For the past two years, I have been running a small personal server out of my house. Well, I guess “small” is a relative term. To be more specific, it was a Fedora 8 server with 2 terabytes of storage for my backups, music, and Subversion repositories. Along with my desktop, it was my pride and joy; everything was custom-built, the distro was actively maintained, and all of the configuration was done by a two-factor encrypted console.

Notice the use of the past tense. Was. On Monday I noticed that I was getting read errors on my drives, although I wasn’t sure which one (I had 4 drives). Although I went to bed with a (mostly) working server, I woke up to a system that wouldn’t boot up because the partition information. After fumbling with different recovery methods to try and get my data off, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to get the data off; it was gone, possibly because of my recovery actions.

Needless to say, I was more than a little devastated. Although I can rerip my music, I can’t get back the Subversion repositories; those are all gone, along with all of the revisions I’ve made on projects.

Despite my demotivation, I took this as one huge learning experience. Although I had made backups of some of my work, it was still on the same drive and partition, and I should have considered them just as vulnerable as the originals. When you can’t make consistent backups on a different system, RAID your drives.

I’ve since reinstalled my server as a 1TB RAID10. Alrhough this means I have half the space to work with, it also means that I have 100% redundancy. So, if one of my drives fails like what happened to me, all I have to do is pull out the drive, put a replacement in, and the system will copy all of the data over to the new drive. The best part about all of this is that this all happens on-the-fly; no downtime, no rebooting, and no manual work except for adding the drive to the RAID configuration.

In short, if you take one thing away from this, remember to back up your stuff frequently, even if it’s just on a flash drive or external hard drive. When your original fails, you’ll thank yourself for that backup.

Testing Out Fedora 11

A few years ago, I made the switch on my laptop from Windows to Linux. If I had to summarize the experience, I’d say it’s been…well…an experience. It’s had its ups and downs as I tinkered around with more distributions than I can remember (I can think of 7, not including different architectures). I initially made the switch because the recovery disks I had burned for my Windows installation weren’t working, and I needed a suitable alternative, preferably one that wouldn’t bust the bank and would be easy to use. Linux satisfied (and in some cases, excelled) in both of these.

After much deliberation and testing, I finally decided on the Fedora distribution, which I am still with to this day. Ten days ago, they released their newest distribution, Fedora 11 (Codename Leonidas), which added a whole slew of new features. Although I only have a day or so with the new distribution, I’ve tested a lot of the new features. They are nicely separated into both Technical and Non-Technical.


20-Second Boot Time

The first problem anyone seems to have with computers is that they take too long to boot up. Fedora 11 helps a lot with this by aiming for a 20-second boot time, from the time you start your computer until the time you log in. It was about 35 seconds for me on a 3 year old laptop, but regardless, that’s a huge improvement over, say, Vista’s 2-minute boot. If 35 seconds isn’t fast enough for you, you might want to loosen up your schedule a little.

Improved Touchpad Support/Features

The one complaint I always here about touchpads on laptops is that people accidentally click on things while they’re typing, moving the position of the cursor and inadvertently typing in the middle of a previous paragraph. The newest upgrades to the touchpad drivers are amazing. You have the option of disabling the touchpad while typing, and enabling or disabling mouse clicks by tapping on the touchpad.

My personal favorite, however, it the addition of Multi-Touch scrolling. Rather than having to run your finger along the side of the touchpad, two fingers can be used to scroll. You also have the option of enabling horizontal scrolling. The best part is you don’t need a touchpad specifically designed for multi-touch; it works great on mine without any problems.

Nice Graphics

Ok, although a little technical, I’m still putting it in here because who doesn’t like smooth-looking graphics with direct acceleration? Enabled from the kernel level, direct acceleration worked right out of the box for me, which means desktop effects work without any configuration. Those who are a little more tech-savvy can obviously look into the coveted Compiz installation.



Yeah, that’s right: the ext4 filesystem is now standard on Fedora. The filesystem now supports filesystems over 1 exabyte and files up to 16 terabytes in size. If you’re going to be creating filesystems or files that large, you don’t need to read this review. There are a whole slew of improvements made over ext3, which should make for an overall more reliable experience.

2.6.29 Kernel

The new kernel runs great for me. There’s been a lot of new features added, and far more than I can go into depth with. I have yet to have a crash yet, so that is always a good sign.

GNOME 2.26.1 and KDE 4.2.2

Those that have seen the older versions of KDE (ie. pre-4.0) I’m sure remember how “immature” it looked. I always got the impression that it was geared for pre-teens. KDE 4 changes all of that, and makes me seriously reconsider using it. Not only does it look nicer, but everything is well laid out in the menu, and the desktop widgets are integrated into the Desktop Environment. GNOME looks as regular as it always has, but makes some good strides in menu locations and the included applications.

Firefox 3.5b4 and Thunderbird 3

I have been waiting quite a while for both of these to appear in a distribution. Firefox 3.5 is great so far, and Thunderbird looks very promising as well.

Smaller Footprint

Gone are the days of yonder when a Fedora installation was a 3.5GB DVD download with the inability to test it out beforehand. Fedora has reduced the size of the installation media to a staggering 690MB LiveCD, reducing bandwidth usage and and letting you try the distro out before installing. This is one of the best things Fedora has done, and I’m really glad they made the switch.


I’m so far really happy with this new release. It’s been stable and a lot of new features have been added which helps affirm my decision to stick with Fedora. If you happen to be considering making the switch from Windows, I recommend checking it out. The LiveCD allows you to try things out before installation, which will let you test the waters before plunging in to the deep end.