Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Gerardo A Dada, SmartBear Blog, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Guide to Linux on the Business Desktop Part 3

Laptop Linux as a business solution

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 Support

One 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 Experience

The 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 Updates

Even 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 Applications

After 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 Browsing

Many 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 Blocking

There'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 Browsing

My 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 Box

I 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 OpenOffice

I 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 Partition

The 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 Partition

If 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 Partition

My 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.

Summary

There 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.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it ...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom 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. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, 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. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet a...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
The best-practices for building IoT applications with Go Code that attendees can use to build their own IoT applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Indraneel Mitra, Senior Solutions Architect & Technology Evangelist at Cognizant, provided valuable information and resources for both novice and experienced developers on how to get started with IoT and Golang in a day. He also provided information on how to use Intel Arduino Kit, Go Robotics API and AWS IoT stack to build an application tha...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
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.
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? You need to discover patterns that are repeatable in vast quantities of data, understand their meaning, and implement scalable monitoring across multiple data streams in order to monetize the discoveries and insights. Motif discovery and deep learning platforms are emerging to visualize sensor data, to search for patterns and to build application that can monitor real time streams efficiently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, ...
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) and Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) have entered into a definitive agreement under which Verizon will acquire Yahoo's operating business for approximately $4.83 billion in cash, subject to customary closing adjustments. Yahoo informs, connects and entertains a global audience of more than 1 billion monthly active users** -- including 600 million monthly active mobile users*** through its search, communications and digital content products. Yahoo also co...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.