Open Source

Red Hat and Mandrake config tools

Jack Wallen, Jr. and Vincent Danen put their heads together to aid you in your quest to learn the Red Hat and Mandrake configuration tools. Be prepared to learn the ins and outs of some of the versatile configuration tools known to Linux.

TechProGuild held an online chat on Sept. 26, 2000, in which Vincent Danen discussed Red Hat and Mandrake config tools. Here's the edited transcript from that chat.

Note: TechProGuild edits Guild Meeting transcripts for clarity.

JIMMCINTYRE: Good evening, everyone!


MODERATOR: Hello, everyone! Thanks for stopping by tonight's Guild Meeting. Tonight's speaker, Vincent Danen, will be discussing "Red Hat and Mandrake config tools."


SPEAKER_VDANEN: Good evening.

MODERATOR: Hi Vincent! Has everyone had a chance to meet Vincent in past Guild Meetings?


HAROLD966: Hi.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I definitely see a few familiar faces... =)

MODERATOR: Is everyone ready to chat? Tonight's chattiest member will be entered in the contest for this month's Guild Meeting prize: An FIC SD-11 Athlon motherboard and Intel 466 MHz CPU + fan, courtesy of

TECH: Hello.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Wow! I hope everyone chats up a storm! Nice prize!

MODERATOR: Vincent's our Red Hat & Mandrake config tool specialist... who has the first question for him?

Tools for Large-Scale Deployment
DANIEL.FORTIN: Are there tools for large-scale deployment in Linux as for Windows environments? Like scrips or sysprep?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I'm assuming that scrips and sysprep are Windows tools? Can you describe them for me? I've never heard of them before. With Linux Mandrake 7.1 and later, upon installation you can generate an auto-install floppy disk, which replicates all of your configurations for the first install... Is this what you mean?

DANIEL.FORTIN: Yes, is it components aware?

TECH: Is there a way to install certain programs and then take a "snapshot" to later distribute or deploy on other computers?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Do you mean components as in hardware or software? The auto-install will basically install the exact same installation on multiple machines.


T_LINDSEY: I would think a replication disk depends on all the boxes being the same. Right?

T_LINDSEY: So all the machines would have to be identical.


TECH: No, not with this auto-install floppy disk it creates.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Well, if the hardware is the same then it will work fine. If the hardware is different, it may detect it and compensate for it, but your package installation and configuration would be the same.


T_LINDSEY: So you'd have to go behind it and do some tweaking.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: So for instance if you had different IP addresses for each machine, you will have to configure the network for each machine in order to make them different, but the hardware should not make much difference.

T_LINDSEY: Boooo! Death to static IPs.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Yes, exactly. You'll need to fine-tune it a little. Now, I don't know if Red Hat has the same feature or not... I imagine in their 7.0 release they would include something like that in there, but I have yet to take a look at it.

Beneficial Features of Mandrake Linux
TECH: What features does the Mandrake version of Linux have over the other versions out there?

T_LINDSEY: I like the compatibility with Red Hat most of all.

DANIEL.FORTIN: Are there also tools to determine the destination of a machine in a domain?

ARGENT: You mean like an FTP install?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Well, the biggest things with Mandrake are the configuration tools... tools like DrakConf, which is a centralized "control panel" for various configuration modules (such as X resolution, printers, and so forth). Mandrake has put a lot of effort into simplifying the Linux desktop user's configuration needs, so it's a little easier to use than other distributions in terms of desktop configuration tools.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Daniel: I'm not sure what you mean. Could you explain it a little differently? Are you talking about destination for installation?

ARGENT: BTW, I updated my perl and my qt libs and it broke some of the drake tools. Just an FYI.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: How did you upgrade? Did you use cooker versions of perl/qt? Did you try upgrading drakxtools also?

ANDY_DAVIS: Is there room for a network interface config question?

ARGENT: I used the Mandrake update and yes, I chose the draxtools too.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I don't see why not.

ANDY_DAVIS: Looking for documentation on how to get Ethernet and serial to play nice together.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Which version of Mandrake?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: What are you trying to accomplish?

ARGENT: Mandrake 7.1

ANDY_DAVIS: On a very simplistic level of observation, out of the box the Internet icon on Mandrake ...

ANDY_DAVIS: Desktop works after you configure some basic information.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Maybe I'm misunderstanding you here... are you talking about getting Ethernet and serial ports to work together?

ARGENT: The printerdrake and the rpmdrake. Help Andy. I'll get it working.

ANDY_DAVIS: Then if one configures the Ethernet interface, ppp then needs to authenticate the foreign host?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: =) Try upgrading those tools from cooker...

ARGENT: Ah, that's in the options file under /etc/ppp.

TECH: What are your favorite tools in this version that you use on a frequent basis?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I'm trying to understand here... let me see if I have this right: you've got a local network and you want to connect to the Internet with ppp? And you're getting errors with the ppp connection?

ANDY_DAVIS: I’m talking about having a working serial ppp connection UNTIL I configure the Ethernet.

ARGENT: Add a line "noauth" that will disable the remote host having to authenticate itself with your Linux box.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Use kppp to configure your ppp connection... that should make it easier.

ANDY_DAVIS: No. I have a serial ppp connection first. However, after configuring the Ethernet for LAN, the serial ppp...

JIMMCINTYRE: Is this a dsl connection with an available dial-up account?

JIMMCINTYRE: X-isp might help with the ppp problem.

ANDY_DAVIS: It no longer works. The pppd now dies suddenly.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: To be quite honest with you, I tend to use the commandline more than the GUI tools. But I do like DrakConf and the little tools it provides for various functions (like adding new users). I also like rpmdrake quite a bit (an rpm management utility).

SPEAKER_VDANEN: No problem! Step out of line as often as you like if it's like that =).

GREGORYAJONES: I can't seem to get my scroll to work for my Intellitrack, even though I set it up as an Intellimouse!!

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Try disabling the local network "/etc/rc.d/init.d/network stop" and see if pppd works now...

ANDY_DAVIS: Suddenly the pppd dies suddenly every time. The debug log suggests that there is no valid secret.

ARGENT: I like the rpmdrake too. Although it takes a while to parse which packages you have installed.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Which version of Mandrake? And do you have imwheel installed and running?

ARGENT:_ACTION nods head.

ANDY_DAVIS: What does that mean and why is it necessary all of a sudden AFTER configuring the Ethernet inf for the LAN?

ARGENT: I've played with the ppp settings a bit. There are three files you need to tweak, all under /etc/ppp.

GREGORYAJONES: 7.1, and yes I tried but it keeps failing, maybe it's not configured properly.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Yes, rpmdrake can be a little slow at times.

ANDY_DAVIS: Okay. I'll try that. But while I've read documents to config the serial or documents to config the Ethernet. I haven’t found one.

ARGENT: Chat, options, and chap-secrets or pap-secrets.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Does imwheel run properly?

ANDY_DAVIS: That discusses an environment where both are config.

ARGENT: Chat is the modem commands (atdt, ogin, and assword).

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I wish I could help you out further, but I haven't touched ppp dialing in about two years... I'm a little out of touch with it.

GREGORYAJONES: Seems to be, but I also found on a Web site to setup the wheel in XF86Config.

ARGENT: Options are stuff like lock files and user name, IP info, and chap/pap-secrets are your username and password.

ANDY_DAVIS: My guess is that one cannot have both interfaces UP on the same PC.

ARGENT: You are right, you can't.

ARGENT: Not up.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Oh! Which version of XFree86 are you using?

MODERATOR: (Andy—you could try posting your ppp dialing question to the TechProGuild forums, or perhaps send it to

ANDY_DAVIS: But the interesting thing is that the kppp works fine until you set up the eth0 interface.

ANDY_DAVIS: Just want to know why.

ANDY_DAVIS: Okay so I just have to shut down the eth0 interface before I initiate dial?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: That's not entirely true... if you have a ppp Internet connection, you can still have a local Ethernet enabled and running... I've done this quite a while ago... I just don't think you can have both connecting to the Internet simultaneously.


GREGORYAJONES: Ha! Excuse me, the version is 4 I think.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: No, I meant is it 3.3.6 or 4.0 (the version of XFree86)?

ARGENT: Esp if both your ppp and eth0 are set to grab an ip via dhcp.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Okay. There was some discussion about this on the Freezer Burn Web site not too long ago ( They were discussing it under 4.0.1 I believe. You may want to check there.

ARGENT: That = conflica-rino.

GREGORYAJONES: Ok, let me check, brb!

ANDY_DAVIS: For now, I'll shut down eth0 before I dial. I have 486 under my desk waiting under my desk for media one...

Mandrake Corporate Server 1.0
SPEAKER_VDANEN: Oh, (trying to get back on topic here), you guys will love the tools in Linux Mandrake Corporate Server 1.0.

ARGENT: Corp server? Wasn't aware of such an animal.



SPEAKER_VDANEN: They use a wizard-style method for installing a number of servers, such as httpd, dns, dhcp, ftp, and so forth. It's very nice and quite well done (even configures the local network). The only problem I've seen with it is that it wants to configure the local network even if you did so during the install. It's quite odd. But it is a very nice, easy-to-use GUI interface that is excellent for people who don't want to fiddle with text-based configuration files.

ARGENT: Does it flash a “banner add” to Windows desktops calling them names?

ARGENT: Don't fear the command line. It's your friend.

ANDY_DAVIS: Making the install and checking it twice... naughty or nice....

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Corporate Server isn't available yet (retail) in the US and Canada (hopefully soon), but you can download the ISO images. It's based on Mandrake 7.1 with the wizard and some other server-specialized enhancements.


SPEAKER_VDANEN: Unfortunately no. =)

ARGENT: Hmmm. Got an FTP site?

ANDY_DAVIS: Where's the ISO? Do tell....

ARGENT: I collect disto CDs like stamps.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: lists the FTP sites for Corporate Server right at the very bottom.

ARGENT: The banner?


GREGORYAJONES: Thanks vdanen, I think that has me going again!

ARGENT: Never mind.

DANIEL.FORTIN: Look for under Linux-Mandrake Corporate Server 1.0 mirrors for i586 and SPARC/UltraSPARC processors.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: You're welcome!

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Yes, Corporate Server is available for the SPARC platforms and Intel. Should be available for Alpha in the relatively near future as well.

A Bone to Pick
ARGENT: Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Netscape?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Have you tried Konqueror yet? It's quite nice... not quite complete, but still very nice.

DANIEL.FORTIN: What else do you have for us?

ARGENT: Not yet. I'm a gnome/sawmill person.

ANDY_DAVIS: Netscape?.... Heard today about a JVM exploit that works only through Netscape...

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Me too, but Konqueror will still run well under gnome/sawfish.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I'm open to questions... =) was there a particular tool that you were looking for or, even better, that you would like to see developed and available?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: That exploit was fixed about a month ago. 4.75 doesn't suffer from it.

ANDY_DAVIS: I haven't heard this anywhere else. Is this just the ranting of a pro-ms?

GREGORYAJONES: *Bows* See you later!



SPEAKER_VDANEN: It was posted on bugtraq and all the major vendors made updates to the latest Netscape to cover that vulnerability.

Mandrake Update Component
ARGENT: So what do you think about the Mandrake update component?

ARGENT: Personally, I don't like it.

ANDY_DAVIS: Mandrake update doesn't work behind firewalls... so... downloading ISO is a maniac.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Not really. For the most part, they operate relatively similar. The biggest difference is in the packages provided. I believe Red Hat 7.0 still uses LPRng or lpr for the printer daemon whereas Mandrake 7.2 will use CUPS. There are differences like that (default email program in Red Hat is sendmail still I believe, whereas Mandrake has postfix). Other than that they are pretty similar beyond the configuration tools each provides.

ARGENT: Agreed, if you know Red Hat you will be able to get around in Mandrake. And vice versa.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I think MandrakeUpdate is an awesome program. And I'm not afraid to say that since the beginning of July, I'm the fellow behind all of the updates MandrakeUpdate downloads. =) It's an excellent tool that I think everyone should fire up once a week (at least) or else subscribe to the Mandrake security-announce mailing list.

NICKCM97: What are some of your favorite config tools?

ANDY_DAVIS: Has Red Hat gotten rid of the need to register for update to work?

ARGENT: Mandrake uses cups?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Instead of downloading an ISO, why not do a local mirror of the updates/RPMS directory for the version of Mandrake you use? A little easier on the bandwidth I think. =)

Notes, Servers, and Firewalls
RAST: Did anyone hear of a Notes client for Linux in development?

ARGENT: I just don't like some of the dependencies needed for some updates.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Exactly. And that's one reason why many people migrate from Red Hat to Mandrake, because there isn't as much of a culture shock as going from, say, Debian to Mandrake.

DANIEL.FORTIN: Is there any kind of installation server? For medialess installation automation?

ANDY_DAVIS: Explain... please.

JIMMCINTYRE: I checked the Lotus site yesterday. Didn't see a thing for the client. Too bad.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: My favorite tools are definitely MandrakeUpdate (the 7.2 version is killer), DrakConf, and rpmdrake.

ARGENT: It's been speculated for a while, Rast. With the latest version of Mandrake, you can run Notes in whine just fine though.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: If you do a local mirror, install on the commandline with "rpm -Fvh —nodeps" and you don't have to worry about the dependencies.

JIMMCINTYRE: Does rpmdrake function like gnorpm?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Not that I am aware of. I could be wrong, but I haven't seen anything like that yet.

RAST: Thanks.

ARGENT: Actually, I don't use it much. I only upgrade a package if something else needs it.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Pretty close, yes. It's very similar to gnorpm and kpackage (closer to kpackage I think).

ANDY_DAVIS: Gnorpm? I hope not. Does anyone here use gnorpm?

ARGENT: If it ain’t broke, or can't be broken into, don't screw with it.

DANIEL.FORTIN: Cause I'm looking for ways to sell the Linux concepts for the Windows clients.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: You don't use MandrakeUpdate much? I sincerely hope you have a good firewall then, or your computer is not connected to the Internet often. There were some quite serious vulnerabilities fixed that are available through the updates.

ANDY_DAVIS: Just find kpackage works for me and gnorpm segment faults, ergo...

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I agree with the concept (for the most part, I run a Mandrake cooker machine here as my main computer), but MandrakeUpdate is there only for serious bugfixes or security fixes.

ARGENT: I do have a good firewall. And I manage my /etc/services file to cut down on unneeded stuff.

ANDY_DAVIS: So either the rpm or kpackage.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: The closest you could get would be to use a boot floppy with the network image on it and then use it to connect to a FTP/HTTP/NFS server to perform the install.

ARGENT: That's very doable too. It's not too tough to set up.

On the Right Linux Track
PLAINWELL: I need some advice for running Linux as clients with Novell. I am relatively new to Linux.

ARGENT: Shoot plain, I'm doing it at work.


ARGENT: Setting up a boot floppy to install via FTP or nfs.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Have you read the Novell+Linux HOWTO? I'm sure a critter like that exists. I have never tried to network the two, but I imagine it's done relatively easily.

DANIEL.FORTIN: What's the best management tool?

PLAINWELL: Or a better question would be—how is it working?

ARGENT: There's a set of utilities that are called ncfs utilities.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Yes, that is pretty simple. Mount your CD, "dd if=network.img of=/dev/fd0", bring the floppy over and boot. =) Easy!

ARGENT: Fine, maps drives and I can print.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Thank you. I was thinking ncpfs but wasn't sure and didn't want to lead anyone on the wrong track.


So Long and Farewell
MODERATOR: We have just a few minutes left—does anyone have a final question for Vincent before we announce tonight's winner?

ARGENT: Plain, my e-mail is, feel free to e-mail me and we'll talk in depth.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Clock is ticking... get that last one in!!

ARGENT: Hmmm, what's your fave printer util?

JIMMCINTYRE: TR had a good article recently on NetWare and Linux running together.

PLAINWELL: Thank you, I will.

ARGENT: And modem util?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: I'd have to say kups (I think, or qtcups). Whatever the configuration tool that comes with the CUPS printer system is. It's quite nice.

ARGENT: What's the answer to life, the universe and everything?

PLAINWELL: Thanks.... goodnight everyone.

DANIEL.FORTIN: What's the best management tool?

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Management as in what, exactly? User management? System management? If system management, I still use linuxconf more than anything else (text-mode, not GUI mode).

ARGENT: Can't go wrong with Linux conf. Or WebMin.

DANIEL.FORTIN: It is the preferred mode for everyone.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: 7.2 has WebMin with SSL enabled... makes it even better... and linuxconf is awesome (not the Web interface though).

MODERATOR: Is everyone ready for the announcement of tonight's Guild Meeting winner? *insert drumroll*

 SPEAKER_VDANEN: I agree completely, however, you should see the Web interface NetMAX uses... it's proprietary and *very* slick

MODERATOR: Great participation tonight from everyone! Tonight's winner is .... argent!

MODERATOR: Argent, please send your snail mail addy to

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Congratulations argent!!

ARGENT: Thanks!

HAROLD966: Congrats Argent.

DANIEL.FORTIN: Well done Argent!

SPEAKER_VDANEN: It's nice though! Ever try to do rpm package management via the Web? NetMAX does it quite nicely.

MODERATOR: Remember, the member who wins the most Guild Meetings in a month, wins that month's Guild Meeting prize.

ARGENT: Thanks again. I appreciate it. I love these chats.

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Well, good night folks! It's been fun! I'll see you all again next month I hope!

ARGENT: Night all.

JIMMCINTYRE: Thanks Vince. Good meeting.

HMORRIS: That wraps things up for tonight! Thanks everyone for your participation and special thanks to our speaker—Vincent Danen!

MODERATOR: Great job, Vincent!

SPEAKER_VDANEN: Thank you! It was fun, as always!

About Vincent Danen

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

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