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Best of 2019: Fedora for system administrators

The end of the year is a perfect time to look back on some of the Magazine’s most popular articles of 2019. One of the Fedora operating systems’s many strong points is its wide array of tools for system administrators. As your skills progress, you’ll find that the Fedora OS has even more to offer. And because Linux is the sysadmin’s best friend, you’ll always be in good company. In 2019, there were quite a few articles about sysadmin tools our readers enjoyed. Here’s a sampling.

Introducing Fedora CoreOS

If you follow modern IT topics, you know that containers are a hot topic — and containers mean Linux. This summer brought the first preview release of Fedora CoreOS. This new edition of Fedora can run containerized workloads. You can use it to deploy apps and services in a modern way.

InitRAMFS, dracut and the dracut emergency shell

To be a good sysadmin, you need to understand system startup and the boot process. From time to time, you’ll encounter software errors, configuration problems, or other issues that keep your system from starting normally. With the information in the article below, you can do some life-saving surgery on your system, and restore it to working order.

How to reset your root password

Although this article was published a few years ago, it continues to be one of the most popular. Apparently, we’re not the only people who sometimes get locked out of our own system! If this happens to you, and you need to reset the root password, the article below should do the trick.

Systemd: unit dependencies and order

This article is part of an entire series on systemd, the modern system and process manager in Fedora and other distributions. As you may know, systemd has sophisticated but easy to use methods to start up or shut own services in the right order. This article shows you how they work. That way you can apply the right options to unit files you create for systemd.

Setting kernel command line arguments

Fedora 30 introduced new ways to change the boot options for your kernel. This article from Laura Abbott on the Fedora kernel team explains the new Bootloader Spec (BLS). It also tells you how to use it to set options on your kernel for boot time.

Stay tuned to the Magazine for other upcoming “Best of 2019” categories. All of us at the Magazine hope you have a great end of year and holiday season.

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Create virtual machines with Cockpit in Fedora

This article shows you how to install the software you need to use Cockpit to create and manage virtual machines on Fedora 31. Cockpit is an interactive admin interface that lets you access and manage systems from any supported web browser. With virt-manager being deprecated users are encouraged to use Cockpit instead, which is meant to replace it.

Cockpit is an actively developed project, with many plugins available that extend how it works. For example, one such plugin is “Machines,” which interacts with libvirtd and lets users create and manage virtual machines.

Installing software

The required software prerequisites are libvirt, cockpit and cockpit-machines. To install them on Fedora 31, run the following command from a terminal using sudo:

$ sudo dnf install libvirt cockpit cockpit-machines

Cockpit is also included as part of the “Headless Management” package group. This group is useful for a Fedora based server that you only access through a network. In that case, to install it, use this command:

$ sudo dnf groupinstall "Headless Management"

Setting up Cockpit services

After installing the necessary packages it’s time to enable the services. The libvirtd service runs the virtual machines, while Cockpit has a socket activated service to let you access the Web GUI:

$ sudo systemctl enable libvirtd --now
$ sudo systemctl enable cockpit.socket --now

This should be enough to run virtual machines and manage them through Cockpit. Optionally, if you want to access and manage your machine from another device on your network, you need to expose the service to the network. To do this, add a new rule in your firewall configuration:

$ sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=cockpit --permanent
$ sudo firewall-cmd --reload

To confirm the services are running and no issues occurred, check the status of the services:

$ sudo systemctl status libvirtd
$ sudo systemctl status cockpit.socket

At this point everything should be working. The Cockpit web GUI should be available at https://localhost:9090 or https://127.0.0.1:9090. Or, enter the local network IP in a web browser on any other device connected to the same network. (Without SSL certificates setup, you may need to allow a connection from your browser.)

Creating and installing a machine

Log into the interface using the user name and password for that system. You can also choose whether to allow your password to be used for administrative tasks in this session.

Select Virtual Machines and then select Create VM to build a new box. The console gives you several options:

  • Download an OS using Cockpit’s built in library
  • Use install media already downloaded on the system you’re managing
  • Point to a URL for an OS installation tree
  • Boot media over the network via the PXE protocol

Enter all the necessary parameters. Then select Create to power up the new virtual machine.

At this point, a graphical console appears. Most modern web browsers let you use your keyboard and mouse to interact with the VM console. Now you can complete your installation and use your new VM, just as you would via virt-manager in the past.


Photo by Miguel Teixeira on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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Use a drop-down terminal for fast commands in Fedora

A drop-down terminal lets you tap a key and quickly enter any command on your desktop. Often it creates a terminal in a smooth way, sometimes with effects. This article demonstrates how it helps to improve and speed up daily tasks, using drop-down terminals like Yakuake, Tilda, Guake and a GNOME extension.

Yakuake

Yakuake is a drop-down terminal emulator based on KDE Konsole techonology. It is distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL Version 2. It includes features such as:

  • Smoothly rolls down from the top of your screen
  • Tabbed interface
  • Configurable dimensions and animation speed
  • Skinnable
  • Sophisticated D-Bus interface

To install Yakuake, use the following command:

$ sudo dnf install -y yakuake

Startup and configuration

If you’re runnign KDE, open the System Settings and go to Startup and Shutdown. Add yakuake to the list of programs under Autostart, like this:

It’s easy to configure Yakuake while running the app. To begin, launch the program at the command line:

$ yakuake &

The following welcome dialog appears. You can set a new keyboard shortcut if the standard one conflicts with another keystroke you already use:

Now click the menu button, and the following help menu appears. Next, select Configure Yakuake… to access the configuration options.

You can customize the options for appearance, such as opacity; behavior, such as focusing terminals when the mouse pointer is moved over them; and window, such as size and animation. In the window options you’ll find one of the most useful options is you use two or more monitors: Open on screen: At mouse location.

Using Yakuake

The main shortcuts are:

  • F12 = Open/Retract Yakuake
  • Ctrl+F11 = Full Screen Mode
  • Ctrl+) = Split Top/Bottom
  • Ctrl+( = Split Left/Right
  • Ctrl+Shift+T = New Session
  • Shift+Right = Next Session
  • Shift+Left = Previous Session
  • Ctrl+Alt+S = Rename Session

Below is an example of Yakuake being used to split the session like a terminal multiplexer. Using this feature, you can run several shells in one session.

Tilda

Tilda is a drop-down terminal that compares with other popular terminal emulators such as GNOME Terminal, KDE’s Konsole, xterm, and many others.

It features a highly configurable interface. You can even change options such as the terminal size and animation speed. Tilda also lets you enable hotkeys you can bind to commands and operations.

To install Tilda, run this command:

$ sudo dnf install -y tilda

Startup and configuration

Most users prefer to have a drop-down terminal available behind the scenes when they login. To set this option, first go to the app launcher in your desktop, search for Tilda, and open it.

Next, open up the Tilda Config window. Select Start Tilda hidden, which means it will not display a terminal immediately when started.

Next, you’ll set your desktop to start Tilda automatically. If you’re using KDE, go to System Settings > Startup and Shutdown > Autostart and use Add a Program.

If you’re using GNOME, you can run this command in a terminal:

$ ln -s /usr/share/applications/tilda.desktop ~/.config/autostart/

When you run for the first time, a wizard shows up to set your preferences. If you need to change something, right click and go to Preferences in the menu.

You can also create multiple configuration files, and bind other keys to open new terminals at different places on the screen. To do that, run this command:

$ tilda -C

Every time you use the above command, Tilda creates a new config file located in the ~/.config/tilda/ folder called config_0, config_1, and so on. You can then map a key combination to open a new Tilda terminal with a specific set of options.

Using Tilda

The main shortcuts are:

  • F1 = Pull Down Terminal Tilda (Note: If you have more than one config file, the shortcuts are the same, with a diferent open/retract shortcut like F1, F2, F3, and so on)
  • F11 = Full Screen Mode
  • F12 = Toggle Transparency
  • Ctrl+Shift+T = Add Tab
  • Ctrl+Page Up = Go to Next Tab
  • Ctrl+Page Down = Go to Previous Tab

GNOME Extension

The Drop-down Terminal GNOME Extension lets you use this useful tool in your GNOME Shell. It is easy to install and configure, and gives you fast access to a terminal session.

Installation

Open a browser and go to the site for this GNOME extension. Enable the extension setting to On, as shown here:

Then select Install to install the extension on your system.

Once you do this, there’s no reason to set any autostart options. The extension will automatically run whenever you login to GNOME!

Configuration

After install, the Drop Down Terminal configuration window opens to set your preferences. For example, you can set the size of the terminal, animation, transparency, and scrollbar use.

If you need change some preferences in the future, run the gnome-shell-extension-prefs command and choose Drop Down Terminal.

Using the extension

The shortcuts are simple:

  • ` (usually the key above Tab) = Open/Retract Terminal
  • F12 (customize as you prefer) = Open/Retract Terminal