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I am Eric Hameleers, and this is where I think out loud.
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Build box: step 1, install Slackware

The new computer with its Ryzen CPU created some issues for me. To start with… I had not considered the possibility that a Ryzen CPU would not have an embedded GPU and so I did not order a graphics card. Bad idea!
I ended up ripping a GPU from one of my other computers (the only PCI-express card I could find) and plugging that into the new computer. That gave me a working video instead of a monitor that kept falling asleep.

Next came Slackware. When I booted the Slackware 14.2 installer, it did not give me a network connection. The Slackware Live Edition (based on slackware-current) worked properly on the other hand. But the graphics card I plugged into the computer did not work too well with the nouveau driver – whenever I started Chromium, it was inevitable that the computer would lock up after some time. Initially I blamed this on the computer hardware and feared that I bought a dead duck, but once I stopped running Chromium in the graphical desktop of Slackware Live, the system would remain operational. Since it is not going to be used as a desktop system and I will access it only remotely, that buggy nouveau driver is not a big issue and I could still install the binary Nvidia blob if needed.

So, the question became: I want to run a stable Slackware release on my new build server, but how am I going to install it? I was facing two major issues:

  1. The installer of Slackware 14.2 does not support NVMe boot devices (the new type of SSD hard drives with a M.2 PCI-express interface)
  2. The Slackware 14.2 installer lacks network capability on this new hardware, so I would have to perform a local install

I could spend a USB stick, putting the Slackware 14.2 DVD ISO on it, but then I still would have to patch the installer and I would not have a network connection after reboot. Considering the fact that slackware-current’s kernel works much better and NVMe support was added to the -current installer recently, I decided on a different approach.

I used a slackware-current based liveslak to setup the computer with Slackware 14.2 and then added a 4.9 kernel using the configfile for this kernel as found in slackware-current.

Steps taken:

  • Obtain a recent ISO of the Slackware Live Edition which is based on slackware-current (for instance, the 2.7 GB bleeding edge version or else the 700 MB XFCE based edition)
  • Write the ISO to a USB stick and boot liveslak. Now you have a proper graphical environment where you can query Google/DuckDuckGo and download anything you need.
  • We can not use the “setup2hd” of liveslak because that will install slackware-current and I want 14.2. So, download the smallest installer we can get:  slackware64-current-mini-install.iso which contains just the kernel and the installer (no packages) and is slightly more than 100 MB in size:
    # wget http://bear.alienbase.nl/mirrors/slackware/slackware64-current-iso/slackware64-current-mini-install.iso
  • Download my “extract_initramfs.sh” script which makes it easier to extract the initrd.gz file containing the installer:
    # wget http://www.slackware.com/~alien/tools/extract_initramfs.sh
  • Partition the SSD drive. The M.2 interface results in a character device /dev/nvme0 and a namespace block device /dev/nvme0n1. The first partition on this device will be called /dev/nvme0n1p1. The installer in Slackware 14.2 can not handle this new namespacing format. The one in -current can.
    This is a UEFI computer, and I want Slackware to use this. That requires a FAT partition which will be used as the EFI system partition. Slackware will mount this partition at /boot/efi. I created a 100 MB partition of type EF00 (EFI system) and formatted this with:
    # mkdosfs -F32 -s 2 -n “EFI” /dev/nvme0n1p1
    The remainder of the disk is partitioned with swap (yes even with 64 GB of RAM it is still a good idea to add some swap space), and additional partitions are created for /, /boot, /var, /tmp and /home .
  • Extract the installer from this mini ISO into a new directory “/root/initrd64-current“:
    # mount -o loop slackware64-current-mini-install.iso /mnt/tmp
    # sh extract_initramfs.sh /mnt/tmp/isolinux/initrd.img /root/initrd64-current
  • Get the installer running in the terminal while we are still in a liveslak graphical Desktop Environment:
    # mount -o bind /dev /root/initrd64-current/dev
    # mount -o bind /proc /root/initrd64-current/proc
    # mount -o bind /sys /root/initrd64-current/sys
    # chroot /root/initrd64-current
  • Inside this chroot-ed installer environment, run the ‘setup‘ command and proceed as usual with the installation of Slackware64 14.2 from a network server. The liveslak has already taken care of the network connectivity. I have NFS and HTTP servers at home, providing package trees but I pick NFS because that is much faster. I pointed the installer to a Slackware64-14.2 package source and did a full install (first time ever that I installed the Emacs package, go figure).
  • At the end of the installation, do note yet exit! Instead, run “chroot /mnt” to enter the freshly installed system. Configure slackpkg with a suitable mirror, then run:
    # slackpkg upgrade-all
    This will install all the latest patches including the latest kernel.
  • Finally, blacklist the kernel-generic and kernel-modules so that slackpkg will never replace our kernel accidentally.
  • Create an initrd (the /usr/share/mkinitrd/mkinitrd_command_generator.sh script will help you finding the correct parameters) and copy the generic kernel and this initrd to the EFI partition. This is the elilo.conf file I ended up with:
    # cat /boot/efi/EFI/Slackware/elilo.conf
    chooser=simple
    delay=50
    timeout=50
    default=slackware142
    image=vmlinuz
        label=huge142
        read-only
        append="root=/dev/nvme0n1p7 vga=normal ro"
    image=vmlinuz-generic-4.4.75
        label=slackware142
        initrd=initrd_4.4.75.gz
        read-only
        append="root=/dev/nvme0n1p7 vga=normal ro"
  • Now that the Slackware 14.2 installation is complete we have to ensure that we add a working kernel to it. I want to use the kernel as found in slackware-current because I know the 4.9.x series is good (liveslak proved that) and because slackware-current contains a kernel config that I can just re-use. Download the kernel source, and the kernel packaging scripts so that we can compile a kernel and its modules manually but still can wrap the results in package format and install those. Warning – when you try this at home, the actual kernel version may have moved beyond the “4.9.44” which I use in the example below. Just substitute the actual version instead:
    # CWD=$(pwd)
    # lftp -c “open http://slackware.osuosl.org/slackware64-current/source; mirror k”
    # cd k/
    # tar -C /usr/src -xf linux-4.9.44.tar.xz
    # cp config-x86_64/config-generic-4.9.44.x64 /usr/src/linux-4.9.44/.config
    Now we can compile that kernel (yes I compile kernels as root):
    # cd /usr/src/linux-4.9.44
    # make oldconfig
    # make -j 15 all
    # make install
    Now that the kernel is installed as /boot/bzimage and the modules as /lib/modules/4.9.44 we use the Slackware packaging scripts to create two packages:
    # cd $CWD/k/packaging-x86_64/kernel-generic
    # ./kernel-generic.SlackBuild
    # cd $CWD/k/packaging-x86_64/kernel-modules
    # ./kernel-modules.SlackBuild
    The two packages in /tmp can then be installed using “installpkg”. Do not use “upgradepkg” with your kernels – you will want to keep at least one previous kernel. The kernel-modules package will essentialy overwrite what’s in /lib/modules/4.9.44 but now with a package, we can control it through the package manager if needed. The kernel-generic package will have installed the new kernel as /boot/vmlinuz-generic-4.9.44. Copy that kernel to the EFI partition, and create a new initrd in the same location to match the kernel:
    # cp /boot/vmlinuz-generic-4.9.44 /boot/efi/EFI/Slackware/
    #  $(/usr/share/mkinitrd/mkinitrd_command_generator.sh -k 4.9.44 -r -a “-o /boot/efi/EFI/Slackware/initrd_4.9.44.gz”)
    Add a section for the new kernel to elilo.conf. You can just copy the existing section for “label=slackware142” and change the version numbers. Make sure that the “default” keyword has this new label as its value. We want the new kernel to boot by default.
  • Exit the installed system’s chroot:
    # exit
  • Then exit the installer’s chroot:
    # exit
  • We are almost done. Unfortunately the eliloconfig of Slackware 14.2 did not add a Slackware entry to the computer’s EFI boot menu. So now that we are back in liveslak we need to fix this omission using the eliloconfig of slackware-current which is part of our liveslak:
    # eliloconfig /setup2hd /dev/nvme0n1p7
    This assumes the installed system is mounted under /setup2hd and the root partition is /dev/nvme0n1p7 . Change the parameters to match your situation. This time you will see that the Slackware entry is being created.
  • Reboot the system.
  • Have fun!

If I have omitted anything or steps are unclear, let me know. Now that I have Slackware on it, I can start thinking of how to add a virtualization solution. Either use my old scripts that wrap qemu and are very convenient and versatile, or go for qemu with libvirt and manage my virtual machines with virt-manager. The possibilities are endless. But first I need to get on with virtualizing my current server’s OS… its LAN services must stay operational but then in a VM on the new hardware.

New server arrived in the post

The hardware I ordered for the new build server arrived today – all components assembled and tested.

I am too tired to connect and boot the thing, so all I provide today is a pic of the package.

Then I have a lot of installation and configuration work to do the next couple of days… so I should hope that the downtime maintenance weekend at the office is going to be canceled.

OpenJDK7 and Flash Player security updates (Aug ’17)

icedteaOn the blog of IcedTea release manager Andrew Hughes (aka GNU/Andrew) you can find the announcement for IcedTea 2.6.11 which builds OpenJDK 7u151_b01. This release includes the official July 2017 security fixes for Java 7. Note that the security updates for Java 8 were already pushed to my repository some time ago.

Here is where you can download the Slackware packages for openjdk7 and openjre7:

The “rhino” package (implementation of the JavaScript engine used by OpenJDK) is an external dependency for OpenJDK 7, you can find a package in my repository. If you want to compile OpenJDK7 yourself you will need apache-ant as well.

Note about usage:

My Java 7 and Java 8 packages (e.g. openjdk7 and openjdk… or openjre7 and openjre) can not co-exist on your computer because they use the same installation directory. You must install either Java 7 or Java 8.

Remember that I release packages for the JRE (runtime environment) and the JDK (development kit) simultaneously, but you only need to install one of the two. The JRE is sufficient if you only want to run Java programs (including Java web plugins). Only in case where you’d want to develop Java programs and need a Java compiler, you are in need of the JDK package.

adobe_flash_8s600x600_2There was a recent security update for the Flash Player plugin as well. The new version is 26.0.0.151 for both the PPAPI (Google Chrome and friends) and the NPAPI (Mozilla Firefox and friends) based plugins.

You can find Slackware packages for the Flash plugins in the following repositories (and probably many more mirrors):

Have fun! Eric

Pale Moon update fixes high CPU usage for HD video playback

Some people had reported choppy playback and/or a high CPU load when using the 27.4.0 release of the Pale Moon browser – for instance when playing HD videos on Youtube. See these topic posts on the LQ Slackware forum. A bugfix update of Pale Moon was released a few days ago and according to the releasenotes, the new Pale Moon 27.4.1 addresses these issues. I have uploaded fresh packages for palemoon-27.4.1 to my package repository so that you can check that this is true.

Remember to install ffmpeg if you are running Slackware 14.2. A ffmpeg package was added to slackware-current but you still might want to replace that package with my enhanced build of it. And if you are using Slackware’s KDE 4 you must replace Slackware’s oxygen-gtk2 package with my updated version of oxygen-gtk2 to prevent browser crashes.
This is what Youtube reports about the media capabilities of Pale Moon 27.4 on Slackware:

 

If your Pale Moon browser shows that “MSE & WebM VP9” is not supported, you need to go into the browser preferences menu and in the “Content” tab, un-check the “Use MSE asynchronously” so that you can check “Enable MSE for WebM video”:

NOTE: let me know and do not bother the Pale Moon developers with any issues you encounter while using my Slackware package instead of the official binaries.

New build server was ordered

OK, so I got frustrated too many times when waiting for packages that were compiling. My current build machine with its AMD ‘Athlon II X4 640’ CPU and 8 GB of RAM, is now 5 years old and obviously no longer quite fit for the tasks I need it to perform. Compiling Chromium for 64bit Slackware in a virtual machine took more than 24 hours last week (yes, for a single package). Basically, that convinced me to empty my stash of donated funds (thanks to all of you Slackware supporters) and order the most powerful midi tower I could buy for that money. What else is that money for, after all. Well, beer perhaps 🙂
Because the computer’s location will be the attic of my own house, its components (Seasonic PSU, Scythe CPU cooler, and the ‘be quiet Silent Base’ case itself) are chosen to minimize noise – it’s actually going to be sitting next to a bedroom wall.
The CPU I chose with the help of a friend, and after some consultation of my hardware store, is an AMD Ryzen 1700 at 3,0 GHz, along with 64GB of Corsair RAM (DDR4 at 3,0 GHz) but I am going to slightly overclock both. I added a 500GB Samsung 960 EVO SSD (NVMe) as well as a 4 TB Western Digital Red SATA disk.

With that machine I will be able to parallellize my build efforts and that means, I can give you more updates and still spend more time with my family. The whole hardware order costs slightly more than 1700 Euros which sounds like a lot (Robby pointed me to Ebay discard servers for a couple of 100 dollar) … while rackmount servers are cheap, you can not put them in your home because of the noise.
But it’s going to be worth it. And I will still have money left in my donations account to keep paying the rent for the ‘bear‘ server for at least another year. And then it’s rock bottom.

I will give more information when I actually get the hardware, install Slackware on it and create a virtual machine environment. I am not yet sure if I will keep using my own custom scripts to create ‘on-demand’ virtual machines or that I will switch to using virt-manager.
And I can finally also consider another “TODO” project that has been on the horizon for a long time: using Jenkins CI for ‘continuous build’ of my own (and Slackware’s) packages.
I will try to document as much of it as I can. I am sure that more people consider using virtualization to fence off processes, or create predictable (Slackware) OS environments using VM snapshots, or produce predictable builds. It’ll probably take months to get that point though… I am not in a hurry.

Again, thanks for all the donations during the past years that enabled me to do this purchase. You will hopefully benefit from it. Return on investment so-to-speak.

Eric