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This month, there were a good set of new Linux distribution releases.  The ones I was most excited about was Fedora 9 and OpenSuse 11.  This excitement was driven by a few things:

  1. Improved hardware support with the 2.6.26 kernel
  2. Package manager improvements (especially with OpenSuse)
  3. The new Gnome desktop (2.22) runs snappier than previous versions
  4. KDE 4

My initial project was to install Fedora Core 9 on the arcade system.  The installation was unique in that I decided to install to a flash drive instead of a hard drive.  This was inspired by the Fedora Live USB tools http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FedoraLiveCD/USBHowTo.

Fedora is in a very interesting point in its life.  It is getting over being trounced in popularity by Ubuntu and learning to implement some of the features that make Ubuntu so appealing to so many.

I used the Windows version of the Live/USB creater tool first and it seemd to complete successfully.  However, the system would not boot fully to the device.  It seemed that the USB stick was assigned /dev/sdb which caused some errors.  I did get it to boot after typing some commands to mount the stick properly.

It was near sighted on my part, but I didn’t reallize that the Live USB stick would want to do hardware configuration on every bootup.  Perhaps a save hardware profile option would be a nice addition.  After realizing this, I decided that a full install to a the the USB Flash drive would be the best route.

The installer that is included with Fedora 9 is lacking when it comes to installing to flash.  There is no option to use jff2 as the file system.  This would’ve helped increase the life of the flash disk.  It took about 10 tries to get the installation going.  There were various problems with the disk partition tool that kept cropping up.  It, of course, didn’t like that I didn’t want to use swap space.  Also, any attempt to use the fat filesystem for the drive resaulted in a failure.

I ended up buying a 4GB drive to be the primary drive.  The Fedora installer fails if the drive does not have enough space (I think it was around 2.3GB) to copy the initial image.  The failure for this happens after the disk partitioning is done, so you have to go all the way back through the installer to correct this.

The Fedora desktop is really good looking and has been for most of there recent releases.  The hardware detection worked well and detected the atheros wireless card and loaded the driver correctly.  It surprised me since that was only recently committed to the Linux kernel.

Fedora package management has been its Achilles heel, in my opinion.  This release is, unfortunately, no exception.  Pup and Pruit have been ditched (yea!!).  The have been replaced with an installer that can only install one package at a time (boo!!).  This is a flaw that may just turn people against the distribution as a whole.  Installing yumex is a good interim solution for this issue.

There are a few ways that Linux distributions separate themselves from other distributions.  Here’s where comparisons should be made.

Type:  Desktop

Release Cycle: 6 months, supported for 1 1/2 years

Package Management:  Still slower than most, the default graphical fronend is missing the feature to install multiple packages.  This is the area where the distribution does the worst.

Feel: Good overall feel.  Theme is pretty and desktop is snappy.

Security:  SELinux is great.  It stayed out of the way while still prividing security.

License: It’s harder to find a “freeer” distribution than Fedora.  They and Red Hat are members in good standing with the open source community

Virualization: I didn’t test this on the arcade, but Fedora 9 does include the new paravirt_ops.

I will still use Fedora and check out the releases as they occur.  They are simply great at moving Linux forward with projects like PackageKit, AIGLX, pulseaudio, and paravirt_opts.  It’s hard not to want to support them.  Just please fix the installer and the package manager.

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As you probably do not know, I am the proud owner of a Tech Romancer cabinet.  The cabinet’s life as a one trick pony ended shortly after the purchase, and it is now a very capable mame box.

There is one large issue with having a computer inside of a large, wooden box.  Where’s the power button supposed to go?  The easy solution is to run cables off of the current power switch to some other button that is placed in a more convenient location.  This approach was considered, but I didn’t like it.  I thought that remote control was the way to go with this.

Looking back, this may have been a just for fun decision.  Although, running wires and modding the computer would have been more work.  The main driver was that the computer could not easily be removed once the button was in place.  Also, the location to put button wasn’t obvious.

It is a little known fact that there are some always on power coming from the computer’s power supply.  IMon takes advantage of this and created products such as the Imon Inside.  This gives the ability to receive remote signals even when the computer is in a powered down state.  Once the motherboard’s power button is rerouted to the Imon Inside, the computer can power itself on remotely.  How cool is that?

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story.  The Imon device operates via infra red signals.  These don’t travel through 1/2″ of wood well.  My initial tests worked great when the computer was out in the open, but not when placed inside of the cabinet.

There is a solution to this problem too.  I honestly didn’t think I’d find a cooler product than the Imon, but I was happily mistaken thanks to the Next Generation Remote Control Extender. It turns out that they make an RF transmitter that poses as a AAA battery.  By replacing one of the batteries with an RF transmitter and putting the RF receiver in the cabinet by the infrared receiver, the signal was remote was now able to push commands through the cabinet.

Success was finally mine.

Materials

Imon Inside ~ $60  Purchased at Newegg
Next Generation Remote Control Extender ~ $33 Purchased at Amazon

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