Fedora Core 5: Driver and installation dos and don'ts

In this tip, discover how to avoid hardware drivers that could upset your Fedora Core 5 installation and how to maximize your use of Yum.

Avoid using Invidia/ATI drivers in your Fedora Core 5 installation, says Paul Hudson, one of the co-authors of Red Hat Fedora 5 Unleashed. In this interview with SearchOpenSource.com, Paul Hudson and Andrew Hudson, another co-author of Red Hat Fedora 5 Unleashed, discuss the common hardware problems encountered in Fedora Core 5 installations and how to get the most out of Yum.

What are some common problems that users run into with Fedora Core 5?

More on Fedora Core 5:

Kickstart Fedora workstations and servers

Chapter 28, LDAP of 'Red Hat Fedora 5 Unleashed'

Paul Hudson: Hardware, hardware and yet more hardware. It's only once users get past the initial 'why doesn't my graphics card/all-in-one scanner-printer/USB ADSL modem work' that they get into the usual 'where have my files gone?' migration niggles.

Andrew Hudson: I'd have to agree with Paul on this, as Linux, although having great hardware compatibility, still suffers a little in this respect. Make sure to comprehensively list all the hardware for your computer before installing to makes sure that you can easily troubleshoot and issues that come up.

What are the advantages of using the command line over the shell in Fedora?

Paul Hudson: There are lots of things you can do on the command line that are impossible in a GUI. If you're trying to fix a broken X configuration, use the command line. If a runaway process has caused X to go unbearably slow, SSH in from the command line on another machine and kill the naughty app that's chewing up CPU time. If you want to run interactive scripts, then really the command line is the only way.

Andrew Hudson: Knowing how to get yourself out of a fix is something you need to learn very quickly when working with Linux. Many times I've had to help friends and colleagues out who have locked themselves out of their system or have changed some configuration file that has resulted in X not starting. Getting used to the command line tools such as emacs or vi, as well as some of the more helpful command line utilities, can really help you along.

Can you offer users some tips getting the most out of Yum?

Andrew Hudson: You should keep an eye on the amount of hard drive space that yum takes up, especially when you are downloading a lot of applications. From the command line, use the command yum clean headers to flush out any unused RPM headers or yum clean all to remove all the headers and RPMs for installed software. Sometimes, these files can take up between 512 and 1024 MB of space.

The other tip for users is to give one of the GUI tools a go. The standard tool supplied with Fedora is pirut, but I'd recommend installing yumex, which is available through the Extras repository and which has already built up quite a following.

Finally if you have to include any more repo files under /etc/yum.repos.d/, then make sure that you don't enable them by default within the repo file.

You do this by entering the line enable=0 into each repo file. If you need to use a file from that repo, enable it when you run the command:

yum --enablerepo=reponame install xyz
. This way you only use that repo when you specifically want to, which is useful if you intend to mix and match software from several repositories, but you don't want to apply updates from a specific repository to your entire system.

How can users handle complex error messages that result from compiling the kernel?

Paul Hudson: Well, the simple answer is "don't recompile the kernel!" Flippant, perhaps, but quite practicable -- I run a number of FC5 boxes, and only one has a custom kernel (and only then because I was applying some patches by hand). If the errors come during compilation, and you're using a vanilla kernel from kernel.org, then you have a legitimate problem and you should report a bug to the development team. If you applied a patch before compiling, then it's possible you applied it incorrectly, that your patch was for a different version of the kernel or that simply the patch itself was broken, in which case you need to email the developer.

If the errors come at boot time, that's a more serious problem. This is sometimes an elementary problem such as forgetting to add the necessary driver support for your motherboard or RAID controller, but if you get a fatal error then the only way out is to select the previous kernel from the GRUB menu. You did keep the previous kernel, didn't you?

What are some hardware and platform compatibility issues that users may encounter with Fedora? What about driver support?

Paul Hudson: IT managers should try to avoid using the proprietary Nvidia/ATI drivers in their installations. Yes, I know it boosts graphical performance and enables some neat 3D effects, but installing binary kernel modules is a sure-fire way to disqualify yourself from any support from the kernel engineers should you encounter a problem.

Andrew Hudson: A lot of the larger PC manufacturers boast excellent compatibility with Fedora, but be on the lookout for any laptops that carry the Broadcom wireless chipset. Although this is now being supported by the kernel, the Intel Centrino platform is the most painless way to work wirelessly.

This was first published in July 2006

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