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Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

By Federico Kereki on October 22, 2007 (4:02:00 PM)

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Reconfiguring your laptop's wireless network settings every time you go to a new client's office or a friend's house can be tiresome, and carrying around little papers with notes about network names, keys, and IP addresses doesn't seem too professional. openSUSE's System Configuration Profile Management (SCPM) can help.

SCPM lets you adapt your machine's configuration to different environments and hardware configurations. The need to reconfigure your settings is most common in laptops, where you may need not only several different network configurations (with or without DHCP, firewalls, gateways, and proxies) but also different hardware. For example, sometimes you may need to use a Wi-Fi USB device, and you may or may not always have a printer available.

Set up your definitions

SCPM allows you to define different profiles and change among them seamlessly, either at boot time or during common operation. To do this, you must first define which resource groups you want to track; for example, the network resource group includes all files and definitions pertaining to network devices.

To define a profile, open YaST and navigate to System -> Profile Manager. At the bottom, click on Configure..., where you'll see all available resource groups. The resource groups that will be saved and restored in your profile are marked with an X. If you select a group and click on Edit, you'll see which files and services it includes. Whenever you change profiles, SCPM saves and restores all the files in each group and restarts all needed services.

You can start using SCPM by checking the Enabled and the Allow Profile Management for Non-root Users options -- SCPM requires root privileges, and this authorizes any user to change profiles. You can configure SCPM to allow or forbid users to switch and to add or modify profiles. By default, users cannot do either until you manually add them to the list of allowed users.

Switch Mode defines what happens when you switch from one profile to another. Normal, which implies that modified parameters in your current setup will be saved before you change to a new one, is your best bet. You should also pick Save Changes in Boot Mode, so the same will happen when you boot. If you want to see what's happening, check Verbose Progress Messages.

Change and create profiles

The easiest way to work with profiles is by using the Profile Chooser applet. If you're using KDE, open the main menu and select System -> Desktop Applet -> Profile Chooser; in GNOME, right-click on the panel and select Profile Chooser from the list of applets. It shows a list of available profiles and lets you change to it on the fly. By right-clicking on the icon, you can call up the YaST profile manager module or run the SCPM Universal Management Front-End (SUMF) program.

SUMF shows a list of all available profiles; initially, you'll have only a default one and will have to add your new ones. Many easy-to-understand options are available. Just don't try the Help option, or you'll get the number-one candidate for Most Useless Help Page Ever, with an explanation that reads "SUMF here should be explained something"! If you want actual documentation, go to the Novell documentation site and use the Search function to look for SCPM.

You can create a new profile easily by copying an old one and making changes. To edit a profile, just switch to it and make your changes; the next time you request a profile switch, SCPM will first record the current status, thus saving your changes. If you're in a hurry or want to be extra sure about this, change to any profile (so SCPM will do its save) and then change back; things should be as you had them.

You can pick what profile to use in one of three ways:

  • At boot time, press F3 when the Boot Options menu comes up. It's best if your profiles use single-word names; a profile with spaces in its name shows up in a quirky way in the boot screen.
  • Open SUMF, click on the new profile, and then press Ctrl-S or pick Switch from the Profiles menu.
  • Simply click on the Profile Chooser icon and pick the new profile.

With SCPM, you can manage several different profiles and use your laptop in multiple locations without any hassles or delays. The online documentation may be incomplete, but the Web site has enough information to help you get optimum results.

Federico Kereki is an Uruguayan systems engineer with more than 20 years' experience developing systems, doing consulting work, and teaching at universities.

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on Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

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Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.72.158.111] on October 21, 2007 02:50 AM
SCPM is nice, when it works. I used SCPM successfully with 10.2 on my laptop (one profile for home LAN use, one for modem dialup use, etc.). However, I just installed 10.3 (wiped the disk/clean installed) and SCPM is having problems. It doesn't seem to notice changes to /etc/hosts when switching profiles, even though I have network resource group enabled. I worked around the problem by adding my own resource group with a redundant /etc/hosts entry, but something isn't right with SCPM's handling of the network resource group. Sadly, this isn't the first suse release where SCPM had problems.


I recall problems with 9.1 (or 9.3?) as well. Back then, I had tried to upgrade to the latest distro and that resulted in a corrupted SCPM database which made the system unusable. I had to wipe the drive and do a clean install. After that, SCPM worked fine. I've come to expect SCPM problems with each new suse distro.

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Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.1.5] on October 22, 2007 06:10 PM
I do not care much for SUSe since the license pact with MS. Long time investment is GNU i.e. Debian or Ubuntu or ...

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Re: Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.8.45.86] on October 22, 2007 09:48 PM
And this applies to the article how? Or were you just looking for a sounding board?

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Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.103.68.37] on October 22, 2007 06:25 PM
NetworkMananger (KNetworkManager) handles this issue very well and is default in Ubuntu.

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Re: Going places with openSUSE's SCPM

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.221.33.242] on October 23, 2007 12:56 PM
KNetworkManager cannot handle changes such as fixed/variable IP, or firewall changes, or different printers, and so on.

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you mean you have to tell it where you are?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.6.40.50] on October 22, 2007 07:02 PM
With networking as pervasive as it is, why on earth do you need to tell the machine where you are? If the machine configures with DHCP, then there are 3 things that should always uniquely identify any place you are.



1) the IP address you are given (not always too helpful, but it can sometimes be the lone identifier -- ps. you always have to use the net mask to filter off the machine specific part of the address because some DHCP servers do not even try to give you the same IP address every time you connect)

2) the IP address of the default gateway (again, not always unique, but many times it would be)

3) the Ethernet hardware address of the gateway. Granted, this may change from time to time, and the ability to attach a profile to the new address could be quite useful. I have also had to manually override an ID on a network card because I ended up with 2 cards with identical IDs, but that is quite rare.



Way back in the Red Hat 6 era I hacked a shell script together to do this, and once it was put together I seldom had to worry about what resources were available -- it just connected the way it was supposed to.

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Re: you mean you have to tell it where you are?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.140.55.78] on October 22, 2007 11:06 PM
It's funny you know. First you disagree with the SCPM concept and then you gave every reason that is needed. Internet is a funny place.
Hello!!! DHCP is not the solution to world hunger or poverty. Actually it has limited uses. Most of the times you need to have static IP's in a business environment. Hell!! It's not even useful in my home network, because I do a lot of Port-Forwarding in different PC's. The only times it is useful is when a friend comes by and wants to plug in his laptop. But for my work( and for many other people), SCPM is a life saver. And no, Knetworkmanager is not good enough either. It is a piece of shit actually. Let alone the fact it covers only network connections. So if someone would bother to read the article, he wouldn't mention it as an alternative. Sigh!!

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Re(1): you mean you have to tell it where you are?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.96.159.107] on October 23, 2007 12:55 PM
In the business environments I have worked we use static IP's for servers and DHCP for the client/user PC's. At home I use DHCP, but not what is used in most of these firewall/router products. I have a Linux box which issues IP's for the simple fact that I can make it be sticky. Once a network card gets an IP address, it will get that address as long as it connects at least once every year or two. This allows me to do all the port forwarding I want, and it works unless someone goes changing out network cards. Personally, I am too lazy to want to set up static networking -- especially when my son believes in doing a complete re-install of his Windows XP every 3-6 months, and then I have to help him get the networking right again ---- every time. DHCP just works better for me.

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Re: you mean you have to tell it where you are?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.221.33.242] on October 23, 2007 12:58 PM
Not every LAN uses DHCP -- at some places you must use a fixed IP, and they do not run a DHCP server.

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Re(1): you mean you have to tell it where you are?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.96.159.107] on October 24, 2007 01:57 AM
While that is true, and should be accounted for, there is no indication in the article that the application is smart enough to try to find out where it is first. That means that even when I am on a network that could tell the computer where it is, I still have to manually tell it. Linux networking is already smart enough to know when it is on a network that does not provide DHCP, as proven by the automatic set up of zero-config networking if it can't find a dhcp server.



I understand having to tell the computer where I am if the network does not provide DHCP. I do not understand having to tell the computer where I am if it does. The script to gather the information is very trivial to write.

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