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Still a mixed bag, but it's coming on good

This week I had the pleasure of running a Webex session directly from my Ubuntu Desktop.

It was the first time I didn't have to hop into a VM via rdesktop in order to connect. The webex client uses Java and was working fine, untill I tried to resize the screen (that failed miserably and gave me a very nastily distorted view).

But in all cases, with the excpetion of a few bumps here and there I have to admit that I'm spending more and more time on Linux, even during work hours, and I am only getting on Windows VM's to do office work or support work (as our software isn't running on Linux yet - and I can only dream that'll happen one day)!

 

spam at linux.com

Hey-Ho!!!

Just few days have passed since my registration at linux.com and I have already got the very first spam e-mail. Very nice! ;-)

 

The Next Step Forward: When Will GNU/Linux Have REAL Commercial support?

      Over the past four years, I've seen GNU/Linux grow and mature in ways most people just wouldn't have expected. With corporate-backed projects such as Fedora and community distributions such as Ubuntu making such headway, it'd be wrong to say that Linux has miles and miles to go to achieve desktop adoption.  From wifi support to interoperability to numerous projects on integrating FOSS drivers with the kernel itself, Free Software on the Desktop has made major headway.

     However, there is a bit of a shortcoming: while distributions constantly get easier to install, remix, and redistrubute, there are only a handful of providers that even support GNU/Linux as an option. Granted, there are scores of dev teams out there for many distros that gladly dedicate their time to ensure that your machine of choice supports their distribution. It's a handy practice to have, but a problem remains in the sense that many O.E.Ms still ship Windows by default.

     Another problem is that many GNU/Linux users are too tech savvy for their own good. It's been a common practice of installing a distribution on one's own hardware, and heading out to buy components for upgrade. Let's face it, it's a sensible practice for enthusiasts that like to tailor their machines to suit their own needs.

      However, it doesn't change the fact that many O.E.M.s simply don't ship GNU/Linux at all. A lack of demand for machines causes manufacturers to scale back and ship what they've always shipped...Windows. 

      So, what distributors ARE out there to sell customized GNU/Linux machines? Below is a short list.

   Dell - Dell is known for supporting Linux for quite some time, however their number of available models seems to fluctuate every now and then. Currently, Dell supports the Ubuntu distribution.

  System76 - System76 has made a name for themselves by fully supporting Ubuntu across their entire product line. They have a nice lineup of laptops, although they're a little on the pricey side. Still, I've heard that they get great reviews.

 Los Alamos Computers - LAC is officially supported by both the FSF and the GNU project for shipping one of the few truly free distributions, gNewSense.

 HP - Last I can remember, HP shipped some machines running OpenSuSE. Anyways, HP has a dedicated R&D team for Free Software systems, and makes every effort to make their products compatible with GNU/Linux.

 Lenovo - Lenovo, the old PC arm of once-computing giant IBM, has a lengthy list of machines that they sell preinstalled with various GNU/Linux distributions.

 Emperor Linux - While not necessarily an OEM per se, EmperorLinux takes existing laptop and desktops and preinstalls...you guessed it! Different GNU/Linux distro of your choice.

LinuxCertified - See above.

 

The list goes on. Here and there, little distributors pop up with some customized laptops. GNU/Linux is growing in the sense of commercial viability, and companies are warming up to GNU/Linux Offerings.

 

 

A day in the Life of an IT guy.

First I would like to say that I am not a fan of just about any Microsoft product and I loath the iPhone. That being said it will be a little easier for you to understand my frustration with the way the day plays out.

Here is the basic gist of the call I received. "Mr. Important at the Big Company got a new iPhone and he knows from the bills he pays that he also has an Exchange server and he read somewhere that they can sync, so he wants us to make them sync his calendar and contacts without him plugging in his phone." Never mind the fact that they have a Cisco PIX between their Exchange server and the Internet.

Never mind the fact that their Exchange server is five years old and the only reason they use it is to share calendars. We will just schedule it as a four hour job and send me over to "make it happen". All kinds of red flags were going off in my head, but I googled it before I left to make sure it was possible and sure enough there was more than one tutorial on how to set it up.

So here I arrive at the client and I sit down and explain to the only computer savvy person what I plan to do and make sure I have a firm grip on what the main goal is. Pretty simple. Make the bosses iPhone sync his calendar and contacts without him having to come in and plug it in. First I look into Apple's MobileMe solution. It looks like it would do what I want. They don't tell you until after you install it and try to use it that it doesn't work with Exchange. I guess they figure if you can afford an Exchange server that you must have an IT person and they will know how to set it up. That IT person being me. Scratch that Idea. Next I look at using push mail like what we use with my work phone. About all I know is that it works when it wants to work and my boss had a bitch of a time setting it up and not having certificate security warning on either the phones or the 07' Outlook clients.

So I ssh into the PIX and open up https and http to the exchange server and try hitting the outlook web access from the outside and it works!! Hell Jeah! About this time I'm thinking that this might not take all day and I might be about to whup a four hour job in two! It worked fine with just http and I read online that your could tell the iPhone not to use SSL so I thought I might be in luck. So I went and got The Big Man's iPhone and said let me try something for a minute. I got his phone hooked it up Via USB and did one last sync in case I screw things up. Then I went through the steps to get calendar and contact with an exchange account and it went through. Then there was that part where it asks if I'm sure because It will over write all contacts and calendar entries. I thought, "well shit that's the whole point right?" I accepted and it looked like it was starting to sync....

Then his phone rang. It was a random number he didn't recognize. He want ahead and answered. It WAS somebody he knew! He said where are you calling from? His buddy was like "my cell?!?!" Aha! All his contacts were gone. He handed his iPhone back to me with wide eyes and said "um what happened to all my contacts?" I said "uh oh don't worry they are all on the server, I was syncing. Ah hem, I'll fix it."

I blew it off mentally and told myself that surely it must be syncing over the air.... slowly. But No. After waiting 20 mins and nothing showing up I began to do some research. And then some more research. Finally I read a post that says your Exchange server must be at least service pack 2. I goto the server and look and sure enough it is only service pack 1. Great!! This I can fix! I go and download service pack 2 and while I'm waiting I turn that crap off on the guys iPhone and re-sync with his USB and get his contact and calendar back to at least the way it was before I started. The service pack is done downloading so I goto the server and try to install it. It Fails. Nice. Love you Microsoft!

I did some research and checked some random box in some obscure tab of some settings menu and try again. This time it works! I restart all the exchange services and just as I am about to start feeling happy somebody sticks their head in the door and says "hey I just got kicked out of my email, are you messing with the server?" I said "Yeah I'm doing some maintenance it should be back up in a bit". I restart all the services again and head over to make sure they can get in. They can't. I try a bunch of stuff with no luck. Then Another person comes in and says they can't get into their email. Hmmm I begin to wonder weather this isn't a server problem related to the Service Pack install. Sure enough it is and now nobody can get into their email in the entire building!

Crap! At this point I have broken more stuff than I have fixed and its already 2:30pm. I got here at 9am. I feel special. After an hour of research and trying different things I finally give up and tell everybody that I have to reboot the server and they need to get out of all their special software and things will be down for a few minutes. I shut the server down for a reboot and cross my fingers. The reboot takes no less that 15 minutes. This is an old server. People are getting impatient. People are standing over my shoulder. Joking even when they are pissed because surely I am a smart guy who has come to fix problems and not create them right?

Finally the server comes back up. People can miraculously get back in their email. People are happy. Life is good for a time. Then I talk to the guy in charge of IT money and we realize that even after hours of hard work and plenty of ups and downs that I still didn't accomplish what I came to accomplish. Luckily he has had computer problems in the past and understands that even though we didn't accomplish our goal that we did get service pack 2 installed and get a firmer grip on what needs to be done. I need an FQDN and a SSL cert. Then I can come back and give it another try.

Spent 7 hours on a 4 hour job and couldn't bill a damn thing. Not only that but try to explain it to anybody who isn't IT and they wouldn't even begin to understand. I love my job!

 

Already receiveing phishing SPAM

I received this in my inbox today:

 "Hello, My name is juliet, i got you from linux.com, and i want to have a good relationship with you, please i need your cooperation, am yours juliet. this is my email, ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )"

 Yesterday I got something very similar from "mary."  She wanted to start a relationship with me too.  It seems like there are many lonely women out there after me.  I suppose this could be true, but it is more likely an attempt to pull some swindle or other.  

 

I wish I had paid attention in Accounting class.

ERP Platforms I have tested:

  1. OpenBravo
  2. OpenTaps

Platform: Ubuntu Server 7.10, Tomcat5.5

Both installed easily enough, but the Accountants were gun shy.  Somewhere along the line they had had a difficult experience with ERP in general, but now OpenSource ERP in particular.  I found myself wishing that I had paid more attention to accounting.  As it was I had a very hard time just staying awake.  Maybe there is a good book out there that explains the principles, and focuses on the financial modeling required to get an ERP off of the ground.  Some day I would really like to get a good pilot of one of these off of the ground.

 

Fox in SOX

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has got to be a low point in our countries regulation history.  This miserable piece of legislation costs anyone who has to comply with it millions of dollars and provides nothing in return.  IT departments get hammered with insane requirements, and moronic auditors that eat up hours like it's cotton candy. " Screen shot this, prove that", and one ridiculous question after another until you want to stick a shank into all of them.  If your organization can avoid this hell, then it is worth it to do so.  How?  Stay private.  The instant you go public...you can join me and the auditors in our little version of purgatory.  Rant finished.

 Linux related question: 

How to prove that password policies are enforced on Linux systems?  

I have used ticketing systems to documentation steps, and severely limited access to my Linux systems in order to comply with this requirement, but auditors always want more.   They want an automated foolproof system that enforces policy and will take nobody's word for it.  I am looking into how to enforce such policies on my linux boxes now.  I have some reading to do and will publish my findings.

 

Latest software experiments.

Am trying a new software called product snapshot in virtuemart. It allows you to embed the picture of a product within your Joomla article.
 

Install NetBackup Client on Ubuntu Jaunty (i386 and amd64)

Many enterprises use the Symantec NetBackup software to backup machines.  Last time I checked (6 months ago?), they didn't support Debian-based distros.  I've been using this process since around Hardy and just recently tested this in a Jaunty Xen VM and it seems to be working (waiting for admin to run a backup on my machine to check)

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Hiring a Linux SysAdmin

I am helping with the process of finding my own replacement as I recently accepted a new position. Currently I am the only sysadmin on staff so my duties are greatly varied. Everything from the phone system to mail servers, web servers, database servers, and workstations fall under my responsibilities. I came up with some technical questions and after the first couple interviews it seems I may have over estimated things I think an admin should know.

I found this programmer competency chart that is great for programmers but I cannot find anything similar for SysAdmins.

 Id love to know how you rate your sysadmin prosptects.

 

How enterprises can save money with Open Source software

As an Open Source Integrator I've helped a number of companies to save money using Open Source software. In this blog post I'll go over a number of software areas where Open Source software can easily be used in place of the existing proprietary software.

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