Wednesday, December 22. 2004
PCLinuxOS 8 was installed yesterday on my spare drive. First impressions are...this is an excellent distro...but only once you get it installed. They really messed up the install process. Allow me to explain.
I booted up off the CD and found myself greeted to a plethora of options and programs to run. I really dig the fact that it retains the Mandrake Control Center but has made it better. I find the organization of the menu's FANTASTIC...just as I found the Mandrake 10.1 menu's well organized. Thus far, only MEPIS has lacked in this area. So, I decided to go for the installation to hard disk. Much improved over version 7 is the shortcut link on the desktop that allows you to not have to search around in the menu's. This is a very solid distro...don't get me wrong. I'd say that this is actually the most well put together distro I've seen thus far. There is a reason why THIS distro is the fastest moving on distrowatch. It moved to where it is this year from #44 in 2003 to #9 in 2004.
So I click the install to disk icon and it brings up an interactive menu. Now, for desktop distros...I choose automatically install for each one. The main reason being, that is what a common user would do. They won't partition like you used to do with Linux. However, with this interactive menu, it assumes you 1) know what a partition is 2) know what Linux is supposed to have. I would really like to see if having a blank disk without swap and partitions would detect correctly for PCLinuxOS 8. It detected my swap and first partition and assigned it with some drop down menu's. From there, you are supposed to find /home /usr /var yourself and/or make them yourself. I immediately stopped the install and formatted the drive as a large ext3.
I called up a friend who knows nothing about partitions and had hime attempt the install. He gave up trying to partition the drive. This needs to change! MEPIS installs in 7 clicks from a LIVECD. There is no reason that this should be any different. I suggest that they have 2 different menu systems...one for common users and one for advanced. Something needs to change...they tout this distro for new users. I know about 2 new users that could even get this installed...and they're windows guru's. Partition creation and management is something that most common users don't even think about or address.
Overall though, this distro is solid. Good upgradeability with synaptic. Great programs installed. Great organization. Great menu's and icons. Everything is very nice looking. This distro truly shows Linux in it's splendor. That's it on first impressions. We'll press on in a few days with the next on the list. After finishing all distros and first impressions, my wife will take front stage and give the new users' perspective.
Monday, December 20. 2004
"It's not the big that beats the small; it's the fast that beats the slow." Niklas Zennstrom
There was a time early in the dawn of computers where .edu's and .orgs co-mingled ideas and thoughts via IRC and newsgroups in a conducive and non-proprietary way. The great ideas that were born from this still thrive today in the form of RFC's, Internet Standards, Protocols, and other surges of genius that sprung from these beginnings.
Lately however, certain things have begun to become apparent. Proprietary software vendors have locked the advancement of technology. This is to be expected. The open source movement is in full swing to counteract that. The only problem with the open source movement is in trying to counteract this huge pendulum and swing it from closed source proprietary toward a multi-source, multi-national technological advancement (for the gain of mankind and not company kind). Instead, open source has begun to push the stone uphill on it's own without assistance from the VERY companies that take from it.
The bottom line is that companies will take from open source without any inhibitions at all. But when it comes to defending that which they take, they shrivel into the shadows and hope no one notices them. Companies are not in symbiosis with open source...oh sure, some of them might be sympathetic to open source. But as we've seen with the Linux Core Consortium, companies will pledge their favor but not their resources. But until ALL companies that take from open source give back through REAL support (financial or otherwise)...they'll continue to be identified as an entity that takes from another without providing anything in return. The word for that is PARASITE.
Companies that take from open source without giving back are a parasite to open source; they are killing it from within. The bad part about this is that we are helping this parasite...even applauding what it is doing. Many of us cheer when company X converts 250 computers to Novell or RedHat...but that isn't open source anymore! They're companies who happen to use Linux...they're just not pure open source no matter what their beginnings are or were. The support and recognition go to Novell and Redhat...the financial gain goes to those companies and not back into open source. Sure, they provide some packages and free-for-home-use downloads and other niceties to try and counteract things...but open source still loses. It loses because there are more takers than givers.
Open source advocates shouldn't be cheering when company X converts 250 computers it has to Novell or Redhat because they're just cheering for the company. Even when Linux becomes THE accepted alternative for business and enterprise applications we should refrain from cheering companies such as Redhat and Novell because the money they earn doens't go back into open source...and the name they make for themselves...does nothing for open source. No matter how hard they try, they'll always take more than they give.
Some of you might be saying, "But the simple fact is that when Company X converts to Linux, they are embracing Linux in general...not just the company that sells it. This means that they'll open up more to open source programs such as OpenOffice and Firefox". Perhaps. But I'd be more willing to believe that company X won't do ANYTHING that the vendor who provided them with Linux advised against...especially if warranty and license prevent it. So if said Linux vendor who provided them with 250 Linux desktops decided they didn't want Company X to use OpenOffice...that company wouldn't use it. The power of choice has been removed.
Until companies aren't afraid to offer FULL and unadulterated support for Linux (LSB 2.0 standard or the Linux Core Consortium) and free open source software, the open source movement will not succeed.
[sarcasm]You absolutely have to love M$ for their fantastic business sense and fair tactics they use to accomplish their business objectives.[/sarcase] There was this guy I went to college with who never did any original work. I mean, we used to go into the library and he'd pull up 15 articles on the subject his paper was and he'd pull 15 different paragraphs out of each of them. Then he'd ever-so-slightly change the words around a bit. Then he'd re-arrange the paragraphs so that it was harder to track down and he'd pass it off as his original paper. I would have to say, he must have graduated and gotten a job at Microsoft...because that is what they're trying to do now.
According to eWeek,"Microsoft is claiming some form of IP rights over 'a total of 130 protocols which Microsoft is offering for license.' " The stupid part about it is that these IP Rights are IETF RFC (request for comment) documents. Microsoft cannot show patent support for these claims, but on the other hand, no one can show that they don't have rights to these claims either.
One thing is certain, if things get down and dirty...M$ will have the financial and legal means to prosecute or bully anyone they feel they need to in order to make a point or an example. Perhaps something should be done in the open source community to counteract this. I would say that a large number of open source supportive companies banding together to offer support for each other and the movement would suffice...but of course this won't happen. They're trying currently without much success...just do a search using your favorite search engine on "Linux Core Consortium" and look at the list of names that are absent from full support....among them are Redhat, Novell, and Sun Microsystems.
Tonight, I gave cAos Linux a try. I was really interested in it because it had a gnome default desktop with an Xfce backup...it had a nice bootsplash and really looked nifty via screenshots. It also had a really interesting custom written installer called cinch. However, after the install, it failed to boot. So I tried just about every boot option I could possibly try during the install without success. So...I'll be forced to trim cAos from the list at this time. For this experiment, desktop Linux MUST work out of the box. CAos fell short (unfortunately).
On a positive note, PCLinuxOS 8 came out recently...so I'll be downloading that and giving it a go here shortly. I'm kinda bummed that cAos didn't want to play nice...I was really looking forward to it. Oh well. So, up next will be PCLinuxOS and I'll have a post about my initial impression within the next couple of days.
Friday, December 17. 2004
Many of you may have heard recently that Fedora Core 3 contains "SELinux" or Security Enhanced Linux. Then you may just say, "hmm..how bout that" and move on. Most of us don't realize what SELinux actually is and where it came from. Recently there is a new book entitled, "SELinux NSA's Open Source Security Enhanced Linux" that has been published by Bill McCarty for the O'Reilly Network.
I first noticed and downloaded SELinux about 2 years ago when there was no documentation supporting anything with it. I installed it, configured it, and had a server set up in about a day. I'll have to say that it is just as easy to work on as a slackware box and most of my documentation issues were solved in slackware forums. Does this mean it utilizes packages from slack? No...everything is from source but there isn't any cool portage or emerge system to manage things. You simply have to know what you're doing. But recently, Distributions are now packaging the secure functions of SELinux into their respected distros.
From the LinuxInsider article, "
In December 2000, researchers at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) working with Network Associates and MITRE released a B1 Class operating system to the public known as SELinux. Although many Linux professionals have heard of SELinux, few recognize that its heritage reaches back to the work of David Bell and Leonard LaPadula, work begun in 1973. Bell and LaPadula's work helped define the criteria that make up the U.S. Government's Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria (TCSEC)."
There is much attention focused by some of the more cutting edge distributions like Fedora Core, Gentoo and the beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4. The question becomes, will other distros follow? Should they follow? I think the answer is a definitive yes on this issue. But if all distros flock to this standard will it lessen its importance? Perhaps. Perhaps it will become 'run of the mill' and assumed until the next big thing comes along. And perhaps it won't.
Thursday, December 16. 2004
Thus far, I've taken a quicklook at two distributions of Linux and provided limited feedback on them. I'm just running through the installations for these distributions so that I don't hit any snags later on when I'm installing them for this blogs' featured article...where I will have my wife who has no Linux experience work with one distribution per week and report back her feelings/thoughts on that distro.
I've decided that the order I'm currently going in is the order that I should keep when I kick things off. I'll start with Mandrake, shift to MEPIS, follow on with PCLinuxOS, switch to cAos Linux, then to Libranet, then to Fedora C3. Why have FC3 last? Ask a FC3 user and they'll tell you it is the best distro out there. So, I'm going to 'save the best for last' (their opinion...not mine...yet).
So this entry serves as an update as to what I'm actually doing. All commentary from my wife and her Linux experience will be in the 'reviews' category. All commentary from myself will be in the 'distros' category. As I stated previously, if you want an unbiased comparison between the top 'point and click' Linux desktops...stay tuned. This truly will be a unique ride.
Update: I forgot to mention that I will be soon posting the review criterion that my wife will be using to compare the distros. This should be fairly straightforward but will be based entirely on the point of view of someone who has NO Linux experience...so things such as connectivity, sound, and graphics that aren't operational out of the box will be something she will be looking at. If things are golden, she'll give kudos where kudos are due. If not, she'll be fair in her critique. It's going to be really, really interesting. At the end of things, we'll summarize both my critiques and hers. From there, we'll draw a conclusion on what the best 'out of the box' 'point and click' Linux desktop is.
Wednesday, December 15. 2004
I have to admit that I'm a bit biased toward SimplyMEPIS. I was a hardcore MEPIS enthusiast for most of the year last year...even had a site dedicated entirely to the Linux desktop and SimplyMEPIS. However, that was then and this is now. I will attempt to refrain from my bias toward MEPIS as much as possible.
MEPIS truly is a fantastic distribution. The hardware detection far surpasses even Knoppix. Hands down, this is the best distribution I've evern installed. Everything works right out of the box. I only have to to touch my sound. It installed itself to the network, detected my W2K fileserver, detected all my shares drives, detected my multimedia machine....detected EVERY single piece of hardware I've got installed in the computer...I was waiting for it to detect me and flash onto the screen, "Installing devnet, please wait..."
There's not much this distro can't do. It takes advantage of Debian repositories which means it can install anything Debian can. It's a Live CD so it can be 'test run' before you actually install it. The cool thing about it is that you have 7 clicks of the mouse to a full on Debian install. Try that one with anaconda! I'm not going to spend much time on this one because I've used it soooo much. I'm going to retire this distro early and move on to ones I'm not used to using.
Remember, I'm just cycling through the 6 distros first for a quick look. My wife will be test driving the rest of these with detailed new user insite for an unbiased look at Linux. That's right, 6. I've decided to add caOs Linux to the mix. Someone recommended it to me and I've determined I'd like to give it a go. Therefore, to end this silly entry...the distro list is up to 6 now and I will be pressing my quicklooks at these distros away from MEPIS and toward caOs Linux. Thus far, Mandrake and MEPIS are down, 4 more to go.
Monday, December 13. 2004
Ran across a nice blog entry from Sun Microsystems' main man Jonathan Schwartz...and find myself disagreeing whole-heartedly with him. Who am I? I am the customer he's been touting is always right. With this being said, I'm telling him he's wrong. Utilizing his logic, I'm 100% right about this point.
You stated that "it's increasingly evident the OS wars are down to three - Microsoft Windows, Sun's Solaris, and Red Hat's Linux." Let's talk a bit more about this. First, some background.
Solaris recently released it's version 10, which I downloaded when it was made available. I was pretty impressed with it. However, I also understood that many people out there would not be too impressed with it...because the average customer doesn't deploy large networks. The average person who drives the market checks email, surfs the web, and chats with an IM client. Mr. Schwartz, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that most open source users know and that few large CEO's and companies don't....he who wins the desktop will win the world. Microsoft realizes this and that's why they are winning right now. It's not how many servers you can sign up or how many contracts you fill. It is BRAND RECOGNITION that gets you the market...both servers AND desktops. I ask the question...where is JDS? It's still choking itself on older versions of the gnome and KDE window managers (by the way, JDS= Java Desktop System...which runs on Linux? Maybe some clarification is in order). Until you achieve brand recognition on the desktop market, you'll never rule the server market.
The only 2 vendors that can claim to even attempt to satisfy any niche of the market is Novell and Microsoft. Novell with it's Dell Server Line AND HP Desktop and Microsoft with Server 2003 and XP/Longhorn. RedHat has decidedly enterered into this forray, albeit late, with their Redhat desktop. JDS lags behind even further. And yet Mr. Schwartz, you still claim to be in the top three. The top three without any brand recognition. Sure you have some, but not with common users. Allow me to ellaborate:
If we were face to face right now Mr. Schwartz, I'd offer you a cup of coffee and a bundle of roses. That way you would either wake up and smell the roses...or take time to smell the coffee Good luck with that Solaris thing...I've been a loyal user since Solaris 2.0. I'll hate to see it go.
Friday, December 10. 2004
I've decided to adapt a central theme for the distros category in this blog. I'm going to cycle through the 5 biggest 'Point and Click' distros and am going to do a quick 2 day assessment on each. After I get through all the distros, I am going to do a fresh install starting with the first one (whatever that may be) and I am going to have my wife, who is new to Linux, check out what she can do with each and which distro she feels is truly the most 'Point and Click' distro out there. Remember that it doesn't matter what distro of Linux is used to most new users...they just want something that WORKS. They want to be able to browse the web, listen to music, and check email and if something is broke from the get go...they abandon it and go back to something that does work. So...we'll be looking specifically at distros that work out of the box on a standard hardware and hard disk setup.
Here's the list of distros I'll be posting w/ screens on:
Some of you might be wondering why I don't have 'X' distro listed in there. The reason is that I'm looking for the following criteria: 1. Full version is free 2. Noted by the Linux as very new user friendly 3. the distro's not Ubuntu
As a past user of Ubuntu, I can tell you that it doesn't hold a candle overall to any of the distros I'll be investigating and will therefore NOT be included into this group. If you need Ubuntu snapshots and reviews...go google it and you'll come up with at least 500 misguided ones. I suppose if there is any feedback about Ubuntu here I can probably give my two cents on it.
As I posted earlier, I recently installed Mandrake Linux 10.1. I was quite impressed with the default install and how it appeared. Now that I've had about a week to analyze it I can share some observations.
First and foremost, this OS is eyecandy. Everything looks and feels organized and soft. There aren't any hard, right angled fonts, icons, or windows. You look at the desktop and get a sense of completeness. I can't explain it any more than that. For appearance, Mandrake is hands down the most eye pleasing free distro available.
The second most noticeable thing is the organization of the menus. Everything has its place and there isn't a ton of confusing menus to mess things up. For instance, with most KDE default installs on distros that don't preconfigure them for you (i.e., slackware) you find ALL of the KDE menus intact. This means that when you go to the more applications link in the K-Menu, you find EVERY SINGLE APPLICATION INSTALLED. This makes the menu branch out and get quite confusing and frustrating. If one knows how to tweak this, it isn't a problem. But for those that are just starting out in Linux, it's very confusing.
I like the fact that it is very easy to configure the various aspects of your desktop and the settings. They have the menu organization down to a tee. I really think this is the way a Linux distribution should be after it is installed. It is simply KDE done right. You'd think with all of this going for it, Mandrake would rate high on my list...but remember, I'm thinking more along the lines of this distro being ready set go right out of the box. So it fell short on a few points.
The first place it falls short is package management. I realize that Mandrake is trying very hard to have a 'package warehouse' like that of Linspire and Xandros...but it falls very short. I tried to upgrade for any security holes numerous times without any success. Also, requiring the user to 'register' in order to receive said updates put me off somewhat. If I'm just installing an operating system...I want to accomplish my goals ASAP without adding my email address anywhere in order to accomplish them. So, I was a bit annoyed by this little detail. Perhaps they should make it so it asks on the 2nd update try.
The second place Mandrake falls short is configurability. I know many of you are going to hop all over me for saying this touting "It's totally up to the individual to configure it" and you're right...it is up to the individual. But what new user is going to know how to do this out of the box? If I were a new user, I'd be going to the Mandrake Control center for everything I needed...kinda like the Control Panel in WinDozeXP and I wouldn't want to snoop around to find anything else. I know that this could be a 'KDE' or 'Gnome' thing depending on the OS...but you'd think that a distro that has developed as many custom menus and such for Linux would go the extra step and take 'Y' out of the equation...i.e. making it just one step easier to configure the look, feel, and styles of the desktop.
The last place Mandrake fell short for me was sound. I had no sound at the first boot. No probs I thought....I ran 'alsaconf' and pumped up the sound volume making sure it wasn't muted. I tried the sound again with no go. So...no matter what I did, I couldn't get the sound going without having to jump farther into the command line that I should have to with a distro such as this. Eventually I did get the sound going. It seems Mandrake detected my onboard sound as active even though it was deactivated in BIOS. Odd, because it is the only distro that has done so. However, I couldn't ignore the fact that sound wasn't good to go after a few intervening actions on my part.
Overall, I'd give Mandrake a thumbs up though. This is a pretty solid distro. I can't wait to see how it fares with my wife. She is really good about checking into what programs can and can't do and will really put these distros to the 'new user' test. As promised, I'll cycle through each distro myself during the next couple of weeks and post my thoughts on it. Then at the end of this period, I'll install one of the five listed at the beginning of this post and I'll have a true new user come and check out each. I think sticking with a distro a week for her to test will be a good idea. That should give her enough time to truly 'feel' what it is like and decide for herself if it will get her stamp of approval. I consider this type of test MUCH more unbiased than one you'd read on some large new site...mainly because new users don't do the reviews...and I'm sure you'd agree that having someone new to Linux take a look at a distro would provide some really interesting feedback.
Thanks for reading and stick with us...it looks to be very interesting.
PS: On the horizon...I'm uninstalling Mandrake 10.1 right now to look at SimplyMEPIS 2004.04. I should have initial reports back sometime in the next few days.
Thursday, December 9. 2004
I'm relatively low key. I don't get excited and shout alot. I don't get worked up on politics. I'm not too exciteable. I REALLY don't like ranting and raving about nonsense. I also hate the fact that when someone has a blog, that ranting is the most common thing done. I feel somewhat bad that this will be only my third entry, yet my second 'rant'. But in the first case, I ranted in a way to defend open source, in this entry I could be seen as attacking it. If you're still interested, please read on.
The Debian Womens group even went so far as to submit a BUG to the debain buglist on something they considered SEXIST LANGUAGE in documentation and instructions! A Bug! What kind of bug would this be? Think for a second if I submitted a bug to microsoft on one of their HELP files. I'd be dealt with by a quick sweep side motion and consequential pushing under the rug. It's ridiculous to think that this would have been a 'bug' of any kind. But alas, some developers even accepted this. What in the world is happening to Linux and open source if we are dividing ourselves in this manner? We've gone over 10 years without having these subdivisions...why start now? Remember that together, rope strands make a strong coil...but unstrung from the original cord, they are weak and will snap under small amounts of stress. I sure hope open source remains together as a strong rope.
The simple fact of the matter is that when open source started out...there were only handles...nicknames...with which people were known as. No one cared if you were a female or a male unless you were in an IRC chatroom. What have we begun to do to ourselves? I'm sure there are others that have seen similar situations like these two happen across the web...if so, please let it be known here. Something has to be done before we fork ourselves into having "Gay/Bisexual Linux" or some sort of racial Linux that only certain people should ascribe to? This is a problem that has begun to seep into the very foundation of open source...and the fact that it is printed on newsforge means that people are accepting it.
Think about it everyone. If changes like this happens, Linux will suffer a huge setback. As an open source user it shouldn't matter what sex you are or if you prefer apples to oranges. What should matter is that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of your spare time to further along whatever program or distro you support.
"A House divided against itself cannot stand" Abraham Lincoln, 1858
Monday, December 6. 2004
Information Week, who strive to be at the forefront of business innovation through technology, have recently lashed out (subtly mind you) at Linux...specifically the Linux Kernel.
The article is entitled, "The Linux Kernel's Fuzzy Future" and they are oh so careful not to directly bash anyone or anything. However, it is obvious that they are trying to show that the kernel "ain't no Micro$oft" (thank God for that...we'd all be broke). These types of articles are normally known as FUD when directly attacking different parties. They are spread across the internet through syndication and other means to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (Hence, FUD). In this case...the FUD is only a thin coating and you barely notice it...but it's there.
Here's the problem with ebusiness sites and corporate news portals critiquing Linux and open source in general...Linux is not Micro$oft, and Micro$oft isn't Linux. End of story. So should Linux be viable for business? Who cares? Linux is free and designed for the community...not for the business.
My reasoning comes from this notion...how can you compare something designed to be free for all developing at the leisure and pace of thousands of developers worldwide...to something designed to be closed source developing on the backs of some choice employees...it really is apples and oranges. Micro$oft needs deadlines and roadmaps to live...because without it...we're left wondering when the next patch for this or next security pack for that will be out.
With Open Source...there is no NEED for roadmaps. The next patch to a security flaw...the next update...will be out within a few hours in most cases. Why? Because worldwide there are hundreds of thousands of developers communicating simultaneously toward a common goal. I don't think there is a single company that can actively compete against that. I also highly doubt if any major business has seen the speed at which a project can develop when it is open sourced.
So this article strikes a nerve, albeit very craftily and indirectly, with me. Take it or leave it, my two cents on the matter.
I've just installed Mandrake 10.1 Community...just to take it for a test drive. I'm coming off of testing Progeny Linux RC1 (very nice) and decided I wanted to take a look at what 1000+ people each day find so interesting (a stat supported by distrowatch.com). I'll probably post back within the week about what are some good and bad points about it...then I'll shuffle on to another distro. So far though, Mandrake has been the most eye pleasing distribution I've tried (installer anyways) with Progeny and Fedora Core 3's anaconda installer a very close second.
A quick look of the Mandrake desktop impressed me...simply due to the fact that it is the most well organized default KDE desktop I've ever seen in a distribution. It also has the custom Mandrake control panel which is very choice for controlling all your system settings such as network, file sharing, etc. So far so good. As previous, I'll get back to this one later...afterall, it is finals week and I've got some work cut out for me.