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Micro openSUSE Leap 15.1 for AWS

February 16th, 2020 by

I make the minimalist version of openSUSE available on AWS. In addition to multipurpose, complete stable and easy to use. It is intended for users, developers, administrators, and any professional who wants openSUSE resources on the server. It’s great for beginners, experienced users and ultra geeks, in short, it’s perfect for everyone! Suggestions at cabelo@opensuse.org, More information here: https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/B083XBP51G

micro-opensuse-15.1

Here are the main advantages:

Resources openSUSE Leap 15.1 Micro openSUSE 15.1
Disk space 1,5G 686M
Used memory 70M 55M
Packages 576 236

Disadvantage: It does not have YAST!

Highlights of YaST Development Sprint 93

February 7th, 2020 by

Lately, the YaST team has been quite busy fixing bugs and finishing some features for the upcoming (open)SUSE releases. Although we did quite some things, in this report we will have a closer look at just a few topics:

  • A feature to search for packages across all SLE modules has arrived to YaST.
  • Improved support for S390 systems in the network module.
  • YaST command-line interface now returns a proper exit-code.
  • Added progress feedback to the Expert Partitioner.
  • Partial support for Bitlocker and, as a lesson learned from that, a new warning about resizing empty partitions.

The Online Search Feature Comes to YaST

As you already know, starting in version 15, SUSE Linux follows a modular approach. Apart from the base products, the packages are spread through a set of different modules that the user can enable if needed (Basesystem module, Desktop Applications Module, Server Applications Module, Development Tools Module, you name it).

In this situation, you may want to install a package, but you do not know which module contains such a package. As YaST only knows the data of those packages included in your registered modules, you will have to do a manual search.

Fortunately, zypper introduced a new search-packages command some time ago that allows to find out where a given package is. And now it is time to bring this feature to YaST.

For technical reasons, this online search feature cannot be implemented within the package manager, so it is available via the Extra menu.

Search Online Menu Option

YaST offers a simple way to search for the package you want across all available modules and extensions, no matter whether they are registered or not. And, if you find the package you want, it will ask you about activating the needed module/extension right away so you can finally install the package.

Online Search: Enable Containers Module

If you want to see this feature in action, check out the demonstration video. Like any other new YaST feature, we are looking forward to your feedback.

Fixing and Improving Network Support for S390 Systems

We have mentioned a lot of times that we recently refactored the Network module, fixing some long-standing bugs and preparing the code for the future. However, as a result, we introduced a few new bugs too. One of those bugs was dropping, by accident, the network devices activation dialog for S390 systems. Thus, during this sprint, we re-introduced the dialog and, what is more, we did a few improvements as the old one was pretty tricky. Let’s have a look at them.

The first obvious change is that the overview shows only one line per each s390 group device, instead of using one row per each channel as the old did.

New YaST Network Overview for S390 Systems

Moreover, the overview will be updated after the activation, displaying the Linux device that corresponds to the just activated device.

YaST2 Network Overview After Activation

Last but not least, we have improved the error reporting too. Now, when the activation fails, YaST will give more details in order to help the user to solve the problem.

YaST2 Network Error Reporting in S390 Systems

Fixing the CLI

YaST command-line interface is a rather unknown feature, although it has been there since ever. Recently, we got some bug reports about its exit codes. We discovered that, due to a technical limitation of our internal API, it always returned a non-zero exit code on any command that was just reading values but not writing anything. Fortunately, we were able to fix the problem and, by the way, we improved the behavior in several situations where, although the exit code was non-zero, YaST did not give any feedback. Now that the CLI works again, it is maybe time to give it a try, especially if it is the first time you hear about it.

Adding Progress Feedback to the Partitioner

The Expert Partitioner is a very powerful tool. It allows you to perform very complex configurations in your storage devices. At every time you can check the changes you have been doing in your devices by using the Installation Summary option on the left bar. All those changes will not be applied on the system until you confirm them by clicking the Next button. But once you confirm the changes, the Expert Partitioner simply closes without giving feedback about the progress of the changes being performed.

Actually, this is a kind of regression after migrating YaST to its new Storage Stack (a.k.a. storage-ng). The old Partitioner had a final step which did inform the user about the progress of the changes. That dialog has been brought back, allowing you to be aware of what is happening once you decide to apply the configuration. This progress dialog will be available in SLE 15 SP2, openSUSE 15.2 and, of course, openSUSE Tumbleweed.

YaST Partitioner Progress Feedback

Recognizing Bitlocker Partitions

Bitlocker is a filesystem encrypting technology that comes included with Windows. Until the previous sprint, YaST was not able to recognize that a given partition was encrypted with such technology.

As a consequence, the automatic partitioning proposal of the (open)SUSE installer would happily delete any partition encrypted with Bitlocker to reclaim its space, even for users that had specified they wanted to keep Windows untouched. Moreover, YaST would allow users to resize such partitions using the Expert Partitioner without any warning (more about that below).

All that is fixed. Now Bitlocker partitions are correctly detected and displayed as such in the Partitioner, which will not allow users to resize them, explaining that such operation is not supported. And the installer’s Guided Setup will consider those partitions to be part of a Windows installation for all matters.

Beware of Empty Partitions

As explained before, whenever YaST is unable to recognize the content of a partition or a disk, it considers such device to be empty. Although that’s not longer the case for Bitlocker devices, there are many more technologies out there (and more to come). So users should not blindly trust that a partition displayed as empty in the YaST Partitioner can actually be resized safely.

In order to prevent data loss, in the future YaST will inform the user about a potential problem when trying to resize a partition that looks empty.

YaST" Expert Partitioning Warning when Resizing Empty Partitions

Hack Week is coming…

That special time of the year is already around the corner. Christmas? No, Hack Week! From February 10 to February 14 we will be celebrating the 19th Hack Week at SUSE. The theme of this edition is Simplify, Modernize & Accelerate. If you are curious about the projects that we are considering, have a look at SUSE Hack Week’s Page. Bear in mind that the event is not limited to SUSE employees, so if you are interested in any project, do not hesitate to join us.

Highlights of YaST Development Sprint 92

January 24th, 2020 by

An Actionable Partitioner Overview Screen

Until now, the Partitioner landing screen has been useful to have a big picture of the devices in your system and as a shortcut to jump directly to the device page just with a double click over it. But, do you know what? From yast-storage-ng 4.2.74 on you can work directly with devices from that screen similar as you already do in the more specific pages, through the contextual actions added below the devices list. That means, for example, no more jumps to Hard Disks just to add a new partition nor resize an existing one. Enjoy 😉


More details: PR 1024

Numeric Sorting in Tables

We have improved the sorting for tables in libyui, the UI library of YaST. So far columns were sorted directly by the text displayed, e.g. the device name or the size in the expert partitioner. For some use-cases this resulted in unexpected ordering, e.g. partitions of a disk were ordered “/dev/sda1”, “/dev/sda10”, “/dev/sda2”, and sizes were ordered “1 GiB”, “2 TiB” and “4 GiB”.

Now it is possible to provide a sort-key for every table entry which is then used instead of the displayed text. This allows the expected ordering and is already implemented for the tables in the expert partitioner as the two pictures below show.


Improving the NFS Module

YaST offers a specific module to configure your NFS shares. Similar to every YaST module, you can run it by executing yast2 nfs in your terminal, or by launching it from the YaST Control Center. But there is another cool way to use the YaST NFS module: opening the Expert Partitioner!


The Expert Partitioner offers a NFS section on the left menu tree where you can do everything that the NFS module provides. Thanks to that, you can configure your NFS shares at the same time you format your partitions!

But that integration needed some improvements after we migrated YaST to the new Storage Stack (a.k.a. storage-ng). Moreover, some bugs were detected when using the NFS module for mounting and unmounting shares, see for example bsc#1006815 and bsc#1151426.

All those bugs were fixed, ww the NFS module behaves as expected in both cases, when running in standalone mode and inside the Expert Partitioner. Note that now the current status of the existing shares is preserved. That is, an unmounted share will continue unmounted after editing it. Unmounted entries are indicated with an asterisk in the list of shares, similar to what the Expert Partitioner does for the rest of unmounted devices. All these improvements will be available for SUSE Linux Enterprise SP1, openSUSE Leap 15.1 and openSUSE Tumbleweed.


Installation Progress Improvements

We got some bug reports about how installation progress reporting works and while we were touching it, we also added a few smaller improvements to the code.

The first change is that nowadays installing from multiple discs almost never happens but still there was always a “Medium 1” column which did not make much sense. So we removed the column and if there is a multi-media source, it will be appended to the name if needed.

The second visible change is a new Unicode character ⌛ (hourglass) during the initial phase of RPM installation until the remaining time can be estimated.

The third change is that now the maximum time is always capped at 2 hours, so even if there are multiple sources and some of them took more then two hours, it always show just “>2:00:00” and even in total it is capped, so it can no longer show something like “>6:00:00”.

The fourth one is that now you can read the release notes without disturbances. Previously you would get switched to the package log tab after each package finished its installation. Now it will redraw only when you go back from the release notes screen.

The fifth one is a fix for showing the remaining packages, where it is shown only for the active source and not for all. So now it shows remaining packages for all repositories.

And last but not least we do a bunch of refactoring, code quality improvements and also adding automatic unit tests to reduce regressions in the future.

Tumbleweed before and now:

SLE before and now:

and new ncurses:

Doomsday Preparations: Retracted Packages

If a maintenance update is released for any of our supported products, it may happen that after its release we realize that it introduces new problems, so we have to unpublish (retract) it.

So far, our maintenance team always managed to find other solutions, but sooner or later it will happen that it takes too long to realize that an update was broken, so users will install it.

For that purpose we introduced a new status retracted for patches and packages. We hope that we will never need it, but if we do, we need it in a hurry — until a better, fixed version of those packages is released.

We added new filters “Retracted Packages” and “Retracted Installed Packages” to the package selection, and the affected versions are colored in red and get a [RETRACTED] marker in the “Versions” tab:


Those lists should always be empty. Also, retracted versions will never automatically be installed. If package versions are retracted, but are already installed, the “Retracted Installed Packages” view will be opened automatically when starting the package selection to make you aware of them. Then you can choose to manually downgrade to a previous version or to wait until a fixed version is available.

In general, don’t worry: We never needed this so far, and we hope that we will never need it. Still, we take precautions for the worst case.

More details: PR 82

Qt Package Selection Gets Faster

This came as a byproduct of the previous item: While working on the new filter views for retracted packages, we found that it could take a long time (10-20 seconds) when switching away from the “All Packages” view, so we started digging deeper to find out why.

We found it strange that clearing the package list on the right side of that dialog was so slow; considerably slower than filling it with all packages. After some investigations, we found that in the course of all those changes for all those Qt versions (since Qt 3.x in mid-2006) some internal housekeeping for those list items was now no longer necessary because later Qt versions took over more and more of those responsibilities, and our own housekeeping now got in the way of that and was considerably slowing it down.

Once we found the cause, the fix was easy: We threw out our own housekeeping code and are now relying on what the Qt widget does, and hey presto, clearing that list now happens instantly instead of taking 10-20 seconds.

More details: PR 82 (“Other Fixes”)

Highlights of YaST Development Sprint 91

December 18th, 2019 by

The last two weeks of the year, and also the first one of the new year, are vacation season in many parts of the world and YaSTland is not an exception. But before we enter hibernation mode, let’s take a look to the most important features and bugfixes we implemented in the last sprint of 2019. That includes:

  • bringing back to life some sections of the Software Manager,
  • implementing system upgrade with the new SLE media types,
  • making the installation in Raspberry Pi and IBM Z System even better,
  • improving usability of encryption,
  • reducing the footprint of the Snapper plugin for ZYpp,
  • as always, many other small improvements and fixes.

Restored Some Package Views: Recommended, Suggested, etc.

Let’s start with a redemption story. Some time ago we implemented feature fate#326485 which requested dropping the “Package Groups” view from the package manager UI. That was quite an easy task.

However, a few weeks later we got a bug report that the lists of recommended, suggested, etc… packages couldn’t be displayed anymore. It turned out that, in the Qt package manager front-end, the removed “Package Groups” view not only used to display the static group data from the packages but it also contained some special computed package lists like orphaned, suggested or recommended packages. So these lists were lost as a collateral damage of removing the “Package Groups” view.

The ncurses package manager was not affected by the same problem because, in that front-end, those views are grouped in a separate “Package Classification” section. So the task for this sprint was to somehow revive the lists in Qt and make them again available to the users.

We partly reverted the Package Groups removal and restored displaying those special package groups. To make it consistent we also use the “Package Classification” name for the view, like in the ncurses package manager.

The new Package Classification view in Qt

On the other hand, the ncurses front-end was missing some lists like the “Multiversion Packages” and “All Packages”. To take consistency another step further, we added these missing lists and did some small cleanup and fixes so now both the Qt and the ncurses package managers should offer the same functionality and should look similar.

The revamped Package Classification view in ncurses

User-friendly Encryption Device Names

And talking about bug reports that trigger some usability revamp, some users had pointed that, when the system is booting and prompts for the password of an encrypted device, it’s not always that easy to identify which exact device it is referring to:

Booting password prompt before the change

The root of the problem is that when YaST creates an encryption device (during the installation by means of the storage proposal, or manually with the Expert Partitioner), the device mapper name for the new encrypted device is generated from the udev id of the underlying device (e.g., cr_ccw-0XAF5E-part2).

We decided to improve the encryption naming generation in YaST for Tumbleweed and future releases of Leap and SLE. From now on, the name will be based on the mount point of the device. For example, if an encrypted device is going to be mounted at root, its device mapper name would be cr_root. In general, when the encrypted device is mounted, the device mapper name would be cr_mount_point (e.g., cr_home_linux for an encrypted device mounted at /home/linux).

Booting password prompt after the change

Note that udev-based names might still be used for some scenarios. For example, when the device is not mounted or for an indirectly used encrypted device (e.g., an encrypted LVM Physical Volume).

And related to the identification of encryption devices, we have also added more information about the device when the encryption devices are activated during the installation process. Providing the password for the correct device was very difficult because the user needed to know the UUID of the encryption device. Now on, the activation popup also informs about the kernel name of the underlying device, making much easier to identify it.

New password prompt during installation

Because names matter… which leads us to the next topic.

How does it Feel to Run a Mainframe?

As you may know, (open)SUSE runs in a vast range of hardware, including powerful mainframes like the IBM Z family. One of the strengths of our beloved distributions is that, despite the differences in hardware and scope, the installation and usage experience is very similar in all the supported systems.

Consistency and ease of use are good, but when you drive a luxury car you want to see the brand’s badge on top of the hood. So in future versions of the installer, the model of the machine will be displayed when installing in an IBM Z system. See the right-top corner of the following screenshot.

IBM Z Model in the installer

The text-based installer also has been modified to include the same banner in a similar place.

IBM Z Model in the text-mode installer

But in the same way that (open)SUSE enables you to install and use Linux in a mainframe “just like in any other computer”, we also target to do the same in the other extreme of the hardware spectrum.

Better Support for Raspberry Pi in the Partitioning Proposal

One year ago we announced that openSUSE Leap 15.1 and SLE-15-SP1 would be the first Linux distributions that could be installed in Raspberry Pi devices following the standard installation procedure, instead of deploying a Raspberry-specific pre-built image. The only prerequisite was the existence in the target SD card (or disk) of a partition containing the Raspberry Pi boot code.

But we are now able to go one step further for SLE-15-SP2 (and Leap 15.2). Thanks to the technologies included in those upcoming releases, (open)SUSE will not longer need a separate partition with the boot code in all cases. Now the installer can make a reasonable installation proposal in all situations, even if the target storage device doesn’t contain a booting partition in advance. See, for example, what the installer suggests by default for installing a fully standard SLE-15-SP2 Beta1 in a 32 GiB SD card that contained initially a GPT partition table (tip: GPT partition tables cannot be used to boot in a Raspberry Pi device… and the installer knows it).

Installer proposal for a Raspberry Pi

With that, the installation of the standard SLE-15-SP2 Beta1 (the aarch64 version, of course) in a Raspberry Pi 3 or 4 is as easy as “next”, “next”, “next”… with the only exception of a couple of packages that must be manually selected for installation (raspberrypi-* and u-boot-rpi3). Hopefully, future beta images of both SLE and openSUSE Leap 15.2 will select those packages automatically when installing in a Pi, which will make the (open)SUSE experience in those devices basically identical to any other computer.

SLE Upgrade with the New Media Types

And talking about the standard installation images of the upcoming SLE-15-SP2, we explained in our previous blog post that those versions of SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) and all its associated products will be distributed in two new kinds of media – Full and Online. The Full Media contains many repositories and the system can be installed without network connectivity. The Online Media is similar to the openSUSE’s net installer, it contains no repository and it must download everything from the network. The big difference with openSUSE is that SLE systems need to be registered in order to have access to remote repositories.

But apart from installation, those two new media types can also be used to upgrade an existing system… at least after all the improvements implemented during the latest sprint.

In the case of the Online Media, if the system is registered the upgrade process will switch all repositories to point to their corresponding versions at the SUSE Customer Center (SCC) and will get the new software from there. If the system is not registered, the upgrade process is cancelled and the user is advised to either register the system or use the Full Media.

The Full Media can be used to upgrade any system, registered or not, but the process is different in each case. For a non-registered system, the repositories will be switched to the ones included in the media and the system will be upgraded from there. For registered systems the process is the same that with the Online Media, so the software will be fetched from the remote repositories at the SUSE Customer Center.

Last but not least, we also made sure the process with both medias works with an AutoYaST upgrade (yes, you can also use AutoYaST to perform an unattended upgrade, in addition to the better known unattended installation). For a registered system, we simplified the procedure as much as possible and it only needs access to SCC and an empty AutoYaST profile. For non-registered systems it is a little bit more complex because the profile must specify which repositories from the media should be used for the upgrade. But other than that, the process works quite smooth.

And, of course, we used the opportunity to improve the unit test coverage of the code and to improve the documentation, including the profiles we used for testing.

The Snapper Plugin for ZYpp Becomes More Compact and Future-proof

Snapper lets you make filesystem snapshots. It has a companion, snapper-zypp-plugin, a plugin for ZYpp that makes snapshots automatically during commits. See the “zypp” descriptions in this listing:


# snapper list

  # | Type   |Pre # | Date                     | User | Used Space | Cleanup  | Description  | Userdata     
----+--------+------+--------------------------+------+------------+----------+--------------+-------------
  0 | single |      |                          | root |            |          | current      |              
[...]
824 | pre    |      | Tue Dec 17 10:00:27 2019 | root |  16.00 KiB | number   | zypp(zypper) | important=no
826 | post   |  824 | Tue Dec 17 10:02:19 2019 | root |  16.00 KiB | number   |              | important=no
827 | single |      | Tue Dec 17 11:00:01 2019 | root |  16.00 KiB | timeline | timeline     |             
828 | single |      | Tue Dec 17 11:00:01 2019 | root |  16.00 KiB | timeline | timeline     |             

To make our enterprise products supportable for a looong time, we have rewritten this plugin to C++, starting with snapper-0.8.7. (The original Python implementation is not dead, it is resting in old Git commits.)

As a result, Python regular expressions are no longer supported in the /etc/snapper/zypp.conf file. POSIX extended regular expressions work instead, which should work sufficiently well for the purpose of package name matching. Shell patterns continue working unchanged.

Happy new year!

During the following three weeks, the YaST team will interrupt the usual sprint-based development pace. That also means, almost for sure, that we will not publish any blog post about the development of YaST until mid January of 2020. So we want to take this opportunity to wish you a happy new year full of joy and Free Software.

See you soon and make sure to start the year with a lot of fun!

openSUSE on reproducible builds summit

December 13th, 2019 by

As in the past 3 years, I joined the r-b summit where many people interested in reproducible builds met.

There were several participants from companies, including Microsoft, Huawei and Google.
Also some researchers from universities that work on tools like DetTrace, tuf and in-toto.
But the majority still came from various open-source projects – with Fedora/RedHat being notably absent.

We had many good discussion rounds, one of which spawned my writeup on the goal of reproducible builds

Another session was about our wish to design a nice interface, where people can easily find the reproducibility status of a package in various distributions. I might code a Proof-of-Concept of that in the next weeks (when I have time).
I also got some help with java patches in openSUSE and made several nice upstream reproducibility fixes – showing some others how easy that can be.

This whole event also was good team-building, getting to know each other better. This will allow us to better collaborate in the Future.

Later there will be a larger report compiled by others.

Highlights of YaST Development Sprint 90

December 5th, 2019 by

As usual, during this sprint we have been working on a wide range of topics. The release of the next (open)SUSE versions is approaching and we need to pay attention to important changes like the new installation media or the /usr/etc and /etc split.

Although we have been working on more stuff, we would like to highlight these topics:

  • Support for the new SLE installation media.
  • Proper handling of shadow suite settings.
  • Mount points handling improvements.
  • Help others to keep the Live Installation working.
  • Proper configuration of console fonts.
  • Better calculation of minimum and maximum sizes while resizing ext2/3/4 filesystems.
  • Small fixes in the network module.

The New Online and Full SLE Installation Media

The upcoming Service Pack 2 of SUSE Linux Enterprise products will be released on two media types: Online and Full.

On the one hand, the Online medium does not contain any repository at all. They will be added from a registration server (SCC/SMT/RMT) after registering the selected base product. The Online medium is very small and contains only the files needed for booting the system and running the installer. On the other hand, the Full medium includes several repositories containing base products and several add-ons, which can help to save some bandwidth.

Obviously, as the installer is the same for both media types, we need to adapt it to make it work properly in all scenarios. This is an interesting challenge because the code is located in many YaST packages and at different places. Keep also in mind that the same installer needs to also work with the openSUSE Leap 15.2 product. That makes another set of scenarios which we need to support (or at least not to break).

The basic support is already there and we are now fine-tuning the details and corner cases, improving the user experience and so on.

Proper Handling of Shadow Suite Settings

A few weeks ago, we anticipated that (open)SUSE would split system’s configuration between /usr/etc and /etc directories. The former will contain vendor settings and the latter will define host-specific settings.

One of the first packages to be changed was shadow, which stores now its default configuration in /usr/etc/login.defs. The problem is that YaST was not adapted in time and it was still trying to read settings only from /etc/login.defs

During this sprint, we took the opportunity to fix this behavior and, what is more, to define a strategy to adapt the handling of other files in the future. In this case, YaST will take into account the settings from /usr/etc directory and it will write its changes to a dedicated /etc/login.defs.d/70-yast.conf file.

Missing Console Font Settings

The YaST team got a nice present this year (long before Christmas) thanks to Joaquín, who made an awesome contribution to the YaST project by refactoring the keyboard management module. Thanks a lot, Joaquín!

We owe all of you a blog entry explaining the details but, for the time being, let’s say that now the module plays nicely with systemd.

After merging those changes, our QA team detected that the console font settings were not being applied correctly. Did you ever think about the importance of having the right font in the console? The problem was that the SCR agent responsible for writing the configuration file for the virtual consoles was removed. Fortunately, bringing back the deleted agent was enough to fix the problem, so your console will work fine again.

Helping the Live Installation to Survive

Years ago, the YaST Team stopped supporting installation from the openSUSE live versions due to maintainability reasons. That has not stopped others from trying to keep the possibility open. Instead of fixing the old LiveInstallation mode of the installer, they have been adapting the live versions of openSUSE to include the regular installer and to be able to work with it.

Sometimes that reveals hidden bugs in the installer that nobody had noticed because they do not really affect the supported standard installation procedures. In this case, YaST was not always marking for installation in the target system all the packages needed by the storage stack. For example, the user could have decided to use Btrfs and still the installer would not automatically select to install the corresponding btrfsprogs package.

It happened because YaST was checking which packages were already installed and skipping them. That check makes sense when YaST is running in an already installed system and is harmless when performed in the standard installation media. But it was tricky in the live media. Now the check is skipped where it does not make sense and the live installation works reasonably well again.

A More Robust YaST Bootloader

In order to perform any operation, the bootloader module of YaST first needs to inspect the disk layout of the system to determine which devices allocate the more relevant mount points like /boot or the root filesystem. The usage of Btrfs, with all its exclusive features like subvolumes and snapshots, has expanded the possibilities about how a Linux system can look in that regard. Sometimes, that meant YaST Bootloader was not able to clearly identify the root file system and it just crashed.

"Missing '/' mount point" error

Fortunately, those scenarios are reduced now to the very minimum thanks to all the adaptations and fixes introduced during this sprint regarding mount points detection. But there is still a possibility in extreme cases like unfinished rollback procedures or very unusual subvolumes organization.

So, in addition to the mentioned improvements in yast2-storage-ng, we have also instructed yast2-bootloader to better deal with those unusual Btrfs scenarios, so it will find its way to the root file system, even if it’s tricky. That means the “missing ‘/’ mount point” errors should be gone for good.

But in case we overlooked something and there is still an open door to reach the same situation again in the future, we also have improved YaST to display an explanation and quit instead of crashing. Although we have done our best to ensure this blog entry will be the only chance for our users to see this new error pop-up.

YaST2 Bootloader: root file sytem not found

Improving the Detection of Mount Points

As mentioned above, improving the detection of mount points helped to prevent some problems that were affecting yast2-bootloader. However, that is not the only module that benefits from such changes.

When you run some clients like the Expert Partitioner, they automatically use the libstorage-ng library to discover all your storage devices. During that phase, libstorage-ng tries to find the mount points for all the file systems by inspecting /etc/fstab and /proc/mounts files. Normally, a file system is mounted only once, either at boot time or manually by the user. For the first case, both files /etc/fstab and /proc/mounts would contain an entry for the file system, for example:

$ cat /etc/fstab
/dev/sda1  /  ext4  defaults  0  0

$ cat /proc/mounts
/dev/sda1 / ext4 rw,relatime 0 0

In the example above, libstorage-ng associates the / mount point to the file system which is placed on the partition /dev/sda1. But, what happens when the user bind-mounts a directory? In such a situation, /proc/mounts would contain two entries for the same device:

$ mound /tmp/foo /mnt -o bind
$ cat /proc/mounts
/dev/sda1 / ext4 rw,relatime 0 0
/dev/sda1 /mnt ext4 rw,relatime 0 0

In the Expert Partitioner, that file system will appear as mounted at /mnt instead of /. So it will look like if your system did not have the root file system after all!

This issue was solved by improving the heuristic for associating mount points to the devices. Now, the /etc/fstab mount point is assigned to the device if that mount point also appears in the /proc/mounts file. That means, if a device is included in the /etc/fstab and the device is still mounted at that location, the /etc/fstab mount point takes precedence.

As a bonus, and also related to mount points handling, now the Expert Partitioner is able to detect the situation where, after performing a snapshot-based rollback, the system has not been rebooted. As a result, it will display a nice and informative message to the user.

System not rebooted after snapshot rollback

Improved Calculation of Minimum and Maximum Sizes for ext2/3/4

If you want to resize a filesystem using YaST, it needs to find out the minimum and maximum sizes for the given filesystem. Until now, the estimation for ext2/3/4 was based on the statvfs system call and it did not work well at all.

Recently, we have improved YaST to use the value reported by resize2fs as the minimum size which is more precise. Additionally, YaST checks now the block size and whether the 64bit feature is on to calculate the maximum size.

Polishing the Network Module

As part of our recent network module refactorization, we have improved the workflow of wireless devices configuration, among other UI changes. Usually, these changes are controversial and, as a consequence, we received a few bug reports about some missing steps that are actually not needed anymore. However, checking those bugs allowed us to find some small UI glitches, like a problem with the Authentication Mode widget.

Moreover, we have used this sprint to drop the support for some deprecated device types, like Token Ring or FDDI. Below you can see how bad the device type selection looks now. But fear not! We are aware and we will give it some love during the next sprint.

Network Device Type Selection

Conclusions

The last sprint of the year is already in progress. This time, we are still polishing our storage and network stacks, improving the migration procedure, and fixing several miscelaneous issues. We will give you all the details in two weeks through our next sprint report. Until then, have a lot of fun!

Highlights of YaST Development Sprints 88 and 89

November 22nd, 2019 by

A More User Friendly Role Selector Dialog

Step by step, we continue improving the user experience making use of the newly added widgets to libyui. This sprint was the turn to update the role selection dialog to use the new item selector introduced during the sprint 87. Apart from looking better as it can be seen in the screenshots below, there are two immediate improvements:

  • the vertical scroll, when present, is respected after selecting a role (instead of “jumping to the beginning”), and
  • the selected role (if any) will be visible when arriving at the dialog even when the list is quite long or the available space too short.
Before After

What is more, updating the dialog was also useful for us to realize about some needed improvements for the widget itself, mentioned in the next section. Quite a productive change 🙂

When one Bit is not Enough: The CustomStatusItemSelector

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the new ItemSelector widget that is finding its way into YaST user interfaces. It turned out that just a simple on/off status is not enough in some cases, so we had to extend that concept. For example, software modules may have dependencies, and we want to show the difference between one that was explicitly selected by the user and one that was auto-selected because some other software module requires it.

This kind of shook the foundations of the underlying classes; all of a sudden a bit is no longer just a bit, but it needs to be broken down into even smaller pieces. Well, we cheated; we now use integer values instead. Most of the class hierarchy still only uses 0 and 1, but the new YCustomStatusItemSelector also supports using higher numbers for application-defined purposes.

For each possible status value, the application defines the name of the icon to be displayed (for graphical UIs like the Qt UI), the text equivalent (for text mode / the NCurses UI), and an optional nextStatus which tells the widget what status to cycle to when the user changes the status of an item with a mouse click or with the keyboard. A value of -1 lets the application handle this.

So this is not a one-trick-pony that is useful only for that one use case (the software modules), but a generic tool that might find good uses in other places all over YaST as well.

Usage examples: C++, Ruby.

Snapper and Machine-readable Output

Most likely you already know snapper, a great tool to work with your filesystem snapshots. Some third-party scripts and tools (e.g., YaST) use the snapper CLI to get some information, but generally, snapper generates an output intended to be human-readable. Sometimes that could cause some troubles in scripts checking the snapper output. Now on, snapper also offers CLI options to generate its output in a machine-readable format, i.e., CSV and JSON. Please, check this post for more information about those new options.

Fix Boot Problems with Remote Encrypted Devices

Since we adopted systemd, the management during system boot of encrypted devices on top of network-based devices like iSCSI or FCoE disks has been less than optimal. But now we are happy to announce that we have put all the pieces together to make the experience as smooth as possible.

One of the main responsibilities of systemd is sorting the actions performed during boot and setting the dependencies between them. For example, if there are encrypted devices, systemd will first ask you for the password and activate the devices to afterwards mount the file system contained in those encrypted devices. Systemd should be able to distinguish when an encrypted device is based on a network-based storage device and, thus, can only be initialized after the network is up. In some cases that detection failed (for example network block device based mounts, such as iSCSI and FCoE disks) and systemd got stuck before initializing the network waiting for the device to be available.

Recently, SLE and openSUSE Leap has incorporated support for specifying the _netdev option in the /etc/crypttab file. With such option, systemd will recognize the encrypted device as network-based and will only try to activate it after setting up the network. That’s analogous to the corresponding _netdev option in /etc/fstab that has been already there for quite some time and that can be used to defer when a device is mounted. For it to work properly, the _netdev option must be present in all the relevant entries of both crypttab and fstab.

And that’s exactly what YaST will do now in openSUSE Tumbleweed and upcoming releases of both SLE and openSUSE Leap. From now on, the _netdev option will be added fstab for all mount points depending (directly or indirectly) on the network. In addition, that option (and also the noauto and nofail ones) will be propagated from fstab to all the corresponding crypttab entries.

This should mark the end of a dark age of encrypted iSCSI and FCoE devices timing out during boot.

AutoYaST Support for Random and Pervasive Encryption

Back in October, we announced that YaST got support for new encryption methods like random or pervasive encryption. At that time, AutoYaST was out of scope because we wanted to have a stable (and tested) API first. Fortunately, the time has come and now AutoYaST supports these encryption mechanisms.

Starting in autoyast2 4.2.17, you can specify the encryption method using a crypt_method element, as shown in the example below. Possible values are luks1 (regular LUKS1 encryption), pervasive_luks2 (pervasive volume encryption), protected_swap (encryption with volatile protected key), secure_swap (encryption with volatile secure key) and random_swap (encryption with volatile random key).

    <drive>
     <type config:type="symbol">CT_DISK</type>
     <use>all</use>
     <partitions config:type="list">
      <partition>
       <size>20G</size>
       <mount>/</mount>
       <filesystem config:type="symbol">ext4</filesystem>
       <crypt_method config:type="symbol">luks1</crypt_method> <!-- default method if crypt_key is defined -->
       <crypt_key>S3CR3T</crypt_key>
      </partition>
      <partition>
       <size>1G</size>
       <mount>swap</mount>
       <crypt_method config:type="symbol">random_swap</crypt_method> <!-- set encryption method -->
      </partition>
     </partitions>
    </drive>

As we want AutoYaST to be as user-friendly as possible, it will try to help you if you do some mistake setting the encryption configuration as when in the screenshot below.

Finally, the old crypt_fs element is deprecated, although it stills works for backward-compatibility reasons. Basically, it is equivalent to setting crypt_method to luks1.

Improve Support for AutoYaST Guided Partitioning

When it comes to partitioning, we can categorize AutoYaST use cases into three different levels:

  • Automatic partitioning: the user does not care about the partitioning and trusts in AutoYaST to do the right thing.
  • Guided partitioning: the user would like to set some basic settings (use LVM, set an encryption password, etc.)
  • Expert partitioning: the user specifies how the layout should look, although a complete definition is not required.

To some extent, it is like using the regular installer where you can skip the partitioning screen and trust in YaST, use the Guided Proposal, or define the partitioning layout through the Expert Partitioner.

The second level (Guided partitioning) was introduced in AutoYaST with the release of SUSE Linux Enteprise 15 (and Leap 15.0) but it was not documented at all. Additionally, although it was working as designed at first sight, it was far from being that useful.

This sprint with invested quite some time improving the documentation (kudos to our awesome documentation team) and the behaviour. Now, if you want to set up an LVM system without having the specify all the details, you can use the following snippet in your profile:

<general>
  <storage>
    <lvm config:type="boolean">true</lvm>
  </storage>
</general>

If you are interested in the available options, you can check the documentation draft.

using YaST firstboot wizard in WSL

November 21st, 2019 by

When starting a WSL distribution for the first time, a text prompt for user name and password appears:

The code for that is partially in the Windows launcher. The Windows side actually prompts for the user name:
https://github.com/microsoft/WSL-DistroLauncher/blob/master/DistroLauncher/DistroLauncher.cpp#L44

and passes it to ‘adduser’:
https://github.com/microsoft/WSL-DistroLauncher/blob/1f8551f7e2ea22bba2e6fb02f01e7a5f7fb757f3/DistroLauncher/DistributionInfo.cpp#L14

That seems to be a Debian specific tool that also prompts for a password. We don’t have it in openSUSE. When done, the Windows part actually calls into the Linux environment again with ‘id -u’ to get the uid of the added user:
https://github.com/microsoft/WSL-DistroLauncher/blob/1f8551f7e2ea22bba2e6fb02f01e7a5f7fb757f3/DistroLauncher/DistributionInfo.cpp#L44

So in order to also prompt for the password we’d have to write a wrapper like the Debian one or implement another prompt in the launcher. Implementing such a prompt in Windows code seems boring to me. When writing a wrapper, I’d do something dialog based to make it look more fancy. There’s already jeos-firstboot that does something similar already and more. But then the WSL image doesn’t have to be really minimal, which means we have YaST!

So even though WSL doesn’t really boot as it has no systemd it would be still possible to run the YaST firstboot wizard on first start. What modules it launches is configurable via xml file. So leaving out hardware/VM specific things like network configuration it works pretty well:


For the launcher to know the name of the created user a small YaST module was needed to write the name into /run/wsl_firstboot_uid. The launcher fetches it from there.

Using the YaST firstboot wizard also allows to use e.g. the existing registration dialogs on SLE or add other useful configuration steps. One feature I have in mind would be for example is the role selection screen to offer some pre defined package selections for WSL use cases.

Tumbleweed and Leap appx files to test this are available from download.opensuse.org. Keep in mind that one needs to import the certificates used by OBS for signing first.

Highlights of YaST Development Sprint 87

October 23rd, 2019 by

It’s time for another YaST team report! Let’s see what’s on the menu today.

  • More news and improvements in the storage area, specially regarding encryption support.
  • Some polishing of the behavior of YaST Network.
  • New widgets in libYUI.
  • A look into systemd timers and how we are using them to replace cron.
  • And a new cool tool for developers who have to deal with complex object-oriented code!

So let’s go for it all.

Performance Improvements in Encrypted Devices

As you may know, we have recently extended YaST to support additional encryption mechanisms like volatile encryption for swap devices or pervasive encryption for data volumes. You can find more details in our blog post titled "Advanced Encryption Options Land in the YaST Partitioner".

Those encryption mechanisms offer the possibility of adjusting the sector size of the encryption layer according to the sector size of the disk. That can result in a performance boost with storage devices based on 4k blocks. To get the best of your systems, we have instructed YaST to set the sector size to 4096 bytes whenever is possible, which should improve the performance of the encrypted devices created with the recently implemented methods.

Additionally, we took the time to improve the codebase related to encryption, based on the lessons we learned while implementing volatile and pervasive encryption. We also performed some additional tests and we found a problem that we are already fixing in the sprint that has just started.

Other improvements related to encryption

One of those lessons we have learnt recently is that resizing a device encrypted with a LUKS2 encryption layer works slightly different to the traditional LUKS1 case. With LUKS2 the password must be provided in the moment of resizing, even if the device is already open and active. So we changed how libstorage-ng handles the passwords provided by the user to make it possible to resize LUKS2 devices in several situations, although there are still some cases in which it will not be possible to use the YaST Partitioner to resize a LUKS2 device.

As a side effect of the new passwords management, now the process that analyzes the storage devices at the beginning of the installation should be more pleasant in scenarios like the one described in the report of bug#1129496, where there are many encrypted devices but the user doesn’t want to activate them all.

And talking about improvements based on our users’ feedback, we have also adapted the names of the new methods for encrypting swap with volatile keys, as suggested in the comments of our already mentioned previous blog post. We also took the opportunity to improve the corresponding warning messages and help texts.

New name and description for encryption with volatile keys

Network and Dependencies Between Devices

Similar to encryption, the network backend is another area that needed some final adjustments after the big implementation done in the previous sprints. In particular, we wanted to improve the management of devices that depend on other network devices, like VLANs (virtual LANs) or bridges.

Historically, YaST has simply kept the name of the device as a dependency, even if such device does not exist any longer. That leaded to inconsistent states. Now the dependencies are updated dynamically. If the user renames a device, then it’s automatically renamed in all its dependencies. If the user deletes a device that is needed by any other one, YaST will immediately ask the user whether to modify (in the case of bonding and bridges) or to remove (in the case of VLANs) those dependent devices.

New libYUI Widget: ItemSelector

Now that we mention the user experience, it’s fair to note that it has been quite a while since we created the last new widget for libYUI, our YaST UI toolkit. But we identified a need for a widget that lets the user select one or many from a number of items with not only a short title, but also a descriptive text for each one (and optionally an icon), and that can scroll if there are more items than fit on the screen.

So say hello to the new SingleItemSelector.

SingleItemSelector in graphical mode

As you would expect from any libYUI widget, there is also a text-based (ncurses) alternative.

SingleItemSelector in text mode

Please, note the screenshots above are just short usage examples. We are NOT planning to bring back the desktop selection screen. On the other hand, now we have the opportunity to make a prettier screen to select the computer role. Stay tuned for more news about that.

There is also an alternative version of the new widget that allows to select several items. The unsurprisingly named MultiItemSelector.

MultiItemSelector in graphical mode

Which, of course, also comes with an ncurses version.

MultiItemSelector in text mode

In the near future, we are planning to use that for selecting products and add-on modules. But this kind of widgets will find other uses as well.

Fun with Systemd Timers

And talking about the close future, many of you may know there is a plan coming together to replace the usage of cron with systemd timers as the default mechanism for (open)SUSE packages to execute periodic tasks.

In our case, we decided to start the change with yast2-ntp-client, which offers the possibility to synchronize the system time once in a while. So let’s take a look to how systemd timers work and how we used them to replace cron.

When defining a service in systemd it is possible to specify a type for that service to define how it behaves. When started, a service of type oneshot will simply execute some action and then finish. Those services can be combined with the timers, which invoke any service according to monotonous clock with a given cadence. To make that cadence configurable by the user, the YaST module overrides the default timer with another one located at /etc/systemd/system.

As a note for anyone else migrating to systemd timers, our first though was to use the EnvironmentFile directive instead of overriding the timer. But that seems to not be possible for timers.

One clear advantage of using a systemd service to implement this is the possibility of specifying dependencies and relations with other services. In our case, that allows us to specify that one time synchronization cannot be used if the chrony daemon is running, since they would both conflict. So the new system is slightly more complex than a one-liner cron script, but it’s also more descriptive and solid.

And another tip for anyone dealing with one-shot services and systemd timers, you can use systemd-cat to catch the output of any script and redirect it to the systemd journal.

Everybody Loves Diagrams

But apart from tips for sysadmins and packagers, we also have some content for our fellow developers. You know YaST is a huge project that tries to manage all kind of inter-related pieces. Often, the average YaST developer needs to jump into some complex module. Code documentation can help to know your way around YaST internals that you don’t work with every day. To generate such documentation, we use the YARD tool, and its output is for example here, for yast-network. Still, for large modules with many small classes, this is not enough to get a good overview.

Enter yard-medoosa, a plugin for YARD that automatically creates UML class diagrams, clickable to get you to the classes textual documentation.

The yast2-network medoosa

It is still a prototype but it has proven useful for navigating a certain large pull request. We hope to soon tell you about an improved version.

More Solid Device Names in fstab and crypttab

Back to topics related to storage management, you surely know there are several ways to specify a device to be mounted in the /etc/fstab file or a device to be activated in the /etc/crypttab. Apart from using directly the name of the device (like /dev/sda1) or any of its alternative names based on udev, you can also use the UUID or the label of the file-system or of the LUKS device.

By default, YaST will use the udev path in s390 systems and the UUID in any other architecture. Although that’s something that can be configured modifying the /etc/sysconfig/storage file or simply using this screen of the Partitioner, which makes possible to change how the installation (both the Guided Setup and the Expert Partitioner) writes the resulting fstab and crypttab files.

Changing the way devices are referenced

But, what happens when the default option (like the udev path) is not a valid option for some particular device? So far, YaST simply used the device name (e.g. /dev/sda1) as an immediate fallback. That happened at the very end of the process, when already writing the changes to disk.

We have improved that for Tumbleweed, for SLE-15-SP1 (which implies Leap 15.1) and for the upcoming versions of (open)SUSE. Now, if the default value is not suitable for a particular device because the corresponding udev path does not exists, because using a given name is incompatible with the chosen encryption method, or for any other reason, YaST will fall back to the most reasonable and stable alternative. And it will do it from the very beginning of the process, being immediately visible in the Partitioner.

Stay Tuned for More… and Stay Communicative

As usual, when we publish our sprint report we are already working on the next development sprint. So in approximately two weeks you will have more news about our work, this time likely with a strong focus in AutoYaST.

Don’t forget to keep providing us feedback. As commented above, it’s very valuable for us and we really use it as an input to plan subsequent development sprints.

openSUSE WSL images in OBS

October 9th, 2019 by

A fundamental concept of all openSUSE packages as well as any image offered for download is a fully transparent, reproducible and automatic build and development process based on sources.

In openSUSE developers do not perform manual builds on some specially crafted machine in their basement and then upload the result somewhere. Instead all sources are stored in a version control system inside the open build service (OBS) instance at build.opensuse.org. OBS then automatically builds the sources including all dependencies according to defined build instructions (eg spec files for rpms). OBS also automatically adds cryptographic signatures to files that support it to make sure nobody can tamper with those files.

The WSL appx files are basically zip files that contain a tarball of a Linux system (like a container) and a Windows exe file, the so called launcher. Building a container is something OBS can already do fully automatic by means of Kiwi. The launcher as well as the final appx however is typically built on a Windows machine using Visual Studio by the developer.

Since the goal of the openSUSE WSL offering is to have the appx files officially and automatically be produced along with other images such as the DVD installer, Live images or containers, the appx files have to be built from sources in OBS.

Fortunately there’s already a MinGW cross toolchain packaged as rpms OBS and a tool to generate appx files on Linux.

Combining that all together OBS can actually build the WSL appx from sources. The current state of development can be found in the Virtualization:WSL project in OBS. The generated appx files are published on download.opensuse.org.
The current images for Leap 15.2 Alpha and Tumbleweed there are good enough for some testing already so please go ahead and do so, feedback welcome!
Note that since the appx files are signed by OBS rather than Microsoft, there are a few steps required to install them.

Going forward there is still quite some work needed to polish this up. Kiwi for example can’t build the appx directly itself but rather the fb-util-for-appx is called by a spec file. That requires some hacks with the OBS project config to work. On Linux side there’s currently no password set for the root user, so we need a better “first boot” solution. More details on that in a later article. Meanwhile, remember to have a lot of fun…