Archive for the ‘Linux/Unix’ Category

Get Some Guts; Gutsy That Is

Posted on October 18th, 2007 in Linux/Unix | No Comments »

Happy Gutsy Gibbon day! October 18th marks the release of the latest version of the free Linux based Ubuntu distribution. I’m providing the a direct link to the X86 version of the bittorrent images here – as of this writing it’s a little difficult to get the disk any other way due to load.

I’ve been using the 7.10 (Gutsy) Beta/RC for about a month now and find it to be very stable and usable.

Perhaps one of the most exciting new features of this version is the inclusion of Compiz Fusion by default, with Halloween close at hand think of this as a little candy for your eyes! If you are unfamiliar with the Compiz/Beryl/Fusion saga, suffice it to say the new combine efforts of the Fusion team are looking great and it’s nice to see them being included in major distros – Leopard/Vista visuals have nothing on Compiz Fusion.

At any rate this latest release of Ubuntu is a wonderful starting point for those who might be looking to experiment with Linux, and a must have for existing Feisty (7.04) users.

You don’t have Skype yet?

Posted on September 14th, 2007 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

I’ve had an epiphany; not everyone on the internet uses Skype yet, and some of these people are even in my family! If you are now shaking your head in disgust; you feel me, there is no need for you to keep reading. If on the other hand you don’t know of this “Skype” I speak of? Read on – your diligence will be rewarded.

Every now and then a program comes along the so redefines or expands how we use computers that it is termed a Killer App. WordStar and VisiCalc where some of the first such, defining and practically inventing the word processing and spreadsheet markets. In the 80s’ PageMaker, Photoshop and Illustrator did it for desktop publishing. More recently, Mosaic (and its predecessors Netscape, Internet Explorer and Firefox) redefined the way we think of the Internet.

Simply put, Skype is the “Killer App” of today’s internet. For its millions of current users, Skype is an indispensable part of daily life. What does it do? In addition to being a really good text IM client, Skype delivers excellent quality voice/video chat, and it does it for free. Computer to computer calls feature gorgeous clarity with support for up to 10 callers. Solid multi platform support, in addition to the Windows version, the Mac and Linux versions interoperate seamlessly – so no one is left out based on their OS. And for mere pennies a minute you can dial out from your computer to international phones. In fact you can buy a year of unlimited computer to domestic telephone service for a flat $30 – And you thought services like Vonage were a deal!

In addition to superb call quality and free or very discounted phone service, its one of the best VoIP (Voice over IP – or the whole idea of talking over the internet) clients I’ve ever used, due to tight integration with Programs like Outlook, IE and Firefox.

So what are you waiting for, go download it free now – I’m waiting to hear from you.

Breaking News: Tux goes on a Binder!

Posted on September 2nd, 2007 in Linux/Unix | 2 Comments »

Tux bar

In a shocking move to diversify his limited Linux branding, Tux has been spotted at several South American cantinas enjoying spiked Horchatas and Tequila shots. This Degen.Net, exclusive was submitted by our roving technology aficionado referred to only as Agent Vic, and was captured while vacationing this summer below the Equator.

As revealed in the picture above, Tux is no longer content to serve merely as the symbol of the world wide open source movement; the very embodiment of Linus Torvalis’ Linux project. When questioned, the establishment’s proprietor was sketchy on the details surrounding the Petulant Penguin’s cross promotion plans, but did confirm that Tux was one heck of a party animal, and quite the ladies man as well.

“At first I wanted him out of my establishment; as he was distracting patrons and he didn’t seam particularly interested in ordering anything from the bar.” Hector Flores, owner of the Lucky Hombre, told Agent Vic in an interview earlier this month. “I approached Tux and asked him if he might not be more comfortable at the Internet Café across the street, that’s when things got a little intense.”

Hector continued, “We all thought this geeky little guy would just slink away, but let me tell you after he shattered a Jose Cuervo bottle over the bar and threatened to ‘cut’ anyone not using the 2.6 kernel, we realized this was no ordinary penguin!”

Mr. Flores shared that both he and the rest of the cantina staff developed a new sense of respect for Tux as he proceeded to drink all comers under the table. “We don’t really no nothing about Open Source stuff that Tux is into, but he makes a great mascot for our bar!”

So be on the lookout for other venues of expansion for Tux – heck what’s next a world wide deal with Budweiser?

VMware Converter – How sweet it is!

Posted on June 12th, 2007 in Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

As most of you have heard me pontificate about to no end; Virtualization is here and is changing the IT landscape. And if the reasons for migrating to a virtualized environment were not compelling enough on there own merits, the good people at VMware have made the move even easer with the windows based Converter product.

Converter, yet another free offering from VMware, is simply put – amazing software. After you load the small (about 20M) app on your windows system you answer a few wizard like questions, specify a disk target and let’er rip. Converter then turns your live physical system into a ready to go VM package. Did I mention it does this LIVE, to any Win XP, 2000 or 2003 system!

In fact the blog your reading right now is hosted on a “converted” VM. In my case the Windows web server the blog was hosted on, a Pentium III 733, was getting a bit long in the tooth, I loaded the converter and after about an hour of processing the system was moved over to a Linux VMware host.

If you are an existing VMware user checkout, and if this whole VMware thing is a mystery to you – go download your free copy of VM today (Http://www.vmware.com), it will change the way you think about computing.

Foxmarks – A Must Have!

Posted on May 22nd, 2007 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | 1 Comment »

Once in a while a widget/app/gizmo comes along that is so dang useful and cool that I simply must share. Foxmarks for Mozilla Firefox is one such plug-in.

Foxmarks is a nifty little cross-platform extension that will both backup and synchronize your firefox bookmarks. This is ideal if you work on multiple machines, and even across multiple Oses

http://foxmarks.com/

If you are a Firefox users and have multiple systems, simply put you need this Extension – Enjoy.

Feisty Fawn = Freakin’ Fabulous

Posted on May 7th, 2007 in Linux/Unix | No Comments »

So Ubuntu 7.04 (code name Feisty Fawn, if you are unfamiliar with the Ubuntu naming convention) has been out a few weeks now. Only this weekend did I get the chance to load Feisty on a couple of systems; and all I can say is – Holy hand-grenades Batman, this thing is really flippin’ sweet!

To start with, installation on my build up desktop was lights out easy. Auto detected everything (just a minor resolution support issue on the Nvidia 6600 card), and I was up and running in no time flat. I quickly threw on my favorite OSX styled Gnome themes, turned on the basic three-D effects option; shame this is not on by default, and then it was time to install and config some apps.

I was particularly happy to find that NTFS read/write support is now just a couple of clicks away in the apt-get interface. RDP support was pre-installed, wonderful news for all the windows servers I need to support.

Installation on the HP NC8430 was a little more tricky, but really this was more due to the ATI X1600 and Intel WiFi drivers than anything. It was very surprising that Ubuntu 6.10 and the 7.04 betas worked off the live CD great, but the 7.04 release did not. After doing some research it appears this is due to some config in the X server with ATI X1xxx chipsets – argh, AMD/ATI!!!! Fortunately I was able to find a work around using the Alternate disc (Click Here), hopefully a 7.04.x patch will debut and resolve this, as it would be nice to have a Feisty disk that works from a live boot.

The Intel 3945 drivers where another story. I have yet to be successful getting the wireless manager to connect to my WEP Access Point. Like the ATI driver issue, this is well documented on the Ubuntu forums, but the solution alluded me; for now, I’ll operate in a wired configuration.

Overall Ubuntu 7.04 has me very impressed! I’ve used Linux and Ubuntu in that past, but for the first time in my career I’m starting to look at it as a serious replacement for Windows (especially Vista.)

The next step is to integrate Linux into daily work. On the plus side, many apps I use are already cross platform, but others are going to require the use of WINE or migrating to a native Linux app (It’s that Love-Hate thing with Outlook.) I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Feeling the Linux Lovin’

Posted on May 4th, 2007 in Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

If Microsoft had know that the best thing they would ever do for the Linux community is release Vista, I have to wonder – would they have rushed its release? Would they have every released it for that matter!

With this week’s major announcement from Dell, not only to support Linux, but to offer Ubuntu as an outright preload, you have to ask are the Windows alternatives that good or is Vista that Bad?!? I would submit that it’s a bit of both.

On my desktop Ubuntu 7.04 is now the default OS, and as soon as I can get the cursed ATI/AMD X1600 driver situation under control on my notebook, it will soon follow with Linux load.

Also some big props going out to the Linux Action Show podcast. If you have yet to discover this wonderful resource for all things happening in the Linux community, I strongly recommend you give them a listen.

64-bit Computing – A reality ahead of its time

Posted on March 22nd, 2007 in Apple, Business & Industry, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

There have been many great advances in desktop computing over the years; and some truly great ones, that fail miserably. The Apple Newton, IBM PC Jr, RAMBUS Memory, 64-bit implementations of software on desktop PCs come to mind – OK well, maybe not the PC Jr., but back on point. 64-bit processors, their respective OSes and more specifically the applications that are available for them, continue to make one ponder, “When will 64-bit computing become a reality?”

 

Alpha Chip

 

In that question lies the problem. 64-bit environments are a reality now, and have been for over a decade; we just don’t really expect them to be, so as businesses, consumers, enthusiasts and the industry as a whole, we propagate a self fulfilling prophecy that the technology is not ready for prime time.

 

And before I get barraged with, “Well, Actually….” responses about how you use 64-bit Oracle or other select server applications, this diatribe is focused primarily on the desktop, though an argument can be made about the sad state of adoption on the server side as well (I’ll just save that for another time.)   

   

Dispelling Myths

 

Contrary to all the industry press, bloggings, and snappy AMD/Intel ads and press-releases; 64-bit platforms have been available for some time. I little history lesson is in order.

 

My first experience with a true 64-bit box was in the early 90’s, the DEC Alpha AXP. Ah, Digital Equipment Corporation, I get a little teary eyed at the thought. Great company, superb engineering, solid performing systems and terrible marketing – so it should be no surprise that many of you might not even recall the AXP systems.  At 150 Megahertz the AXP was blisteringly faster than the flagship Intel chip of the day, you might remember that one a little better, this new thing called “Pentium”, it topped out at 90 MHz. And for an OS, you could run Windows NT (the now defunct Alpha version), OpenVMS, or DEC’s Tru64Unix. While most of these machines are now collecting dust in IT bone yards, a few continue to find life with 64-bit Linux distros for the Alpha.

 

Sun Ultra Sparc

 

The next 64-bit offering to grace the stage, Sun Microsystems Ultra Sparc. What’s that? You don’t remember who Sun is? That’s ok they seam to have a problem with their identity too, but back in the day, the 90s, Solaris was king of the go-go Unix powered internet bubble. The Ultra line of chips was to power 64-bit Solaris running from the largest datacenter on down to the “workstation” on your desktop. Heck, there were even a few OEMs who engineered notebooks with these. Still not ringing a bell? Humm, well that explains a lot about Sun’s current dwindling market share.

 

So if both of these have left you scratching your head surely you will recall the first major 64-bit offering from Intel.  Merced, or it’s current brand name – Itanium. Intel started hyping the crap out of this dog before the turn of the century (oh its so weird to use that expression to describe the 1999 – 2000 – 2001 time period.)  In case you missed it, we where all going to stop buying Pentiums, as they were scheduled to be discontinued shortly after the Itaniums started shipping. After all, why would anyone want a 32-bit processor when they could have a new 64-bit one running at a slower Megahertz that was both pin and code incompatible with the x86 architecture. Not so much.

 

Then there was Apple. Surely Apple with all their technical prowess, engineering experience, and marketing appeal could make this 64-bit thing work! Well they did get the science part right – partly. It was the Macintosh G5, billed as the worlds fastest micro computer and 64-bit through and through. And at it’s core, the G5 chip and memory interconnects have 64-bit data paths; but OSX, while certainly capable of running in a pure 64-bit mode, opted to go with only 64-bit extensions for large memory addressing. But never mind, it turns out that the PowerPC chips that were so fast, got replaced by those 32-bit Intel chips; those ones that were sure to be phased out by 2003, what where those called… oh yea Pentium I think it was. Been so long since any of us have seen one of those.

 

 G5 The Fastest?


Software –  cause I still haven’t found what I’m looking for..

 

Where are the Killer 64-bit apps? There lies the crux of the whole thing. In fact one could ask where are the sorta killer 64-bit apps, or where are the simply ok-but-working 64-bit apps.

 

In each of the previous 64-bit mis-steps, chronicled above, there was not the single quintessential force required to drive adoption, good software. And here is the sad part, since those ill-fated attempts of the 90’s – what has changed? Not a heck of a lot.

 

You think I’m exaggerating? AMD has offered its Opteron and Athlon 64-bit architectures for a couple of years now – how many of you are running the AMD64 version of World of Warcraft?  Oh that’s right, that product does not exist.

 

What AMD is not mainstream enough, too fringe – let’s look at Intel. Itanium, 64-Bit Xeon and Core based systems have been in production even longer, How many people do you see running Half Life 2 for XP Pro x64 version?

 

Frankly I don’t know what it’s going to take for 64-bit solutions to take hold! I’ve been hearing the rhetoric about how life changing the 64-bit apps are going to be, for over a decade now, and it’s just not happening. Its time the industry either gives up on 64-bit on the desktop or build something that makes users value this fancy “new” technology.

 

When Disk Failures Attack!

Posted on March 20th, 2007 in Linux/Unix, News & Updates, Windows | No Comments »

ARRRGG! Under the heading; yes it can happen to anyone – I suffered a catastrophic drive failure on my primary notebook this weekend.

 

Best I can tell it was from a corrupt MBR, very strange considering the system was not a multi boot or had multiple partitions. And of course it struck at the worst possible time as I’m on the road with back to back customer calls to make.

 

So here are the lessons to learn from my misfortune:

 

  • Always keep a current backup of anything you care about. Fortunately I had all “My Documents” form a few days before on a flashdrive.

  • Consider a partitioned drive separating your data from the OS, this is something I had been thinking about for sometime and will go into my next build.

  • If you are a road warrior, or find your self away form your office much, keep a copy of your OS installer and any hardware drivers with you. I did not have that special HP XP Pro recovery disk with me, so I was forced to rebuild with Vista…. Oh Vista, just when I think I’m out you Pull me back in!

  • Keep a copy of Ubuntu or some other cd image bootable OS with you. Thanks to my copy of Edge Eft (Ubuntu 6.10) I was able boot the system, browse the undamaged files and copy them off to an external USB drive. Needless to say, Ubuntu’s stock went way up with me!

  • Tools would be nice…. Before our airports went all medieval on having a screwdriver in your carry-on, I would always have at least a small Philips on me, and sometimes a Leatherman tool. After this debacle I’m seriously considering a packing a small toolkit in my checked bag, just in case.

At any rate, the mire fact that I can type up this entry today is a good sign that my system and work week are on the road to recovery.

OpenSUSE 10.2 – A first look

Posted on February 14th, 2007 in Linux/Unix | No Comments »

As you know, I’ve been refreshing my experience on the current crop of Linux distros, last week’s overviewed was Ubuntu 6.10 – “Do you Ubuntu?”  Moving right along in my “which Linux Distro is right for me” Evaluation is SUSE 10.2.

 

Having not looked at SUSE since before the Novell merger/acquisition, I expected significant changes. After torrenting down the DVD image I threw it into my “classic” test system, an old Compaq P3 with 512 MB of RAM. I’ve used this old beater before for testing, and given Linux’s relatively mild requirements I figured this would be no problem.

 

Was I in for a surprise.  None of the installation options worked on the P3-733. Not exactly state of the art, but certainly it should have been sufficient. I even put an old NVIDIA MX400 in the system thinking that perhaps the onboard Video was the problem, but nothing.

 

So over to my Intel Core 2 box. Immediately the installer was up and running. After quickly answering questions about my language and location, I was given the choice of which desktop manager I wanted Gnome or KDE. This was a nice option, one that I have not seen in many new Distros installers lately. I selected Gnome, as I have been using it with most of these Linux evals and wanted to keep things consistent.

 

Next came partitioning options. SUSE greatly simplifies the process with its prefab selection. There are expert options to go in and modify, but I have to admit, even I was a little intimidated by the way these slices where displayed – so I let it be and rolled with the defaults.

 

A nice progress bar gives a total time remaining, after about 30 minutes, three gigs have been moved and we are ready for reboot. Upon reboot, I was pleased to see that my Vista install had been auto-detected and was intact, something other distros have not picked up correctly. 

 

Completing the install after reboot, was uneventful. You are giving the opportunity to create some users and setup Novell support options.  I’m not up on the ins and outs of how Novell’s support options work with SUSE, so I left this blank for now and was able to progress through the installer. I’d welcome anyone’s input as to what you get/don’t get in the “free” vs. “pay” support options.

 

Just as with Ubuntu, driver support was excellent, auto detecting my Video/Audio and other peripherals like USB drives upon boot. A very OSX looking desktop screen, serves as the default background.  

 

SUSE Desktop

Also of note is the very different “start” menu or application browser, pictured below. It’s fascinating to see how OS menu systems are moving away form traditional linear designs as they grow more and more conceptualized around tasks, and less about a specific application. This is true of most new modern OSes (Vista, OSX and now here in Linux windows managers.)

SUSE Application Browser

Bundled apps were plentiful and featured Open Office and Firefox 2.0. Totem serves that the default media player, but like Fedora and the current Ubuntu it does not default install with many codecs; Ubuntu 7.X plans to support an auto download on demand of unknown/uninstalled codecs, I was hoping to see that in this refresh of SUSE.

 

And let me clarify somehting about this post, as well as the whole series of Linux Distro overviews, this is not indented to be an over-arcing exhaustive review of SUSE, but rather an accumulation of observations I’m making about the current crop of Linux offerings. There are many great sites devoted to much more granular detail than I can get into here. In a future article I will give some recommendations on sources you can draw from for more info.

 

Overall this is a very impressive offering and should be considered as a free/low cost PC OS option. Keep watching as I will look at Fedora 6 next in the series.