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Best of Technical Support

Our experts answer your technical questions.

Peace from Mail Worms?

My question is: why would I want to use Linux? Right now, I'm using Microsoft Windows XP. Basically, I surf the Internet, send a little e-mail, download some music and occasionally work with Microsoft Word. I'm not a computer genius. Is Linux for me? Or, should I stick with what I'm doing and not worry about it? I recently became interested in learning about something different because of all the viruses, worms and spyware. Thanks for the help.

Henry Stone


You can deal with many of your immediate security problems by visiting mozilla.org for a free Web browser, Firefox, and e-mail program, Thunderbird, that can run on your existing OS. It's best to switch to Linux when you are working on a project that motivates you to learn Linux, and it sounds like you're not there yet.

If you are considering moving to Linux in the future, be careful about downloading music on-line. Avoid copy-restricted formats. The two top vendors of copy-restriction systems for music also are in the OS business and don't support Linux. Stick with formats such as MP3, Ogg Vorbis and FLAC, which are not copy restricted, and you will be able to move your music to your new computer when you upgrade.

Don Marti


This is an excellent question, and one that should be considered by anybody before installing any operating system. An operating system is only as good as the software you run on it. If your current platform serves you well, there's no reason to switch. Consider the following issues:

  • Do you need portability? Linux can run on a number of different architectures, so you theoretically could buy an Apple laptop and run the same environment.

  • How secure do you need to be? Linux has a low patch release rate, and most patches do not require a reboot. Linux systems also rarely are the targets of automated attacks. This does not mean they are secure, but it does mean they can be cheaper and less time consuming to keep secure.

  • What are your skill sets? If you aren't comfortable with Linux, do you care enough to get comfortable? Polished distributions and functional desktop interfaces have made Linux much easier to learn, but if you have neither the time nor the interest, it's not worth the effort.

  • Do you require licensing flexibility? Linux can be purchased from a commercial vendor or downloaded for free. If you decide you don't like your current vendor, you can choose another source and be assured of being able to run the same applications you did before.

Almost any operating system can meet the basic task requirements you listed. If your current environment meets those needs, and you don't have security or flexibility concerns, there's no reason to switch. But, if you would like to explore a more secure or flexible operating system, Linux is an excellent option to explore.

I advise all new Linux users to take a look at the Knoppix distribution (available at www.knoppix.net). This option does not require installation; it simply runs off the CD. Because of this, it does not run as fast as a distribution installed on your hard drive, but it makes no changes to your system. You thus can test Linux, OpenOffice.org, Mozilla and other applications and decide whether you like them before making the switch.

Chad Robinson


Standard for Blade Servers?

Is there a standard format for blade server hardware? Right now, I have a variety of tower and rackmount servers using primarily the ATX format. I'd like to consider a blade server to save space, but I am concerned about being locked in to one vendor, especially with the rapid turnover of hardware vendors these days. Do blades from one vendor fit in another vendor's blade server frame? I don't seem to receive good responses from vendors on this question.

Michael Barnes


Your question highlights the state of the industry with respect to blade servers and one of the chief customer complaints. Blade servers are relatively new, and as of yet, no standards exist for backplanes or blade formats. Every vendor has its own proprietary format. This may change over the next few years, but don't hold your breath. Blade server vendors typically consider the backplane/chassis a nominal cost component in a blade server infrastructure. That means little incentive exists for them to band together to produce a common format. Each backplane is typically from 3U to 8U tall and can fit anywhere from 8 to 20 blades.

Multiple backplane chassis from different vendors can coexist in a single rack, so if you wanted to change vendors, typically you can start installing new chassis. In fact, blade server vendors may not support specific backplanes for a long time, so even if you select a single vendor, you may have multiple chassis types in a single rack.

Chad Robinson


Fedora Install Chokes

I'm writing because I'm having a problem installing Fedora 2. I don't get very far before the system reboots. On May 28, 2004, I downloaded and burned four CD-ROM ISO images from one of Red Hat's mirror servers, download.fedora.redhat.com/pub/fedora/linux/core/2/i386/iso. The ISOs are timestamped May 13th, as I recall.

The disks seem fine. When I boot from CD1, I see the standard welcome screen with the Fedora 2 Core logo, <F1> through <F5> options and directions to press enter to begin a graphical installation, or type linux text to begin a text installation. It's at this point that I encounter problems. I've tried the following, all without any success:

  • No options; simply press Enter for graphical install

  • linux text

  • linux noprobe

  • linux askmethod

  • linux skipddc

  • linux nofb

  • linux resolution 1024x768

  • linux mediacheck

All of these options fail and result in a system reset when the following occurs:

loading vmlinuz.

loading initrd.img.

The only success I've had is when I use the memtest86 option. It kicks in with a memory test program that has run for hours without incident.

I also have VMware, so I thought I'd give Fedora 2 a try as a VMware virtual machine. It works fine, but it doesn't suit my purposes. I'd like to install Fedora 2 on a dedicated hard disk. The noticeable differences between my system and a VMware virtual machine are the following: the VMware BIOS sees only one IDE disk, a virtual disk that I believe Linux refers to as /dev/sda. My actual hardware is as follows:

  • BIOS: American Megatrends v2.51

  • Motherboard: Asus P4P800 Deluxe motherboard, Intel P865PE chipset, Socket 478

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz

  • Memory: 256MB PC3200 DDR RAM (only one module, so it runs at 400MHz)

  • Hard Disk: Primary Master—EIDE 20GB hard disk, Secondary Master—Samsung DVD/CDRW combo drive and Third Master—SATA 80GB hard disk

  • CD-ROM drive: Samsung DVD/CD-RW combo drive

  • Graphics Card: ATI RADEON 9200se 128MB AGP 8x

Despite my BIOS supporting over-clocking, this feature is turned off. Thinking it was a BIOS tweak that caused the problem, I chose Load Setup Defaults but saw no change.

When I attempt to install Fedora 2 in the described manner, I'm attempting to install to the 20GB IDE hard disk on the primary master IDE interface. As this configuration failed, I've also attempted to install to the 80GB SATA drive on the third master IDE interface. Each time, I physically disconnected the other hard drive from the computer and removed the entry in BIOS so there could be no confusion.

All attempts have failed. I am led to believe that this is a BIOS problem or a motherboard incompatibility. I am unable to investigate this matter further, as I have reached the limits of my computing knowledge. I'm reluctant to try a BIOS upgrade unless I know for certain that this is the problem. I've upgraded BIOS chips before, each time with my heart in my mouth. My BIOS upgrade path now is failsafe, according to the motherboard manual, but I'm still reluctant.

The 20GB IDE disk comes from an old Cobalt Qube, and I've had netBSD installed on it for some time, running as a backup server in the Qube. I've installed other versions of Linux, including Debian Woody and LindowsOS 4.5, on this 20GB drive when connected to the computer configuration I've described above, all without incident.

Finally, I've not tried the pen-boot option described in CD1's README-en.html file, as I don't have a USB pen drive. I built my machine from components and don't have a floppy drive, so booting from floppies also is out of the question.

I've queried the Fedora support forums, which initially asked me to do a linux mediacheck. As the system resets immediately after the loading initrd.img. message, it wasn't possible to test the disk set on my system. But then I had the idea of doing the linux mediacheck on a VMware virtual machine, and the disks check out fine.

I'm beginning to think that this is some kind of bug, either in my BIOS or in Fedora 2 Core's initrd.img file. I don't know what to do next; I don't want to bother the developers, who generally refer one to the support forums anyway. I'm at a loss, please help!



You've done a great job of doing the detective work here. I bet there is some incompatibility between the FC2 kernel and your hardware, as you have alluded to. I had the same problem with booting FC2 on an Epia 800. You may want to try to find a FC2 boot disk to boot your hardware in a more compatible mode. I was able to find one doing a search at the Bugzilla interface for Fedora at fedora.redhat.com.

Christopher Wingert


Try linux noacpi, linux disableapic and linux noacpi disableapic. Some motherboard and BIOS combinations cause problems with the APIC and ACPI functions in Linux, and disabling them always is a good option to try.

Chad Robinson


Balancing between Two Interfaces

I have a Linux proxy server. I have two connection methods to the Internet, wireless and a DSL modem. How can I configure my proxy server to use both methods to visit the Internet, so that if one of them is down, I still can get to the Internet without changing settings? Now I am using two proxy servers; if one link is down I turn on the other one.

John Van De Veer


Simply use the following command:

/sbin/ip route add default equalize nexthop \
via A.B.C.D dev eth0 weight 1 \
nexthop via E.F.G.H dev eth1 weight 1

Replace the A.B.C.D with the peer IP address of your connections and the eth0 and eth1 with the actual devices used. Doing so balances the traffic by informing Linux it can use both routes with the same weight.

Mario Bittencourt


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