Friday, April 14, 2017

Linux Cruft

This past week, I dealt with some machines, all running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, which had numbers of updates to be applied. The first one took some doing, for at times the update process would stall with a message about incompatible libraries. Eventually, I narrowed the problems to three packages:
  1. fprintd, a program to allow for authentication via fingerprint
  2. gd, a program for creating and rendering images
  3. matahari, a package for system monitoring and management
Now, this server, running on a virtual machine (VM), has no fingerprint reader; we don't render images on it; and we don't use matahari. But rather than get mixed up in effort to remove them, I worked around the difficulties and got all but gd upgraded.

Along the way, I had a look at the packages installed--scripting languages and databases never used, Java servers never thought of, fonts for rendering Swedish or Tamil or Uighur, etc.--and thought, "Why?" As I remember it, this was the first Linux VM we set up, and I think that a co-worker simply clicked the boxes to install everything, while I nodded or shrugged. Everything turned out to be quite a lot. We have become more selective lately: this machine and another of about the same vintage have more than 1600 each, a slightly later one has about 1350, the most recent two machines are around 700 each.

When I first installed Linux, it was with the use of packages downloaded over a modem connection and copied on to 1.4 MB floppy disks. Creating a half dozen of those probably took about the same time it takes to download a 600 GB ISO image from Red Hat now. One was necessarily more selective about the packages. I don't miss those days of 60 MB hard drives, or foot-high stacks of floppies, though.

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