User?" which is enabled by default, but I didn't find out what exactly that does...
  11. The network is successfully auto-configured via DHCP. I was not asked for a hostname, but typed hostname after the install and I got PCBSD.localhost.
  12. Reboot. The CD is not ejected automatically, you have to remove it manually before booting up.
  13. I'm asked to insert CD 2 (language packs), which I don't have (or want), as I only burned CD 1. Clicking "abort" does the trick, and I can continue with English as the default language.
  14. Finally, I'm dropped into a KDE session, and that's it.

Security

Continue reading here...

Update 2006-06-02: Added IPv6 netstat/sockstat output.
Update 2006-06-02: Shortened the length of the article on my main webpage as well as the RSS feed. But you can always read the whole article here, of course.

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