Notes From The Bleeding Edge

Yesterday, I decided to upgrade one of my development boxes to the new Fedora Cora 2 test. Fedora is what Red Hat is evolving their personal distribution into, and the new Fedora Core 2 test is the first distribution to include a version of the new 2.6 kernel.
I use two boxes for development. I have one machine, called floorpie, that I basically use as a terminal. I do my development on a second, much more up-to-date dual-processor box. Both machines had been running RedHat 9. The 2.4 kernel has always bugged me, because it never scheduled things well, at least in terms of a desktop OS. I generally run XMMS and listen to music while I type away. But under 2.4 whenever I would move cursors between windows, XMMS would stop for half a second or so, along with the music. Very distracting. And it’s not like the box is underpowered or anything. With 2.6’s vastly improved scheduler, I figured that was my ticket to uninterrupted music.
So, using the most excellent Yum upgrade system, yesterday I upgraded floorpie first to Fedora Cora 1, and then to the test version of Fedora Core 2. Many hours of debugging/fiddling later, I have a mostly working system.
I ran into a couple of big problems. First, yum didn’t pull down a binary version of the new kernel. I didn’t notice this until I rebooted, and found myself still in a 2.4 kernel left over from Fedora Core 1. I also found myself without networking. Yum did install the source RPM for the new kernel, so I went and compiled a 2.6 kernel using it. That went fine, and I was able to reboot into 2.6. Next, I had to tackle the network problem. For some reason, the modprobe.conf file was changed to reference a different network module. I finally found that and changed it back to reference the correct module (the tulip driver in this case), and I was able to get networking working again.
Next up was sound. Floorpie has a SBLive chipset. When I tried to play something, all I’d get was a low level of static. After much fiddling around, I found that the driver was correct, but the mixer levels were all screwed. Somehow, my copy of Gnome currently doesn’t include a graphical mixer program, so after some fiddling, I found alsamixer, which is a curses-based mixer. After much fiddling, I again have sound.
There are still a couple of problems for which I have not found solutions. The new Gnome has focus problems. Previously, to pop a window to the front, I could just click anywhere on the window. Now, I need to hold down the Alt key while doing that. Best I can tell, this is a bug in Gnome. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.
The other problem is with X resources. I run emacs from my main development box and view it on floorpie. I have a resources file to change the colors. For some reason, when running emacs remotely, those resources are no longer being used. I can’t figure out why. They still work if I run emacs locally.
So those are the problems, but did the new kernel fix the skipping music problem? Yes, absolutely. The new scheduler appears to work very well. The desktop is snappy in all regards. Based on some benchmarks I’ve seen, I can’t wait until we can start using the new kernel in production for Bloglines. My guess is that that’ll be in about 6 months. For now, I just need to find solutions to the remaining problems with Fedora Core 2 test.

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