Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SUSE Linux Enterprise Wins Readers' Choice Award 2010

Apologies for this late report, we won this back in October 2010... better late than never! :)

On 15th October 2010, Novell was presented a Readers' Choice Award from ComputerWorld Singapore for winning in the Open Source Platforms/Operating Systems category. It was a very proud moment for us in Novell Singapore and I'm sure it will pleased all SUSE supporters everywhere.

Unfortunately for me, I was called away to be in Malaysia for a business trip and was unable to attend the ceremony. After hearing it from my friends, made me wish there was a way for me to return to Singapore for that evening's presentation.

Above is a photo of the trophy presented and its now sitting in a prominent place in the Novell Singapore office. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

My last day with Novell; My Blog continues

Christmas Eve 2010 was my last day with Novell. I left the office with mixed feelings... Light-hearted because its Christmas and I look ahead to a new professional chapter in a different technology sector... Reluctance because I'm parting ways with a great bunch of friends & colleagues (both here in Singapore, the rest of Asia Pacific and around the world).

This is NOT an end to my involvement with SUSE, Linux and OSS. It is merely a transition. While I no longer sell Free (as in Freedom) software for a living, I am still an avid user and advocate of all things SUSE, OSS and Open Standards. Thus, this blog will continue as I journal and share my experiences.

Its important to say that my desire and plans to pursue a different path in my professional career was already in motion before the recent developments at Novell. As a matter of fact, my manager is interviewing candidates to backfill my position, its business as usual here. Given how a good part of the WWW seem to thrive on negativity and conspiracy theories to gain viewership, its my hope that this blog entry NOT be improperly quoted out of context and used as "ammunition" in all these negative media brouhaha.

Thank you Novell, and all my friends, for the 3 wonderful years selling SUSE for a living. Its been a good living. :) senyum

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Focus stealing settings in KDE and Gnome on SUSE

This is an update from my previous post "Focus! User is King". Thanks to comments posted by 13thSlayer and JosP pointing me in the right direction, I found what I was looking for and I'd like to share it in this entry.

Specifically, I've tried this with KDE/openSUSE 11.3 and Gnome/SLES 11 SP1. I'm fairly certain that this should apply to other variants like Gnome/openSUSE and KDE/SLED.


If you are using KDE, start Configure Desktop and select Window Behavior. Next, select Window Behavior in the panel on the left and find the Focus Stealing prevention level field. The default is Low. I changed it to Medium. You may choose to go more aggressive with High or Extreme.


If you are using Gnome, you will need to bring up gconf-editor from the Terminal. With the Gnome Configuration Editor window opened, from the left-hand panel, navigate / -> apps -> metacity -> general. In the right-hand panel, scroll to look for the variable focus_new_window.

The default value for focus_new_window is smart. You only have the option to change this to strict.

To wrap up, in typical YMMV fashion, changing these settings may or may not suit you personally but at least you now have an option to experiment. I have found the Medium setting in KDE worked for me compared to the default Low setting. I have not fully tested this for Gnome just yet.


PS: I'm going on vacation for a week and will not be monitoring/moderating the comments (if any).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Focus! User is King

As mentioned briefly in my previous post, I noted an interesting yet subtle HCI feature in Mac OS X and wondering how to have this in openSUSE? If not possible, is someone out there looking at this?

When I boot up and log onto a system (Mac OS X or any SUSE), my typical first move is to quickly launch all the applications that I need to start my day. This means clicking and launching a few web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Opera/Safari), chat apps Adium/Pidgin/Kopete, mail clients etc.

The system will get severely loaded due to multiple, concurrent startup of applications vying for resources. That's acceptable and normal. However, here's the subtle feature/difference of Mac OS X:

Whichever application that appears first, being the impatient user, I will start interacting with it. If one of my web browsers appears first, I will start surfing and typing away. Mac OS X seems to know this and when other applications starts, they DO NOT steal focus away but instead will be rendered behind the current browser. Further, to inform me that my other applications has started and awaiting my attention, a hyperactive jumping icon of those apps will be dancing away on the dock.

On all variants of SUSE, the behaviour is different in that the next application that starts and is ready for user input will steal focus away from the first application. Using the same example above, as I'm surfing and typing away in Firefox, and the next application that starts is my mail client. It will appear on top of Firefox and asks for my password, thus focus is given to the mail client. While entering my password for the mail client, more often than not, the next (third) application starts and it steals focus away from my mail client while I'm still typing my password. As you can imagine, or even have experienced this yourselves, this can be rather frustrating... not to mention half of your password now appears as plaintext in another application. xpasti

Would appreciate anyone out there reading this point me in the right direction and some answers. Thank you. senyum

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Mac-SUSE Journey - Part 2

This is Part 2 of how I got openSUSE 11.3 (64-bit) working fully on a MacBook Pro 13" (2010 model). Here is the link to Part 1.

First, here are some shots of booting up MacBook Pro into openSUSE 11.3, taken from my old Nokia phone camera (and transferred via bluetooth to my MacSUSE) senyum:

With openSUSE 11.3 installed and booted up, here are the configuration steps to get the most out of your MacBook Pro:

Wireless Driver

All that's required is the right Broadcom wifi driver. Start YaST, click on Software followed by Software Repositories.

Click on the Add button and select Specify URL... and click Next. Enter "Packman" in the Repository Name field and this link in the URL field: and click Next to complete. Verify that Packman is now listed as a repository and click Ok to exit.

Click on Software Management, , enter "Broadcom" in the Search field and click Search. Select and click to install broadcom-wl and broadcom-wl-kmp-desktop followed by the Accept button.

Reboot and you'll have Wifi up and running.

3D Desktop Effects with nVidia driver

This is optional since the default noveau driver works. However, if you want to turn on the fancy 3D Desktop Effects, you will need to install the proprietary nVidia driver.

With reference to steps above, in Software Repositories, you will need to add another software repository named nVidia and URL is

Next, in Software Management, search for "nvidia" and select and install nvidia-gfxG02-kmp-desktop package.

Either reboot or log out of your current session to start the newly installed nVidia drivers. To enable 3D Desktop Effects, start Configure Desktop and, under Look & Feel section, click Desktop and check the "Enable desktop effects". Don't forget to click the Apply button.

Configuring Audio

Audio is essential and all there is to make this work is to make 2 small configuration changes.

First, in YaST, select Hardware section followed by Sound. In Sound Configuration, select the default device (0, nVidia Corporation) and click Edit. In Sound Card Advanced Options, edit and add the value "mbp55" for the model. Click Next and Ok to complete.

Second and final step is to click on the Volume icon and click Mixer. In Mixer window, from menu bar, click Settings followed by Configure Channels... Select and drag the Front Speaker channels from the left (Available channels) to the right (Visible channels). Click Ok.

To test, start Firefox and surf to Youtube or any website with audio. You can use the Fn + F11 & Fn + F12 keys for volume control.

Keyboard Hotkeys

Fortunately, someone has written code to enable the MacBook Pro keyboard Hotkeys. This project is called pommed by Julien Blache. Even better than that, Alin Marin Elena has modified & compiled the latest version 1.34 (that supports this MacBook Pro model) specifically for openSUSE 11.3.

All that's required is to add another Software Repository called "Alin Marin Elena" and URL is

In Software Management, search for pommed and install pommed and gpommed. Ensure the pommed service is automatically started on boot, execute chkconfig -s pommed on as root at the Terminal.

To start pommed manually, execute /etc/init.d/pommed start as root and you should be able to control the Screen Brightness (Fn+F1 & Fn+F2) and Keyboard Backlight (Fn+F5 & Fn+ F6).

Reboot properly

Unfortunately, while you can shutdown properly, you will hang the system if you choose to reboot in openSUSE. With Thanks to Alin again, he showed how to make openSUSE reboot the machine correctly.

In short, you need to edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst file and add the flag reboot=pci to the kernel. Further, to prevent this flag from being removed when you upgrade your kernel, you will need to add this flag to the relevant variables in the /etc/sysconfig/bootloader file.

Thoughts & Conclusions

I have a working openSUSE 11.3 system running smoothly (well, you still can't beat Mac OS X since its tuned for this hardware) enough. The base openSUSE 11.3 took up 3.5-4.0Gb of disk space so I have plenty left over. Plus I can plug in a secondary USB/FireWire drive so its good.

I am using KVM to virtualize SLES and Windows. I refer to my other blog entry on getting started with KVM as a reference.

Finally, on the MacBook Pro, I use the Mac OS X more than openSUSE 11.3 because it meets most of my needs... except when I really need openSUSE. Besides, its always fun to see the look on them faces when they see openSUSE/KDE4 running on a MacBook Pro. peace

PS: Embedding this annoying clip introduced to me by Issac, my nephew. sengihnampakgigi

My Mac-SUSE Journey - Part 1

After many months of consideration and research, I bought a brand new MacBook Pro 13" in early October. I needed a handy appliance where I can do Photos, Movies, Music, browse the web... iPhone is too small, iPad is nice but not computationally powerful or mature/proven. After spending close to 4 weeks on my Macbook Pro (version 7,1), I'm a very happy customer. sengihnampakgigi

It wasn't long before, 2 days post-acquisition really, I started wondering about putting SUSE on it. Sure, I've discovered Terminal & X11 in Mac OS X and it works great. senyum I use VirtualBox to virtualize SLES & openSUSE. But I still wanna have SUSE run natively to do KVM, maybe Xen and just because I can... peace

I am not the first, nor the last, to do this so I will acknowledge the wealth of information & helpful folks out there on the Web (see reference section further below).

Before we begin, please indulge my trip down memory lane... my very first computer was the Apple PC-IIe and it looks like the picture below... and who could forget the timeless Karateka... filling my little mind with boundless fluid moves... that does very little in real life... well... it did get me into trouble a few times... only a few. gelakguling

My next brush with Apple was during my undergraduate days where I spent many hours doing tutorials and projects in the Mathematics/Statistics/Simulation labs filled with rows of Macintoshes (see pic below)... good times. pinokio

I graduated just as the technicolor iMac G3 invaded the campus. angkatkening

The Mac hardware and software has come a long way and I'm very impressed and pleased with my purchase. Despite my previous encounters with the Mac, about the only thing familiar was the good old Finder and that static menu bar at the top. As I use Mac OS X "Snow Leopard", I find good things/ideas that should be implemented in openSUSE/KDE... but I will blog about this in more detail another time.

Enough rambling, here are the steps to installing openSUSE 11.3 (64-bit) onto a Macbook Pro 13" (2010 edition) running Mac OS X 10.6.4:

Disk Partitioning

My hard disk was upgraded from 250Gb to 320Gb. I decided to take 25Gb away for openSUSE 11.3. I did not use the Boot Camp Assistant utility on Mac OS X but instead used the Disk Utility.

As shown in screenshot above, I shrunk my Mac OS X partition from 320Gb to 295Gb. Next, I split the remaining free space into 21Gb for my root partition and 4Gb for swap partition. You can format them as DOS/FAT and let openSUSE reformat them at installation.

Dual-boot Setup

Now that some disk space has been carved up for openSUSE 11.3, its time to make the MacBook Pro dual-boot. Unfortunately, the usual Grub bootloader doesn't work here. To spare you (and myself) the details, the way to dual-boot a MacBook Pro is to use rEFIt (pronounced Refit).

Download the freely available rEFIt, version 0.14 at the time, and install it. I followed the documentation and installed it via the "Automatic Installation with the Installer Package" section at

To verify you've installed this correctly, reboot your MacBook Pro and you should see a boot menu on startup where you use the arrow and Enter keys to select which OS to boot. You should only see one option at this time since you have not installed a second OS on the MacBook Pro yet.


Pop in the openSUSE 11.3 (64-bit) installation DVD into the drive and shutdown Mac OS X. Power-on the MacBook Pro and press and hold the "c" button so that it will boot from the DVD drive. I usually press and hold the "c" button till I hear the DVD drive spinning up the media before I let go.

You should see the usual stuff when installing openSUSE, the kernel and initrd will load, nice fancy splash screen shows up and you select Installation to start the process. Pretty straightforward.

The most important part of the installation is disk partitioning because you really do NOT want to install openSUSE over Mac OS X. Thanks to the simple partitioning scheme where rEFIt has the first partition and Mac OS X has the second partition of 295Gb, that's easy to spot. When you reach that part of the installation where openSUSE installer proposes a disk layout, do NOT accept the defaults but instead choose to do Custom Partitioning and ensure that you do NOT touch that first and second partition. Select the 21Gb partition, format it with your favourite filesystem (ext3 for me) and mount it as root /. Next select the 4Gb partition, format it as Swap.

The next equally important part of the installation is the Grub Boot Loader. Since we are relying on rEFIt to dual-boot, we need to ensure that Grub does not intrude and writes itself in the Master Boot Record (MBR). Instead, ensure that Grub is only installed to the Root partition (/dev/sda3 and NOT to MBR). Further, ensure the "Write generic Boot Code to MBR" is UNChecked so nothing gets written to the MBR.

The rest of the installation is a non-event.

Cannot boot up openSUSE without the DVD loaded?

There is a chance, post-installation, that you realized that you can boot into Mac OS X but when you select to boot into Linux, your openSUSE 11.3 does not boot up and some vague error message like no operating system found. However, you are able to boot from the openSUSE 11.3 installation DVD and choosing to boot from hard disk instead, you can successfully boot up the installed openSUSE 11.3.

If this is the case, its highly likely the GPT/MBR may be out of sync. To resolve this, boot into openSUSE 11.3 and first use fdisk -l to check that only the openSUSE partition is set to boot (see first screenshot below). Next, use parted to check that the boot flag only applies to the first partition (rEFIt) and nothing else (see second screenshot below).

Finally, double-check the Grub Boot Loader setup via YaST -> System -> Boot Loader and verify the settings are correct (compared to the screenshots in previous section above).

Conclusions (to be continued)

The vanilla openSUSE 11.3, will be 85-90% functional. Some important items that works out of the box:
  • Graphics card is detected and proper resolution rendered
  • Keyboard works (in general but you can specify Apple Macbook keyboard in the Control Panel to improve mappings)
  • Touchpad works (but I do find it a tad sensitive so you can adjust it under Control Panel) or plug in your favourite USB mouse
  • Disk and DVD drive works
  • iSight webcam works with Kopete
  • Ethernet (LAN port)
  • FireWire and USB ports
  • External display port
  • SD Card Reader
The following is a list of things that does not work right away but will require addition work (like installing additional software packages) to get going:
  • Wireless does not work as its a Broadcom chip. You will require a LAN cable (hey, at least networking works!) to retrieve and install the appropriate broadcom drivers.
  • Default open source nouveau driver works for the nVidia GeForce 320M graphics card but if you want 3D desktop effects, you will need to download and install the proprietary nVidia driver
  • Audio does not work but its more a configuration issue than driver issue
  • You cannot adjust the screen brightness or keyboard backlight. You will need to install additional drivers for this to work
I will be addressing these in Part 2 of my blog. Stay tuned. peace

On a Side Note

I'd like to share why I did not install SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 11 SP1 or earlier version of openSUSE 11.2. I did attempt it and both SLED 11 SP1 and openSUSE 11.2 DVD boots up but fails to recognized the DVD drive after the installation kernel/initrd loads. It kinda hangs at loading udev. I'm too lazy to figure out which module I have to load by hand and since openSUSE 11.3 works, its good enough for me. senyum

Links/References to other related pages

General Guide & starting point -

star Alin Marin Elena's entry specific to my MacBook Pro (7,1) model and openSUSE 11.3 -

Howto based on openSUSE 11.2 & older 2009 MacBook Pro model -

Forum post on Grub & Booting issues -

openSUSE Forum is a great source of information and discussions -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Using Apache2 to deploy & maintain SUSE

This entry is a little different because its open ended compared to my previous posts. The solution I'm about to share may or may not work for you and that's the nature of the enterprise IT environment. Nevertheless, I hope it will be a good reference for you.

Automation is an important aspect in enterprise IT. In this specific scenario, we are talking about the ability to scale deployment and maintenance of multiple SLES instances (or SLED or openSUSE). Unlike installing a single SLES instance for evaluation, the DVD media (or even USB sticks) is not going to cut it if you have 3, 5, 50 or 100s of SLES deployed in a data center. This also applies to setting up an IT training classroom of 25 machines.

To make things more interesting, if you have Blade servers, you'll noticed that each Blade server chasis/enclosure have only one shared physical DVD drive. Sure, its read-only and can be shared amongst all the blades but what if you need to install another software (requiring another DVD) on the first blade and the rest are still reading from your SLES DVD media? Oops.

The idea is to share the SLES binaries over the network and there are various mechanism like HTTP, FTP, NFS and even Samba (oh-boy). My preferred choice is HTTP via Apache2 webserver for 2 simple reasons. First, it works quite well from experience and as importantly, its really easy to setup (ie quick & painless setup).

Install Apache2

a) Command-line option: zypper in apache2


b) GUI option: YaST -> Software Management -> Search for the apache2 package and click Accept & continue for automatic changes with associated packages for installation.

Configure Apache2

1) Edit the following configuration file at /etc/apache2/default-server.conf with your favourite text editor.

2) Under the Directory section (see screenshot), look for the line Options None and replace it with Options Indexes FollowSymLinks as shown in screenshot below. This allows apache2 webserver to list directories and also follow symbolic links.

Mounting ISOs under Apache2

1) The Document root for Apache2 is /srv/www/htdocs/ so I would suggest the following directory structure:



By way of example above, you can see that I created a software sub-directory followed by directories for the product & version and, in turn, followed by the architecture.

2) Assuming you have the DVD ISO file somewhere on your filesystem (I usually put them in /media), you can mount them via:

mount -t iso9660 -o ro,loop /media/SLES-11-SP1-x86_64.iso /srv/www/htdocs/software/SLES-11-SP1/x86_64/

Starting Apache2

a) rcapache2 start

b) To make apache2 auto-start on boot, chkconfig -s apache2 on

Configure target SLES instances

1) On your target SLES instances, you can add a new repository via YaST.

For SLES 10: YaST -> Installation Source
For SLES 11: YaST -> Software Repositories

There is an equivalent zypper command but I find the GUI much more productive in this case. senyum

2) Click Add to add another source for YaST to query and retrieve software. Choose Specify URL... and enter the URL to the Apache2 server you've just setup.

As an example, assuming your target is SLES 11 SP1 & as shown in screenshots below, you enter http://[IP address to Apache2]/software/SLES-11-SP1/x86_64

Once this is setup, you may disable or remove other sources (like the one that points to your DVD media).


1) It works well and scales nicely to quite a degree.

2) You don't waste DVDs (or the time in creating them).

3) You get to keep all your ISO binaries in one place which is great from admin standpoint. Plus, you do not waste disk space storing duplicate ISOs spread all over your servers or SAN.

4) If you have virtualized SLES instances, this works just as well since its all network based. As long as your servers (physical or virtual) has a network path to your Apache2, its good. Heck, you can even virtualize this Apache2 server if you like.


What's not documented in this blog entry is how to setup a PXE-boot server (tftp & dhcpd) environment in SLES in addition to Apache2 (mentioned above) so you can provision new servers that are capable of booting up over the network and kick-start the installation process with Auto-YaST.

If you are interested, let me know in the comments section and I'll look into writing it... in the meantime, I can refer you to these helpful resources: