The Great Big Rolling Ball of Releases

May 21, 2010

New versions of software and operating systems are a pain.  Sure, they have new features, but each time a new operating system is released, you need to go buy it (for those who haven’t realized they can get better products for free), maybe reinstall your OS, transfer all your data, and at the very least have to wait for a long, long time as your computer upgrades to the new version of your product.  What if there were a way to escape the dreaded release cycle?  What if you didn’t have to subject yourself to this systematic torture but could still have a computer that is as current, if not even more up-to-date, than other computers?  Enter the rolling release cycle.

A rolling release cycle is one in which the operating system is constantly being updated without being separated into different versions.  There is never any need to do a major upgrade.  All that is required is a short periodic update that takes a few moments and can usually be done in the background.  You can run updates as often or as sporadically as you like; you can even write scripts to simplify the process of updating multiple computers (see my previous post).  With a rolling release system, new stuff can be added to your machine as soon as it is ready, instead of waiting for the next scheduled release date.  This means that people working on rolling release operating systems have more time to work on the important stuff that matters rather than troubleshooting compatibility problems with older releases.  More exciting for the user, having cool new stuff as soon as it is ready means having systems that run newer and better technologies.

Before we get too excited, there is one drawback.  Always having the newest version of software means that you are likely to end up with some stuff that is essentially ready, but whose developers are still working out the kinks.  There are occasions where a user can end up having to deal with an annoying bug for a while. Fortunately, there is a massive online community using the new software, so there are almost always workarounds available on the web.  As an example, I’ll talk about Namoroka, the next version of firefox.  I’m running Namoroka right now, and it generally works great.  However, there is a thing where the facebook chat doesn’t work because it doesn’t recognize the browser (after all, it is brand new).  Although I was initially very unhappy about this, I quickly found a fix that had my browser back on facebook chat in under a minute.

Now, are you ready to embark on the rolling advenure?  Excellent!  I have three computers running in this room, and each is running a different rolling release linux distribution.  These are Arch, Gentoo, and Sabayon.  Each has its own features and ups/downs, so you’ll have to pick one that suits your needs (or find another good distro with rolling releases).  I plan to talk more about my favorite linux distributions at a later date, but for now I’ll recommend Sabayon to anyone who wants a working rolling release system and doesn’t have the experience needed for the Arch or Gentoo installation process.

Enjoy your new rolling release distribution!  Maybe you can use the time you’ve saved to go laugh at the peoplewho haven’t learned they can get free operating systems that are better than the ones they pay money for.  Better yet, you could tell your friends to read this and other linux-related posts so that they too can get in on the fun.

A Universal Updater Script for Lazy Linux Users

May 19, 2010

Being who I am, I have multiple computers running different services, and I always want them to be up to date.  However, I’ve got a big problem: I’m Lazy.  Lazy people don’t like routinely running updates on several computers, and we like it even less when the computer takes hours to update (and then breaks) whenever we do get around to it.  Luckily, there is a solution.

The other day, while waiting for my bus home in the rain, I had an idea.  I realized that if I didn’t have to move from computer to computer and do stuff on each, I would be much more willing to do updates.  Thinking in this vein, I decided that I could write a script that would simply go through each computer and run its update commands, keeping everything current and saving me a handful of keystrokes.  Now I’m no master of scripting, but anyone can string a few commands together.  Here’s what I came up with:


#run updates on laptop, desktop, and server
#runs on laptop
#add updates for backup box when that is ready

echo 'note: give root passwords for each machine when prompted'
echo 'laptop: pacman -Syyu'
su -c - root 'pacman -Syyu'
echo 'desktop: equo update && equo upgrade'
ssh root@desktop equo update && ssh root@desktop equo upgrade
echo 'desktop: emerge --sync && layman -S'
ssh root@desktop emerge --sync && ssh root@desktop layman -S
echo 'server: emerge --sync'
ssh root@tux emerge --sync
echo 'server: emerge --update --deep world'
ssh root@tux emerge --update --deep world

Now this may need a bit of explanation.  The commands pacman, equo, and emerge are the different commands used to update each distribution I’m running.  They are Arch, Sabayon, and Gentoo Linux.  I’ve named them based on their function, with the exception of my server, tux.

You’ve probably noticed the reference to a backup box in the comments that start my script; I’ll have more details on that project as soon as I get started with it.  It’s one of the more exciting plans I have lined up to complete before summer.

A bit more information and a link to download this script is available on my website at http://mankindisone.com/my_stuff.html.

The saga begins…

May 18, 2010

Hello,

A couple years ago, I began an experiment in blogging on WordPress under the designation of ‘sabalicious.’  various constraints caused me to abort this effort, but I am finally back to tell everyone about the abstruse technical dilemmas which I so zealously throw myself in to (and whatever else is on my mind).  For starters, I’d like to direct you to my personal website, http://mankindisone.com, (also back after a long hiatus), and invite you to look around despite there being not much to see.  I promise I’ll fix that soon; I have a lot planned.

Well, I look forward to sharing my world with you,

~saba