Kubuntu and the “Sinking Ship” of KDE: Really?

English: Logo of the KDE Project "KDE, K ...

Image via Wikipedia

You may have heard that Canonical is formally dropping support of the KDE-based version of the Ubuntu desktop come October. This is kinda old news now, but it seems that at least some folks want to make a big deal of it. So I’m feeling the need to talk about it too.

Tracking the Story

The news came in the form of a February 6 post from Kubuntu developer Jonathan Riddell to the Kubuntu developers list:

Today I bring the disappointing news that Canonical will no longer be funding my work on Kubuntu after 12.04. Canonical wants to treat Kubuntu in the same way as the other community flavors such as Edubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu, and support the projects with infrastructure. This is a big challenge to Kubuntu of course and KDE as well.

A few days later, Riddell’s counterpart at openSUSE, Will Stephenson responded to the situation on the KDE Contributor’s Blog in a way that may seem a little cynical, but struck me as a completely valid response.

After a week had passed, TechRepublic’s open source pundit Jack Wallen said he read Riddell’s announcement “with a heavy heart.” The money quote here:

try to find a major Linux distribution that ships with KDE as the default desktop. You’re going to be hard pressed to do so.

He said the best way for KDE to survive this blow was to develop its own distribution, which he named KOS. In the poll accompanying the story, 51% of his readers agreed with that strategy.

Bruce Byfield at Datamation (a fine writer for a variety of Linux publications) may have overhyped Wallen’s article just a little, and turned it into part of a wave of “KDE Death Watch” commentary. The story does effectively dispute the idea of KDE disappearing, but does again raise the question of “Just what is a major KDE distribution.”

openSUSE: Can’t get no respect

Younger folks in the audience may not remember Rodney Dangerfield, the comic who built his entire career on the theme that he “got no respect at all” (Check out the films Caddyshack or Back to School to learn more about the Dangerfield persona). One of the most striking things about all these stories is how Kubuntu is (allegedly) the last major Linux distribution with a KDE desktop. Perhaps I’m biased, but when did openSUSE cease being a major distribution? While it has never been dominant in terms of mindshare or installations (admittedly both hard to quantify), the little green Geeko with the outstanding system administration tool just chugs along.

The SUSE distro has been famously associated with KDE throughout its life. Some historical notes:

  • Novell bought the original German company that produced the distribution around the same time that they bought one of the main development teams for the GNOME desktop. When openSUSE planned to make GNOME the default desktop on installation, a massive uproar from the user base left the desktop choice to the person doing the installation.
  • openSUSE was the first distribution to switch to KDE 4. That was certainly a bad idea or miscalculation, but certainly a commitment to the KDE desktop.

openSUSE is not going away, and will continue to be a “KDE-first” distribution for a long time to come. I’m looking forward to seeing how big our community is at the openSUSE Summit this fall.

KDE’s Future

Byfield certainly makes an excellent case for why KDE is not dead, and certainly won’t be on life support anytime soon. Even Wallen (who doesn’t really use KDE anymore) concedes that “KDE is one of the most polished, professional desktops available for the Linux operating system and deserves to be made available through some official channel.”

I disagree that KDE needs to put out its own distro to succeed long-term. The world probably does not need many more Linux distributions. Linux users should always have a choice of desktop environments and associated applications. I love that I can run apps designed for GNOME on my KDE desktop, and want to continue to do that.

KDE certainly needs to attract more developers, volunteer or otherwise. More users and platforms will follow. As I noted last week, the Spark tablet is a great way to build pathways to the future.

Things may not be entirely rosy for KDE today, but I can heartily raise both hands when Wallen says “Linux without KDE is simply not the Linux I’ve known and loved since the mid-90s.” May that continue to be true.

Installing openSUSE 12.1

openSUSE Logo on TuxLast weekend, I got my system ready to install the latest and greatest from the openSUSE community. After I wrote that post, I thought I was going right into the installation, but life intervened (as it so often does). Between tending to other priorities (some of us are still working while the economic crisis continues) and wanting to reserve a large block of time for the install, just in case anything went wrong, I didn’t get to install openSUSE 12.1 until Wednesday.

The good news is that it went pretty smoothly. Let me tell you about it…

The last item of preparation last week was to burn the KDE LiveCD to use for the installation. I kept the Transmission BitTorrent client going 24×7 throughout this period, sharing the 32-bit DVD, KDE and GNOME ISO files (in case you’re wondering, the share ratio indicating the demand for each file wound up at over 5 for the DVD, and both live CDs around 2, with GNOME slightly ahead) for roughly a week.

Before I shut down the laptop, I popped the burned CD-RW into the holder, without sliding it in. I powered down the machine, and the CD drive pulled in the disc. After a couple of deep breaths, I fired up the laptop, and the CD loaded and displayed the KDE desktop, as expected. Two things made me happy to begin with:

  • The desktop displayed in both the laptop and my attached second monitor. They were identical images, so I couldn’t (yet) use the big monitor as an extension of the desktop, but it was a good start for the open-source Nouveau driver.
  • KDE also found my Ethernet cable, attached to the DSL router. I was slightly disappointed it did not immediately locate the wireless card, but I was pretty hopeful that the networking piece of the install would go smoothly.

In the KDE folder view that presented itself on the LiveCD was a lovely Install button. The adventure was about to begin. Clicking the button generated a warning box, telling me I didn’t have enough memory (less than 1GB) to complete the install and run anything else. While thinking “Wow, you mean with a newer system I would have been able to get screen shots? Or even tweet the whole process?”, I resigned myself to reality and started the install. Sorry folks!

The openSUSE installation process has changed a bit since the v10.3 install I documented in openSUSE Linux Unleashed back in 2007, but similar to more recent versions. On the first screen, the installer identifies the language and keyboard you use, with drop-down menus in case it guesses wrong. It also displays the GNU General Public License v2 text, which you do not have to “sign,” but have the option to read.

Clicking Next takes you to the gorgeous full-color world map that allows you to define your time zone, either by clicking your spot on the map, using the drop-down menus or some combination of both. Because this is YaST, you get the option to use the Network Time Protocol (NTP) to set your clock with the help of time servers associated with ultra-accurate atomic clocks. As I had yet to set up my Internet connection, this didn’t work—but I got it working (set to the us.pool.ntp server) later. Click Next.

The third screen offered a suggestion for partitioning the hard drive. YaST reproduced the existing partition table exactly as I had it written down last week, and recommended only reformatting the root (/) partition. For a truly clean install, I could have reformatted /home too, but I was getting anxious and lazy, so I let it slide.

After the suggested partition table, you get three check boxes to select from:

  • Create an LVM-based proposal; this Logical Volume Method would start over and create new partitions across physical hard drives. Choosing this option also allows you to encrypt certain volumes.
  • Propose a separate home partition, selected by default (though I don’t know whether that was because I already had that setup). This is an excellent idea, by the way, for the simple reason that you can store and backup all your data in one place. Then you can choose whether to continue using that data when you change computers or operating systems.
  • Use btrfs as the default filesystem. This new filesystem type (pronounced “Butter-FS”) is intended to be faster and better organized than ext4, the dominant filesystem for UNIX/Linux. But it’s new, and relatively untested.This is not checked by default, and I seriously considered selecting this option, but chickened out on my main production system.

When I clicked Next, I ran into the first glitch of the install, based on the fact that the LiveCD was still running. While the install program (YaST) was trying to identify an initial set of software packages, PackageKit was using the same YaST Software Management module to check for new software, generating an error message from the install program. I had to press Ctrl+Esc to get the System Activity module up to kill PackageKit to continue. that’s Tip #1 for a first-time installer!

Once the software conflict was resolved, the fourth screen of the install appeared, where I created my first user. YaST asks for your Full Name, and offers your first name as your user name. You can change this manually if you prefer something else. You are then asked to type a password twice for that user.

Here you also get three check boxes for this user:

  • Use password for system administrator. This is how Ubuntu does things, but critics (like me) suggest that this is a bad convenience-vs-security tradeoff. I prefer to have a separate admin password, so I clear this box.
  • Receive system mail. Because I am the main user of this system, I do check this box, so when the system wants to tell me something it found in its logs, it will tell me (not the Root account that I never log into directly).
  • Autologin. This box is checked, and is OK to my mind if you’re the only user of your computer (or at least the Linux side). OTOH, if you like to choose your desktop from the login screen, you might not ever see the login screen.

Also on this screen, you can select an authentication method (how the system is to know that you are really you). By default, openSUSE will use the classic UNIX method of a passwd file in /etc. If you have one, you can also select a digital certificate stored on a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server, a Network File Server (NFS) or a Windows share. Your password will be encrypted using a SHA-512 key, the most secure protocol available, by default. You could choose a lesser cipher (DES, MD5 or SHA-256), but I don’t know why you’d do such a thing.

If you opted to create a different Root/admin password, clicking Next lets you set that password, otherwise you will see the Summary page of all the decisions you’ve made up to this point, with a final opportunity to make changes. You can also select what happens at boot time on this machine. openSUSE presumes you want to start at runlevel 5, with a graphical desktop, but if you just want to run a server of some type, with just command-line access, you can choose that here.

Click Next, and you’ll get the last warning to turn back. The installer then formats the partition(s) it’s slated to and starts “copying the root filesystem.” You can walk away or read a magazine article while it works. On my laptop, the install took 27 minutes. You will be asked to reboot the system.

After the reboot, the automatic hardware configuration kicks in, and two minutes later, your shiny new KDE desktop appears on your screen! From starting the LiveCD to a new working system took less than an hour, and would have been even faster had I not been taking copious notes.

Of course, I wasn’t quite done yet. You remember the problem I had with PackageKit earlier in the process? Well, I still hadn’t done my network setup, so the newly installed PackageKit replacement, called Apper, tried to find updates and promptly crashed.

I opened YaST, and set up my DSL connection with AT&T. After some poking around, I finally found KNetworkManager in the KDE “Configure Desktop” settings application and set up the wireless connection too. Finally, I set up my software repositories in YaST without a hitch. The KDE Crash Reporter was then able to get a proper backtrace, which was sent off to the KDE team.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, I’ve had to fix a few settings, and install a bunch more software, but overall I’m a happy guy! Yes, I’ve successfully booted to Windows and booted back to openSUSE again. I hope your install/upgrade goes as well as mine. If you’re still on the fence about installing, here are some of the other new features. Don’t forget: Have a lot of fun!

Preparing to Install openSUSE 12.1 from Scratch

You may already know, but openSUSE released v12.1 of the community distribution this week. With a new number before the decimal point, I thought it would be a good time for a fresh, clean install on my aging laptop. I could just upgrade my existing v11.4 installation, but I like to see what the new install looks like from time to time. Doing a clean install also means I can share the process with you too.

Clean installs do require a bit of preparation, though. You will be wiping your partitions, so you want to preserve your existing data, and a bit of your configurations before embarking on a new install. In this post, I’ll share what I did.

1. Review Existing Repositories in YaST

While you can find software to do just about anything with just the default repositories in openSUSE, sometimes you need something that isn’t in there, or even in the community repositories that you get access to with every installation. Fortunately, the openSUSE Build Service (OBS) allows anyone to create packages to distribute with openSUSE, or any major Linux distribution.

When you use the 1-Click Install option, the packager adds his/her  repository to your system so you get all the updates. Checking what packages come from what repositories can save you some time later.

As I write this, it occurs to me that the repo list is probably stored in /etc somewhere, but you will still want to write down the repo names and the relevant packages that to install on 12.1.

2. Full Backup

Speaking of packages I got from a non-standard repository, I use BackInTime to handle regular backups of my /home drive to my ever-trusty Seagate FreeAgent external drive. It backs up that info weekly, and is a no-brainer to set up. Nonetheless, I wanted to ensure that everything got backed up before the uninstall/reinstall, so I wanted to make my own archived /home drive, and also the /etc space (where system configuration files tend to be kept).

I thought that would be a simple task with KDE‘s handy Ark tool, but I ran into a permissions issue. Apparently the place I wanted to back up to was restricted to Root! So using the Krusader file manager in Root mode, I was able to change the permissions for the backup folder, and perform the backup; shrinking the 25GB on my /home path to just 9GB. Data is safe!

3. Understand Your Partition Table

Now some people might get angry with me, but I still have the occasional need for that Microsoft operating system. Lots of folks still use it, and the appropriate screen shot is still helpful for my readers (thanks, all of you!). So I’ve been running a dual-boot system for pretty much this entire millennium. Maybe you don’t have to, so you can skip this step. Otherwise, I highly recommend knowing what your system currently looks like. the openSUSE install program should recognize everything that’s there already, but in the off-chance that something goes wrong, if you know how Linux already sees your drive, chances are better it will stay that way.

Again, YaST helps in this regard with the Expert Partitioner module. This tool will reorganize your drive if you need it to, but I’m just going to look at the table now. I wrote down the current partition table, noting that the physical drive was split up into eight pieces (including an extended partition that holds just about everything). I made careful notes of the file system on each partition (so I know where Windows sits) and the size of each. After I wrote it down by hand, I took a screen shot  for additional peace of mind. I should be able to recreate that during the install.

4. Release Day Arrives: Let’s Pull Down Torrents!

As I awoke on the morning of November 16, openSUSE v12.1 was released. I went straight to the download site, and downloaded the torrent files for the full 32-bit DVD release, and LiveCDs containing the GNOME 3.2 desktop and KDE 4.7.2. I can’t make DVDs with this laptop, but I suspected that I could be of help to others if I got all the stuff. The Transmission torrent client went to work as I did the same. When I got home from work, all three files were downloaded to the FreeAgent drive and seeding other people’s downloads.

I guessed right, as my share ratios indicate the DVD is by far the most popular form of download. Interestingly, the GNOME LiveCD has maintained a slight edge over KDE every time I’ve checked the ratios.

BTW, If all this talk of torrents and share ratios have you scratching your head, please let me know. This post has gone on too long already, but I’m happy to take up the topic later.

5. Burn the KDE LiveCD

So let’s see: Data’s backed up; we know where to find random packages, we know where to install the new version and got the installation program. All that’s left is to put the install program on CD. For that task, I use K3B, the excellent CD/DVD burning tool that comes with KDE. Throw a CD-RW into the drive, go to Tools > Burn Image, and point to the openSUSE-12.1-KDE-LiveCD-i686.iso file. Another dialog comes up, where I ask K3B to confirm the data is valid on the CD after writing it, and 10 minutes later, I have a CD ready to go.

In the next post, I’ll tell you how the install went. In the meantime, let me know how you prepare for a new install. Fewer steps? Always just a dist-upgrade?

If you’ve already upgraded to openSUSE 12.1, I’d love to hear how it went, and what you think. Of course, if anything went badly, please file bug reports!

Some Quick Hits: openSUSE Strategy, WordPress Upgrades, and Some Pointers

It’s summer in Milwaukee, and I haven’t been spending too much time in front of a keyboard lately. You’re surprised?

Anyway, I do have a lot of things on my mind, and here are some of them:

  • openSUSE Strategy Vote: This is directed at the 267 formal Members of the openSUSE Community who have not yet voted on the proposed strategy document: As I write this, you’ve got less than 24 hours to cast your ballot.  The proposal has a 90% approval rating right now (and I voted Yes, if you care what I think); but unless at least 35 more members vote, bumping turnout over 50%, the strategy won’t be adopted! The statement doesn’t take long to read, you can vote No, or even abstain if you like, but please make your voice heard!
  • WordPress v3.2: In the offhand chance you haven’t heard: WordPress released v3.2 (aka Gershwin) over a week ago! There’s even been an update already! Much more to say about this soon, but goodness knows if you haven’t upgraded yet, what are you waiting for?
  • Some Personal History: If you’ve read my About page, or checked out my main website, you know that I’m a technical writer by profession. I wrote a brief account of my “Adventures in Publishing: Finding a Gig as a Computer-Book Author” for the webzine associated with the venerable Technical Writing mailing list (TechWr-L). You may find it interesting.
  • Getting Yet More Social: You may have heard about this new little social network called Google+. It’s really been flying under the radar, don’t you think? I’ve been playing around there this week. If you’re there, connect with me here. If you’re not there, and are anxious to learn more, my Invite button is still showing. Drop a line with your name and email address to gplus-at-michaelmccallister.com. I’ll see what I can do.
That’s all for now. Expect to be hearing more from me on these and other riveting topics as the summer presses onward.

The Future of openSUSE: Looks pretty bright to me

SuSE logo

Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be the first to tell you I am close to clueless about business trends. Anyone who’s ever read my reaction to the Novell-Microsoft agreement can figure that out pretty quickly. That said, it’s been a week since Attachmate “agreed to acquire” (amazing phrase, that) Novell, the parent company of the SUSE Linux products, and unquestionably a major sponsor of the openSUSE community.

Since then, there’s been a fair amount of activity among the openSUSE faithful:

  • The community board released this statement declaring (among other things) that “it’s business as usual and we are continuing to work on, rather than predicting, the future of this project and have a lot of fun!
  • Last Saturday was Zombie Bug Squashing Day, where 10-15 volunteers combed through bugs for v10.2, 10.3 and 11.0 still marked Open in the Bugzilla database, and disposed of something close to half of them, as reported to the opensuse-project mailing list. This project may continue soon.
  • Both the openFATE feature request process and the openSUSE News page are becoming a bit more professional, with the help of still more volunteers.
  • And maybe I’m a little too excited about this, but Greg Kroah-Hartman announced on Tuesday the beginning of a new “Tumbleweeds” project. Greg describes it like this:

    a repo that is a rolling updated version of openSUSE containing the latest “stable” versions of packages for people to use.

    I’d describe it like this: An “in-between” version of openSUSE that offers packages that are a little bit more current than the most recent release, but not as buggy as the cutting-edge Factory repository. For those of us who like stability, but don’t want to miss out on the latest.

So what does this have to do with the Attachmate-Novell hookup? It tells me that regardless of what happens at the corporate level, there is energy in our community. There’s reason to believe that energy can sustain this distribution for a long time.

Got any thoughts about the future of openSUSE, and other community distributions with a major corporate sponsor? Add a comment here.

Truly “Adventures with Geeko”

Had a great time with the Madison Linux User Group Saturday. About a dozen folks skipped the second half of the Badger game (and a really nice fall day), and joined us at ITT Technical Institute for my Introduction to openSUSE presentation.

As most folks there use Ubuntu, I focused on the things that make openSUSE stand out, which was mainly YaST (the installer and system administration tool). I also spent a great deal of time showing off KDE SC 4.5—actually more time than I wanted to, as I managed to hang up my system!

A backup laptop appeared (thanks, Doug!) to permit a brief demo of the openSUSE Build Service. That part was certainly not as polished as the one Joos describes here, but was helpful, I think. I finished with a short summary of the community strategy discussion.

The group was amazingly patient through all the software issues and projection miscues that seemed to plague me from the get-go. Questions were good and the general comments were smart and useful. As noted, a great time!

Here are the slides (even the ones I didn’t show!):

Thanks to Doug Whitfield, who invited me; Brad Stone, who kept me informed and otherwise took care of me; the openSUSE Marketing team for the slide templates; and those who participated.

Quick Reminder: “Adventures with Geeko: Intro to openSUSE” in Madison, WI Tomorrow!

The original openSUSE Logo

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I’ve been quiet the last couple weeks. Been preparing my first openSUSE talk in quite awhile. Speaking to the Madison Linux User Group (MadLUG) at 1PM Central Time (more info here). In the course of an hour or so, we’re going to cover YaST, KDE, the openSUSE Build Service (OBS) and if time permits, there will be discussion of the strategy process.

I’ll have a few openSUSE 11.3 DVDs to give away, and some really cheap copies of openSUSE Linux (10.3) Unleashed. Come on down if you’re in the neighborhood. If you’re not, watch this space for a summary. With some good fortune, I’ll get the slides posted too.

Welcome LibreOffice!

It’s been more than a week now since the Great OpenOffice Fork of 2010, and the dust is beginning to settle.

If you haven’t heard, last Monday a large chunk of the  OpenOffice.org (OOo) development community announced the formation of The Document Foundation (TDF), and would create a new office suite based on OOo, called LibreOffice. The announcement carried endorsements from many heavy hitters in the open source and corporate worlds, including Google, Novell, Red Hat, and Canonical. Even the GNOME Foundation (while noting the existence of its own small suite) had nice things to say at the launch.

Absent from the party were a pair of giants: IBM and Oracle. The latter was not surprising, as the database company put this train in motion by acquiring Sun Microsystems, the firm who had released OpenOffice into the wild some years back. TDF invited Oracle to participate in the effort, and expressed hope they would release the copyrights to the OpenOffice name. Yep, that was going to happen. Monday, Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols reported that Oracle has officially declined to participate in the Foundation.

With more than 100 million users, we believe OpenOffice.org is the most advanced, most feature-rich open-source implementation and will strongly encourage the OpenOffice community to continue to contribute through www.openoffice.org.

Today, Italo Vignoli of TDF reports, among many interesting numbers, that the LibreOffice beta has been downloaded some 80,000 times in its first week of existence. The beta consists of rebranded OpenOffice v3.3 code. There’s a support forum for those users now running too.

Here’s a sample of some of the best reporting and thinking I saw, outside of the mainstream tech press, on the announcement:

Now comes the fallout, as the rest of the OpenOffice community has to pick sides. Eric Bachard of the OOo Education project initially posted a skeptical article called “No LibreOffice for Me” to his blog, but apparently pulled it in the intervening time. Jean Hollis Weber of the Documentation Project (close to my heart, of course) wondered about the future: “At this point I’m not quite sure what this will mean for my role as Co-Lead of the OpenOffice.org Documentation Project, given my enthusiasm for the Foundation.”

While most of the coverage and blogging about LibreOffice and TDF was quite positive, Matt Asay of Canonical expressed a dissent that I saw a lot of in roaming around online in his essay for GigaOm: “LibreOffice: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (and Gone).”

It’s unclear what a web-light, client-heavy Microsoft Office clone can hope to achieve in terms of real innovation. And why are we worried about replicating Microsoft Office functionality, which has long been the aim of the OpenOffice community? While some Excel spreadsheet jocks may live in Microsoft Office, very few of the rest of us give it more than a cursory glance on a regular basis. It’s not that we’re not engaged in “office productivity,” either. We just work differently now.

While I don’t begrudge Asay’s ability to work with Google Docs and Zoho in his day job, I can tell you that there are millions of us still using word processors and the like installed on a desktop, safely behind a corporate firewall. Maybe that will change over time, but for now, I’d much prefer using LibreOffice than that other dominant suite.

I wish the LibreOffice team the best of luck building their new suite, and devising many new and effective ways of communicating. Keeping KOffice on their toes as well!

As we watch this community grow, I hope the openSUSE community can learn some lessons as well. One thought from this corner: Suddenly the idea of an independent foundation to manage the community doesn’t sound so out in left field. With the openSUSE Conference coming up, there’s a lot to discuss.

Outsmarting an aging router and other tales of regeneration

So after a week of preparation and a couple more weeks of frustration and perseverance, my somewhat ancient laptop has transformed from a dual-boot Kubuntu/Windows XP system to a dual-boot openSUSE 11.3/Windows XP system.

The whole process wasn’t really as bad as I’d feared, nor as bad as you might think after reading that lead paragraph. I pretty much thought I’d have to reformat my hard drive and start over and backed up all my data accordingly. Once I did that, I remembered to install Windows first, even though I never ran into any issues when I earlier installed Windows on what it considered the H: drive.

What I was not really expecting was having to fight my DSL router to get access to openSUSE’s software repositories! This is the story I want to share with you.

First, let me say that one of the great things about Linux is its ability to make old tech useful and productive (setting a great example for human society as a whole). Back in the day, folks made the case for people to try turning their old desktop PC into a Linux network server when they got some shiny new piece of hardware. You can still do that with your ancient Pentium processor, as long as you don’t need a graphical interface to run it.

This laptop I’m typing into was the first portable I ever bought, and it’s just three years old. One of the first Dell machines to ship with Ubuntu in the summer of 2007. I bought a copy of Windows XP to add to it another while back. But I’ve had this 2WIRE DSL router since I moved into my last apartment on New Year’s Day 2004, and it’s still going. Hardly ever caused me a lick of trouble, except when I installed openSUSE 11.1, and YaST Online Update wouldn’t update. I brought my problem to the openSUSE mailing list, and eventually discovered the problem was with Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). Disabling IPv6 in the YaST network manager solved the problem, presumably for all time, or at least till the engineers figured out why IPv6 wasn’t working.

Not quite two years later, with no update trouble either on Windows or Ubuntu, I proceeded to rebuild the laptop. The install(s) went quite smoothly—until we got to the update part. My old friend “cannot resolve download.opensuse.org” returned to my screen. Well, “download.opensuse.org” was a new thing, and a very cool item at that. For most of my (open)SuSE installs, I had to find and designate my own closest mirror, to ease the burden on the ‘net pipes. Now you connect to this one download URL, and a piece of software called MirrorBrain finds a nearby download site for you!

To make a long story a little shorter: It turns out the mirror selected for me has a problem with that aging router of mine. When you use the domain name, the router spits it out—”No packets from you!” But one of the search engines found me a piece of the puzzle. I tried using nslookup to get the IP address of download.opensuse.org. To my surprise, changing the address of the repositories in YaST from letters to numbers appeased my router!

A few problems remained, mainly that I couldn’t access the list of community repositories that house so many fine applications (apologies to those readers who aren’t using openSUSE; I know this is probably too detailed, but this is my way of helping the next person). Every time I’d try to get the list from YaST, it would dutifully go off to download.opensuse.org and come up empty. <sigh>

But now nslookup stopped being friendly! For some reason, when I’d try:

nslookup http://packman.unixheads.com/

I’d get in response:

** server can't find http://packman.unixheads.com/
.gateway.2wire.net: REFUSED

Just when I was about to cave in and buy a new router, I tried one more search on this error message. The results led me to a post on a Red Hat Linux forum (of all things), suggesting I try using the Host command (as root) instead of nslookup. Lo and behold, that got me real IP addresses.

While I still don’t have the complete list of community repositories, this page offers a good list that I was able to configure in YaST. So I’m happily back in openSUSE. Yes, I’ll probably be replacing the router soon, but I can get on with my work for now.

Thanks to all who helped, whether they knew it or not! This community is stellar! Now I just have to get my old KMail restored, and I’ll be even happier.