We know we owe you a report for the previous development sprint (namely the 71th). But we also know how to compensate that. This week we have not only one, but up to three blog posts to keep you tuned to the YaST evolution.

So let’s start with the summary of what have been implemented and fixed lately. That includes

  • Improvements in the Bcache support in the Partitioner
  • Users home as Btrfs subvolumes
  • Better visualization of Salt formulas in YaST Configuration Management
  • Automatic selection of the needed driver packages
  • Improvements in many other areas like AutoYaST, bootloader, the Partitioner and the storage Guided Setup

You will find links to the other more exhaustive blog posts, about the recently added Bcache support and the revamped Configuration Management module, in the corresponding sections of this report.

Final Improvements in the Bcache Support

During several sprints, we have been detailing our efforts to offer a decent support for the Bcache technology in the YaST partitioner. During this sprint we have implemented what we consider the three final bits:

  • Bache devices without caching
  • Modifying Bcache devices
  • Listing all caching sets

We will now detail this three improvements. But to celebrate that Bcache support looks complete now in the Partitioner, we have published a separate blog post explaining what Bcache is and how to take advantage of that technology using the YaST Partitioner. Enjoy!

And back to the topic of recent improvements, we should mention that the Bcache technology allows to create a Bcache device without an associated caching one. This is useful if you are considering to use Bcache in the future. In that case you can setup all your slow devices as Bcache backing devices without a cache, leaving open the possibility of adding caching devices later. That is now possible by selecting the new option labeled “without caching” during creation, as shown in the following screenshot.

No caching device in Bcache

Of course, that’s not much useful without the possibility of modifying a Bcache device. So in the latest sprints we also added a new “Change Caching” button.

New option to modify a bcache

This option will only work for bcaches that do not exist in your system yet (e.g., a bcache that you are creating right now). For existing bcache devices, this option is only available when the bcache has no associated caching device yet. Otherwise, a detaching action would be required, and that could take very long time in some situations.

Avoiding detach operations in bcache

And last but not least (regarding Bcache), now the Expert Partitioner also shows the list of all caching sets in a separate tab (unsurprisingly) titled “Caching Set Devices”. It is only an informative tab, but thanks to it you will be able to check all devices currently used for caching at a quick glance.

List of caching sets

Create the User’s Home as a Btrfs Subvolume

As many (open)SUSE users know, Btrfs offers several advantages over traditional Linux file-systems. One of them is the possibility of using subvolumes to customize the configuration and features of different parts of the same file-system.

From now on, the YaST Users module allows to create the home path of new users as a subvolume instead of a plain directory, as long as a Btrfs file-system could be found in the system, of course. As simple as checking the “Create as Btrfs Subvolume” option that you will find just below the “Home Directory” field.

Using a Btrfs subvolume as home

In a multi-user system, using Btrfs subvolumes for the home paths of the users can open a world of possibilities. The system administrator can decide to give some users the ability to create snapshots of their corresponding home directories, even automated on every login and/or logout using PAM Snapper. Similar ideas can be applied to a Samba deployment. Moreover, using subvolumes as homes can also be useful to implement per user quotas.

Beyond multi-user systems, fine-tuning the mount options or customizing snapshots and quotas can also be useful for some special system users (e.g. the user associated to a database system).

And all that, as always in YaST, equally easy to configure with the graphical interface and with the text-based one.

Moreover, using subvolumes as homes can also be useful to implement
per user quotas, ncurses
version

Better Visualization of SUSE Manager Salt Formulas

As we announced on January, we have been working on updating the SUSE Manager Salt Formulas support in YaST Configuration Management to comply with the latest forms specification. As it happens with the Bcache support, we feel we have reached a point in which the feature is polished enough to be shipped in the next (open)SUSE stable releases and to deserve its own separate blog post. So go and enjoy our third blog post of this week, a sneak peak into the marriage of SUSE Manager and YaST, thanks to the magic of Salt Formulas.

In that regard, we have been recently improving how the forms look like to make them as easy to use as possible. Bear in mind that a form can be quite long and the support for scrolling in YaST2 is quite limited. In order to workaround this problem, YaST2 will display a tree at the left side outlining the structure of the form.

Tree view of long salt formulas

Apart from that, we have solved some known problems, like exporting date/time and numeric values in a correct way or handling missing and default values properly.

Sure there are some details that we like to improve but, for now, what we need is feedback from you. So, if you are interested in such a functionality, please check the mentioned dedicated blog post about the topic and have a look to yast2-configuration-management 4.1.5.

Automatically Selecting the Driver Packages in Installed System

In openSUSE Leap 15.0 and SUSE Linux Enterprise 15, the packages containing drivers needed by the system are installed automatically if they are available during the installation. However, if a repository with driver packages is added later in the installed system then the drivers are not automatically selected to install.

Fortunately, in Leap 15.1 and SLE-15-SP1 the package solver implements a new solver mode in which it selects for installation only the recommended driver packages, without also dragging other non-driver recommended packages into the system.

For example, after adding the nVidia driver repository in Leap 15.1 (YaST ➝ Software Repositories ➝ Add ➝ Community Repositories, select “nVidia Graphics Drivers”) and starting the package manager (YaST ➝ Software Management), the respective nVidia driver packages are automatically selected to install if there is a supported nVidia graphics card present in the system. This of course works also for the other driver packages and hardware devices.

Just a last note about automatic selection of recommended driver packages. When running the package manager for the first time in a recently installed openSUSE Leap 15.1, it might automatically select some additional packages to install coming from the Leap OSS on-line repository (which is added automatically the end of the installation). Do not be surprised, that’s actually desired. If you do not want to install those packages simply deselect them, YaST will remember that and it will not select them next time.

See more details in the corresponding documentation.

Improved Disk Selection Screen in the Storage Guided Setup

Although it may sound surprising for some users, it’s not uncommon to install SUSE Linux Enterprise on systems with dozens or even hundreds of disks. Of course, in those advanced scenarios the automatic partitioning proposal is not much useful and users are expected to use the Expert Partitioner. But, what if someone tries to use the partitioning Guided Setup in a system with 30 disks? In SLE-15 (or Leap 15.0, in the case of this concrete screenshot) they will see a screen as unusable as this.

Broken Guided Setup screen

Of course, it only gets worse if the number of disks increases or if the text-mode interface is used. So we improved the disk selection screen, taking also the opportunity to include additional information to make easier to identify removable devices like USB and IEEE 1394 ones. In future releases, the screen will normally look pretty much as it looks in the previous version, just with the extra information about USB.

Normal Guided Setup screen

But if the system contains more than 10 disks to choose from, then a different widget that makes scrolling possible will be used, ensuring the user interface remains usable enough in both graphical and text-based modes.

Guided Setup screen with more than 10 disks

YaST Bootloader Becomes Less Whinny

When the installation of the system is spread over multiple physical disks, YaST Bootloader always tries to setup the bootloader in all those disks. This helps for example when MD RAID is used to achieve redundancy and some disk fails. Then the system can still boot from any of the other disks, since they also contain a proper bootloader.

But in some cases the installation can be spread over multiple disks but with only one of them being prepared to host the bootloader (e.g. containing the needed partitions). YaST bootloader used to complain about it while generating its proposal, which resulted in an error shown during installation.

In this sprint we have relaxed the YaST Bootloader expectations a bit. It still tries to create a fail-over setup, but the proposal does not complain if at least one disk looks bootable. Additionally if Grub2 is properly installed to at least one device, then possible failures in other disks will not result in an error pop-up, but just logged for future reference.

Device Order for MD RAIDs in AutoYaST

During the development of storage-ng, the feature to specify the device order for MD RAIDs with AutoYaST was lost. The feature can be useful for RAID level 10 to ensure that one full half of the RAID will only reside on one disk subsystem and the other half on the other subsystem. Only then a complete failure of a single subsystem keeps the RAID working.

Now the feature has been re-implemented for Leap 15.1 and SLE-15-SP1 and the “device_order” tag of the AutoYaST profile works as expected. For further information about configuring RAID with AutoYaST, consult the AutoYaST documentation.

Improvements in the Partitioner

That AutoYaST feature was not the only thing that temporarily disappeared with the replacement of the old storage components by storage-ng. The “Provide Crypt Passwords” button in the Partitioner was also not there in the early versions included in openSUSE Leap 15.0. But it was not really an omission, but a consequence on how the activation of logical devices works now in YaST.

During installation, all pre-existing logical devices that need some initialization are always activated to make possible to use them. That includes LVM, Multipath devices (for which a user confirmation is requested) and encrypted devices (for which the password is asked to the user). But triggering such activations in an already installed and running system cannot be done so lightly, since it affects the execution of the whole system.

Still, there are cases in which a user executing the YaST Partitioner in an already installed system may desire to activate currently inactive devices. To allow that we brought back the “Provide Crypt Passwords” button, but with two small changes compared to its historical behavior.

  • It activates all kind of devices, not only the crypt ones.
  • It refreshes all the Partitioner information, reading again the status of all the storage devices.

Provide Crypt Passwords button

Of course, any change in behavior is a nice opportunity to revisit and expand the help texts.

The button explained

Another change that was intentionally introduced in the first versions of the rewritten Partitioner was the fact that new file-systems always got an empty label by default, independently of the previous content of the partition being formatted.

But the old Partitioner used to do things differently when reformatting a partition. In that case, it actually copied the label of the previous file-system into the new one. Some users told us (via bug reports) they wanted the old behavior back, so now the Partitioner preserves the old label when a partition is reformatted.

Wow, that was a lot!

As usual, this report only covers a small portion of what the YaST Team has been doing. But definitely this time our readers will have enough material to keep themselves entertained for quite some time. Specially combining this with the two already mentioned monographic posts about the Bcache support and about the compatibility with SUSE Manager Salt Formulas.

Have a lot of fun reading!