From Gnome back to Gnome, four operating systems later

My in-house server was running Fedora 16, which is at end of life, so I decided to update to the latest Fedora release, which was 18. This came about because of an OpenVAS scan of the server detecting issues with httpd and other things. Also with a philosophy of being tired of GNOME 3's idiosyncrasies, I decided to upgrade to Fedora 18-KDE instead of the Gnome version. Four operating system installations later, I wound up installing Ubuntu 12.04 with GNOME 3, LOL! Approximately 24 hours real time was used, and I'm getting damn good at it!

Fedora 18-KDE:
(Fedora KDE Live Media, i686, 844.1MB, Direct Download) Promises to be a great OS, and installed in an excellent fashion, except for the problem related below with partitioning the disk drives how you want as opposed to how Fedora 18 wants. This version requires a DVD because it's 844MB, and my problems started here, as an omen. The first thing I had to do after burning the ISO is swap out the DVD drive in the target system. angry  Install proceeded well, and I succumbed to Fedora 18 on how disks should be partitioned. However starting to use it I noticed a peculiar issue. It appears that KDE trashes the disk enough to hear it. At least it did the IDE disks that are installed on my server, an old Compaq Presario 6000 (don't laugh, it does the job…) Gnome versions never did that, and the drives are old, from before 2005, so that won't do. Next.

Fedora 18-GNOME 3 (network install):
(Fedora Desktop Live Media, i386, 342.9MB, Direct Download) This also promises to be a great OS, except that there was a catch installing it with disk partitioning. I had two hard drives, an 80GB one, and a 60GB one. I wanted the larger one for / and the smaller one for /home. Fedora 18 wanted the larger one for /home, and the smaller one for /. We fought for over an hour, and in the end I won. I decided to go with another operating system. This kind of silly idiosyncrasy is how another operating system replaces yours. Next…

Kali Linux:
(Kali 1.0, i386, 342.9MB, Guided Download) Kali is a penetration testing distribution based on Debian, comes from Offensive Security, and is recently released. It replaces the Backtrack series of Linux distributions, updating to the GNOME 3 shell. Having installed it on my business laptop, I figured that it would install on the server as well. The installation went well, however GNOME 3 had significant problems on startup with the display totally corrupted, showing just the first characters on menus, the screen never showing a background and other issues. Don't know the cause, as it works fine on the laptop, a Panasonic CF-51. Probably an ancient display chip issue, more than likely, as it isn't detected correctly. However, on the laptop this distribution corrected some previous issues with Backtrack versions where suspend/hibernate didn't work (probably related to swap partition encryption) and the WIFI card required external drivers. Next…

Ubuntu 12.04:
(Ubuntu 12.04.2, i386, 727.0MB, Guided Download) This was the last resort, and is the distribution I have running on most of the other in-house computers. I do have a previous version of Ubuntu on a very old tower, because of memory constraints (512MB). Ubuntu installed correctly, and I was able to configure the system again for use as a server. Some changes did need to occur, as the server is now Apache2 (requiring changes to the old httpd.conf file), and the Drupal installation needed to be debugged for missing Apache and PHP modules. GNOME 3 is still GNOME 3, worse now actually, because in it's 2D state (due to the unrecognized video chip) it's not as user friendly as the version on 10.04 was (GNOME 2). More clicks have to occur, i.e. with the virtual displays, to get to the application you want. Other modifications needed to be done to configuration files, such as fail2ban, etc. However it doesn't trash the disk, and seems fairly robust. It's not as big a problem as it might be, because this machine operates in text mode mostly as a server, through the secure shell, and has no need for the GUI.

All in all, though successful, this was quite the learning experience, and sad to say, on par with my business experiences with some Windows installations. It's still the state where you have to be a geek to install most distributions of Linux, though Ubuntu seems by far the easiest to install, IMHO.

So what do I do with all of these computers? Well, they are mostly trash rescued Pentium 3's and 4's that wouldn't work worth of shit with Windows, but with Linux installed have a new life as fairly useful computers. Two operate as nothing but BOINC slaves, working for science, mostly in the biological, disease, and genomics research. One spends half the time doing that and half the time being my main computer. One is the mirror server, which mirrors all sites I operate for testing purposes. And the laptop is the penetration tester. I have more rescuees, but only so much power I want to pay for…

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Solved the OpenVAS issue with this upgrade

Just a later note on the process. The reason for this upgrade was an issue reported by OpenVAS that the version of Apache that I had been running was subject to DOS attacks, which I could prove using the penetration testing laptop on the network in conjunction with a shell window opened on the server running htop. This was mitigated by the version of Apache2 that is part of the Ubuntu 12.04 distro. I could have just upgraded Apache, but that wouldn't have cured the end-of-life issue.

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