Archive for the ‘Linux/Unix’ Category

Ubuntu 8.04 – One Week in the Real World

Posted on May 1st, 2008 in Linux/Unix | No Comments »

Just as many other Ubuntu users, I could hardly wait with un-bridled enthusiasm for last week’s April 24th release of the final version of Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron.” My anticipation was heightened as this was to be a LTS (Long Term Support) release, and I have several projects pending, especially server builds that I want to install fresh on Hardy.

Before I launch into my one week review/opinion of Hardy, a little perspective is in order. I’m a daily user of Ubuntu (Gutsy and Dapper) and had been working with Pre-releases of 8.04 since about January. During this Alpha/Beta period, I encountered quite a few annoyances, but easily dismissed them due to the pre-release nature of the product. Those expectations changed however on April 24th.

Having been an Ubuntu user since Dapper (6.06) I have come to appreciate so many things about this Distro, from it’s Debian package management and repos to its fantastic user community and support, there is a lot to like. But perhaps more important then these, has been it’s rock solid nature and commercial grade releases. And as much as it pains me, after one week I have to question if Hardy was ready to go golden.

A Few Areas of Concern

Firefox 3 BETA? You put Beta software in a Long Term Support Distro? I know that FF3 is looking good (at this writing Beta 5), but I have already had to go and install Firefox 2 for some web sites to function properly. While this is not Canonical/Ubuntu’s fault – dictating production on Firefox – they should have realized this and favored the side of caution. Heck, when I’m on my Dapper boxes, I still use 1.5 and its no big deal. Yes, I get it, you want to be a bit visionary and cutting edge when working with a release that will be out for 3 – 5 years, but a core piece of software, as critical as the web browser should never go out “final” with a beta offering.

Samba Problems. I bugged a couple of SMB (client and server) problems to Ubuntu back in the A6 code, the final product still has critical bugs. I can’t even launch the Gnome Samba GUI tool without a fatal error. Daily I receive 10 or more bug reports on the system-config-samba system from bug tracker – What the heck? Aagin, Samba is way to critical a part of peoples infrastructure to ship an LTS version with fundimental problems.

Significant FSTAB syntax changes. Just yesterday, I discovered that my NAS units were not mapping (SMB/CIFS again) due too changed usage of the dmask clause. Ok call it petty, as this is not a full on Bug, but Good Lord, FSTAB fields have been a part of *nix systems for what 40+ years? And file masking – 777 has been the universally understood convention for full read/write/access in *nix since Bell Labs developed it – why did we feel the need to change the usage of a script I have personally been using for a couple of years now?

Don’t Fret Hardy Heron will be Uber!

My general feeling on this release is that it is just not fully cooked. In a few months, maybe only weeks, Hardy will be patched and ready for broad adoption. But why do this with your Flagship LTS offering? Unfortunately, Canonical/Ubuntu felt the need to hold the April 24th date, and shipped a product just a bit not as polished as previous builds. For now I will be holding off upgrading my production Gutsy boxes, but will build new systems with Hardy.

Podcast Picks Part I

Posted on April 17th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Tech & Science, Windows | No Comments »

Last week I blogged about the state of the Satellite radio landscape and the many great alternatives to fee based subscription radio. But let’s face it no matter how many MP3s you have at some point you may want to listen to some talk radio style programming.

To that end I have found an assortment of audio podcasts that inform, educate and challenge me on a regular basis. Hopefully you will find something new in this list that sounds interesting (sorry no pun intended.) Note: these are all audio programs, there are some wonderful video casts that warrant consideration – perhaps I’ll save those another post.

CastaBlasta Show –

Newer show I’ve started to enjoy that centers around geek/nerd/sci-fi and entertainment culture. Three regular hosts, the same creative team that developed the Linux Action Show, put out this weekly review/recap of the stories ranging from movies to video games, book reviews to toys for the not so grown-up.

CNET’s Buzz Out Loud –

“Welcome to CNET’s podcast of indeterminate length episode number 5,294,387!” Ok well maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but Molly Wood and Tom Merit, should be awarded some kind of medal for consistency and longevity! BOL is a daily, yes DAILY, 30 – 40 minute tech news and commentary show, summarizing the happenings of Silicon Valley, Redmond, and the greater tech world. High production values, methodic consistency and great hosts make this a must listen for every techy.

Cranky Geeks –

“Arg – visit my blog @” Love him or hate him Dvorak is a fixture in the computer journalism world, if you look up tech pundit in the dictionary, you’ll the host of the Cranky Geeks there. If there was any doubt in your mind, the show name it truth in advertising, each week John assembles a panel of feisty technology specialists for thirty minutes of banter (ala his old Tech TV show – Silicon Spin.)

Daily Audio Bible –

Less is more, and in the case of bible study Brian Hardin provides daily readings from the scriptures with heart felt passion, high production values and minimal commentary. Refreshing and simple Brian has been reading various translations every day for three years now. Regardless of your spiritual position, incorporating 15 minutes of the Bible into your day is always positive.

FLOSS Weekly –

Open Source Software is changing the way we use technology in our everyday life; whether you know it or not you are most likely already working with OSS. To this end Randal Schwartz and Leo Laporte host this weekly show that focuses each episode on an Open Source technology, usually via an interview with the inventor or author.

Fresh Ubuntu Podcast –

If you “Heart” Ubuntu – this is the show for you! Don’t me wrong, other Linux Distros are welcome, but Harlem and Peter’s first love is for Ubuntu. This weekly Linux round-up features news and helpful tips along with a health dose of whatever is irking the hosts all in fast passing hour long show.

Next post I’ll continue this list with six more great podcasts, till then – happy listening!

Good Cheap Hardware, the Wisdom of a Child and Wireless Woes

Posted on March 3rd, 2008 in Business & Industry, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

As a parent of three teenagers it seams like every time I turn around I’m paying for something, couple this with the fact I’m turning into a real miser these days – and I’m all for any bargain I can find! With this in mind, it was less then thrilling when my son came begging for a new notebook for his birthday, but after a couple of weeks of working mom and myself over, we succumbed to the pressure, and off to the Best Buy we went.

Good Greif that’s Cheap!

Sometimes a good slap in the face is what a jaded IT guy like myself needs, and the trip to a big box retailer to purchase a prebuilt system, rather then the Fry’s do it yourself approach, was indeed enlightening. Illuminating that is, as to just how clueless the average retail sales guy is; but he was efficient enough to take my money and get us out of the store with a shiny new HP/Compaq. It was a Compaq Presario C751NR to be exact, with decent specs – AMD X2 Mobile chip, 1 Gig of Ram, and an ample 120 GB HD. But the shocker – Out the door under $500!

Just Say No – to Vista that is

On the drive home my son began to question which OS he should run on the new system. Of course it was preloaded with some Vista Home Shit edition, and I suggested that we reload it; figuring on a version of XP Pro. He heartily agreed, say that he (my non-geek son) had heard nothing but bad things about Vista. But he shocked me when he asked, ”Dad, I want that cool looking one you run, what’s it called… Ubeny?” I grinned on both the inside and out, as I corrected him, Ubuntu, to which quickly agreed that was the one he wanted, as it, “Just looks so cool!”

What the Duce? Wireless always just works…

Now at home the hard drive wiped of the vile interloper, Vista, we quickly loaded Gutsy, Ubuntu 7.10 (possibly the most gorgeous release of any distro, I’ve ever used.) Install was uneventful and all the hardware was detected on this very new model notebook, but no WiFi. Not that the Atheros nic was not detected – it appeared in the Restricted Drivers – but just didn’t work. However, after about an hour of searching around on Ubuntuforums I did find a solution (Click here if you are interested.) This was a bit surprising though as device detection has been on of Ubuntu’s strong points.

All and all this has been a Win/Win/Win. Junior has his new notebook and is happy, I got out of the deal relatively unscathed in the pocket book, and perhaps best of all there is one less system out there running Vista.

One SPAMtop per Child: Raise of the affordable Subnotebooks

Posted on February 21st, 2008 in Business & Industry, Gadgets, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

Thanks to the OLPC initiative’s XO device rolling out to emerging markets, you can look forward to some changes on your desktop even if you never own one yourself.

The Good, The Bad and the Slender?

There is no doubt that getting technology into the hands of impoverished, and developing youths in these markets will empower a new generation to strive for a prosperity that families and whole villages have never know – that’s certainly good. But while this technology is inherently neutral, these new found skills and tools will present individuals with the opportunity to employ them for positive or nefarious purposes!

“The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal”, Glenn Frey mused in the 80’s classic, Smugglers Blues. And while the illicit activity might be different, in the case of these SPAMtop syndicates compared to that of the crime lords on Miami Vice, the motive to exploit hapless users is strikingly similar. Armed with new found knowledge, computing power, free time and an untraceable “mess” internet connection, just mix in some abject poverty, lack of social morals and two bit governments with no principals, ethics or will to enforce local laws, much less international ones, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a new wave of fishing and bot-nets the likes of which we have never seen before.

If you think that assertion is a bit alarmist consider this; they don’t call them Nigerian scams for nothing. Heck forget automated spam attacks as we know them today, these can be detected, intercepted and prevented. But not this new generation of attacks, with this kind of man-power, organized cyber-crime rings can just pay kids with XOs to write personal emails to their unsuspecting marks around the world. Not to be overly dourer, but imagine the pour souls that will be duped by these young scammers with the time and tools to not just email, but build phony web sites, hack credit cards, employ social network sites, even hold IM conversations all with the goal of building up the trust of the victim. Mercy, and we thought the Islamo-terrorist where a threat to Western Civilization!

What about the Slender?

Take heart, its not all bad. Another positive upside is the recent availability of affordable and innovative mini and micro sized notebooks. In addition to XOs offering, there are Intel’s classmate PC initiative, and the very well received Asus EEEpc, which unlike the OLPC is targeting the retail market directly with a sub $500 all flash based unit. But more then these specific units, there are new incentives to bring down prices on this segment of the market; which has been very pricy in the past.

So the next time you delete a get rich quick scam email or are contacted by a member of a foreign royal family, enjoy it on your inexpensive sub-notebook and just remember to say thanks OLPC!

Year of the home NAS – A Tera-byte in every pot!

Posted on February 5th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

The digital home is here, and to feed a hungry media rich world you need a terabyte or more; at least that’s what NAS vendors (Network Attached Storage) are banking on this year. Large hard drives are nothing new, what’s novel for 2008 is the appearance high capacity, inexpensive, consumer friendly NAS systems for the home.

Despite CES 2008 being largely unimpressive, with regards to new innovative product launches, there was one interesting theme that persistent all over the show floor; the appearance of RAID based NAS boxes for the home. In the past home based storage has been limited to external USB or Firewire boxes, but not any more. Thanks to the raise of home networking and the digital lifestyle, every member of the family from parents to teens and even little ones have storage needs.

Here are a few of the standouts in the home storage arena:

Netgear – Ready NAS Duo

HP – MediaSmart Server

Lacie Ethernet Disk mini – Home Edition

The truly unique aspect about these offerings if just how consumer friendly they are! No need to be a network admin or have your local geek force out to install them.

If you have been looking to add storage to your home computer this is the method you should employ, any of the above products will do wonderfully.

Any Friend of Apache, is a Friend of Mine!

Posted on January 30th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

I’ll gladly concede that backend web server technology is about as sexy as a 1980s’ Volvo 240GL. But having said that, the good folks at Apache friends are making a hot rod out of these mundane, but critical applications.

The XAMPP project is an easy to install and configure bundle containing the Apache web server, MySQL, PHP and Perl. The emphasis here is on EASY! If that does not sound appealing, then you have not experienced the full pain of trying to deploy these services individually. XAMPP eliminates these wows with an all inclusive package for Linux, Mac, Windows and Solaris. Oh, and did I forget to mention you get all this for free.

Recently I deployed the Linux package onto a Ubuntu 7.10 server in my office. The process was painless, and I was able to deliver web services to my designer in less then 30 minutes.

So next time you are setting up a web server do yourself a favor – install XAMPP!

CES 2008: Gaming gets Ugly but Thin is always in!

Posted on January 12th, 2008 in Games, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »


Now I realize I’m not the target demographic for high end gaming systems, but is it a prerequisite that all of the fastest systems on the planet be enclosed in oversized hideous, demonic or blingified cases? Judging from Cooler Master and many other high end system builders the answer is still a responding – Yes!


While the gamers or going after the seriously “over-the-top” look others like upstarts LimePC and DMP are going green and thinking small and thin. One of DMP’s models is pictured below – bear in mind this fully functioning computer is about the same size as a couple of decks of playing cards.


DMP Small Form Factor

Lime PC is looking to offer compact form factor systems running a Debian based distro called, you guessed it, LimeOS. But interestingly they will feature not only a fully functioning PC (similar in size to DMPs pictured above) , but a couple of smaller touch screen based models, one a sub 2 pound tablet style system and the other an iPhone/iTouch size system. Lime does not expect to ship till later this year, but keep an eye on them for new systems looking to challenge the conventional PC marketplace.

Minty Fresh Goodness

Posted on December 3rd, 2007 in Linux/Unix | No Comments »

What happens when you take one part Irish Spring soap, a tin of Altoids and the latest Ubuntu distro? You get Mint Linux – and yummy it is indeed!

No doubt the Linux landscape is full of options – this is perhaps one of the reasons that Linux adoption on the desktop has stalled – So I’m not quick to endorse new comers to the party. With the ease of use, solid performance and growing traction of Ubuntu; I’ve not needed to look to others for most of my needs.

But having said this, I do want to shine the spotlight on Linux Mint. This great distro coming out of the Emerald Isle features an earthy green theme, pleasant for sure and in some ways superior to its parent distro, Ubuntu. With Mint you get the best of many worlds, innovate design and artwork, bundled closed source drivers/apps and the same great repositories that power Ubuntu revs.

One of the best features of Mint, that really sets it apart form its parent Ubuntu, is the inclusion of many must haves like Codecs, Adobe Flash, and proprietary wireless/Nvidia/ATI drivers just to cite a few. Some purists object to the presence of these closed-source packages, but most users find it a great time saver when installing.

So if you what to try something a little spicy and fresh give Mint a try.

New Simplified Vista Naming

Posted on November 26th, 2007 in Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

As the one year anniversary of Windows Vista rolls around many people will be buying new computers this holiday season, and it seams an appropriate time to post this little Vista buying guide.

Occasionally, I am forced to explain the Vista SKU landscape for customers who are contemplating an upgrade. While I try to explain to them that friends don’t let friends buy Vista – some insist, if you are in a similar position, I’ve prepared this short guide to assist you in your selection process.

Vista Barely Basic – This ships on most low end systems and is designed to force users into immediate hardware upgrades as they discover anything less then 4 Gig of Ram on a multi-core processor will result in performance worse then a 386SX/25 running Windows 95.

Vista Home Worthless
– in an effort to target the home market and highlight the new Aero interface, Vista Home Worthless and it’s Media Center equipped sibling, Vista Home Pathetic, boast reduced networking capabilities compared to every previous version of windows and a new 99% game incompatibility mode.

Vista Business Incomplete
– Business runs on Windows and what better way to distract employees and reduce worker productivity than to introduce them to this exciting new OS! With new security features like the UAC (Uncontrollable Anytime Crashing) and a new massively incompatible driver model – it will leave both your users and IT support staff in a quandary.

Vista Ultimate (a.k.a. Ubuntu) – The Ultimate edition is simply put, the one you want – and I’m not talking about the $399 dollar one, I’m instead encouraging you to download the latest Free Ubuntu distro. Chalked full of “Eye-Candy” that exceeds the capabilities of any version of Vista, superior driver compatibilities and best of all you will enter a blue screen of death free zone.

Vista Robbins – 31 Flavors of Vista?

Needless to say, its a pretty sad state of affairs when you have practically as many flavors of a Windows operating system as a major ice cream parlor has options for a double cone! Even sadder still when you consider all the offerings of Vista are fundamentally broken.

One year into this latest remake of Windows and I continue to ask where is the Wow? Vista has done it predecessors proud, that is if you count it as the latest member of the Windows ME and MS BOB family tree!

Open Office “Switch” Update: Spell Checker – Not all that and a bag of chips

Posted on October 24th, 2007 in Apple, Business & Industry, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

Its month three since I jettisoned Microsoft Word and Excel, and switched to Open Office as my full-time spreadsheet and document editor. And while the experience has been overall very positive, I’m quite disappointed with the spell checker correction algorithm.

Good spell check has always been a big part of my word-processing needs – Yes, I’m a horrific speller – and the heuristics for the auto-correction is just not on par with Microsoft Word.

Also lacking is the facility for managing custom dictionaries. I was unable to easily port my existing Word compatible dictionary; and by easily I mean the ability to do it in under an hour!

I’ll have more updates on my experiences switching in future posts, but for now I need to mind my spelling.