|By Mark R. Hinkle||
|May 18, 2004 12:00 AM EDT||
Welcome to the third installment of "Guide to Linux on the Business Desktop." Part 1 (Vol. 2, issue 4) covered some of the many Linux distributions available, and Part 2 (Vol. 2, issue 5) looked at some of the major vendors' Linux desktop offerings and began to explore the Linux laptop. Part 3 completes the journey with a more in-depth look at laptop Linux.
My progress has been quite good using the EmperorLinux Rhino (www.emperorlinux.com/rhino.php). I have over the course of the last month been configuring this laptop as a Linux business solution for the novice user. My research has given me a solution with which I can find few flaws. As many of our more technical readers know, I could have put together a solution myself on a laptop bought directly from HP, Dell, IBM, or Gateway and installed Linux, maybe voided my warranty, and been offered limited (if any) support to get the configuration I wanted. I chose a different path.
I asked the Linux-savvy folks at EmperorLinux (www.emperorlinux.com) to supply me with a laptop that was already optimized for Linux and was built on hardware from trusted vendors like Dell and IBM. I believe that many of you want to run Linux laptops but aren't looking to install operating systems or to patch kernels. Plus, you may have been buying laptops from the same vendor for years and have a surplus of extra docking stations, power supplies, and batteries - an investment you would likely lose by going with a different vendor. I think you will find my approach to the Linux laptop most consistent with your needs.
For someone who wants a no-hassle Linux laptop, or any laptop, I cannot begin to tell you how impressive my first minutes with the Rhino were. First, the key to success is to follow along with the included EmperorLinux User's Manual authored by EmperorLinux's founder Lincoln Durey. Within 10 minutes of opening the shipping box I was writing this article and surfing the Web via the on-board 802.11g wireless card. I spent many hours trying to achieve this same result on my own, and having an out-of-the-box product that works this well has been an excellent experience. The only caveat is that wireless networking doesn't work seamlessly as delivered; I'm required to run two quick commands to bring down the on-board Ethernet card and bring up the wireless interface. This is relatively painless, especially considering that the procedure is well documented in the EmperorLinux manual. Considering that using my Linksys card on my old Windows laptop required me to use a utility to take advantage of my wireless capabilities, this alternative is equally workable. All in all, EmperorLinux solved some of the most common problems with Linux on the laptop today - installation and initial configuration.
Specialty Hardware SupportOne of the most lamented problems with Linux on the laptop is support for specialty hardware. My definition of specialty hardware is not necessarily what PC manufacturers consider specialty. What I mean is hardware that is not normally part of the "anchored to the desktop" PC. This includes wireless cards, all varieties of PCMCIA cards, power supplies that use Advanced Power Management (APM) features to conserve battery life, and other things that make being a mobile PC user more convenient.
The trick for getting many of these things to work is finding and compiling the patches for the Linux kernel to enable these mobility features. As a general rule, Linux distributions seem to focus on the lowest common denominator, trying to run on as many platforms and chipsets as possible. The dilemma is that because of all the potential configurations, they may have to distribute a lowest common denominator kernel that may be a disservice to the mobile Linux user. You likely won't receive a kernel that includes patches for Advanced Power Management (APM) or its cousin APCI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface - still under early development for Linux) features that allow you to suspend to disk or hibernate your laptop. Also, I received the NVIDIA drivers preinstalled for the video card included in this laptop, while in a default install of a distribution I might have been required to download them from the manufacturer. My point is that you must go through some steps that are somewhat cumbersome if you are not a Linux guru. However, I don't want to discourage anyone from trying this. If you want a good resource, Tuxmobil.org (http://tuxmobil.org/apm_linux.html) has a good article and links to other resources on how to configure your laptop to take advantage of APM or the newer ACPI. Installing and patching these things on your own can be a valuable learning experience, and there is no shortage of community forums that you can rely on for advice. Fortunately, I didn't have to go through these steps; EmperorLinux had done this work for me, as they do for all their laptops.
Windows vs Linux: Initial ExperienceThe Rhino as requested came with a dual-boot configuration using both Windows XP and Fedora Core 1 with the empkernel (EmperorLinux's customized kernel for their laptops). I requested Windows XP so I could compare the experiences out of the box with both operating systems on the same hardware. This turned into a very enlightening experience as I got to compare "apples to apples" or, as it turns out, "penguins to paper clips."
The Linux session was up and running in about 10 minutes. Windows XP at the 48-hour mark still lacked support for the on-board wireless mini-PCI802.11 b/g card. On my first boot with Windows I listened to harp music and answered questions that I felt were irrelevant. Also, I didn't have an affordable office suite or many other facilities that came with my Fedora Core installation at no additional cost. After a few days of comparing performance and functions between the two, I couldn't find a reason to boot into Windows. Actually, I had no real incentive to do so other than to compare and contrast. I found that the Rhino was a lean, mean Linux machine and Windows XP was not at all to my liking.
Running System UpdatesEven though my Fedora installation was fairly fresh, there had been some updates to the operating system and other packages since it shipped. To get up-to-date, pun intended (up2date is the program used by Red Hat to update packages), I clicked on the exclamation point on my task bar indicating that updates were available for my operating system. I chose to skip the kernel update since I was using an EmperorLinux empkernel optimized for my laptop. Also, there seemed to be a conflict with the XMMS version that was installed, but using the Red Hat Agent to uncheck the conflicting packages quickly solved my problem. I find that the ability to easily choose updates from a menu is one of the things Microsoft does have going for it with their Windows Update site, and those familiar with this service may not find Linux as easy to use. This is one area of the Linux desktop that I would like to see addressed universally. There are many camps dedicated to the use of certain conventions and binary packaging methods for Linux software, as well as programs to process these updates. All have their merits, but most are specific to distributions. Not all software is available in binaries that can be as easily installed on all variants of Linux. Of course, as many of you know, those "simplified" software installs often include side effects not intended by the user, such as of spyware and other inconveniences (like registry entries that haunt us until we reinstall).
Installing ApplicationsAfter updating Fedora Core 1, my first step was to install the applications that I think make me most productive. The Fedora installation I was using gave me a lot of what I wanted, including OpenOffice (which I used to take notes for this article), X-CD-Roast (a CD burning utility), and xine (a multimedia player that plays multiple file formats including CDs, DVDs, and VCDs). Xine also decodes AVI, MOV, WMV, and MP3 from local disk drives and displays multimedia streams over the Internet. If you had a chance to read my debate (www.linuxworld.com/story/38038.htm) with fellow LinuxWorld Magazine editor James Turner over the readiness of the Linux desktop, you know that his gripes were that his DVD player had to work as well as his wireless card. So far these criteria have been met painlessly, which should appeal to a broad contingency of potential Linux users.
Firefox Web Browser - Faster, More Efficient BrowsingMany of us spend a lot of time gathering information from the Web, so fast, efficient Web browsing is critical to our being productive. That's why I chose to install the Firefox Web browser (www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/) from the Mozilla project (www.mozilla.org), which develops innovative open source Web browsers. Mozilla browsers offer features that as a frequent Web researcher I find indispensable. I like Firefox because it has the best combination of speed and functionality for most of my needs, including pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, and integrated search box.
Pop-Up BlockingThere's nothing more annoying than pop-up ads that obstruct my view and crowd my screen. I love the Firefox feature that alerts you to pop-up ads through an icon on the status bar. By clicking on the icon you can see who's sending the pop-up and choose whether to view it. This saves you from the frustration of going to a page that bombards you with advertising when you're interested in researching something or are in a hurry.
Tabbed BrowsingMy favorite Firefox feature and time-saver is tabbed browsing, which allows me to open several pages concurrently. I also can bookmark a group of bookmarks in a folder so I can open multiple tabs at once. I am in the habit of bookmarking groups of similar Web sites and opening all of the bookmarks in a folder at once. That way as I read one Web site, others load in other tabs. Also, I have systems that I like to switch between to reconcile data or copy and paste, and tab-based navigation makes these tasks much easier.
Integrated Search BoxI am constantly searching the Web for new information, usually via Google. Firefox has an integrated search box to the right of the URL that lets me enter search terms directly into the box, and search results load right in my browser. There are also faculties to add Yahoo! or Dictionary.com to the search box. With well over 100 searches each day, I save a lot of time with this feature. A recent trip to an Internet kiosk equipped with Internet Explorer quickly left me longing for Firefox or Mozilla.
If you've never used Netscape or Mozilla, or if you have and want something faster, I highly recommend Firefox.
StarOffice 7.0 and OpenOfficeI did install StarOffice 7.0, my preferred choice for a Linux office suite, but not until after I started to take notes in OpenOffice, which was included by default with the laptop. Either one gets the job done, but StarOffice offers a few niceties like templates and the security of professional QA testing; plus, it seems like documents load faster in StarOffice 7.0 than in OpenOffice 1.02. Both suites are very good and differences between them are minimal, so if you want the security of vendor backing and a little more polish, you can go with StarOffice; otherwise, OpenOffice is an excellent choice. These suites are not just for Linux, and if you're implementing Linux desktops in your business you may want to consider either one as a replacement for existing office suites - especially since they may help you with cross-platform compatibility issues. One bonus feature of OpenOffice and StarOffice is the ability to export documents as PDF (Portable Document Format), which is a very handy way to move documents and preserve formatting and fonts. This feature sets the StarOffice and OpenOffice suites apart from others, even leading commercial office suites.
Figure 1 shows the GNOME desktop running OpenOffice, xine multimedia player, X-CD-Roast, and Firefox Web browser with tabbed browsing - great for watching training videos and movies when stuck on long flights.
Windows Migration - 'Three Partition Monte'Many of you have made the switch to Linux wholeheartedly, but many users are in transition and want to keep the security of Windows while dipping their toe into the waters of Linux. This makes sense - downtime in many people's businesses translates to lost money. Following are some suggestions on how to make sure your Windows data can be maintained simultaneously on Windows and Linux, depending where you boot. I suggest that you look at the setup that I call the "Three Partition Monte."
Data PartitionThe key to making a Windows-to-Linux transition is to find a way to share data back and forth, so my solution is to have a data partition (I chose FAT32 format, since there is read-write support for that file system under Linux and it's obviously supported under Windows). The data partition is then mounted under Linux at /data. I like to create all my files and save all my data to one place, that way I can grab it from either operating system. Rarely do I have to go to Windows, but when I do it's nice to know that I have left important documents in one easily accessible place. Since I don't have an office suite on the Windows installation, I will install StarOffice so I have a good cross-platform solution.
Windows PartitionIf you are dual booting and accessing files from both operating systems, I suggest that when booted into Windows you download Microsoft's PowerToy TweakUI (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/downloads/powertoys.asp) and use features there to map key Windows folders to the data partition. I don't believe Microsoft knew how helpful this would be for Linux migration, but I find it to be invaluable. By using TweakUI, you can easily change the location of system files and folders. (As is good practice for any kind of change to your PC, please make backups first.) Then relocate your My Documents folder to the data partition. In my setup the data partition shows up in Windows as drive D. I also use Outlook under Win4Lin (www.win4lin.com) so I make sure that my Outlook files are saved there too; later on I can create a symbolic link to the file under the Linux file system. I can also do the same thing with Quicken or TurboTax, two other applications to which I have yet to find a native Linux equivalent. Once I used the TweakUI control panel to move my Windows My Documents settings to my D drive I booted back into Linux (see Figure 2).
Linux PartitionMy data partition is mounted under the path /data. I chose to mount my data partition as readable and writable for my Linux login (directions for doing this were included in the comments of the /etc/fstab file thanks to EmperorLinux). For those of you with other hardware, here's a link to LinuxForum (www.linuxforum.com/linux_tutorials/14/1.php), where there is discussion on how to do this.
I then chose to make a link to My Documents on the Linux laptop by opening Nautilus (the GNOME graphical file manager) and dragging and dropping My Documents to the desktop; now I have a good conduit to pull across files from Windows. Also, if I need to go back to Windows I have a way to check mail and grab files I worked on in Linux from Windows, and vice versa.
SummaryThere are many viable Linux laptop solutions out there; I've highlighted one approach of many. EmperorLinux and other Linux-aware vendors make it possible for you to buy Linux products that are reliable and can save you time. Many of us need ways to bridge our Windows installations to Linux in order to make a commitment to an open and less vendor-dominated operating system. Strategies that minimize transitional downtime are essential - they make it possible for end users to enjoy the limited-pain tactics for migration and help more users enjoy the long-term benefits of Linux.
As I finish this article I sadly say goodbye to my friend the Rhino as it gets shipped back to EmperorLinux in Atlanta. I hope to highlight some other solutions for high-performance Linux laptop computing in the coming months, and I encourage you to contact me with ideas for future columns.
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
Feb. 26, 2017 05:30 PM EST Reads: 2,102
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Feb. 26, 2017 05:15 PM EST Reads: 1,882
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
Feb. 26, 2017 03:45 PM EST Reads: 2,657
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
Feb. 26, 2017 03:30 PM EST Reads: 8,895
"Storage is growing. All of IDC's estimates say that unstructured data is now 80% of the world's data. We provide storage systems that can actually deal with that scale of data - software-defined storage systems," stated Paul Turner, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Cloudian, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 17th Cloud Expo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Feb. 26, 2017 02:30 PM EST Reads: 7,092
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
Feb. 26, 2017 02:30 PM EST Reads: 2,437
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Feb. 26, 2017 01:30 PM EST Reads: 2,352
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Feb. 26, 2017 01:15 PM EST Reads: 1,836
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...
Feb. 26, 2017 01:00 PM EST Reads: 3,021
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
Feb. 26, 2017 12:45 PM EST Reads: 605
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develop...
Feb. 26, 2017 12:45 PM EST Reads: 6,434
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Feb. 26, 2017 11:30 AM EST Reads: 6,684
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, CTO and founder of Striim, will delve into four enterprise-scale, business-critical case studies where streaming analytics serves as the key to enabling real-time data integration and right-time insights in hybrid cloud, IoT, and fog computing environments. As part of this discussion, he will also present a demo based on its partnership with Fujitsu, highlighting their technologies in a healthcare IoT use-case. The demo showcases the tracking of patie...
Feb. 26, 2017 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,336
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business. Though, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected with a majority of IoT projects having failed. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief IoTologist at Wipro, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology portfolios and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will delve in...
Feb. 26, 2017 11:00 AM EST Reads: 2,774
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outlyer, a monitoring service for DevOps and operations teams, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outlyer is a monitoring service for DevOps and Operations teams running Cloud, SaaS, Microservices and IoT deployments. Designed for today's dynamic environments that need beyond cloud-scale monitoring, we make monitoring effortless so you...
Feb. 26, 2017 10:30 AM EST Reads: 2,419
Unsecured IoT devices were used to launch crippling DDOS attacks in October 2016, targeting services such as Twitter, Spotify, and GitHub. Subsequent testimony to Congress about potential attacks on office buildings, schools, and hospitals raised the possibility for the IoT to harm and even kill people. What should be done? Does the government need to intervene? This panel at @ThingExpo New York brings together leading IoT and security experts to discuss this very serious topic.
Feb. 26, 2017 09:15 AM EST Reads: 3,115
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the...
Feb. 26, 2017 09:15 AM EST Reads: 5,499
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
Feb. 26, 2017 09:15 AM EST Reads: 1,620
“We're a global managed hosting provider. Our core customer set is a U.S.-based customer that is looking to go global,” explained Adam Rogers, Managing Director at ANEXIA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Feb. 26, 2017 08:45 AM EST Reads: 2,330
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, introduced the technologies required for implementing these idea...
Feb. 26, 2017 08:00 AM EST Reads: 7,010