How to Install Windows 7 over a Network using Linux – PXE, DNSMasq, and Samba

As the age of the netbook arises; the ability to provision Operating Systems over the network becomes highly useful.  More and more these days, it’s less common to see CD/DVD ROM drives in laptops.  In my particular situation my laptop DVD-ROM drive failed.  This prompted me to embark on journey of sleepless nights, sifting through bad information and countless hours of ‘trial & error’ troubleshooting to make Windows 7 install from PXE boot server.

When I first started this project I had no idea what I was getting into or how difficult and poorly documented the PXE remote installation process is.  I imagined that I would use some kind RAM disk to load an ISO image of a Windows CD.  However, the process to boot an ISO image varies greatly between Operating Systems and Windows versions. So if you plan to install Windows XP or Linux using this tutorial…  you will fail.  This Tutorial is step by step for installing Windows 7(only) from a Fedora 10 provisioning server.  This tutorial assumes you have basic Linux, Windows, and Networking knowledge.

Goals of this post:

– Configure Linux Provisioning Server
– Prepare installation media and installation files
– Boot from PXE to Windows PE 2.0
– Install Windows 7 over Network



ATI 4870 + Fedora 10 + 9.10 Catalyst drivers = World of Warcraft on Linux!!!!

Just an update to my previous article, ripping ATI for their lame Linux support – I finally got World of Warcraft working on Fedora 10, ATI 4870 graphics card, Catalyst 9.10 drivers!  All it took was down grading from Fedora 11 to Fedora 10, turning off my open GL desktop and waiting 6 months for four driver releases from ATI.  That’s all it took to run a game that works great on Linux… if you bought an NVIDIA card!



Get rid of that ‘default keyring’ password bullshit when you login to GNOME

I haven’t gone on a good ol’ fashioned rant in a long time.  And you know what?  This one has been in the making for a while.  I’m not holding back… here I go…

Policykit sucks!!!  What’s with this excessive password crap?  By default for GNOME in Fedora 10/11 you have to use a password for everything!  You need a password to login to GNOME, then once inside GNOME your password will be required to unlock network-manager.  That doesn’t seem so bad…  I’ve only entered the same password three times(including the Linux login).

So I have access to the web and I’m happy for the moment until I decide to attach my USB thumb drive to copy some files for my neighbor…  …and guess what?  I need a password to mount my USB thumb drive.  So I decide to watch a TV show I have on a DVD-R.   By default mounting a DVD requires my password.

Installing programs from the ‘Add/Remove Software’ requires your regular keyring password to launch the app and the root password to install the actual software.  Now am I wrong in concluding this is a totally retarded way to handle desktop security?  Typing in the same password eight times in thirty minutes?  This is why 7 year old Windows XP is still a contender.  Even though Open Source GNU Linux is technically superior and far more secure.

Seven times GNOME keyring asked for a password.  That’s as bad as Vista.  No, it’s even worse.  Nobody loves Vista.  In fairness however, Microsoft’s Vista doesn’t require a password to attach a common USB pen drive.  Even using an SSH connection from the console requires keyring to intervene with GNOME!

Luckily, you can install ‘pam_keyring’ with yum.  This will use your Linux login for the default keyring at login, but you have to access the keyring-manager to adjust the rest.  Huge hassle.  It’s annoying shit like this that keeps the average bear off Desktop Linux.  My Mom is a smart woman, but she would never figure this out, and so she will continue to run Windows XP indefintely.

Pick through the options and see if you can find where to grant access to mount a DVD. This is not security, it's insanity.


ATI HD 4870 (catalyst 9.6) fails to load World of Warcraft

I just upgraded to a ATI HD 4870(w/ 1 Gig DDR 5!).  I read some rave reviews about the 4800 series cards and heard via the grapevine that ATI had much improved Linux support.  However, I was disappointed to find out that the catalyst 9.6 driver will not build with Fedora 11’s stock 2.6.29 kernel.  Bummer, I really like Fedora 11.

So I downgraded to Fedora 10 and the ATI driver built without problem.  My next mission was to install WoW, which went fine.  I was able to download and install without error.  But when I start the game I get one of two typical errors:

[matt@localhost World of Warcraft]$ wine Wow.exe
err:alsa:ALSA_CheckSetVolume Could not find ‘PCM Playback Volume’ element
fixme:mixer:ALSA_MixerInit No master control found on HDA ATI HDMI, disabling mixer
fixme:mixer:ALSA_MixerInit No master control found on Brooktree Bt878, disabling mixer
fixme:advapi:SetSecurityInfo stub
archive Data\enUS\patch-enUS.MPQ opened
archive Data\patch.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\patch-enUS-2.MPQ opened
archive Data\patch-2.MPQ opened
archive Data\expansion.MPQ opened
archive Data\lichking.MPQ opened
archive Data\common.MPQ opened
archive Data\common-2.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\locale-enUS.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\speech-enUS.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\expansion-locale-enUS.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\lichking-locale-enUS.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\expansion-speech-enUS.MPQ opened
archive Data\enUS\lichking-speech-enUS.MPQ opened
fixme:win:EnumDisplayDevicesW ((null),0,0x39edac,0x00000000), stub!
^Cwine: Unhandled page fault on read access to 0x00000018 at address 0x624dbf3e (thread 0009), starting debugger…



How to use the ODBC driver to Connect to MySQL database in Fedora 10

A few weeks back I covered connecting ODBC to MS-SQL, but today we are going to do the same thing with MySQL.  The process is very similar.  One might ask, why use ODBC driver in the first place?  The reason is simple, there are many flavors of SQL and the ODBC driver allows one standard to connect them.  For that reason many software developers use ODBC for connecting their applications to SQL.

For my purposes, the Asterisk PBX platform can use ODBC to call ‘dial plan’ functions from the database, but that is another article!  This post assumes you have a working MySQL server and at least one table with data to pull from.

Goal of this Post:

– Install ODBC driver for MySQL
– configure odbc.ini
– configure odbcinst.ini
– verify connectivity with isql



Remote Upgrades on Fedora based Systems

I’m doing a remote upgrade on a test server at work(VoiceIP Solutions). So today’s article will cover upgrading from Fedora 6 to Fedora 10. Before you start, backup any important data! Every once in a while some dependency issue will crop up that blows up your server.  Also upgrading from Fedora 6 to Fedora 11 is not as easy as say, upgrading from Fedora 10 to Fedora 11.  So be careful and upgrade on a regular basis!

The Goals of this Post:

– remote upgrade from Fedora 6 to Fedora 10



How to Configure Linux ODBC Connections for MS SQL

Last week at work(VoiceIP Solutions) I did some research for Asterisk PBX integration with Microsoft CRM.  The customer likes open source Asterisk because of the cost savings, but they requires screen pop-ups, and click to dial from their Customer Relationship Management software.  So while my manager worked on the TAPI middleware, I was charged with figuring out how to connect to the MS SQL database.  This article was prompted by a desire to connect an Asterisk PBX to MS SQL, but the tutorial applies to Apache, Postfix, CRM, PHP or any Linux app that needs to do a remote query.  Also, while the focus of this article is aimed at MS SQL the same steps(with a few tweaks) can be used for connecting to Postgre, Sybase, MySQL, etc…

I’m a lot more famalier with MySQL & PostgreSQL, but MS SQL I haven’t touched since I had the silly notion about 10 years ago to become a Windows 2000 MCSE.  Incidently, I never did take the exams, because I was a broke student at the time and I was becoming increasingly interested in Linux and Cisco.

The logical choice is to use the UNIX ODBC driver.  ODBC stands for Open Database Connectivity.  ODBC is a well documented set of API’s that is available on many platforms.  However, their are subtle differences in it’s implentation and the protocols that run at application layer.  In other words ODBC is encapsulated when making calls to a database over a network (in this case, the TDS protocol).

I did some googling and found a number of incomplete tutorials for connecting Linux to MS SQL.  This article is intended to clarify some common configuration errors and will present you with example files.  For my demonstration I’m running Fedora 10 with the latest updates as of this writing.  This article assumes you have a working MS SQL datebase with the proper user permissions in mixed mode.  I put this one in bold because it stumped the MCSE database guy for a while.

Again, I want to point out I’m not a Microsoft DBA and will likely not be able to help you on that side of the configuration.  Also, there are many versions of SQL out there and the syntax to pull data differs slightly from one version to the next.  So you may need to do a little research to make the proper pulls.

The Goals of this Post:

– install ODBC and TDS on Fedora 10

– verify TDS can login into MS SQL server

– configure odbcinst.ini, odbc.ini and freetds.conf configuration files



Microsoft and Novell bring Silverlight to Linux

I recently visited a local radio station hear the Mariners game) and the web site required Microsoft Silverlight to be installed for streaming audio.  It also noted that Silverlight was available for Apple OS X, Windows, and Linux.  Say that again?  Microsoft making multi-platform software?  Giving customers choice?  It sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true.  Sorta, they are releasing the Linux version via an ‘Agreement not sue’ for downstream Novell customers.

The project is called, ‘Moonlight’.  When I went to download Silverlight from Microsofts website I was redirected to the Moonlight front page.  Moonlight is a part of the mono project.  The mono project is the Open Source version of ‘Active X’ sponored by Novell.  Microsoft has a sizable investment and co-marketing agreement with Novell, of whom is the distributor of SUSE Linux.

What is stange is that Microsoft doesn’t give an explicit agreement or license to use it’s ‘silverlight’ technology, instead it posted a covenant not to sue customers of Novell.  I’m not a lawyer but this seems odd to me.  Not to mention, that nobody really uses SUSE or Novell Linux; at least in terms of users and worker bee’s.



Over-Clocking an NVIDIA GPU on Linux

I’ve been playing the World of Warcraft on Fedora 10 for about two months now and I must say, I’m impressed.  The performance is close to Windows XP.  I dropped about 20%-30% of my frame rate in the process, but I don’t need to waste an entire(otherwise valuable) computer.  So it occurred to me that I might be able to squeeze a little more juice out of my Nvidia Geforce 7950 GT graphics card.

Goal of this Post:

– Enable overclocking for Nvidia graphics cards

It took me a bunch of tries to properly set this up.  Nvidia does not document this process; but with enough googling I pieced together the clues to make it happen.  First I want to mention that enabling ‘over clocking’ voids the warranty on all Nvidia cards,  So please be careful.  Locate your ‘xorg.conf’ file and open it with your favorite text editor.  In most cases this will be ‘/etc/X11/xorg.conf’.  Under the device section add:

Option         “coolbits” “1”



SOLVED: Real Player 11 Gold, ‘no sound’ issue with Fedora/Unbuntu

I like Real Player.  I like Real Networks too.  They use and support open source software.  They haven’t made the GPL leap yet, but at least Linux has a decent streaming media player because of them.  I was happy until a recent upgrade.

I was stumped on this one for a while.  I updated from Real Player 10 to 11 and then got no sound.  I uninstalled and tried the Real .bin package.  Same problem.  So I downgraded to Real Player 10, but again no sound(even though the player appears to be playing without error).

What made it worse was how lousy the support forum for Real Player on Linux is.  I mean it really sux.  The web design and support layout is okay, but there are no real answers to many of the post I looked at.  It was frustrating because there are many, many people experiencing the same problem.  I understand it’s free, but did anyone test it on Unbuntu and Fedora with different audio servers before release?  Right now, Unbuntu and Fedora use, PulseAudio, ALSA, and OSS.  Many times all of them at once, as to offer the most driver and application support.  Big oversight.

I tried OSS drivers with the same result:

Real Player 11 preferences

Real Player 11 preferences