I am a freelance Linux consultant by trade, a sysadmin by vocation and an Open Source developer by conviction. Welcome to my soapbox !

CentOS 5.6 release imminent

Yes, we have heard it a few times before, but this time it is true. CentOS 5.6 is being seeded to mirrors and work has started to bring the Release Notes up to speed. Already 82 days after RHEL 5.6.

Next up is CentOS 6.0, hopefully this one is released before RHEL 6.1, since the RHEL 6.1 Beta is already two weeks out. The fact that CentOS 6.0 is already 145 days behind RHEL 6.0 is something the team will have to think about. Leveraging the community by opening up the QA process is a no-brainer to me.

Bash: Test if argument is an integer

I haven't blogged as much as I used to, here's hoping I find some time to keep this up :-)

Something I always have to look up in older code is how to test if an argument is numerical. This can be useful for a function that optionally accepts something like a return-code, but also accepts a long string (eg. an error message). Putting the return-code at the end of a long string is far from developer-friendly and the error-message doesn't have to be single string.

RHEL 6 released

And 24 hours after RHEL 5.6 Beta, Red Hat announced the official RHEL 6 release ! This release comes with a bold statement on their website: More reliable than Microsoft, more open than Oracle, More comprehensive than VMware. Based on the statement Red Hat must be confident about what took so long to devise.

For about a week the comprehensive Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 documentation was available, including the RHEL6 Release Notes.

RHEL6's Beta and Beta 2 have been covered in depth so no need to give an overview of its many features on this blog.

RHEL 5.6 beta released

While everyone is waiting for RHEL6's general availability, the normal minor update releases for the aging RHEL5 product are still being churned out with today's release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.6 Beta as a prelude.

Compared to earlier Beta announcements, this one is quite meager with a small list of updates:

  • bind 9.7 - improved DNSsec support
  • PHP 5.3 - support for namespaces
  • ebtables - Ethernet layer firewall
  • dropwatch - network stack packet analysis
  • IPA fonts - Japan JIS X 0213:2004 support
  • sssd - offline credential caching

But we dug up the RHEL 5.6 Beta Release Notes, looked under the hood and compiled our own complementary list of notable changes:

Is 10 years of RHEL support still sufficient ?

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted a blog article titled Is 7 years of RHEL support still sufficient ?. In that article I make the case that with RHEL major releases moving from 1.5 years to 3 years and virtualization reducing the importance of hardware life cycles, RHEL support should be extended beyond 7 years.

Yesterday Red Hat announced that it did just that. From today Red Hat offers RHEL Extended Life Cycle Support (ELS) on top of normal subscriptions for specific versions and variants. Meaning that for RHEL3 only i686 AS/ES and for RHEL4 i686 and x86_64 AS/ES and ia64 AS are taken into consideration and are thus more expensive than regular support. No pricing information is available yet.

As a result of this the timeline of RHEL releases looks like this:

Click the picture to see it in all its glory

Qualcomm Gobi 2000 WWAN on RHEL5/CentOS-5

The backlight of my Thinkpad X200s stopped working reliably a few weeks ago and before using the warranty and shipping it back, I bought a Thinkpad X201 as a replacement. This system comes with a Qualcomm Gobi 2000 WWAN module (despite the box mentioning Ericsson F3507g) and while a driver exists, the device is something weird.

Making midnight commander understand old and new RPM formats

If you are an avid fan of midnight commander (like me) and you happen to inspect RPM files from time to time (like me too), you may have been irritated by a change in the RPM format.

In the past the payload of the RPM package was a simple cpio file. You could use the rpm2cpio tool to extract the cpio payload from the RPM or simply open it using midnight commander.

The nicest summer picture from Brenda

So a local newspaper is having a contest where people can send in their nicest summer picture. At the same time my girlfriend made a very nice picture of her godchild chasing soap bubbles. Bring those two together, and I end up asking the Internet (*you*) to kindly vote for her photo :-)

You can find the picture at:


and to vote for her, you have to click STEM OP DEZE FOTO (vote for this picture). You will gain some non-refundable karma points in the process... ;-)

(And summer only just began, promising...)

Dstat 0.7.2 released

After a fair share of improvements and plugins, including plugins to monitor Dstat's own performance, it was time to get another release out of the door. Last week I updated the documentation and manpage, and this week Dstat 0.7.2 saw the light.

First Linux to appear in Flemish comic series ?

Last weekend when reading the latest publication of the most popular (children) comic series in Flanders, De Kiekeboes, I was surprised to see Linux mentioned. And not just any Linux, the most important Linux ;-)

As many others, they spelled Red Hat incorrectly.

Still one wonders, why Windows XP ?!?

CentOS 5.5 has been released

Your systems may already have picked it up, but if you haven't noticed, CentOS 5.5 has been released. You can find more information in the RHEL 5.5 release announcement.

Additionally, the CentOS community compiles its own list of interesting tidbits in the CentOS 5.5 release notes, which is an interesting read as well. The CentOS 5.5 LiveCD is released at the same time and has a its own release notes in the wiki.

RHEL 6 beta released

Earlier than I had expected Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 beta. This release is available to everyone through the Red Hat public FTP server.

The release announcement briefly summarizes important changes, but I will blog later about the details of this release.

Exciting times ahead...

Linux wireless troubles

Yesterday arrived at another hotel and the wireless internet caused problems, not on Windows XP, only on my Linux system (CentOS 5.4, kernel 2.6.18-194.el5, iwlagn v1.3.27k). The behavior was that it infrequently would associate, but when it did DHCP failed. The moment it associated I could sniff other network traffic though. Being downtown San Francisco doesn't help either, I had more than 60 access points broadcasting their services...

No LOADays for me, unfortunately

A few people have asked me the past couple of months whether I would be going to Linux Open Administration Days in Antwerp and whether I was interested to give a presentation.

I would have loved to give a presentation on LOADays, but unfortunately I will be in San Francisco this weekend and thus enable to make it. I hope for the second edition there is room in my schedule and I wish everyone an interesting conference this weekend !

It definitely promises to be one :-)

A system engineer has to do what a system engineer has to do...

After reading You may want to avoid hacking your open-source CMS today I was saddened, not because Drupal fell short (it didn't), not because Open Source usage is flawed (it isn't), but because it reminds me of situations I have endured in the past from the receiving end unfortunately.

Summarizing the story, The Onion forked (as in adapted to their own wishes) Drupal 4.7 apparently not realizing the costs of maintaining/syncing their own product. Wrong expectations make up a big part of a disappointment. Good expectations are part of doing your homework.