The Average user has spoken

The preliminary screenshots of Windows 7 look just like KDE, so the guys at zdnet labs did their own take on the microsoft mojave project:

Thought I’d share.

Watching the Wildlife

“Keeping track of Tux…”

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the LinuxTracker! This occasion reminds me of exactly how far things have come in open source.

I remember reading about this new “Linux” in 1991 that anyone worldwide could contribute to, and thinking of how that would change things. I spent time poring over the supported hardware list and went to the site, hoping to be able to download a copy within a few days in order to try it out the following week. This was at a time when dialup was the standard, and you might have ISDN (downloads @ 128k! Blistering!) at your work if you were lucky. I was the only one supporting all of the UNIX-based clients at work at the time, and I had three minicomputers with variants like SCO and AIX and I had been working in UNIX environments for years at this point. The prospect of a UNIX environment on a desktop machine for my own use and configuration, that was free to use, and had source available for modifying and contributing sounded like a geek’s fondest -ehm- pipe dream. The other techs I was working with at the time agreed. They were doing DOS and Windows support with me, and were excited at the notion.

The rumblings of Richard Stallman‘s ideology were becoming concrete. Of course, even today, Linux is not the HURD that he often wrote about, but it’s the closest tangible thing to it.

/Fast forward/ — a few years ago, the landscape had evolved, businesses rely on Linux variants in the server room, several Linux distributions are in common use, and new ones seem to pop up on a monthly basis. F/OSS is available and more than viable on any platform. It is common practice (especially in universities) to create a mirror download point so that if the distribution’s main site is down or unavailable, you can still get it, and hopefully, can find a mirror that’s in your same region of the world.

This was after the RIAA and MPAA started cracking down on peer-to-peer file sharing. More advanced users had started using bittorrent as a better method of downloading and sharing. The torrents are very tiny files that your torrent client uses to find and update a tracker. Once you connect to the tracker and get assigned to a swarm, the downloads are much more effectively, because the shares are data packets of the file/files, rather than a whole file. This makes torrents better for large files like video and, hey, even ISO images of Linux distributions. LinuxTracker was born to take advantage of this. A distributed network of linux users and enthusiasts helping anyone who is interested to download open source software. These are all legal torrents. The writers of all of the software you will find there did the work pro bono, and want anyone interested to be able to get a copy. It’s really a beautiful thing.

The look and feel of the site have changed a bit over the last four years, but the list of available torrents is impressive, the homepage always showing the latest additions and updates. There is a burgeoning community here composed of daily linux users at levels from ‘curious’ to ‘admin’, always willing to help out.

The remainder of the month is being celebrated with almost daily giveaways to registered users from a wide assortment of tech-related sponsors. The consistent growth of the site and community is wonderful, and seeding the torrents is a very simple contribution that *anyone* can make to the FOSS community, regardless of technical ability.

Check Your Clock

Ticking away…
The new time change is tomorrow night, and there is quite a bit of discussion about the change being detrimental to transaction-based and time-sensitive systems, mainly in databases.

The main thing to be sure of, though, is that your system itself will update the time correctly.

Mark posted about checking this by using

# zdump -v EST5EDT | grep 2007

The output should look exactly like this:

EST5EDT Sun Mar 11 06:59:59 2007 UTC = Sun Mar 11 01:59:59 2007 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=-18000
EST5EDT Sun Mar 11 07:00:00 2007 UTC = Sun Mar 11 03:00:00 2007 EDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-14400
EST5EDT Sun Nov 4 05:59:59 2007 UTC = Sun Nov 4 01:59:59 2007 EDT isdst=1 gmtoff=-14400
EST5EDT Sun Nov 4 06:00:00 2007 UTC = Sun Nov 4 01:00:00 2007 EST isdst=0 gmtoff=-18000

The zdump is going to open up the binary file where the daylight savings clock changes are kept…. mind you, that the example is checking the one for Eastern time… but if you have done the updates, this will have changed as well, so even if you are in another time zone, checking this one is fine. Piping the contents to the grep command is just for human sanity… we only need the lines that have to do with the year 2007.

The output we get shows the time getting updated in two steps when daylight saving starts, and again in two steps when it ends, first with an offset of -18000 seconds (5 hours) and the second, switching the “is it Daylight Saving Time?” flag to “yes” and issuing an offset of -14400 seconds (4 hours).

But think about your cron jobs… This is from the man page for cron on a linux box:

Note that this means that non-existent times, such as “missing hours” during daylight savings conversion, will never match, causing jobs scheduled during the “missing times” not to be run. Similarly, times that occur more than once (again, during daylight savings conversion) will cause matching jobs to be run twice.

and the same from a Solaris 10 enterprise server:

If some form of daylight savings or summer/winter time is in effect, then jobs scheduled during the switchover period could be executed once, twice, or not at all.

Just more things for you to double check. Ending up with no backup could be bad, but ending up with it done twice isn’t necessarily awful. You will need to check your specific jobs and decide if any changes are needed.

Linux top ten

warpedvisions – Ten things Linux distros get right that MS doesn’t

I was reading this earlier today and agree totally. There are lots of other points I can think of, but this covers it for tons of users, even if you are not a power-user or developer.

The thing is that even with all of the Linux and Open Source activism, so many people out there just don’t seem to understand what the difference is, or that they have choices.

Do someone a favor: Find a full-featured Linux Live-CD Distro (like Slax or Ubuntu), download the image (bit torrents are usually fastest, use Linux Tracker, and leave a copy or two around. be willing to walk someone through some of the basics. My usual walk-through includes Firefox, GIMP, GAIM, AbiWord, and sometimes part of OpenOffice or KOffice, depending on where the discussion goes. The best part is that all of them (except KOffice) are cross-platform, so I always point out the fact that any of them can be downloaded and installed on their Windows box for free as well.

check out the package! (management)

Working on Solaris has become very much Linux-like. The new Solaris 10 box came with all kinds of FOSS and GPL software, ready to rock, icluding Apache and Samba. It still doesn’t ship with a compiler unless you specifically buy one, although gcc is available in repository. If you are looking for it, the URL is sunfreeware.com. There’s another gigantic help for those who are used to the Linux way: pkg-get. If you have used Debian (or Ubuntu) and have explored the beauty of the package management with apt-get, this is the very close equivalent. you can grab a new catalog listing from the repository of your choosing, search for available software, and install it. The install will also check for and install any dependant libraries or helper apps. You can get pkg-get from bolthole. I tried it out by installing Sudo, and it was a beautiful experience. The Sun Server and I still reminisce about that special feeling we had together.

Cinco

We got some new and shiny hardware this week at work:

sunfire one It’s a SunFire v890 server.

It’s kind of like pulling the bow off a new sports car… Sunfire two

I’m really surprised at how Linux-like the new Solaris is. It comes with apache and samba and all kinds of OSS pre-loaded and configured.

we’re laying out he ERP software and databases on there and putting it through it paces before a full test and user switchover.

SunFire three