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Archive for February, 2009

LXer Article

10 reasons why Linux will triumph over Windows: I have an announcement. The error of Microsoft’s ways is finally catching up and will cause the once-invincible juggernaut to kneel before that which is Linux. How is this? Microsoft started a tiny snowball when it released Windows Me. That snowball did nothing but gain momentum. There have been ups and downs along the way (XP being an up, for sure). But for the most part, the court of public opinion has steady lost faith in what once was considered the heart of personal computing.

Top 5 Netbook Linux Distributions: Some of the advantages of running Linux on a sub-notebook are a smaller memory footprint, better security and tons of free applications right out of the box. So here are some Linux distributions I recommend you try out, because they are modified to work well with small screens and modest hardware.

Open Source News from FOSDEM 2009 – Day 2: In the weekend of 7 and 8 February, the 9th Free & Open Source Developers’ Europe Meeting (FOSDEM) took place at the Université Libre Bruxelles (ULB) in Brussels. Your editors Sander Marechal and Hans Kwint attended this meeting to find out for you what’s hot, new in the area of the Linux environment and might be coming to you in the near future. This is our report of the second day covering the talks about Thunderbird 3, Debian release management, Ext4, Syslinux, CalDAV and more. Coverage of the first day can be found in our previous article.

Moonshine brings Windows Media to Linux: Moonshine is both a Firefox browser plug-in and a desktop player. The plug-in can be downloaded and installed just like any other Firefox extension. The desktop player, which plays WMV/WMA content on your PC through Firefox, has to be built from source code.

How I became a prisoner of my company’s e-mail software: Last year, I decided to give Linux a try. Everything was going well, until I started working for a company that uses Microsoft Outlook for e-mail. There’s simply no straightforward, reliable way to run Outlook on Linux. I tried Outlook Web Access, but the service strips code from HTML attachments, among other limitations. (The company I worked for prior to my current employer used Lotus Notes, which is probably the only e-mail program in the world more proprietary than Outlook. Organizations must get some huge benefit from using these closed e-mail systems, because they sure make life difficult for users.)

Richard Stallman on ISP filtering and censorship: If someone just like ISP companies in Poland and Australia tries to interfere sharing by blocking network ports, censor Internet websites – it is real bad news for democracy, red light for our freedom, signal that companies have power to decide, what is good and what is bad. This injustice is so serious, that I asked Richard Stallman about his point of view on this situation. I think there is no other person in the world, who is so experienced in fighting for freedom in technical world…

A Review of Damn Small Linux 4.4.10: For the first time this week I finally had the pleasure of taking Damn Small Linux (hereafter, DSL) for a test drive. One of the companies that I work for required an easy, lightweight and quick solution to salvage an older project.

4 Websites to Learn Cool Linux Command Line Tricks: Hollywood movies often have a tech geek entering commands and doing amazing things. While it may not be that easy to hack into public transport systems or or control the world like Eagle Eye, the command line is certainly a geeks playground.

Is Apple The New Neighborhood Bully?: Apple has been throwing its legal weight around of late trying to use IP law to protect its turf. Seems to me Apple should call off the lawyers and let the products do the talking.

ASUS is considering Android-based Eee PCs: ASUS is considering to install the Linux-based Google Android OS on future Eee PCs. Google initially developed Android for cellphones (T-Mobile G1) but ASUS has allocated engineers to develop an Android-based Eee PC by as early as the year end.

10 cool things you can do with Linux and not with windows: Things you can do with Linux and not with windows Some people install windows on their netbook (or buy one with windows). I think this is not very smart because the only things you could ever really need windows for (games and photoshop) are not likely to run very well on these things. Following a list of some of the things you can do with Linux and not on windows (or very difficult)

How to Write a Linux Virus in 5 Easy Steps: It’s easy for people to pick at Windows for being prone to virus and malware attacks. It’s almost a given belief that if you’re running a PC with a Windows operating system, you’re much more susceptible to attacks than users with other operating systems. But let’s quickly look at the reasons for this. First, it isn’t really Microsoft’s fault. It isn’t that Windows is technically inferior, it’s that the majority of the world runs on Windows. This fact alone is very attractive for any virus coder or exploiter. As a virus writer, you’d want to attack the majority, not the minority.

Who Pays For Open Source Software?: There are many fantastic Open Source projects out there. But just how do they get the funding they need to continue and expand development? Earlier this week I posted: Why 100% Free Software Destroys Linux. That post, in a nutshell, says : Open Source projects need a way to be funded. Commercial/Proprietary software is the way it has been done so far, and is the way it is likely to be done for the foreseeable future.

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LXer Article

We start off this week’s Roundup with a blast from the past with an article that compared the best Linux distributions of 2000. Its amazing just how far we have come since then. Amazon has unveiled a new slimmer Kindle reader that has more storage and quicker page turns. Priced at a somewhat steep $359, it will keep many who would want to buy it from being able too.

It seems that gaming on Linux is really starting to ramp up. LinuxLinks.com has updated their list of 21 of the best free Linux games and Ken Starks finally gets the gaming ‘bug’ and explains how even he couldn’t stop playing a game recently ported to Linux in his review “Linux gets Gooey on Friday the 13th“. A reminder to our readers, don’t forget that SCALE 7x is almost upon us and yours truly will be there the whole weekend to cover it for you. Look for me to be perusing the showroom floor and attempting to cover as many talks as possible. It looks to be even bigger and better than last year, I hope to see you there!

An article by Dan Voyles asks if Ubuntu heading towards a release path similar to Microsoft’s that sparked a lengthy thread among our readers and I figured who couldn’t use a refresher on practical password security. Cuba has decided to launch their own version of Linux in response to their distaste for everything ‘American’. I wonder if they know just how much Linux development is done by people in the U.S.

Our own Hans Kwint and Sander Marechal cover FOSDEM 2009 like an LXer blanket with their comprehensive review “Open Source News from FOSDEM 2009 – Day 1“. Expect to see their review of Day 2 very soon. In a milestone that only the truly geeky could appreciate. This past Friday FOSS lovers around the world, myself included, celebrated as the official Unix time hit 1234567890. Caitlyn Martin reviews the Sylvania g Netbook and tells us what a nightmare of an experience it was.

Proving once again just out of touch with reality they are Microsoft has decided to open a a chain of their own stores. Gee, I wonder where they got that idea? I have my popcorn ready to go in anticipation of watching the spectacle that Microsoft running a chain of retail stores will be. Hans Bezemer put together the ultimate Windows apologists reference to make things easier for all those Windows loving writers out there.

Tech Republic put together a nice list of 10 reasons why Linux will triumph over Windows that kicks MS in the teeth and to finish things up I have my “lack of research special”, Are Microsoft Partners Spreading Open-Source Fear?. Its not the premise of the article I have issues with, it is the reference material the author used to come up with the premise in the first place that leaves a bad impression on me.

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LXer Article

At the beginning of the week Debian went into a deep freeze until their announced release date for Lenny on Valentine’s Day. A group of developers have brought the dark horse of file managers Midnight Commander back from a deep sleep. Jimf exposed me to midnight commander, it was way over my head at the time and in a related article Carla Schroder says you “You Get What You Pay For” that talks about projects having a hard time making ends meet. Both of which I will be talking about again soon..

Ever since KDE 4 came out it has taken a lot, and I mean a lot of heat. Not all of it undeserved but still. The story seems to be changing tune however with the latest 4.2 update. Because when you can get Glyn Moody to ask himself if Linus jumped too soon in regards Linus’s recent admission that he has switched to Gnome from KDE and get Bruce Byfield to say the wow factor has returned, you can’t be doing too bad. A story sparked a debate in the forums about the merits of making KDE work on windows and challenging Microsoft on its own turf, and whether it is a wasted effort.

Here is something I was totally unaware of, apparently Windows 7 “Starter” which will be the one of the so far announced 6 versions of Windows 7 that will be aimed at the netbook market will only be able to run three programs at a time. Only three? Really? Why? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. I don’t mind though, I’m glad to watch. And an article that hit our newswire that spawned an online documentation project at thetuxproject.com

A recent article on the ascendant state of the WINE Project by Thomas Wickline got me to confess to how much, I have not used it. It got me thinking about it and I thought I would post this great article I found on LWN called “Common Wine Myths” Also, Tech Republic has a list of 10 obscure Linux applications you need to try that seems to have perked some interest.

I interview Jesse Trucks of LOPSA and share my opinion on “The Death of the Newspaper” and to wrap things up I have a nice piece of non-research enititled Netbook Linux at a Crossroads and Ken Hess asks “Are You Smart Enough To Use Linux?” Great way to alienate prospective Linux users Ken, telling them that Linux is really complicated and that they are probably too stupid to use it makes me ask, are you a Linux advocate, Windows advocate or just trolling?

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LXer Article

Why does the newspaper deserve to be saved? Just because they have been around for a long time? That is not a good enough reason for me. Or the arguments that society will somehow be lessened by their absence or be less informed without them is arrogant and presumptuous.

I am sorry to say that most newspapers do not deserve to be saved, yes even the one in my hometown. They have become no more than mouthpieces for their owners and editorial staffs most of the time. They are more concerned with molding public opinion than informing them. Giving the public real information is counteractive to the purpose. What little real investigating and real news that is done, is either never seen, kept unpublished until the subject matter is no longer relevant or rewritten to say what the brass want it to say. Any real search for, or telling of the “truth” has long since been brushed aside.

People crave information, if newspapers had been doing the job of informing their audience like they claim they are then that audience would not be looking for information in other places like they have been for some time now. The problem is not the newspaper, its the ownership and editorial staff being more beholden to what they want over the papers function of informing the public and letting the readers decide for themselves.

All the talk is about these ‘poor’ papers not making the money they want/need and how we will all be worse off without them is starting to grind on me. It will be a lot less dead trees that’s for sure, and that can’t be too bad a thing. I don’t think we will be lost without them either, certainly not to the extreme that it is described. It is always this “huge void” or “social loss” when the closing of a newspaper is talked about.

What is going to happen is what has happened before, very much like when newspapers first got their start. Newspapers all but destroyed illiteracy, the internet will all but destroy technological illiteracy. If people wanted to get the news, they had to learn how to read. If people are going to get the news in the future, they’re going to have to learn how to use a computer or the equivalent thereof. The way we in which we communicate is evolving, and will continue to do so. I guess you could just watch TV your whole life and never learn how to read, but would you consider yourself informed? But I digress.

The quality of the news that an audience think they are receiving is in direct relation to who they trust to give it to them I believe, and the newspapers and news channels have lost that trust. I am not saying that the Internet is intrinsically more trustworthy because it is not true. But then neither are newspapers or news channels, but don’t tell them that. The problem is that the newspapers and news channels must convince us they are more trustworthy and that we just couldn’t live without them in order to justify their continued existence.

But we could, and we will. And that’s the elephant in the room that they don’t want us to see. They don’t want us to see that there will come a day when there are no more newspapers, and guess what? We’ll still be getting the news.

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LXer Article

I interview Jesse Trucks a Director of LOPSA, who along with Chris St. Pierre will be teaching several classes guaranteed to make you a better System Admin at their SCALE University for the second year in a row at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) 20th to 22nd of February in Los Angeles.

I interview Jesse Trucks a Director of LOPSA, who along with Chris St. Pierre will be teaching several classes guaranteed to make you a better System Admin at their SCALE University for the second year in a row at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) this February 20th to 22nd in Los Angeles.

For those who may not have heard, just what is LOPSA?

The League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA) was formed in 2005 after the originally elected members of the Board. For details about how that all came about, there is a detailed history on the lopsa.org site, as well as information in meeting minutes going back to that era. The brief version is that the people who used to be involved in managing SAGE, which was an organization within Usenix. SAGE’s exact status within the Usenix organization has changed over the years, so please refer to Usenix’s site for details and background on SAGE.

They decided they wanted to provide certain services and benefits that were not in line with Usenix’s mission and goals. Those people then formed LOPSA to serve the system administration community in the ways they thought were the most needed. LOPSA’s mission (quoted directly from the web site at https://lopsa.org/AboutLOPSA) is: “…to advance the practice of system administration; to support, recognize, educate, and encourage its practitioners; and to serve the public through education and outreach on system administration issues.”

LOPSA is a nonprofit organization incorporated as a 501(c)(3) corporation in the United States, but we are an international organization with members spanning the entire globe. We strive to bring awareness of the importance and professional nature of system administration work to people both in our field and those that work with system administrators – which is, essentially, everyone that works in an office or near automated equipment or computerized systems. We are a professional association for system administrators; much like the AMA for doctors (but without the licensing aspects – it’s just a roughly similar analogy).

Could you give our readers a little background on you and your involvement with LOPSA.

I currently live in south-central Wisconsin, in the United States, on a small hobby farm with about 30 animals and my wife, who is a professor, journalist, writer, and web designer. I’ve been working as a system administrator for about 12 years in a variety of situations. I do some consulting for small projects – usually cleaning up after a security breach or catastrophic failure of some sort for small or mid-size organizations. I’ve worked with many OS and hardware platforms including, but not limited to, Windows, Solaris, MacOS, HP-UX, and a number of Linux and BSD distributions.

A number of years ago I was attending a local group meeting of system admins, and when LOPSA was just being founded and David Parter recruited me to help out. I started by hosting the elections for what became the first LOPSA Board of Directors, then was recruited to the LOPSA Tech Team, which handles all the technical infrastructure required to support LOPSA and its programs. I was asked by the Board to help plan a two-day training event back in 2006, so I joined what would later be named the LOPSA Education Committee. The Education Committee talked me into doing all four class slots for the inaugural LOPSA Sysadmin Days training event in Phoenix – a performance I repeated at the second LOPSA Sysadmin Days the following year in New Jersey.

In between the two events the LOPSA Leadership Committee asked me to run for the LOPSA Board elections for the 2007 – 2009 term. I got on the ballot and won a seat on the Board, and now it’s nearly election time again for the next two year term. As a member of the LOPSA Board, I have championed a number of advances in our technical infrastructure, and we are in the process of planning a major overhaul of the lopsa.org web site. I am dedicated to spreading the word about LOPSA, and I am trying to increase our membership, which will increase the quality and quantity of tangible member benefits as well because we will be more attractive to sponsors and partners for events as we grow.

What will be the subjects of the classes being given at SCALE?

We are teaching four classes at SCALE. Chris St. Pierre is teaching a course on documentation for system administrators on how SAs can create effective documentation without spending all their time doing it and a brand new course on Fedora Directory Server (FDS) that I wish I could attend myself. Chris gets great reviews for his teaching and he’s a great communicator. His classes are filled with useful information delivered with great humor and he makes it fun for topics that would normally be dry and tedious.

I am teaching a very popular course on disaster recovery, which has been on the roster for nearly every event I’ve taught at and a reprise of my virtualized storage course from the Ohio Linux Festival in 2007. Both classes are for covering the basic concepts and implementation for the topic at hand.

The DR course, for instance, talks about the definitions of disasters and disaster recovery, and goes into how to think through risk analysis and disaster recovery plans as part of business continuity. It doesn’t matter what size your operation is, the class will get you started on a disaster strategy immediately. It’s a fun class because everyone’s operation is different, and we all learn from one another’s perspective on how to approach a particular risk profile.

The storage class is great because it really gets into the meat of how virtualized storage works conceptually and in practical implementation. It is littered with examples of how to implement something for a real world solution. Again, the course is about teaching the foundation and basic skills for people to take back to the office and make a real world difference immediately.

So I take it SCALE isn’t the only Expo that LOPSA does this?

No, LOPSA has done two of its own training events called Sysadmin Days in 2006 and 2007, and we’ve been at the Ohio Linux Festival (OLF) two years in a row and we did SCALE last year too. David Parter and I taught a two day System Administration Master Class at last year’s Yet Another Perl Conference North America (YAPC::NA) in Chicago, which was a lot of fun. We’ve had a booth presence in a few other places, including a small Microsoft Windows platform conference in the New England states region called TECHbash.

We plan on expanding our program slowly over time to include more of these one or two day training events, mostly partnered with other conferences. Working with groups like OLF and SCALE has been very rewarding as they are great conferences run by dedicated and smart people. I missed SCALE last year and I very much look forward to being there this year.

The Chairman of my local Linux User Group called PLUG, pardon the blatant plug (and my world class pun) Hans is a LOPSA member as well, with you in Wisconsin and he in Arizona for an example, how do you keep an organization that is international in size from grinding to a halt or splintering into a thousand pieces?

We make heavy use of mailing lists and IRC channels for various projects and committees. The Technical Services Committee Tech Team, Education Committee, Board of Directors, and some other projects all have their own mailing list and secured IRC channel for the committee or project team members. Also, we utilize 37 signals Basecamp service for project management, event scheduling, and work coordination. Some projects or committees, such as the Education Committee or Board of Directors have regularly scheduled meetings either in IRC or on conference calls, too. We have several wikis for tracking meeting minutes, documentation, or project data, but those aren’t used for every project or committee.

For those System Administrators out there who might want to join LOPSA, how would they?

Joining LOPSA is quite easy. Log into the LOPSA web site or register for a free web site account by visiting the registration page at https://lopsa.org/user/register, and then go to https://lopsa.org/joinup to become a LOPSA member. It’s that simple!

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LXer Article

My apologies for the return to the old format. With the big game yesterday I pretty much forgot to put this up.

Three Little Utilities That Make A Big Difference: We’ve all heard of Firefox and GNOME DO, but there are some little utilities you may not have noticed that make life a lot easier.

Google plans to make PCs history: Google is to launch a service that would enable users to access their personal computer from any internet connection, according to industry reports. But campaigners warn that it would give the online behemoth unprecedented control over individuals’ personal data. The Google Drive, or “GDrive”, could kill off the desktop computer, which relies on a powerful hard drive. Instead a user’s personal files and operating system could be stored on Google’s own servers and accessed via the internet.

$200 Laptops Break a Business Model: The global credit crisis may have caused the decline in consumer and business spending that is assaulting the giants of high tech. But as the dominant technology companies try to emerge from this slump, they may find themselves blaming people like David Title just as much as they blame Wall Street.

choices and punishment: So apparently Linus is using GNOME right now. He mentioned it in the middle of an interview with Computer World and then Slashdot (and I’m sure others) picked it up and ran with it. On Slashdot, the entire six page interview was boiled down to “Linus Switches From KDE To GNOME”. Let me address the “Linus issue” first, because it’s the simpler and less critical issue. Linus is precisely one user. For every Linus Torvalds (there’s exactly one of them), we have 10s of millions of other KDE users and a few billion who don’t use any F/OSS solution at all yet. I don’t like losing any user, though, and such a happening can be deflating and make one second guess what they are doing (which isn’t an entirely bad thing either, as long as it doesn’t result in bad decision making or paralysis).

Editorial row engulfs Wikipedia: The online user-generated encyclopaedia Wikipedia is considering a radical change to how it is run. It is proposing a review of the rules, that would see revisions being approved before they were added to the site. The proposal comes after edits of the pages of Senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy gave the false impression both had died. The editing change has proved controversial and sparked a row among the site’s editors.

Russia to develop Linux-based alternative to Windows?: Details are scarce, unless Russian is your language of choice, but one news outlet is reporting that Russia plans to develop its own national operating system. The move is designed to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign software and licensing agreements. And the alleged “open-code” solution, likely a Linux/GNU derivative, will give Russia a greater degree of customization, as well as increased control over how the potentially free operating system is used and accessed.

EU could force Microsoft to bundle Firefox with Windows: The European Commission could force Microsoft to bundle Firefox with future versions of Windows. The revelation came as part of Microsoft’s quarterly filing with the Security and Exchange Commission. Among the statements is a clause outlining the penalties being considered by the European watchdog, which recently ruled that Microsoft is harming competition by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. The most interesting situation outlined in the filing would see either Microsoft or computer manufacturers forced to install Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari by default alongside Internet Explorer on new Windows-based PCs.

Mozilla Goes to Bat for Open-Source Video on the Web: If Mozilla has its way, you’ll soon be able to watch streaming video on sites all over the web without ever having to use a plug-in. The software maker announced Monday that native support for the open-source Threora video format will be added to Firefox 3.1, the next version of its popular web browser. Theora files can be embedded directly into web pages just like images and viewed in any browser that supports Theora playback — no plug-in to download, so special software to install.

KDE 4.2: I’m tired of Pundits, Here’s MY Take: So I am writing this rant on the eve of the release of KDE 4.2, and in the face of interviews from Linus Torvalds stating that he abandoned KDE after the 4.0 release, and partially in response to Steven Vaugh-Nichols negatively equating 4.2 to Windows 7. My bottom line: I’ve been using KDE since around the time version 2 came out, and while KDE 4.2 is not perfection, it is better than the 3.5 series, and as of right now 4.2 is easily my favorite Linux desktop… and this rant will address some complaints I’ve seen and to dissect which complaints are warranted and which are not.

Which is the best Linux OS?: Which is the best Linux OS? This is of course an unanswerable question, still many people ask themselves this question. Of course they do! They definitely have to. There’s nothing as difficult as a world full of choice, especially if you don’t happen to have a lot of knowledge about the subject. And when it comes to Linux it will well make a difference you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life as a Linux user.

Even Microsoft’s anti-Linux message isn’t this bad: This anti-Linux Microsoft “ad” hit the Web a few weeks ago, but I just came across it last night and thought it was funny. It’s not funny because of its content but rather because some people actually think that it’s a real ad put out by Microsoft to discredit Linux, one originally placed on a page describing how to multiboot operating systems.

Did Linus Jump Too Soon?: One of the many great things about Linus is that he doesn’t bottle it up: he speaks his mind on things that matter to him, without worrying overly about what others might say as a result. And when he mentioned in the course of an interview that he had switched from KDE to GNOME, others soon had plenty to say on the subject. But I don’t want to revisit those arguments about which is better today: instead, I want to explore the possibility that Linus decided to jump to GNOME at precisely the time when KDE could soon leapfrog it in important ways.

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