Common adjustments for Linux Mandrake

Here are just adjustments, I have usually to do after doing a Linux Mandrake installations. Most are hardware independent. Mandrake rsp Mandriva is the Linux distribution which has allowed me to minimize time with sysadmin work.


  • Partitions. I always use a single large partition mounted at /, even with 200G+ drives. While using several partitions has its advantage, the disadvantages prevail for me: you sometimes need this extra 20 gig for a backup and the space on each of the partition is not large enough. I had major frustrations (especially on Sun Sparc stations where / or /opt would be too tiny) with too small partitions. When using hard drives as backup devices (or keeping DVDs stored on the hard drive) you can quickly fill a large partition. Since I backup with tar or rsync, large partitions are no problem for backup purposes. The issue of minimizing risks: in my experience, if a hard drive fails, then usually the entire drive is toast. Having seen hard drives fail, I backup nightly on a second drive and replace the drives regularly at least once a year on my main machines at home as well as in the office.
  • Window manager dependencies. There are some applications which assume a certain windows manager. This usually is no problem, except that some processes are started, which I do not want to have. Recently, under Mandriva 10.1, switching back from a KDE test, gimp would no more start
    gimp: symbol lookup error: gimp: undefined symbol: gimp_enum_set_value_descriptions
    
    A removal and reinstallation of gimp via RPM would not solve the problem and gimp 2.2 had to be recompiled from the source.
  • Install everything. Harddrive space is cheap and choosing from a few thousand programs to install is a mess. I wished for long that Mandrake would include a "install all" feature during installation. I usually copied all RPMS to the harddrive and install additional things by hand The Mandriva 2005 limited edition finally has the possibility to copy all media to the harddrive first. Installation time got cut by half, upgrades are much easier. You don't need to find those freeking CD's anymore. In general, I avoid upgrades over the web. Too many things got broken like this for me.
  • mozilla. I still love the mozilla browser evenso also Firefox becomes better in Linux. (Sideremark: I prefer Firefox in OS X over Mozilla). But even the newest Mozilla browsers, you can not look at local html files on the command-line like for example
    mozilla help.html
    
    This can be remedied with a little " wrapper. On linux installations of Mozilla in /usr/local/mozilla, I always have to run a
    chmod -R 755 /usr/local/mozilla
    
    first. Otherwise there is a segmentation fault:
    /usr/local/mozilla/run-mozilla.sh: line 451: 29557 Segmentation fault
    
    An other issue with upgrading mozilla is that the plug-ins (like Flash, Java) have to be saved first (they are deleted during the upgrade). I still hope the time will come, when Flash and Java are both open-source and available by default.
  • image viewer. I still love the dinosaur "xv" There is nothing as fast and convenient in the open-source world. (xv releases the source, but is not GPLed nor free software). I often had to do something like
    ln -s libpng.so.3.1.2.1 libpng.so.2  in /usr/lib
    
    to make the old binary work which I carry over since many years. Its better to recompile. One of the advantages of "xv" is that you can open 1000 files at once (try that in OSX with "preview") and quickly flip through them (in "ee" you have to find the menu each time). An other goody is the way to change colors in indexed color plates or to adjust the size for printing the file. The program would definitely need an overhaul. Fortunately, there is a "super patch" to XV 3.10a by Dave Coffin which works well and takes care of PNG problems. With Coffins patch, the libpng problem is also avoided and deleted files are placed into a folder "rejected".
  • xterm I prefer the good old "xterm". Why? Terminals which origin from Gnome or Kde start up other processes. This is unacceptable for me. "rxvt" or similar terminals are too primitive, for example with the handling of European fonts. "xterm" is not installed by default in Mandriva. Mandrake had for a long time a wrapper to the binary xterm.real. This broke settings like
    xterm*background: Black
    xterm*foreground: White
    xterm*cursorColor: Red
    xterm*reverseVideo: false
    xterm*scrollBar: true
    xterm*reverseWrap: true
    xterm*font: fixed
    xterm*fullCursor: true
    xterm*scrollTtyOutput: off
    xterm*scrollKey: on
    xterm*titleBar: false
    
    in the .Xdefaults file and the wrapper needed to be removed.
    mv /usr/X11/bin/xterm.real /usr/X11/bin/xterm
    
    The Mandriva 2005 limited edition finally got rid of the wrapper. However, a strange problem surfaced: when cutting and pasting large text areas, only part of it would be pasted. The problem does not occur, when ssh into the same machine. It is an xterm problem. It was not present in previous Mandrake editions. After downloading the source of xterm-204 and recompiling it, the problems disappeared.
  • fileutils After a fresh install of Mandrake, "ls" would not list files with capital letters at the beginning. A few years ago, I even embarrassed myself by posting it as a bug in fileutils. It is a Mandrake issue, still present now. Still present in the Mandriva 2005 edition. To change it, put
    export LC_ALL=POSIX
    
    into the file
    /etc/bash.bashrc
    
  • vim I like to keep things simple and prefer the editor not to tell me how to format or indent things. This is especially annoying after a
    	cut 
    		 and 
    	 		paste. 
    
    or
    # 
    # editing after a 
    # comment
    
    This might be a personal issue but I also can not stand it if cars are so smart that they turn the light on and off automatically, so that if you turn on the light, light is actually turned off ...
    The "vi-minimal" is too minimal and good features of vim are missing. Changing the behavior in .vimrc does not work reliably or is difficult to figure out, so that I just turn off "vim smart stuff" in /usr/share/vim". For example,
    chmod 000 /var/share/vim/indent.vim 
    
    disables indentations which do not disappear with
    set nosmartindent
    set noexpandtab
    set nosmarttab
    
    in .vimrc. On older machines, I even turn off everything:
    chmod -R 000 /var/share/vim 
    
    to speed up the startup of vim below one milli second ...
  • sound cards. In many fresh installations of Mandrake, I experienced that the sound does not work after the first reboot. This happens especially on older hardware. It is not that things are misconfigured, but it is an issue with which I had spent hours debugging the soundcard configurations. There is a simple solution: just install and fire up "kmix" and adjust the "volume". Its a silly issue, but knowing this can save hours of fiddling with /etc/modules.conf, or have a joyful time with the "drakesound" spy game, guessing parameters of your soundcard. Again, the latest Mandrake rsp Mandriva distributions take care of this. It still can happen that sound does not work: on a Dell Dimension XPS Gen5 at home, which came with a "Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS" I was unable to get sound to work and had to replace the card with an older card. (Other people have similar problems with this card). An other sound issue, I once encountered, were wrong permissions of /dev/dsp, which some application would screw up. A "chmod 777 /dev/dsp" would solve the problem.
  • graphics cards. Fortunately, monitor and graphics card settings are recognized quite well in Mandriva now. Many years ago (with mandrake 3.*, 4.* or early Red hat distributions), one had to fiddle by hand with the ModeLines in /etc/X11/XF86Config and after each lockup of the X server, reboot the machine. I could spend a Saturday afternoon having "fun" with that game. The challenges are not over if you need the linux box for gaming and graphics acceleration needs to work. Since I go with "Nvidia cards" and their drivers, I'm happy. With old hardware, setting up X can still be challenging and I had once gone so far to buy the accerated MetroX server. It was great. Unfortunately MetroX is discontinued. But graphic configurations are no issue any more since years.
  • bash. While I prefer to keep a few files only in each directory, occasionally there are directories with thousands of files which I want to address using file completion. To change the default of maximal 100 files, add a line
    set completion-query-items 10000
    
    in /etc/inputrc
  • terminals. To reduce the number of processes, comment out unneeded virtual termails in /etc/inittab lke
    #6:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty6
    
  • Sound. Also on some Ubuntum machines /dev/dsp can change permission after a reboot. Run "chmod 666 /dev/dsp" to enable sound.
  • Mathematica. The mathematica front-end under linux is very buggy. Fonts usually don't work. Because Mathematica is much more comfortable from the command line anyway (edit a seperate text file and run that), this was never an issue for me. Since I installed Mathematica 5.1 under Mandriva 10.1, also Graphics does not work any more. This happend on different machines. I therefore modify the graphics output. Having installed Mathematica in /usr/local/Mathematica, I replace the file /usr/local/Mathematica/Configuration/Kernel/init.m with
    Begin["System`Private`"]
    << "Terminal.m"
    End[]
    
    and the file /usr/local/Mathematica/SystemFiles/Graphics/Packages with
    Begin["System`Private`"]
    ImageNumber = 0;
    Unprotect[ $DisplayFunction]; Clear[ $DisplayFunction]; $Display = {};
    $DisplayFunction := Block[{fid,str},
    fid="/tmp/test."<>ToString[ImageNumber]<>".tiff";
    str=Display[fid, #, "TIFF",ImageSize->800];
    Run["xv "<>fid<>" &"];
    ImageNumber = Mod[ImageNumber+1,10];
    If[ StringQ[ str], WriteString[ $Output,str]]; #]&;
    End[]
    Like this, the output is seen in the imageview "xv" with
    a size of 800 pixels. When replacing the word "xv" with "open", the same 
    file works in OSX, where I of course also prefer to use Mathematica from 
    the CLI.