Other posts related to linux

 | October 16, 2011 10:40 pm

Even though both the desktop and server versions of Ubuntu use much of the same code — such as Samba for file sharing and CUPS for printing — there are some important differences between the two. The desktop version of Linux has been carefully streamlined to make installation as easy is possible, for example, and great effort has been made so that any user can sit down and be productive.

That is not necessarily true of the server version, however.

In general, it is assumed that the user of a server OS is more technically savvy than the user of a desktop OS. For that reason, the installation of Ubuntu Server is more involved than the installation of Ubuntu Desktop. Not more complicated, necessarily, but certainly more involved.

In this video, we walk through how to install Ubuntu Server in a virtual machine. We’ll look at how to configure the network adapters so that it can connect to the Internet and participate in a virtual network, install certain roles (such as OpenSSH and Samba) to make the server more useful, and set up the guest additions so that it better integrates with the host OS.

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 | October 14, 2011 8:23 pm

Installing Ubuntu DesktopUbuntu Linux is one of the most popular distributions of Linux. It can be commonly found in corporations, universities, laboratories, and software development houses. One of the reasons for its popularity is that there is both a well-maintained desktop and server version with a regular release cycle and a high level of corporate and community support.

This video walks you through how to install Ubuntu on a VMware virtual machine. It also shows how to set up the first user; configure the machine so that it is able to both access the Internet and participate in an internal, host-only, network; and how to install VMware tools from the command line.

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 | August 17, 2010 4:10 am

Evolution of Abstract ArtOne of my all time favorite charts is entitled “Cubism and Abstract Art.”  It was a lithograph created by Alfred Barr (then director of the Museum of Modern Art) as the catalog cover image for a 1932 exhibit of the same name.

I love the image for three reasons reasons:

  1. It’s simply awesome.  Barr’s chart manages to take 45 years of tumultuous history and condense it down to 13 categories, 80 words and 51 arrows.
  2. The graphic is simultaneously informative, provocative, controversial and insulting.  It stressed the evolution of art at the expense of the people responsible, a significant blow to monumental egos.  Only six artists are even listed by name!
  3. The chart beautifully accomplishes an ambitious goal.  Alfred Barr attempted to map the evolution of artistic ideas and cultural movements, both of which are notoriously difficult to chronicle.  Yet, he manages to provide information about how the trends are related to one another, how they evolved through time, and which influences were internal to the art world (depicted in black) and those which were external (red).

It’s a fantastic example of a concept map, network diagram, and process chart all rolled into one.  (Edward Tufte has a great write up about the chart on page 64 of Beautiful Evidence.)

I was reminded just how fantastic again this morning.

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 | August 10, 2010 5:47 pm

ThunderbirdI’m a software whore.  I love to play with new programs and experiment with new features.  I think it’s exciting and interesting to try new stuff.

However, there is also a side-effect of my little liaisons.  Because I’m not faithful to any one program, I have very little loyalty to either operating systems or applications.  If there is something new and shiny, I’m going to play with it.

It also means that I get frustrated with limitations.  Because I move between different programs so frequently, there’s little incentive for me to stay with one over another; unless, that is, it works really well.

This is the reason that, about a year ago, I decided to move from Thunderbird (my email client at the time) to Evolution (an alternative that comes with the Gnome desktop).  At the time, I was frustrated with how Thunderbird handled schedules and calendars.

Local calendaring was more or less acceptable, but it was really hard to work with remote services such as Microsoft Exchange or Google Calendar.  The support could (at best) be called “experimental”.  Task and appointments didn’t update reliably, and it would only worked when you had a connection to the internet.  The net effect was that your calendar in Thunderbird wasn’t really able to talk to your cell phone.

Now, for some people, this might not be a big deal.  For me, however, it was an enormous problem and I simply could not find a workaround.  So, I left Thunderbird behind and decided to use Evolution instead.

For the past year, I’ve been very happy with Evolution.  After it’s been configured to have a unified inbox, Evolution is imminently useable.  It handles calendars, tasks, contacts and email; all the things that a collaboration program is supposed to do.  It might not have all of the bells and whistles of other clients like Thunderbird, Mail.app (Mac OS X) or Microsoft Outlook, but it works well and I’ve had few complaints.

Until the past few weeks, that is.

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 | August 5, 2010 5:33 pm

At the annual GUADEC conference, the meeting of the Gnome developers, some rather interesting statistics were released.  These statistics were meant to answer some important questions and provide insight into how the community worked, namely:

  • How big is Gnome?
  • How many paid developers are there?
  • Who writes all of this software and why?

But I’m not sure they had that particular effect.

As part of that report,  a discrepancy in the number of contributions made by Red Hat – the packagers of the largest Linux server distribution – and Canonical – the packagers of the largest Linux desktop distribution — was discovered.  And it isn’t a small discrepancy, either:

  • During the past few years, Red Hat made 70,790 commits to the Gnome project.  This accounted for 16.3% of all contributions.
  • In the same time period, Canonical made 4487 commits, accounting for 1.03% of all contributions.
  • This means that, despite its position as the number one desktop distribution, contributions from Red Hat outnumber those from Canonical by more than 16 times.

This is an explosive finding and has lead to some miscellaneous ugliness.

According to Red Hat, Ubuntu is riding its coattails.  They’re taking advantage of the work of other companies.  According to Ubuntu, Red Hat is engaged in tribalism that puts it in the company of racists, misogynists and others.  (Yes, I’m oversimplifying and removing the niceties of urbane disagreement.)

This happens from time to time.  Open source is filled with passionate people who wish to change the world through technology.  They feel strongly about their work and when disagreements invariably arise, they quite often erupt into bouts of temporary ugliness.  But even though such explosions flare frequency (and are just as quickly forgotten), trying to understand what causes them is important; and that’s particularly true in this case.

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 | July 8, 2010 11:45 am

Time DriveInnovation happens in fits and starts.  No single person, no matter how brilliant, capable or amazing is able to consistently create awesome stuff day in and day out.  Whenever engaged in any creative endeavor, there will be hills and valleys in productivity.

These happen for lots of reasons: maybe you’ve hit the bottom of the ideas barrel, or lost the source of your inspiration.  But there is another cause: you’ve reached your goal or solved the original problem.

Reaching such a plateau is a good thing.  It means you’ve accomplished something.  It’s a moment for patting yourself on the back, looking over your accomplishments, and otherwise appreciating that you’ve done something.  But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that you should sit still or stagnate.  So, in addition to looking at what you’ve done, it’s also important to take stock of the path ahead and start formulating plans.  You might even want to find a new challenge.

And this is where Time Drive has been for the better part of six months.  Ever since releasing version 0.3, there have been few changes to Time Drive.  Sure, both Philippe DeLodder (the other amazing Time Drive Developer) and I have fixed a few bugs and made tweaks; but nothing really major.

My personal reason for this is simple: Time Drive meets my needs.  It does a good job of backing up my data.  It lets me copy things to an attached hard drive, or across the internet.  It makes it easy to search for and restore my files.  In short, I’ve reached my original goals.  I use Time Drive every day, and it’s saved my digital bacon a couple of times.

But that doesn’t mean that development is finished, or that I don’t have ideas.  Because, I do.

Even though much of the original problem has been solved, I’ve found a new one to work on; and given that you use the current version, I thought you might be curious to hear a little about it.

(In addition to introducing the new version of Time Drive and making a few other project announcements.)

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 | June 25, 2010 4:56 pm

Regular, scheduled reports are a a good way to ensure progress on a complex project.  There is just something about the need to routinely show what you’ve done and explain delays that helps people overcome procrastination and actually do their work.

This is particularly true for projects where there might not be another readily available incentive (such as a course grade or future employment).  It’s a tactic I’ve successfully used with fickle students and I’m discovering that it’s equally effective with fickle developers (like me).  Thus, I’m writing the first monthly progress report on LyX-Outline.

In case you’re new to the entire idea of regular reports, here’s what you can expect: a summary of recent progress, announcements, miscellaneously useful information, and conjecture about things that still need to be done.  Read on for more …

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 | May 26, 2010 9:15 pm

Adobe Acrobat

The PDF file, created by Adobe, has become one of the most common ways to share information and documents.  In some ways, it’s managed to transform entire industries and even change the world.  (Printing, for example, is entirely based on PDF technology.)

Given its popularity and widespread use, PDF viewers and other utilities have become extremely important.  So much so, in fact, that a PDF reader is an essential part of the operating system.  Mac OS X comes with one by default and most computer manufacturers will install a copy of Adobe’s Reader prior to shipping  (Some will even include PDF generation tools, such as PDF Creator or the full version of Acrobat.)

Over the past few months, while working on my book, I’ve really come to appreciate the versatility of the PDF.  It’s allowed me to share files with editors, other contributors, and “beta” readers without worrying if they can read my draft or view the figures.  This has saved me from innumerable headaches and unprofitable fights with technology.

At the same time, I’ve become exposed to the huge amount of PDF related software available for Linux.  It’s all great stuff, and can be downloaded at no cost.  With  the right programs, you can even replicate all of the features of Acrobat, and in the process save yourself hundreds of dollars.

In the rest of this post, I will look at the tools that let you do this.  These include programs to create PDF files, modify layout once they’ve been generated, merge documents and rearrange pages.  If you know of any that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments.

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 | October 27, 2009 3:43 am

I have a serious love-hate relationship with Linux.  I love the fact that it’s free and open source.  I love the fact that it can breathe new life into old hardware.  I love the fact that it’s easy to extend.  I love the fact that it has a vibrant and passionate user community.

What I do not love is that many open source programs are incomplete.  They can do most everything that you need, but never get around to adding the one or two features that prevent them from being finished, polished and exceptional.  I’ve ranted about this before, back when I was trying to find the perfect backup program.

Well … I’m at it again; except this time, I’m looking for the perfect email program.

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 | October 26, 2009 12:16 pm

One of the upsides of open source software is that it largely sales itselfImagine how awesome it would be if this announcement read: “Time Drive has been completely rewritten from scratch (yet again) to take better advantage of the paradigms of modern computing!  Version 0.3 has hundreds of updates and new features which will make your life easier and more fulfilled!”

There’s just one little problem … such an announcement wouldn’t necessarily be true.  (Marketing hyperbole, I never knew thee!)

The truth is this: Time Drive is a simple backup program that does a good job of backing up your data.  It offers a nice list of potential backup options ranging from an attached hard drive to a computer over the network or across the internet.  It makes it easy to search for and restore a lost file.

In short, Time Drive seeks to change the world by making an act of computer maintenance more convenient.  I’d like to think that it Just Works.

But the real test of a program isn’t how well it works, but how easy it is to fix when broken.  A good program does what you want, but a better program helps you get back on track when things go wrong.  Back when I was looking at other backup programs available for Linux, this was my number one frustration.  Most of the applications would work (for the most part), but I could never troubleshoot or repair problems when they happened.  There just wasn’t enough information available.

For an example, let’s take SBackup.  It’s a lovely little program,  with one horrible flaw.  You have absolutely no way of knowing if it is working.  It doesn’t keep log files, it doesn’t notify you if a backup job failed.  It doesn’t let you know if it is running.  Its simplicity is actually symptomatic of a flaw: it’s incomplete.

These were problems that I desperately wanted to avoid with Time Drive.  And now that I’m announcing version 0.3 of the program, I’d like to think that I have.  So, instead of marketing hyperbole and false promises, here’s the real announcement:

Time Drive 0.3 includes a number of refinements that make it easy to both backup your data and to figure out why a backup might have failed.  It’s better, easier and more refined.  In the rest of this post, I’ll explain why.

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