[Server-devel] CentOS hardware support doubts

Peter Robinson pbrobinson at gmail.com
Thu Feb 2 10:27:52 EST 2012

On Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 7:30 PM, Daniel Drake <dsd at laptop.org> wrote:
> Hi,
> Like others, I'm interested in moving the XS to a newer OS base. My
> key motivation for this is that the Foundation Zamora Teran (OLPC
> Nicaragua) is having difficulty buying servers for new schools being
> added to the project - Fedora 9 is too old to support this hardware.
> For the next XS release, Martin suggests that CentOS 6.2 (or another
> RHEL equivalent) is used as a base. As my contribution here will
> likely be limited to just this rebase, I'm prepared to accept that
> preference.
> However, having installed/run CentOS 6.2 for the first time I now have
> my doubts about this. I installed it on a server where the network
> interface does not appear with F9 (but does work with more recent
> Fedora). With CentOS, the same problem as F9 is presented: no network
> adapter.
> Digging further, I see that support was added to the Linux kernel for
> this particular network adapter (Atheros AR8152) on February 16th,
> 2010. However, since CentOS 6.2 uses a kernel from 2009, it does not
> support this hardware. This seems excessively old for a distro that
> was released in December 2011, and I imagine that we will see many
> such problems if we run with this.

The original kernel release is from then but RH back ports a massive
amount of drivers and features into their kernel so it's not really a
great indicator.

There's a couple of ways of dealing with this.

One would be to request the driver be included upstream. It seems that
NIC ships in a lot of desktop/laptop systems from the likes of Dell
(you didn't mention the manufacturer) so it shouldn't be hard, it just
might not be as quick as wanted.

The other way would be to use something like dkms [1] to build a
kernel module out of tree for the driver and keep it updated when a
new kernel comes out. A simple documented way to do this might be
easier in terms of long term maintainability and stability of the
overall server. Newer kernels are minor updates and dkms will rebuild
the module I believe for each install of a kernel to ensure it will
work on reboot.

> With this in mind, is there still a strong preference to go with
> CentOS, or would a more recent Fedora (e.g. 16/17?) be a better
> choice?

Depends on what you think of the dkms stuff above. I think the dkms
might be better in the long term with CentOS. RedHat extended EL6
support to 10 years which gives us to 2020. F17 will be supported
until June 2013.


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