Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fedora 12 Upgrade Experience

A few weeks ago, I upgraded the GNU/Linux computers I am personally responsible for from Fedora 10. This includes a work computer (Dell Latitude D830), a home computer (Dell Inspiron 2400), and the home server (upgraded Dell Dimension 2100). The home server is the host of an Elvis Costello Fan Forum phpBB site as well as the Elvis Costello Wiki so it is not just my family that is impacted by down time. I upgraded from Fedora 10 to 11, ran for about a week to make sure things were OK, and then upgraded to Fedora 12. In the end, all of the computers are up and stable performing their assigned tasks but there were issues along the way which I will describe here.

I upgraded via DVD and all of the computers handled that OK once I remembered the magic required to boot from DVD. But afterward the upgrade was complete, two of the computers did not boot. As not so infrequently during GNU/Linux upgrades, GRUB was not updated correctly on two of them and I had to go into rescue mode to address that. This just required mounting the root partition, changing root and running grub-install. Scary the first time it is required, but not after a few times.

One of the laptops booted nicely to the GUI login prompt but was clearly at the wrong resolution. I did a little net research and learned that deleting the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and restarting X11 would result in a probe and very likely the correct video settings. This worked.

The only issue shared by all of the machines was an issue with yum getting upgraded between Fedora 10 and 11. yum was broken after the upgrade. Before I could load further updates from then using yum upgrade, I had to manually fetch a current yum rpm file and install it manually using rpm.

The server had three very strange issues during the upgrade.

First, I couldn't log in. The GUI login screen was flashing. I remembered the magic key sequence to switch to a console display, logged in, and checked out the logs. I couldn't tell exactly what was wrong but I had a guess and tried it. Apparently the graphical login program GDM had trouble parsing my email address in the name field of /etc/passwd. I think something was trying to use the user name field in an XML file because my entry was something like "Joel Sherrill ". I suspect that the presence of my email address looking like an XML tag confused it. I deleted that and moved along. GDM was happy.

Next on the list was that something changed in MySQL and the user name table was reported as being corrupt. I found reports on the web where others had suffered this and decided the easiest solution was to stop MySQL, delete the old table, and restart MySQL. When restarted, MySQL would create the table with default contents. From there, I could easily add back in the handful of accounts that were needed. The actual database tables were not impacted. So I felt lucky and moved on to the next problem.

At this point, I started looking at the actual web content served from the server. I first looked at the pbpbb-based Elvis Costello Fan Forum, A bit of the page header was displayed along with an error message. I don't remember why but somehow, I couldn't see the error completely on my side. I enlisted some help on the #rtems IRC channel to see if others could see what the message said. Someone cut and pasted me the error message. I Google'd the message and learned that the new php 5.3 now requires the /etc/php.ini file to explicitly set the timezone. It does not trust the operating system's setting. Without the timezone being set for php, php programs reported nasty error messages. This meant that phpbb3 would not run correctly and the Fan Forum was not available. Adding the following to /etc/php.ini resolved this.

date.timezone = America/Chicago

I inspected the pages served from the Elvis Costello Wiki and there were some minor error messages in the logs. Apparently, Mediawiki had some minor mistakes in its coding which php 5.3 detected. These resulted in a plethora of errors in the web logs.

I am a daily GNU/Linux user who rarely works in MS-Windows. As a long time user of various UNIX desktop environments, I prefer mousing over a window to move focus. I do not like to click on a window to move the focus. In previous Fedora distributions, GNOME included an applet to switch the preference under "System > Preferences > Windows". This applet is no longer included by default. I don't know why it isn't part of the default install anymore. Is 59K really that critical? Anyway, the following installed it.

yum install control-center-extra

At this point, I have been using Fedora 12 daily on two desktops and a server. I use the two desktops for development, email, and word processing using Open Office. I have encountered a few issues which I will share in a future post.


  1. I used Fedora 12 VMs with complete RTEMS toochains installed. No glitches for the past 2 weeks. So I guess it is indeed stable :)

  2. It is stable but there are two bugs I have encountered where things are worse than Fedora 10. One impacts me daily. I was going to save these for another post but they are probably not worth it.

    1. Thunderbird CPU Usage - Right now, it is minimized using 60% of my CPU. And is now up to 68 minutes of CPU time in not much more real time than that. It goes to 100% usage for extended periods of time and I have to kill it.

    2. Volume control - I can't make it work at all. Either too loud, too soft or no sound at all.

    The thunderbird issue is fairly well know. I hope it gets fixed soon. But it first showed up in Fedora 11. So it has been known a while. :(

  3. Thunderbird CPU usage is due to the indexing of the emails. Known fscked up bug.