I have been in charge of setting multiple Linux terminal servers up through the years. I have also been tasked with getting Linux desktops conforming to the same user defaults and centrally manage those. Some applications that behave the *nix way are really easy to manage but the ones like OpenOffice, Firefox, Gnome and others can be a real pain because they have settings in all the different places and with different ways of setting them.
Sometimes i wonder if many developers are very good at programming but perhaps not that up to speed on making them easily managable in a larger enviroment. Its really not that much of a hassle of making it really easy to manage settings for an application.
Put user specific settings in "~./appname", the default user settings in /etc/skel/appname and distributing, altering them en masse and setting sane defaults becomes really easy and does not in any way demand anything else than very simple scripts.
The worst of them all is in my mind Gnome that uses gconf. While i cant comment on its merits for programmers its a living hell managing as an admin where you have more than a couple of computers or on a terminal server. I totally abhorre using any kind of databases or registers for settings. I cant imagine it saves especially much time for the developers and it certainly introduces nothing but troubles for the users.
This is in my mind really something that needs to be taken into consideration for those who wish people in corporations using their apps more. Especially firefox and openoffice thats pretty hard to manage on both Linux and Windows regardless of any policy tools , scripts or whatnot.
Linux in itself and as an OS works wonderfully in regards to settings and such, its just some of the applications bolted ontop and ran on Linux that would really need some rethinking from a management point of view.
This often proves rather difficult, at least for myself. I'll start off with an example. When I first started to become interested in Linux, a friend decided to lend me a disc. It happened to be Ubuntu 5.10. To this day, I either use Debian, Ubuntu, or Mint. This is because it was my first impressions to Linux, and it's what I accustomed myself to. So this is where you need to decide what to show them.
For instance, decide how competant they are when it comes to computers. While this may be a harsh statement it's very true. If this person is only able to log in and surf the net, don't suggest something such as Arch or Gentoo, rather suggest something such as Mint. If they enjoy a little bit of monkeying around with things, give them Ubuntu, or perhaps even openSUSE. It depends on the type of person
Now what exactly do you show a person to demonstrate Linux. First you have to think about what Linux really is. At the very basic level, it's an OS. It provides a layer to execute programs that people have written, and for some people that's good enough. For others, and in reality the majority of the young population, you're going to have to convince them that Linux is better than Windows.
One of the first things that you should show them is the office suites available. I personally have no use for an office suite, but apparently people are willing to pay 300+ dollars for that software. The next would be photography, such as the Gimp. Show them how to do things that you could do in Photoshop in the Gimp. Show them how the media players work, how to create movies, with something such as Kdenlive. This is what they want to see. Then show them them some of the fancier things. Do a little bit of management through the CLI. How to list files, move, copy, install applications, start applications, configure the os. This will show them that you both know what you're doing and what is available to them on Linux. The last thing you need to do is ask if they have any apps that they couldn't do without, and then show them a suitable replacement for them, and if you can't even find one, then use the opportunity to demonstrate Wine to them.
All this being said, it's a good idea to watch what you show them. Just like the old saying--first impressions are the most important.
Last night I installed Kubuntu 9.04 RC on a 2Ghz, 512MB Shuttle machine with onboard graphics that landed in my lap a couple of weeks ago.
I tested Mint on the machine but had a problem with the login splash that disappeared after logout. Mint looked good but I found the desktop too quirky for my taste. Maybe my taste is quirky and Mint's desktop is fine?
I decided to give Kubuntu a shot because I like KDE4. My last attempt at Kubuntu 8.10 was a disaster because KDE4 had numerous problems with the ATI card in my big machine.
The installation went smoothly, very smooth as a matter of fact. Minimal intervention is required but I did take the long route with partitioning as I was working with a brand new 120GB drive. The installation screens was intuitive and a room full of monkeys will be able to install this sucker. (They may get the timezone wrong)
Once installed everything worked perfectly. After the first boot (almost an hour later but I did not time the install) Kubuntu announced that there's updates ready and it was downloaded and installed in 15 minutes.
The interface is very nice. I will have to play some more but I'm impressed thus far.
My only gripe is that I had to go and get Firefox. And a windows user will have a difficult time with this. Once you figured out where the package manager is located and how it works, you are overwhelmed with 15 packages for Firefox to choose from.
Canonical may do themselves and new converts a huge favour and make the application acquisition process more intuitive for non linux geeks. I usually use apt and so will most of yous guys, but Kubuntu/Ubuntu is aimed at newbs(I think?)
The vast array of application available in the repositories and the "ease" of getting to them via the package manager is one of the biggest advantages Linux have over Windows. Now just go and make the package manager flashy with lots of bling, bells and whistles and we have a winner.
I'm hugely impressed with Kubuntu 9.04 and will run a test and replace my families Windows box with this one and see how they accept it.
Linux Servers for the masses?
I work with both Linux, Windows and Netware servers. The difference from my view is that the amount of work on setting up a server is more or less the same regardless of OS. The only difference is how fast the service is configured initially.
On some systems you can have a wizard make your server 10% ready in a heartbeat and then put countless ours into tweaking it into what you really want. On Linux you often spend much time doing the initial setup and then maybe 10% for the rest. For the casual deployer Linux seems much harder when its in reality far easier to manage and deploy.
Its fully possible to make a distribution that makes assumptions, ask the user for the missing pieces of information and slaps up an LDAP, Mail, Webmail, FileServer and other services without to much work from the user. The missing link is often to tie the bits and pieces together to make a good default system easily. The services are mostly installed without any integration at all by default.
The thing is not to make the best configuration possible initially but to give users a working system fast and without much work just as they are used to if they come from the Windows world. They are used to put many ours into the system after the installation is done but not to read up on things and know what they do before even beginning.
Various virtual systems that companies like zenoss use to showcase their systems are a good bit on the way but really not an ideal solution.
I have been out of town lately; so, not a whole lot has been accomplished on the BerkeleyLUG front in the last few weeks. I hope to push things further along in the next few weeks.
I thought I’d kick things off a bit with a new post about an awesome (and fairly new) program/service for linux called Dropbox.
If you are like me, you have several computers that you use on a regular basis. A desktop/server, a laptop, a netbook and a work computer. It is annoying to have to manually sync files between them by email/flash-drive/ssh etc… For example, I am often working on a paper at work and want to continue working on it home. Or, I want my pictures to show up on all my computers when I get them off of my camera. Same thing for my music, when I buy it (DRM free from AmazonMP3 or Emusic). For the longest time, I was using rsync to satisfy my syncing needs. Now, don’t get me wrong, rsync is awesome, but it is less than seemless. At best I need to click an icon that launches a script to do the sync. However, dropbox is seemless. It comes as an extension to nautilus and creates a folder called “Dropbox” in your home directory. Everything you put in that folder is automatically synced to your private webspace and your other computers. It all happens in about 5 seconds.
For free, you can sync up to 2GB of of space, and, for a small monthly fee, (which I updated for after testing it for a few days) you can sync up to 50GB. The program itself is opensource; you are paying for the webspace and bandwidth.
The way I use to sync most of my home director is to have most of my directories located in ~/Dropbox which I symlink to ~/ - the ones that aren’t symlinked are the ones I don’t want synced. I recommend everyone check this out if you have multiple computers. The program is awesome, the devs love linux/opensource and are open to suggestions and are extremely active. A new test version hits the forums several times a week.
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Welcome to Day One of the new Linux.com. This is a day that culminates a lot of marathon work by our team of web developers and content staffers to bring to life a really exciting, community-focused Linux.com.
I have to admit, it's really exciting to watch people come in and use the site. We've been working so intensely on its construction, it's become a virtual home for the web team these past months. So to see new content show up exactly as we'd hoped would happen is very gratifying.
As we also expected, there've been some bugs showing up along the way today, and I am grateful to the admin team for getting some of them cleared already. Remember, please send bugs and glitches to the
For ideas on what you would like to see added (or removed) from Linux.com, please continue to use the IdeaForge site. That will allow your fellow community members to vote on the ideas and enable us to keep track of the myriad of brainstorms that have been coming in today.
Again, so glad you're all here! Please pardon the dust while we implement the immediate fixes, and welcome again to the first day of the new Linux.com.
There are going to be some big changes at my company. And they will hardly be noticed. While the users will keep using their Windows XP/Office 2007 desktops, the backoffice will undergo a major overhaul. The Microsoft Small Business Server that, honestly, has served us well will be going away as we move to full featured systems without limitations.
I hired a consultant to design a system with high availability for mission critical functions and a 72 hour disaster recovery window. I stressed I wanted to use open source wherever practical. They have done the environment discovery and will be presenting their recommendations in a couple of weeks. We have talked about using a Windows Server as a DC to provide Active Directory authentication, Windows Software Update Services, DNS, DHCP, WINS, etc., We will also keep our Sharepoint Services 3.o intranet. Everything else will be running on CentOS5 servers. Email will be Kerio Mail Server, file sharing/storage will be Samba. Website will be Joomla. While the Kerio Mail Server is not open source itself, it does rely heavily on open source products such as Apache, MySQL, ClamAV, SpamAssassin, et al. I'll be extremely happy to see Exchange Server go and the end users will not see much difference at all with their Outook connected to KMS.
In the meantime, I'm learning CentOS. Most of my Linux work has been on Ubuntu both server and desktop. I set up a test server with Kerio Mail Server on CentOS 5.3 and I'm very impressed with the CentOS system. I'll probably replace the Ubuntu desktop on my notebook with CentOS to help me get used to the differences in file structure and package management.
The eventual goal will be to replace the Windows DC with Samba when Samba will handle Active Directory and WSUS. I don't know how we'll ever get off Sharepoint, though.
With the new push by the Linux foundation towards improving the public image of Linux through the new sites, we think about what are likely to be the new challenges Linux as a social phenomenon.
One arena that IMHO Linuxers everywhere should invest is in the education market (meaning: kids). My son (11 yrs old) got an Intel classmate for school last this year and it came with windows and a half-baked Linux distro, I'd rather not mention the name. After I told him about the multiple advantages of free software and Linux he started to use Linux as his preferred operating system on his new computer. It bothered me however that the outdated version of the Classmate came with did not do justice to what a first Linux experience should be.
Soon enough I proposed to him we installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the classmate. He agreed and when I asked him some partitioning questions like how much space he wanted to give each operating system, he surprised me by asking me to completely wipe off Windows. Of course nothing would give me more pleasure, but I asked again: "are you sure? what if you need windows for something Linux can't do?" he then laughed in my face and said: "There's no such a thing!".
Now, at school all the other kids envy his brand new Linux system and how much better it performs than the original OSs.
Kids are always willing to try new things. And if we introduce them to Linux early enough, they won't settle for inferior operating systems in the future, and definitely won't accept software which restricts their freedom to use their computers to their full extent.
Hey, I like this site! I was glad to get an invite to the linux.com beta, and am just now having a play around with all the features - and it seems there are quite a few.
I noticed that at least some of it is running on Joomla, which is cool, but I must admit to expecting to find it Drupal powered. Obviously there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, so I'll be looking forward to hear a bit more about that. (who knows, maybe it's Joomla, Drupal and Wordpress all at the same time - it almost feels like it).
Well done to those at the Linux Foundation for the work on this site! I'm sure there will be plenty of improvements as the site gets going, but I'm impressed with what you have done so far.
Keep up the good work!