April 3, 2004

Making Switch from Red Hat 7.2 to Fedora Core 1

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier this week, the hard disk on my laptop started to fail. When I received my replacement hard disk, I decided to install Fedora, the closest thing the world has to Red Hat Linux 10."

"This is a big version change for me. Prior to this, I had been a Red Hat Network subscriber and steadfastly stayed with Red Hat 7.2 until the point that it reached its end-of-life a couple of months ago."

"The differences between Fedora and Red Hat 7.2 are amazing. Fedora Core 1 is not Windows XP or Mac OS X Panther, but it's a huge improvement. If I have time next week, I'll put up some screen shots."

Update: "I decided to put a screenshot in an Operation Gadget article about rebuilding my laptop instead. The screenshot shown in the article is actually a thumbnail, so click through if you want to see more detail."

"The vast improvement that Fedora represents does not change my belief that Linux on the Desktop is not worth the effort. If price were no object, I'd be running Mac OS X Panther on a Powerbook G4 because I believe that would be the machine that would maximize my personal productivity. I'm still running Linux on my laptop because I can't afford to spring for something better at the moment."

"The most positive thing that Linux total immersion has done for me is made me a whole lot better at running servers with Linux on them. I could go into details, but where would I begin? Let me just say that there is almost never a technical issue on a Linux server that I manage that I haven't first encountered in managing my laptop."

November 7, 2003

Doc Searls/SuitWatch: Novell eats SuSE. Now What?

Dave Aiello wrote, "In the latest edition of the Linux Journal newsletter called SuitWatch, Doc Searls reports on the acquisition of SuSE by Novell and what it means for the IT industry and the Linux community. A number of leading Linux business people and market analysts are quoted, including Craig Burton, Phil Windley, Ian Murdock, and Dave Aiello (that's me)."

"Here's the portion of the newsletter where I'm quoted:"

Dave Aiello, president of CTDATA: (a Linux-savvy company that builds database-driven Web sites for companies in the New York Metro area) sees the buy as an Open Source community play:
I think you have to look at the SuSE acquisition in the same light as the release by IBM of Eclipse as a free product. A network effects calculation is being done here. I think IBM looked at Eclipse and said, this product has greater value to us if it's in the hands of [the] Open Source community than if we keep selling it. If we keep total control of it, we have to enhance it, market it, and provide for the development of ancillary products from our own resources.

If the product is backed by an Open Source community, the founders
get the benefit of free labor, free product enhancement ideas, and
ancillary product branches that they don't have to support unless
the company has an overwhelming interest.

I think this is what's happened with Netscape->Mozilla and
WebSphere Studio App Developer -> Eclipse. It is what Red Hat hopes
will happen with Fedora, and ultimately, what IBM is hoping for
with SuSE. I think IBM's ultimate interest is in having a credible
alternative to Red Hat that they have substantial influence over,
without having the overhead of developing internally.

This is more about addressing customer CIO level concerns about not
repeating the Wintel single source market than about the fact that
IBM doesn't like Red Hat's Enterprise Linux strategy, per se.

Dave Aiello continued, "If this doesn't make complete sense to you, I'll provide a little background. When he was writing the piece, Doc asked me what I thought and told me that he needed a response ASAP. So, he got a stream of consciousness. In a followup email to him, I said:"

I think it's interesting that most people {that you quoted in your SuitWatch piece} were talking about Novell's reason for doing the deal and not really addressing IBM's reasons. Maybe I assumed too much in the community's knowlegde of IBM's interest in SuSE. Correct me if I'm wrong, but, wasn't SuSE the first distribution that supported some IBM hardware platforms? I know Red Hat Enterprise Server supports the IBM midrange servers and mainframes now, as does SuSE. But, wasn't SuSE the only distribution that ran on the IBM iSeries and pSeries for a long time? These are the midrange machines that otherwise run AS/400 applications. This is a really valuable segment of IBM's hardware business, even if the machines are part of legacy architectures, more or less.

Dave Aiello continued, "So, I'm saying that the support that the SuSE distributions give to certain IBM hardware architectures is worth more to IBM than the $50 million that IBM just invested in convertible preferred stock in Novell."

"Back to the newsletter. Doc has done an excellent job of pulling together wide-ranging opinions. He's weaved them together with some personal insights and given us a good idea where he stands on the issues that are apparent in this acquisition."

"The jury's going to be out on this transaction for a long time, partly because it's so complicated. Wasn't it great, back in the old days when Allied Nut Company bought United Bolt? That was when deals were clean and you could truly measure the outcome a little way down the road."

November 4, 2003

Red Hat Details End of Life for Consumer-oriented Linux Distributions

Dave Aiello wrote, "CTDATA has chosen to subscribe to the Red Hat Network, a semi-automated software update service, in order to keep our Linux servers relatively current on patches. Red Hat sent a single email to me trying to convey most of the information about the business decision to stop producing a consumer distribution, and the options they offer to customers like me who are subscribed to the update service."

The email reads, in part:

Thank you for being a Red Hat Network customer.

This e-mail provides you with important information about the upcoming
discontinuation of Red Hat Linux, and resources to assist you with your
migration to another Red Hat solution.

As previously communicated, Red Hat will discontinue maintenance and
errata support for Red Hat Linux 7.1, 7.2, 7.3 and 8.0 as of December
31, 2003. Red Hat will discontinue maintenance and errata support for
Red Hat Linux 9 as of April 30, 2004. Red Hat does not plan to release
another product in the Red Hat Linux line.

With the recent announcement of Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.3, you'll
find migrating to Enterprise Linux appealing. We understand
that transitioning to another Red Hat solution requires careful planning
and implementation. We have created a migration plan for Red Hat Network
customers to help make the transition as simple and seamless as

"This message was written to encourage CTDATA to move its servers from the original Red Hat Linux product line to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But upon first reading, I did not think that the email (in itself) provided enough information about the upgrade process. I felt more concerned than informed."

"I had to spend close to half an hour in the Red Hat Migration Resource Center of the Red Hat website in order to understand the new product line and what our options are."

"I have no doubt that this migration is the right thing for Red Hat's business. But, I question whether this is going to confuse the entry level Linux implementer who has sold his boss on moving pieces of a small business' IT infrastructure from Windows to Linux. A customer like this is the low end of the target market for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but probably doesn't do enough business with Red Hat to justify attention from their sales force."

"Although we are probably a member of that group of Red Hat customers, CTDATA doesn't need that sort of hand-holding. But, I'd guess that a number of customers at this level really need it. Has Red Hat realized this, and if not, will it hurt Linux's overall momentum?"

February 14, 2003 Does a Spoof of "Switch" Ads for Linux

Brett Tofel pointed out that has produced an animated spoof of an Apple "Switch" ad, promoting Linux. This is one funny piece of animation-- definitely recommended.

FWIW, they have several other animations accessible from the sidebar at Two of them would be disturbing to children, but the others are worth watching.

January 28, 2003

Red Hat Explains New End of Life Policies for Its Mainstream Linux Distributions

Newsforge published a statement from Jeremy Hogan of Red Hat that explains Red Hat's recently announced End of Life Policy for their core Linux distributions. According to the article:

...As we worked on Red Hat Linux 8.0 we realized that Red Hat Linux's lifecycle no longer made much sense. This offering is increasingly aimed at providing easy access to leading edge open source technologies, which by definition evolve extremely rapidly. Our ability to support these rapidly changing projects for long periods of time is quite limited, and we wanted to provide realistic promises for both the level of support and the time period we can offer such support.

We also looked at our customer base and saw how rapidly our older products get upgraded. For example, about two thirds of our Red Hat Linux users currently run Red Hat Linux 7.3 or 8.0, and over 90% run 7.2, 7.3, or 8.0, all of which are less then {sic} a year old. These numbers strongly support our belief that while setting our lifecycle for these products at one year we're inconvienencing some of our users, this is a nonevent for the vast majority of them....

One of the more interesting aspects of this article is the comments that were posted in response. Here are a few examples:

  • "You will probably get a lot of heat over this decision, but it is a good one. RedHat is super easy to upgrade and EOL on RH is not like EOL on Windows...."
  • "People will upgrade willingly if they see substantial value in doing so. They will upgrade grudgingly, or not at all, if told to do so by a vendor (or accept the consequences of lack of support/compatibility)...."
  • "The problem here is that this policy makes RH very unatractive for use in Colo'd machines. I don't want to have to send a tech to visit each machine at remote offices or colo spaces once a year just to throw a CD in the drive, even if the upgrade process is easy...."
  • "So here I am trying to set up clusters and SANs, and the vendors that pay lip service to linux (HP/Compaq), don't even have host bus adapter drivers for 7.3. They only currently support 7.2. They sure as hell don't even mention Advanced Server...."

December 4, 2002

The Power of "rpm -qa"

Dave Aiello wrote, "You'd think that someone like me who fancies himself a skilled Linux user would have a clue when it comes to the use of rpm, the Red Hat Package Manager. But, here's an example of how much I haven't learned yet."

"I just discovered a powerful way to identify groups of packages that are already installed. If I want to find most of the Perl-related packages, I can enter the following command in a shell:"

rpm -qa | grep perl

"The fact that I knew to do this with the ps command (i.e. ps -ef | grep perl) in order to find defunct processes, but I didn't attempt to leverage the same technique to finding installed rpms ought to scare me to death. After all, this is a UNIX-like operating system, and the techniques you learn in one subsystem are ususally valuable in another."

"I'm sure that truly experienced Linux people who read this will conclude that I am a poseur. But, I promised myself a while ago that I would disclose as many of my truly embarassing technical gaffes and gaps in knowledge as possible-- just so I could point to them later and prove to my critics how much I've grown."

November 23, 2002

Large Group of Sys Admins Lag Behind in Patching Server OSes

A few days ago, CNET reported on a study that indicates that a large percentage of system administrators are slow to patch their operating systems, often waiting until they hear about an exploit to which one of their servers is certainly vulnerable.

The article talks about a study performed by Eric Rescola who identified 900 Linux servers that had both OpenSSL and Apache running when a major OpenSSL vulnerability was revealed.

According to the article, 40 percent of the systems were patched to close the OpenSSL vulnerability within seven weeks. Another 30 percent were patched about the time that the Slapper exploit was publicized and began spreading around the Internet.

The remaining 30 percent apparently remained unpatched. One of those servers was in the same colocation facility where CTDATA's servers are. On or around November 11, that server was exploited by Slapper. The subsequent network traffic was so great that it temporarily overwhelmed the routers in the facility. The only solution was for the colocation operator to take the server offline.

This article on CNET is a revealing one, and should be read by customers and system administrators alike. It clearly indicates that administrators need to patch more pre-emptively, and the customers must insist that even unexploited vulnerabilities be patched as soon as patches are released.

September 25, 2002

Will Apple Abandon the PowerPC CPU?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Whenever Apple Computer develops a set of strong products, the press begins to speculate about the business implications of moving the Macintosh product line over to the Intel Pentium family of CPUs. This is happening again now. Charles Haddad is the latest person to speculate about a CPU migration in BusinessWeek magazine."

"One of the rationales for a CPU switch, according to Haddad, is the possibility of seamless switching between OS X and one or more flavors of Windows. But he goes on to make this incredible comment: 'Some users, however, would welcome a PC version of OS X. That would enable Windows emulation software, such as VirtualPC by Connectix, to run much faster.' Charles, have you ever heard of VMware?"

"If Apple came out with a Pentium-based PowerBook that could run VMware, I would ditch my Dell Inspiron that runs Red Hat 7.2. No offense to Red Hat, but OS X has DVD support, user-friendly applications, and good power management. I'd keep Linux for my servers, of course, but OS X is the uber-geek client OS of choice at the moment."

September 18, 2002

The NY Times Supports Linux(?)

Dave Aiello wrote, "What's this? The New York Times ran an editorial advocating the use of Linux? I know people are going to think I'm crazy, but, I think they made a mistake: they should also have encouraged people to buy MacOS X-based computers."

"From a programming perspective, Linux and OS X are very similar. The user experience on the Macintosh, however, is arguably better with such niceties as DVD support. It could be a while before you can play a DVD or reliably read any Microsoft Office document on a Linux machine. Yet, you can do this today on a Mac."

Sun to Push Linux on Desktop in Some Corporate Environments

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Sun Microsystems intends to push Linux as a desktop operating system in certain cost-sensitive vertical markets. The article suggests that markets like corporate call centers, retail banking organizations, government, and educational institutions may be looking for an alternative to Microsoft and their Windows and Office product families.

September 10, 2002

Author of Many Linux RAID Drivers Died in Alaska Helicopter Crash

Last week, Slashdot reported that Leonard Zubkoff died in a helicopter crash near Ketchikan, Alaska. Zubkoff was the author of the Linux drivers for Mylex RAID controllers, key components in high performance hard disk subsystems. CTDATA has two of these RAID controllers, and one of our servers uses one of Zubkoff's drivers.

Since news reports of his death became available, many people in the Linux community have praised Zubkoff's work, and noted its breadth. It seems insensitive to say this, but, the community reaction to Zubkoff's death and the support that others provide for his contributions to the Linux kernel will have to be watched carefully. That response will be a measure of the resiliency of the Linux development process.

August 16, 2002

Amazon Now Running Linux on 92 Percent of Its Computers

Yesterday's Seattle Times reported that successfully completed a migration to Linux in September and now estimates that 92 percent of its servers run Linux. This is probably one the most complete Linux migrations ever done by a large company. The article says that Red Hat has data that indicates Amazon realized $17 million in technology savings in the third quarter of 2001 alone.

Apparently, there were also unanticipated expenses: "Midway through the transition, Linux creator Linus Torvalds... abruptly changed the software's underlying code, forcing Red Hat and Amazon to change course on the fly." Amazon did report that the operating system upgrade "contributed to $182 million in extraordinary charges" in 2001.

Dell to Ship Some PCs for Corporate Market Without Windows

Earlier this week, CNET reported that Dell plans to ship a new line of PCs without Microsoft Windows. Dell plans to exploit an apparent loophole in its contract with Microsoft by shipping a copy of FreeDOS inside the PC's shipping box. This allows them to stay in compliance with a contract provision that reportedly requires Dell to ship PCs with an operating system.

Camworld suggests that this is what Microsoft gets for charging so much for its operating systems. Of course, Cam is both right and wrong in this conclusion. With desktop PC prices as low as they are today, Windows has become the largest single component of a PC's price. But, the biggest issue for corporate buyers is that the operating system configuration of the PC when it is delivered (known in many IT departments as "the standard build") is inappropriate. Dell knows this and has been shipping PCs with bare hard drives to its very largest corporate customers for a few years.

We suspect that the Dell N-Series announcement is an attempt to take this successful corporate delivery program to another level. It is not the audacious swipe at Microsoft that it appears to be from the headline. The PCs without Windows will cost exactly the same amount as the PCs with Windows. This is ridiculous if you think about it, and is a true indication of Microsoft's power over its OEMs.

August 12, 2002

NY Times Covers Microsoft Attendance at LinuxWorld

On Friday, The New York Times published a preview of the LinuxWorld trade show focused on Microsoft's attendance at the show. The article says that this is Microsoft's first time at LinuxWorld as an exhibitor-- true enough. However, it goes on to state that "Linux has failed as a desktop alternative to either Microsoft's Windows or Apple's Macintosh operating system", citing as proof a report from International Data Corporation that Linux sales fell in 2001.

It's hard to know where to begin to rebut this. Many of our readers know that Linux can be legally installed without paying a license fee. Furthermore, the same copy of Linux can be installed on multiple personal computers regardless of how the operating system was obtained. Finally, Linux is bundled into certain server-based application products, and the licensee has the option of installing Linux or another UNIX-based operating system during server deployment.

Any attempt to quantify the number of Linux machines in service based on the reported sales of shrinkwrapped copies of Linux is bound to be an understatement. The New York Times loses credibility when it falls into this trap. This article would be much more relevant if it did not being with a questionable pretense. For what it's worth, Doc Searls and Dave Winer have both weighed in on this article with similar conclusions.

July 23, 2002

Fast-enough, easy-to-use economical eMac

ZDNet comments on the eMac While the flat panel iMac has many excellences, it is relatively expensive for students or undemanding home users. The new eMac provides an attractive, adequately speedy, easy-to-use PC without the hefty price tag of the iMac.

Although the eMac is bulkier and not any faster than the iMac, it has a larger display which is worthwhile for students and consumers.

July 18, 2002

German Web Site Provides Comparison of Laptop Manufacturers' Linux Compatibility

We saw an article on Slashdot that points out a comparison of laptop manufacturers support for and compatibility with Linux. This analysis was done by MobiliX, and they've done a fine job. For example, they make the following accurate comments about Dell Computer:

In the beginning of 2000 DELL has announced "...the Latitude CPX and the Inspiron 7500, come with Red Hat Linux 6.1 and are certified by Linuxcare". This project seems silently gone, though DELL announces Linux laptops it doesn't seem to deliver them (at least in Germany). But they offer Linux solutions on... Latitude and Inspiron notebooks via DELL's Custom Factory Install....

Anytime someone makes a serious effort at this sort of analysis, we try to point it out. Sadly, Linux support on laptops has always been a moving target.

Microsoft CEO Says Windows No Longer the Low Cost Solution for IT

Earlier this week, VarBusiness published an account of a speech that Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, gave at the Fusion 2000 conference. According to the article, Ballmer thinks Windows is no longer the lowest cost solution for corporate IT departments. Ballmer is quoted as having said:

We have prided ourselves on always being the cheapest guy on the block--we were going to be higher volume and lower priced than anybody else out there....

One issue we have now, a unique competitor, is Linux. We haven't figured out how to be lower priced than Linux....

We are actually having to learn how to say, "We may have a high price on this one, but look at the additional value and how that value actually leads to a lower cost of ownership despite the fact that our price may be higher".

Maybe we should stop being amazed that a Microsoft executive is capable of telling the unvarnished truth. We think everyone in the IT market could deal with Microsoft if they presented their offerings as "more expensive but worth it". Then, all they have to do is deliver on the proposition.

Microsoft to Sell Active Directory Separately from Server OSes

CNET reports that Microsoft has decided to sell Active Directory separately from its Windows server operating systems. This is an interesting development, because they have decided to position Active Directory squarely against competing offerings from Novell and Sun Microsystems.

It would be really interesting if they decided to make Active Directory available as executables for other vendors operating systems. Could you imagine running Active Directory services on Solaris?

July 17, 2002

Forbes Says Linux is Not Just for Geeks Anymore

Whenever a magazine that is widely read by the business elite publishes an article about Linux, it's important to read it. This week, Forbes Magazine is running an article called Linux is Not Just For Geeks Anymore. The article says that Lehman Brothers "expects to save more than $10 million a year within 18 months, by using Linux" to replace servers running Solaris from Sun Microsystems.

The strategy is to replace Solaris servers only on applications that are proven to run well under Linux. Presumably, that would mean applications like web and email servers. One application the article specifically says that Lehman will not be running on Linux is enterprise databases.

July 13, 2002

Apple Closes Security Hole in OS X Updater

Martin O'Donnell pointed out a CNET report from several days ago that said Russell Harding had posted details on how to fool Apple's OS X SoftwareUpdate feature into downloading an operating system patch that contains a backdoor. Earlier today, Slashdot reported that Apple had closed that hole with an updated SoftwareUpdate program. The article on Slashdot characterizes Apple's response as quick, and says that the SoftwareUpdate program now checks for valid cryptographic signatures.

RedHat's Red Hat Network, which performs a similar OS management and update functions for Linux, has verified cryptographic signatures for a long time.

May 9, 2002

Allchin Says that More Disclosure by Microsoft Could Further Compromise OS Security

The Associated Press reports that Microsoft executive Jim Allchin made the unbelievable claim that Microsoft should not have to make more detailed disclosures of APIs to its operating systems because such disclosures "would make it easier for hackers to break into computer networks, for malicious individuals or organizations to spread destructive computer viruses and for unethical people to pirate". Nine U.S. states are still pursuing an anti-trust suit against Microsoft and one of the remedies they propose is that Microsoft be forced to provide detailed interface documentation so that others in the software industry can make software that interfaces with Microsoft operating systems as seemlessly as do other Microsoft products.

This is one of the more disingenuous pieces of testimony heard in this phase of the anti-trust case. The article points out, "A lawyer for the states, Kevin Hodges, pointed out that many of the most destructive computer attacks in recent years have targeted Microsoft products regardless of whether Microsoft disclosed particular technical data."

Microsoft's profits on its operating system are so great that it ought to be required to provide the same documentation to the public that it does to its own developers. Microsoft application developers should out-innovate their competition, not out-smart them solely by virtue of inside information.

April 30, 2002

ZDNet Says SuSE is Trying to "Stabilize" Linux, What About Red Hat?

Earlier today, ZDNet came out with a report that said SuSE is looking to "stabilize" Linux by "fine-tuning it for enterprise applications like SAP" and making it run on multiple platforms, such as IBM mainframes. When we saw this article, we wondered if the author had read any of the analysis of RedHat Advanced Server?

As we said in an article we published last month, Red Hat has put its Advanced Server on an 18 month product life cycle which is palatable to the IT departments of Fortune 500 companies. Is this an indication of lack of market knowledge by the ZDNet columnist or poor marketing by Red Hat? You decide.

April 13, 2002

Brazilians Implementing Linux in All Parts of the Economy

Martin O'Donnell poined out an article in Open Magazine that describes the initiatives underway throughout Brazil to implement computer systems based on Linux.

The article points out that one of the driving forces behind the migration from Windows and other closed-source operating systems is relentless pressure from Microsoft and the United States Department of Commerce. As a result, the Brazilian government became aggressive in its efforts to root out software piracy, and this has created the perception that systems based on Linux are the best way to avoid harassment.

April 11, 2002

Microsoft Chooses Different Rewritable DVD Format than Apple and Compaq

Martin O'Donnell pointed out this CNET article which reports on Microsoft's selection of the DVD+RW recording format for future support within Windows operating systems. This is a format favored by Dell and Hewlett-Packard. A competing format, confusingly called DVD-RW, is supported by Compaq, Apple Computer, and several Asian manufacturers.

Supposedly, the reason Apple chose to support DVD-RW and DVD-R in the first place was that disks created in these formats are compatible with more existing DVD players connected to televisions than are disks created with the DVD+RW and DVD+R format. But, these are formats that are still lining up support, they have different advantages depending on whether they are to be used for video or for data storage, and we think the jury is still out on both of them.

April 2, 2002

Senate Anti-Piracy Bill Written to Match Microsoft OS Patent

An insightful article posted on Linux and Main suggests that an anti-piracy bill proposed by Senator Ernest Hollings seems to require the use of operating system technology patented by Microsoft. According to the article, the bill called The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) "requires that government-approved anti-piracy features be included in a range of electronic devices, including but not limited to computers." Microsoft filed a patent for a "digital rights management operating system" in 1999 and was granted that patent in December 2001.

March 29, 2002

Red Hat Advanced Server Looks Attractive to Financial Services Companies' IT Departments

Earlier this week, we reported on the Forbes article that said Merrill Lynch and CSFB are replacing UNIX with Linux. We are beginning to believe that the spin on this article and our interpretation was not quite right. We did not sufficiently factor in enterprise IT's interest in Red Hat Linux Advanced Server and how it differs from Red Hat Linux 7.2 Professional.

This became more obvious with the publication of Red Hat Advanced Server: The real enterprise deal? by Steven J. Vaughn on NewsForge. Apparently, it was easy to miss the differences between Advanced Server and Red Hat 7.2 Professional because the announcement of Advanced Server featured representatives from large enterprise IT, stating their interest and commitment to the platform.

Read on for more about the article and our interpretation of it....

Continue reading "Red Hat Advanced Server Looks Attractive to Financial Services Companies' IT Departments" »

March 14, 2002

UNIX Under the Desktop: Review of OS X in Linux Journal

Earlier today, LinuxJournal posted their review of OS X, the operating system that Apple Computer is shipping on all of its new Macintosh computers. It's an interesting review, particularly considering the source. The review reads, in part:

OS X gives us the first popular desktop OS that fits into a prevailing Linux environment and also into the prevailing marketplace. On the bottom, it's UNIX. On the top, it runs Microsoft Office and the whole Adobe suite. This has its appeals.

February 23, 2002

RedHat 7.2 Upgrade: Cleaning Up Gnome Configuration Issues

Dave Aiello wrote, "This is a follow-up to the article I wrote on the RedHat 7.2 upgrade process graphics system problems that I posted in January."

"For several weeks, I have been wondering why both Enlightenment and Sawfish were loading when Gnome was starting up. When I upgraded to RedHat 7.2, I had wanted to switch to Sawfish, because it appeared to be the preferred window manager for Gnome. However, I was having difficulty getting Sawfish to work properly because Enlightenment was loading despite the fact that it was not selected as the window manager. Read on to learn how I solved the problem...."

Continue reading "RedHat 7.2 Upgrade: Cleaning Up Gnome Configuration Issues" »

February 19, 2002

Doc Searls on Why Apple Will Not Do an Intel Port of OS X

Over on The Doc Searls Weblog, Doc explains why Apple will probably never port OS X to Intel. He believes that Apple is successfully executing a plan to expand its share of the consumer electronics / computing appliance business and that porting the OS to Intel would divert resources from that goal. Also, Apple now has a mutually profitable relationship with Microsoft, which it is not likely to jeopardize.

January 29, 2002

Some Linux Maintainers Chafe Under Linus Torvalds' Current Patch Management Approach reports that Rob Landey has issued a Request for Comment on adding the role of "Penguin Patch Lieutenant" to the Linux kernel enhancement process. The document suggests that a single person assist Linus Torvalds by organizing patches so that they can be approved in a more expeditious manner.

This idea is similar to the management technique used for Perl language enhancements. In that process, the holder of the "patch pumpkin" works on behalf of Larry Wall to organize patches so that he can approve or reject them. This is a good idea, considering the bandwidth required to exercise due dilligence over all the patches coming in for the Linux kernel. The biggest concern with this RFC is that it is likely to be taken out of context by Microsoft and other companies who have a vested interest in seeing Linux be less successful.

January 18, 2002

RedHat 7.2 Upgrade Process Has Trouble with Some "Third Party" RPMs

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier this week, I reluctantly concluded that I needed to upgrade my laptop from RedHat Linux 6.2 to 7.2. I say 'reluctantly' because I knew from previous experience how complicated a Linux upgrade can be."

"I ran into a problem almost immediately when the RedHat 7.2 installer failed to upgrade my XFree86, Gnome, KDE, and related packages. It did not do this because it detected that I had upgraded these packages myself with non-RedHat versions of these packages (probably when I installed the original version of Nautilus from the now defunct Eazel). The big issues I had with this were:"

  1. the installer provided a cryptic message about third party packages being installed and warned me that there might be some instability if I continued the installation, and
  2. X Windows was almost totally inaccessible after the upgrade was completed.

Read on for a bit more explanation of the problem and the eventual solution.

Continue reading "RedHat 7.2 Upgrade Process Has Trouble with Some "Third Party" RPMs" »

January 11, 2002

LinuxJournal: Apple Importing OS Development Talent from Open Source UNIX Community

Over on LinuxJournal, Doc Searls reports that Apple is importing a lot of Open Source UNIX development talent into its Darwin Project, the core of MacOS X. According to the article:

While Apple pitches radical hardware and practical software to the
masses, UNIX geeks are quietly adding big value to the company's
open-source, BSD-based operating system....

In past years at Macworld my Linux Journal shirt would have seemed more out of
place than a leisure suit. But this year it fits right in. There were people in line wearing
Sun and SGI schwag too. One guy told me he thought OS X was "subversive"
because it "seeds" millions of otherwise unsuspecting households with open-source
UNIX. "I can go to my Mom's, fire up her iMac, open a shell, ssh to my own server
and get some real work done", one guy said to me.

When you combine the low level features of MacOS X with the cheap, powerful software tools that Apple is providing for digital media management (iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, iDVD), it's pretty easy to see why people at the geeky end of the spectrum are looking at Apple products quite differently than they did even a year ago.

January 7, 2002

Reinstalling Windows 2000 and Office 2000 Takes Hours

Dave Aiello wrote, "If you have been following this site recently, you know that I jumped at the opportunity to upgrade my copy of VMware Workstation for Linux to Version 3.0 in order to take advantage of greater virtual disk capacity and USB support. I subsequently discovered that in order to practically use these new features, I had to recreate the virtual machines that I use everyday."

"Last night, I began the process by backing up my Windows 2000 virtual machine's user files, reinstalling the Windows 2000 Professional operating system, and reinstalling Office 2000 Standard Edition. In the course of doing this, I had the opportunity to frequently visit the Microsoft Windows Update web site. This site is a repository for patches to the Windows operating systems. A related site called Microsoft Office Product Updates contains the patches for that product line."

"As you may guess from the title of this article, the process of securing the operating system and application suite took longer than I expected. Read on for a summary of my experience."

Continue reading "Reinstalling Windows 2000 and Office 2000 Takes Hours" »

January 4, 2002

NIPC Warns of Security Holes in Windows XP

ZDnet reports that The National Infrastructure Protection Center issued an unusual warning to consumers about two security holes in the Windows XP operating system. The NIPC is an agency that brings together state and federal government resources with those of the private sector to protect the nation's electronic infrastructure.

According to the NIPC advisory, the problem stems from the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) feature that is installed and running by default in Windows XP, and may be active on Windows ME, Windows 98, and 98 Second Edition.

Regardless of your opinion about Microsoft, you have to support any government effort to expose security holes in esoteric operating system-level services when they impact consumers. Microsoft needs to deal with this issue in public, and take aggressive action to prevent unwitting consumers from having their computers harnessed in distributed denial of service attacks.

December 6, 2001

Experts Make Using Linux Look Harder than It Is

On Newsforge, Robin Miller wrote a column called Making Linux look harder than it is. He begins:

Many "gurus" teaching new users about Linux make it look harder than it needs to be, and apparently fail to explain that yes, you can make PowerPoint-style presentations in Linux, you can view Web Pages that use Flash animation and other "glitz" features, and that you can manage all your files though simple "point, click, drag and drop" visual interfaces. Could the biggest problem with Linux usability be that most of the people teaching newbies to use Linux are too smart and know too much?

This is a good and useful question to be asked at this time. For at least a year, we have advocated the use of Linux as a base operating system combined with liberal use of VMware to developers trying to gain fluency on the Linux platform. If everyone that ever considered using Linux took a step back and looked at what is actually available on the platform, instead of focusing on what is not available, it might look like a stronger alternative to Windows than it is generally considered to be.

December 4, 2001

How to Identify a Virus and Perform a Quick Risk Assessment

Dave Aiello wrote, "Today, someone decided to release another Visual Basic worm that can spread itself via email. These things happen regularly because Microsoft wants to keep Visual Basic in all of its Office applications, in spite of the danger of code run amok."

"This gives me the opportunity to provide a Secret of Highly Paid Consultants: how to quickly identify and assess the risk associated with a virus you just heard about. Read more if you are interested in this very timely information...."

Continue reading "How to Identify a Virus and Perform a Quick Risk Assessment" »

September 7, 2001

BusinessWeek Thinks HP-Compaq Merger Means Big Things for Linux

BusinessWeek is the first business publication to run a major story suggesting that the HP-Compaq merger may result in increased promotion of the Linux operating system. If you have been reading the Linux advocacy outlets (like Slashdot), you know that both HP and Compaq have been spending small but significant sums on supporting Linux on their Intel-based servers. The companies also employ some influential members of the Linux community: HP employs Bruce Perens, Compaq employed Jon "Maddog" Hall until he left to join Linux International.

In two ways, it would make sense for HP and Compaq to place greater emphasis on Linux: It would allow them to consolidate their server operating systems (now numbering 5 or more). It would also align their integration services strategy more closely with IBM, whom they are clearly trying to emulate.

We still don't like the merger because of the vast overlap of businesses between the two companies and the amount of time it will take for them to rationalize them. But, we agree with the ideas expressed by Sam Jaffe in this article.

August 17, 2001

Web Informant Provides Good Advice on Dealing with Code Red

By now you know that if you are running a Windows NT 4 or 2000 server as a Web Server, and you are using the typical components (IIS and Microsoft's content indexing component), you are potentially vulnerable to exploit by the Code Red virus. David Strom has produced an excellent summary of the issues that should concern people managing such installations for his Web Informant newsletter. Among the things he includes that are not often pointed out:

  • products that incorporate IIS and are potentially vulnerable,
  • versions of Microsoft OSes that are not as vulnerable as NT 4 or 2000,
  • tools that can be downloaded for free that identify some key vulnerabilities,
  • issues with these tools, primarily the differences in results produced by tools that supposedly do the same things.

March 26, 2001

Getting Advanced Power Management Working under RedHat 6.2 on a Dell Inspiron 7500

Dave Aiello wrote, "Tonight, I finally configured Advanced Power Management (APM) on my Dell Inspiron 7500 running RedHat Linux 6.2 to permit the system to suspend and restore itself without hanging or crashing. The process of doing this was one of those cryptic experiences that people often hear about in connection with Linux system configuration. Read on for the whole story...."

Continue reading "Getting Advanced Power Management Working under RedHat 6.2 on a Dell Inspiron 7500" »

March 20, 2001

Upgrading an Application Using RPM is a Hit and Miss Process

Dave Aiello wrote, "Last night I decided that I was going to bite the bullet and upgrade my copy of Netscape Communicator to a version that supports strong encryption. The machine I wanted to do this to is my Dell Inspiron 7500 that runs VA Linux 6.2.3, a distribution derived from RedHat 6.2."

"Because the version of Linux I am running is derived from RedHat, you would think that it would be easy to upgrade Netscape Communicator using RPM, the RedHat Package Manager. Not so. I ran into some truly nebulous issues and the solution to these was not apparent from looking at my favorite Linux books and Web Sites where quick solutions to these problems are normally found."

Continue reading "Upgrading an Application Using RPM is a Hit and Miss Process" »

February 2, 2001

SatireWire: Linux Community Agrees to Disband

Dave Aiello wrote, "Hemos on Slashdot pointed out this SatireWire article about the Linux Community deciding to disband after receiving reports of its impending doom pronounced by Microsoft executive Doug Miller in an interview with Wired News that really took place."

"I think SatireWire's piece is quite funny, but they missed an opportunity by not quoting a member of the BIND project. This is the project that maintains the most widely used DNS server on the Internet. Send me an email if you don't understand the point I'm trying to make."

January 4, 2001

Upgrading a Linux Laptop: Days and Days of Fun

Dave Aiello wrote, "I bet everyone is wondering what happened to cause us not to post anything to the story flow on for almost two weeks. Over the holidays, I decided to upgrade the 12 gigabyte primary hard disk on my Dell Inspiron 7500 to a 25 gigabyte model."

"Had I originally opted for a laptop running Windows 98, 2000, or NT 4.0, this would have been easy. But, I was planning to upgrade the primary hard drive on a system that was, at the time, running Red Hat Linux Version 6.1. This turned out to be a large project."

"I learned a lot in the process, but I wonder how much of the work I did will actually turn out to be expertise that will benefit CTDATA clients."

Continue reading "Upgrading a Linux Laptop: Days and Days of Fun" »

October 4, 2000

Developer Calls Linux a "Failure", Cites "Freeloader" Ecosystem

Monty Manley writing on OS Opinion says that the hype surrounding Linux and the Open Source Movement has masked a harsh reality: thousands of buggy, half-finished software products that are not properly unit tested. This problem is allegedly made worse by the fact that many OpenSource projects are driven by volunteers and that the efforts of these contributors are second guessed by users who do not contribute to the project.

Manley says, "It's an odd fact that many of the most irrational and vociferous OS zealots are
not themselves programmers... Linux, more
than any other OS, suffers from a surfeit of testosterone-poisoned young men
who know little but speak much, and the whole community suffers from it. They
want things free simply because they don't want to pay. Saying that charging
for software is ethically wrong is only a dodge; they just don't want to part with
any dough. They are, in a word, punks. And Linux has far too many of them."

How many more "tragedy of the commons" editorials need to be written before people face facts? Read on if you are interested in our view on this subject.

Continue reading "Developer Calls Linux a "Failure", Cites "Freeloader" Ecosystem" »

September 7, 2000

News Media Begins to Compare Windows ME to 2000

We note the coincidental publication of two fairly thoughtful comparisons of Windows Millenium Edition (ME) and Windows 2000. For anyone who has been out of the room for the past year, these are the next generation consumer and corporate operating systems from Microsoft.

Walter Mossberg in today's Personal Technology Column in the Wall Street Journal calls Windows ME "...the final, sputtering
iteration of the aging consumer Windows product line that last saw a really
significant release five years ago, when Windows 95 came out." This is surprising, in that Mossberg is not a dependable Microsoft basher.

Molly Wood and Jim Aspinwall take a different approach in their comparison on CNET. They divide the analysis into two broad categories: Windows at Home and Windows at Work. Then, they attempt to compare the two operating systems and tell why one is better. On its face, this analysis strikes us as pretty pointless. It would really be news if Windows ME wasn't a better home operating system than 2000, right?

Continue reading "News Media Begins to Compare Windows ME to 2000" »

July 27, 2000

O'Reilly Network Article Explains Tools Philosophy in Linux

Michael Stutz wrote an excellent piece on the small tools philosophy of programming, and how that has been implemented in Linux. He puts the architecture that supports this in the proper context, going all the way back to the initial versions of UNIX written by Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, and Brian Kernighan, among others at Bell Labs.

"Unix-like operating systems do not put so much weight on application programs.
Instead, they come with a lot of small programs called "tools." Each tool is
generally capable of performing a very simple, specific task, and performing it
well -- one tool does nothing but output the file(s) or data passed to it, one tool
spools its input to the print queue, one tool sorts the lines of its input, and so on."