I had no intention of playing games. I was convinced that CentOS 7 was the right choice and I spent a week working it over. There were imperfections, but none of them were fatal until today. Despite this being a server, I still have to write and publish my books. Some of the critical software I have to have for that doesn’t exist for CentOS and nobody seems interested in making it happen. I can’t even get it work properly in a virtual machine.
Okay, so it’s running Debian now. The plans are the same; I’m still going to run server operations on this thing. However, it will be different.
Debian is a much larger project with a far bigger developer community. CentOS remains tweaked toward corporate use; the design and package support caters to the corporate service world. Debian is run by developers and caters to their independent mindset, most of whom are systems administrators. Debian is used in the corporate world, but it’s quite different from CentOS. For one, everything in Debian is better integrated. In CentOS, you either use the impossible GNOME3 desktop or the poorly integrated KDE Plasma interface for workstation use. Other desktop options can be installed only later, and are even more poorly integrated into the system administration tasks than KDE. There were other considerations, and I’ll still need to know how to admin a CentOS/RHEL box because I’ll run into a lot in the corporate world. Not least is that I’ll likely run into it when I finally get a webhost for our new virtual parish.
But for now I’ll switch the focus of my studies to setting things up on Debian. Some of this is scripted and easier, but the considerations will be different and some of the default packages will be different. I’m not upset about all this, just disappointed that I can’t do everything on CentOS. I’ll likely end up running a VM with CentOS eventually just so I can keep track of it. That’s the way it goes; I honestly tried.
All things for the glory of His name.
Would you believe some of the Win7 drivers on this laptop broke Windows Update? I tried two different ways of installing Win7 on the Studio 1535 and things were just dandy until I finally got around to installing some of the less essential drivers. One of them stopped Update from working at all. I couldn’t even use one of the alternative off-line update methods. The whole thing would hang and no further security updates were possible.
I get the feeling Dell decided this particular line of laptops just didn’t warrant the careful support they normally give other stuff. At any rate, I wasn’t giving up on it.
So I tested OpenSUSE again, just for fun. The current stable version is 42.1 “Leap” and it was really nice on the hardware and gave me a usable XFCE desktop. However, the support for things like the exfat file system you find on most SD cards is dicey at best. Several individuals offer a package for it, but not all of them actually do anything useful. Worse, their whole ecosystem of friendly third-party packages like that is chaotic at best. You end up adding all kinds of extra repos you may not really want, but you have no idea because the system gives you really crappy advice about it.
So somewhere around midnight last night I drug out the CentOS DVD and decided that I had learned enough in my bruising experience to try it again. If all I lose is the wifi, I’ll be okay. So I put that back on and that’s where I’m working right now. I did have to twiddle with the keyboard settings, but it seems to be working fine without the spurious keystroke events.
I’m hoping I’m finished with all this testing and can actually use this machine to write for awhile. Nothing is perfect. God has made it clear I need to understand how to tame CentOS for the desktop. Though it is not my personal preference, it’s not intolerable for me.
Here’s an interesting take-away for you: If you don’t understand computer security, it won’t matter what OS you run; you’ll still have trouble. If you have the time and inclination to tinker with such things and can learn from it, you can probably make anything pretty safe. But however much your computer matters to you, it’s really important that you put forth a matching effort to make it work properly. It most certainly is far more work than it should be. The kind of personality and collection of talents it takes to be good at writing software tend to make folks spiteful toward more ordinary users. There are some folks talented at bridging the gap between developers and users, but there’s no money in it — not in our culture. I should know, because that’s me.
I’ll do what I can to bring the resources together for you, the ordinary user, regardless of what OS you use. That’s part of how I bring Him glory.
Somebody has been praying for me; I can sense it as a storm of pounding love falling from Heaven. I love you all, too.
I gave it an honest shot; I struggled mightily and did not prevail with CentOS on this laptop. It’s a Dell Studio 1535, a cheaper version of their fancy multimedia laptops. CentOS currently has no good way of providing the drivers for Broadcom 4322 chipsets. You can’t even build the drivers from source code; it fouls out and there are no current patches that help.
And I deeply feared it was another Windows brick, but I managed to make Debian 8 work. This thing comes with the Radeon HD 3400 series video chipset. The only thing that did work properly was the ethernet adaptor, and that was marginal. So I got the KDE desktop installed because I need to show folks what that interface looks like. It’s the shortest distance from Windows in terms of making adjustments and the only full-service desktop that tends to work. However, the KDE developers have whined about the Intel video chipsets and haven’t bothered to simply work out the problems, so they act as if Intel is responsible for solving it. Silly developers. So the Radeon was a good thing, but the visuals really sucked until I got the “non-free” Radeon firmware installed. The big inclusive non-free firmware package also included the full-speed ethernet drivers for Tigon gigabit chips.
Once I got the b43 firmware installer and b43-fwcutter packages installed, the scripts downloaded the raw firmware and got it all sliced, diced and put into place. Now wifi works. What’s really cool is backlighting on the keyboard. What isn’t cool is how Debian’s kernels consistently fail to reactivate the networking drivers coming out of suspend and hibernate. But it works if you remember to disconnect all network interfaces before suspending or hibernating.
The only other significant issue is the Alps2 Glidepoint touchpad acts like it’s beat up pretty bad. This is a used machine, not a refurb, so I’m guessing the previous owner(s) were brutal with the touchpad. It works well enough.
The other odd feature is that instead of a sliding tray, the optical media reader/writer is a slot with an automated grab and eject function. There are two different buttons for making it spit the disk out. There are ports galore on this thing for two types of SD cards, and the BIOS tells me there’s a built-in broadband cell modem, but Linux can’t see it. Not that I have any notion of trying to pay the whopping charges for such a service, but it’s an unexpected feature. It also does WAP, but I can’t imagine wanting to use that. Bluetooth is enough weirdness, thank you, but you have to specifically add the KDE support for it (“bluedevil” is the package name).
At any rate, this is my new flagship. I offered the newer Dell Inspiron to my wife and she gladly accepted on the condition that I restore my Win7 experiment on it. So shall it be. Meanwhile, the Kiln of the Soul computer tech support ministry forges ahead into the future.
Come in and have a seat; let me pour you a mug of joe.
WordPress told me that I have just passed the eight year mark here with them. I must be full of it, because most of those days I’ve posted at least once. Lord, how far I’ve traveled in that time. Then again, I’d hate to be the same man I was two weeks ago. Without progress in our moral existence, we are already dead.
I used to study the underground patriots, but lately I’ve spent more time researching their close cousins in the Internet conspiracy circles. Much of it is traded by emails, but some of the stars can get their articles posted on dozens of sites, and linked on dozens more. As I’ve noted often enough, this stuff typically has an element of truth because virtually every government on the planet is the result of a conspiracy to rule, whether to take power or simply to keep it. I’ve also made it clear that not a single government does things according to God’s expectations, nor even according to some literal reading of the Bible, so we shouldn’t trust any of them to be honest. Our world is shaped by various real conspiracies to herd us places we don’t want to go and probably shouldn’t go.
Someone close to me gets a portion of these emails, and it seems their correspondent rather likes Benjamin Fulford. Yes, he was once a real journalist for Forbes Magazine and claims to have renounced his “Illuminati” family background. What? Oh, he’s a Canadian-born Jew whose father was a diplomat. Fulford spent most of his adult life in Asia, particularly Japan. I think it’s because the Japanese tend to allow almost any crackpot air-time, and he’s very much a cracked pot of nonsense. He’s simply a Westerner fluent in Japanese, and that opens lots of doors for him. It’s like some kind of TV suspense series, with his standard list of characters and their typical behavior patterns, always drawing in his audience with amazing secretive machinations and conflicts.
It taps into the vast keyboard commando faux-activist hopes that somehow things will get better when someone delivers us from these awful oppressions. You would think they all still believe in Santa Claus. Somewhere there has to be a magic key that will open our jail cells and set us free to march victorious to our own imaginary Eden.
You’ll notice not a single genuine mystic is involved in this crap. That is, none of conspiracy flakes promotes a genuine otherworldly viewpoint. None of them talks about activating the heart-mind or walking in the divine character of God. They don’t even know what symbolic logic is and can’t be bothered to understand anything that isn’t fully contained within Western traditions.
Anyway, I’ve discovered these folks do run in packs. Each group has their allies and their own groupies. Once you figure out who the stars are, you can determine which site or supporting cast member belongs to which faction by whom they praise or castigate. Each throws rocks at the others, exposing their hidden flaws. “Well So-n-so is actually related to This-n-that, or serves the Other-bigshot bad guys.” When you put it all together in one big picture, you realize all of them are different flavors of the same cheap Kool-aid. Plain water won’t hurt you, but they can’t make a living selling that, so they keep mixing in various kinds of cartoonish nonsense to keep the kids coming back for more.
Of course, our teaching here is that if you get too focused on individuals, you lose sight of the moral gravity of things — “for our striving is not against flesh and blood, but against powerful moral forces shaped by demonic creatures” (Ephesians 6:12f). That’s why I said flatly that The Cult as I identified it was not a specific group of individuals, but a consistent influence behaving in predictable ways. The question is not people, but how the Enemy of our Souls keeps us distracted from getting to know God better. Some tricks work better than others, and The Cult represents a collection of established methods of asserting control over humanity. It’s much more subtle than any simple human political agenda because that never has lasting power to drive anyone. It does include a semi-religious devotion to some dream, which makes it a cult instead of a mere political agenda.
Speaking of weird religious ideas, in this research into conspiracy nuts I keep bumping into the British-Israelite or Christian Identity folk. On the one hand, they have assembled a truly excellent body of research on the bogus nature of Judaism, but it’s driven by some truly wacko premises. They believe Caucasians are the real Israelites, while Jews are the literal bastard race of Satan’s sexual seduction of Eve. In fact, the children of Adam and Eve are the first White humans, while all the other “mud races” were already in existence as part of the animals God created before He made “humans” (AKA Whites). Thus, Anglo-Saxons were simply displaced Israelis, pushed out of their homeland by the evil Devil-people (Jews). The Peter Ruckman KJV-Only folks are part of this. It’s all a very big part of the push to make Jesus into a Germanic figure and their heritage the truth of God. So British-Israelitism is the logical conclusion to the slavish devotion of Western Christianity to Germanic tribal mythology.
Hm? Well, the best defense is to remember what Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 3:9 — When it comes to genuine moral holiness, the value of family lineage and DNA is roughly equal to rocks on the ground. God’s revelation was never a question of bloodlines, but of His moral character expressed and manifested through the various covenants. Anyone born anywhere on the earth could partake of the Covenant of Moses simply by embracing all its requirements. You could gain full Israeli citizenship from any other race of people. So far as we know, only the Amalekites had extra hoops to jump through, and that was only in the context of Moses specifically. You can still claim all the same blessings of shalom without the ceremonial observances so long as you don’t claim the Covenant of Moses itself. The Covenant of the Cross trumps all of it, anyway, since His mission was to bring that covenant to a close.
He warned about wars and rumors of wars following His departure back into Heaven. English translations of His comments (Matthew 24-25) are bad enough, since it is translated from His native Aramaic into Greek in the first place. However, Western evangelicals have really twisted this stuff completely out of shape. He told His disciples not to ignore human events, but not to set their hearts on them, either. Flee Jerusalem when things get rough, but do so because that’s just God’s signal to take the message into the world.
Just so, I’m convinced our modern military conflicts are merely symptoms of other things. Even on a purely human level, the real conflict is in cyberspace. If you want to understand the future, keep your eyes on cyberwarfare and what sort of things make it possible to survive virtual battles. Look at how the sheeple are being herded this way and that. In the same sense Jesus was talking about the Roman siege of Jerusalem, I speak of things like CentOS. If you really have to be involved in the Internet, and you don’t have time to really dig into computer technology, just learn enough to install and use CentOS and you’ll have about as much computer security as anyone really needs. If you have the time and inclination to really learn about it in detail, I recommend Debian. By all means, get away from Windows and Mac if you can. It’s not a question of superiority; nobody can answer that for you. It’s a question of what the crooks and spooks don’t want to mess with, and the threats avoid CentOS as a desktop operating system. People who understand Debian are already a hard nut to crack. It’s just a matter of keeping out of the line of fire so that you can pursue your calling.
But in the final analysis, it’s just like that cup of coffee in front of you there. You are the one drinking it, so you have to take responsibility for flavoring it just right. I can take the blame if I make bad coffee, but you are the one who decides whether to drink it in the first place. You aren’t going to hurt my feelings if you accept a cup and don’t actually drink any. All I have is what God has given me. I’ll gladly share, but it’s between you and Him whether it’s useful in your life.
Addenda: If you would like to read more commentary on the secular scene — war and international political analysis — I recommend The Saker (who also seems to know about Debian), not so much for content as that you could learn a great deal from his approach to the subjects about which he writes. And yes, I suggest you consider a donation to him if it seems right in your heart.
Something is missing.
So we held our first genuine worship this morning in our new home. It went well enough; nobody complained about us singing. We went out later to use a gift card my wife received from her coworkers as a sort of house-warming gift. Before we got home, something strange came over me.
All day today, whenever I’ve sought to enter a time of prayer and seek the Lord for a message, I keep getting this powerful image of computer stuff. With that, of course, is the quiet assurance of His power for the mission hiding behind the computer stuff. I’d prefer to find something else to write about. Frankly, my mind says this isn’t the right stuff for a Sunday blog post, but whenever I pray this is what comes before my consciousness: the CentOS logo.
Even crazier is that I don’t have any hardware suitable for running CentOS myself and don’t especially like it for my personal use. It’s too restrictive, as you might expect for something aimed at government and corporate use, with all the heavy-weight security stuff built into it. It would be my first pick for server use, and I suppose I’d recommend it for client desktops or workstations for people who didn’t do half the crazy stuff I do on a computer.
So why does it keep bouncing around inside my prayers? What kind of message is that for my parishioners? All I can do is give you what I have and let you make of it what you will, folks. God bless you.
Yes, CentOS 7, the current release, is now available in 32-bit. You can go here and find the latest ISO image release, and it’s official.
Keep in mind something: The support from EPEL and the likes of Nux Desktop repositories is not there, and may never be there. That means you would have to prepare yourself to build all that stuff from SRPMs or straight source bundles. However, the basic development packages are all there in the CentOS repositories.
It’s quite an education to learn how to use RPMbuild and how it informs you of various prerequisites. Sometimes it was tedious, but I learned a lot about cascading dependencies, building a couple dozen packages of things I would never imagine were needed just to get something simple. Perhaps some enterprising person or group will decided to share their properly built stuff, but I’ve not heard of any so far.
But if all you need is the basic workstation or server stuff and don’t have 64-bit hardware, CentOS is ready to carry the load for several years before you have to worry about upgrading the OS itself.
Background: I’ve helped a few folks migrate from Windows to Linux. The reasons vary, but most of them were simply tired of having to fight the malware or instability issues. One client was concerned purely with high security and personal privacy. Most of them asked me a lot of questions, but almost none of them were willing to research it that much for themselves. Can’t blame them; there’s way too much out there, particularly when it comes to playing with Linux. Worst of all, virtually everyone you talk to about it has a strong partisan slant to their favorite. They act like it holds all possible solutions. When it doesn’t, the problem is you, not the favored Linux distro.
If someone wants my help, I can offer only what I know. You can learn just so much about it before you lose contact with the practical considerations of real people in the real world. Linux is like that, so there aren’t many folks who keep a foot in both worlds. I’m trying to fill that void. What makes it harder is that computer technology is a moving target. What’s best today may be awful tomorrow. Still, you have to settle on something and get the work done. Computer technology shouldn’t be a religion, something you do for its own sake. It’s worth stands on how well it serves a higher purpose.
For the time being I have come to favor CentOS 7 as the primary target of migration for folks who aren’t much into gaming or entertainment. In other words, it’s one of the best for SOHO clients, or those close to it. Chances are, if you choose this path, you won’t be stuck with something that becomes overly burdensome later. The whole point is that CentOS is an officially accepted clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and RHEL is designed for corporate use. It’s the premier business grade Linux in the US, at least, and generally more adaptable than the other commercial Linux stuff (SUSE, Ubuntu Server, etc.). CentOS is free of charge.
Below is a list of things that I go through when helping someone migrate. It’s just a checklist; if you have questions, you can ask, but this isn’t meant to be a full-blown guide.
1. If the hardware is XP grade, stick with CentOS 6; later machines can generally run 7 just fine.
2. Install with defaults for the most part. Setup networking and lock in at least one option. For Netinstall, use both the OS package repo and the update repo from the same mirror so there’s no updating after installing.
3. Software selection: Prefer KDE with the package groups you intend to use, and perhaps development tools.
4. You need 3 good passwords; root, one user and one for the wallet/GPG key. Two more good passwords for each additional user, because each has their own wallet.
5. Add EPEL and Nux repos; there are simply too many important packages not provided by the standard repos.
6. Install adaptive stuff right away, like ntfs-3g if you use external drives for anything.
7. Run through the desktop configs and make things tolerable. Become acquainted with the interface — somewhat like Windows but far more variable and configurable. Fix Freetype (involves replacing default with altered package; it’s a good way to introduce building packages with the RPM system). Set up GPG early if needed for later.
8. Learn about special packages you might use; get to know what you need against what’s available. You may have to build some, others are provided if you know where to find them. Some of those you can build should be maintained through the RPM system; others can be simply built and installed locally. (I always offer to do this for them, sometimes taking the time to walk them through a build on their own machine. I also supply RPM packages when needed, if I can build them on my own machine.)
9. Add Google Chrome browser; Adobe Flashplayer if not using Chrome (these have their own RPM repos). Chrome uses wallet, so be ready for that the first time you try to save a password.
10. Use Thunderbird/Seamonkey for email. Evolution is only for use with a special collaboration (groupware) service. Hard-core alternative is Alpine/Mutt (commandline email applications).
11. Consider Opera-beta, Pale Moon, Slimboat, and other specialty browsers. Get used to the idea of using different browsers for different kinds of tasks and additional profiles within a browser to avoid tracking and other forms of privacy contamination.
12. If you must run Win-stuff directly, use a VM (VirtualBox), especially if only one machine is available.
13. Consider migrating to cloud services for some things: Google Docs or MS Office Online.
14. Print to PDF when possible; if you really must have a print server for paper output, you’ll have better luck with a separate Windows machine firewalled away from the Net. In general, printer manufacturers make far better drivers for Windows than for Linux. Transfer documents (via Samba client; open CentOS firewall for this) and let the Winbox print them.
15. Other networking services can be set up as needed using RHEL dox (the upstream source for CentOS) or online tutorials. There is an amazing array of industrial grade services possible on CentOS.