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Saving an old laptop with Knoppix

by Peter Johansson

An old laptop of mine fubared its Linux partition beyond (easy)
repair so I decided a clean install was the way to go. When I went to
install a recent Debian system I had trouble with PCMCIA under the
2.2 kernel, and XFree gave me a blank screen under 2.4. Knoppix,
however, made everything work automagically (with the exception of

I thought for a minute… hmmm… I can compile a custom
kernel for the box as I had always done in the past, or I can simply
copy the Knoppix CD-ROM with its compressed filesystem onto the hard
disk. Since the box has only 1.5 GB of disk available, things have
always been a tight squeeze, but with Knoppix I would get a pretty
complete install in only 700 megs, albeit with the cost of some speed
to decompress applications on startup.

So I gave it a shot, and sure enough, it worked pretty darn well.

The only problem was the lack of persistent configuration. Knoppix
supposedly has some tools that will allow you to save configuration
info, but I haven’t played with them yet. But it is pretty trivial to
write a script to tweak things after the fact.

The only “problem” with Knoppix is that the CD-ROM is updated every few
weeks and that there is no way to download just the changes — the
complete ISO image must be downloaded for each upgrade.

In any case, getting a compressed Knoppix to run from your HD is as
simple as the following:

  1. Copy the contents of the CD-ROM to your hard disk. I created a 750
    meg partition for this, but strictly speaking I’m not sure this is
    necessary. (Knoppix seems to scan for its compressed disk image,
    so you might be able to stash that anywhere)
  2. Mount the boot.img file via a loop mount point to copy off the
    kernel and initrd files.
  3. Configure grub or lilo to boot with these. You’ll probably want to
    specify some boot options, at the very least, changing from the
    default German keyboard and language.
  4. Reboot. Then magic happens.

This is, without a doubt, the quickest and easiest O/S install I have
ever performed, and the “magic” part is that it was on an old laptop with such a small hard drive it would be almost impossible to make any other full-featured Linux distro and a full set of useful applications work on it.


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Red Hat: Linux served at vertical data center dinn

Michael S. Mimoso writes
“Major Linux vendors like Red Hat are finding success penetrating data centers in vertical markets like the financial industry. Financials often grow
their own applications in-house and it’s easier to port those C and C++ programs and entire solution stacks to Linux in vertical markets. That said,
there are still frontiers Linux needs to conquer, according to Red Hat executive Mark de Visser, who addresses management of open-source deployments
and common questions enterprises have about Linux in part two of this question-and-answer interview with SearchEnterpriseLinux.com.”

Link: http://searchenterpriselinux.techtarget.com

Linux in Residential Gateways makes fiscal sense, says Arcturus


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Where, oh where is SAIR?

by Tina Gasperson
The SAIR Linux/GNU certification body has been keeping a low profile since it was absorbed into Thomson Learning. Not only that, but Thomson has been tight-lipped about the program – incommunicado. Whether that’s due to typical corporate confusion about who’s babysitting what, or to a deliberate effort, we’re not sure. But a little-known .org has surfaced to rescue SAIR, and it is backed by some biggies who have a stake in the success of getting staff members trained on Linux.The search for SAIR began with a call to Thomson Learning’s press contact. They told us to send an email to reply@course.com with our request and it would be “filtered” to the correct person. “Can I have an actual name?” I asked.

“No, we have to decide who is supposed to get it after we receive the email,” the Thomson representative said. When pressed, she said that the reason it is so difficult to get in touch with a real person is that they are not sure what they’re going to do with SAIR.

NewsForge never received a response to that inquiry. Likewise, it was difficult at first to get a response through the organization that the SAIR website points visitors to: the Linux Professional Group.

“Sair Linux and GNU Certification has moved to Houston, Texas and has been integrated into Linux Professional Group. Linux Professional Group is developing, promoting and managing the SAIR Linux GNU certification. SAIR Linux curriculum is available exclusively through Course Technology, Thomson at 1-800-648-7450 x8269. For all other information and requests, please email us at support@linuxpg.org or call us toll-free at (866) OK-LINUX.”

We called the toll-free number and asked for the media relations department.

“I handle that,” said the lady who answered the phone. I gave her my spiel, asking for statistics on pass/fail ratios, the number of people certified with SAIR, employment figures, etc. “Oh, I don’t have that information,” she said. “Let me give you the email address of the president.”

“Can you give me his phone number?” I asked, remembering the recent “reply@course.com” snub. She insisted that she could not, but that if I sent my questions in email format to one Bill Patton, that he would respond in a day or so.

Making a mental note that the people who had told me that SAIR was toast were probably right, I took down the email address, formatted the questions, and sent them. Waited over a week for a response; called again and walked through almost exactly the same conversation with the same person. When she got to the part about emailing the president, I called her on it. “OK,” she said, “email the questions to me and I will find the answers and get back to you by tomorrow noon.”

Lo and behold, I get a phone call at about 5:10pm that same day from Bill Patton, the head man at the mysterious Linux Professional Group, who wants to answer my questions about SAIR.

“We have about 5000 people certified, including Linux Certified Administrators, Linux Certified Professionals, Linux Certified Engineers, and Master Linux Certified Engineers,” says Patton. He adds that the pass/fail ratio for the first level exams is 60/40, and the ratio is about 50/50 for the Engineer level exams.

Patton says that the Linux Professional Group was formed at the behest of Thomson, who called Patton because he has been the head of SAIR’s steering committee, a group that has included notables such as Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, Bruce Perens, and John Hall. Patton says that SAIR’s founder, Tobin Maginnis, is the president emeritis of Linux Professional Group. Of Thomson’s seeming inability to deal with SAIR, Patton says they “pushed it the best way they knew how. They didn’t have too many people inside who were part of the Open Source community,” and hence the confusion over how best to administer the certification body.

Interesting is Patton’s assertion that several large corporations have signed on to the Linux Professional Group in hopes of bringing SAIR training and certification to their enterprises in a big way. “We’ve got people from Fedex, GlaxoSmithKline, HewlettPackard, [and others] helping us develop the courseware and the testing.”

Why is SAIR any better than, say, LPI? According to Patton, it’s the courseware. LPI justs makes the tests, and it is up to training centers and authors to create training materials. SAIR, by contrast, creates training materials using the same psychometrics and competencies it employs putting together the exams. Pattons says that makes for better training.

SAIR is targetting Fortune 100 and 500 companies that are moving from Unix or Solaris-based systems to Linux, says Patton. “Our test developers are from many corporations that are supporting Linux.”

Little information is available about the Linux Professional Group – the website is unfinished and looks too homey to be backed by big corporate bucks. A June 27, 2002 press release calls the Linux Professional Group “a non-profit developer of Linux curriculum, training, and testing, to deliver the official Sair Linux and GNU certification and training materials,” but it’s apparent that little actual development nas taken place yet, almost six months later.

There are rumors that that other Linux certification body, Linux Professional Institute (LPI), had a problem with Linux Professional Group because the name is just too similar and could be a trademark violation. Patton denies that allegation; he says that he’s had many discussions with LPI, but the subject of trademark violation has never come up. He believes the names are not too similar, and that Group and Institute are different enough to clearly delineate the two organizations.

Is there a rivalry between LPI and SAIR? If there is, it goes back at least to 1998, when Tobin Maginnis, Dan York, then president of the BOD of LPI, and Evan Leibovitch, current BOD president, exchanged a little vitriol on the lpi mailing list. Back then, when there was still talk of creating one central certification body for Linux, it was apparent the SAIR camp and the LPI camp weren’t ready to work together. There’s nothing to indicate they are ready yet, although industry insiders have said that there’s a possibility if SAIR were to fall through the cracks at Thomson, LPI would be willing to scoop it up.

SAIR tests are still readily available through Thomson at local training centers around the globe. The tests are downloaded and administered on demand by proctors at the training centers. The average cost to take a SAIR examination is $100.


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IBM Linux Scholar Challenge: Jeanna’s story

“Jeanna Matthews, assistant professor of Computer Science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, had only six students in her Advanced Operating Systems class last year. All of them entered the IBM Linux Scholar Challenge. Four of them won. And won big: IBM ThinkPads for themselves and an IBM Linux zSeries for the University! How did this small technology school in the frozen north country of New York State produce three of the 25 winning Linux Scholar Challenge projects worldwide? To tell you how, Dr. Matthews shares her classroom experiences and illustrates the teaching environment at Clarkson. In the rest of our series, the students give you the details on their winning entries.” More at IBM developerWorks.


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Open Source hardware

Embedded.com: “Hardware design’s growing abstraction might lead you to think open-source development is just around the corner. Jim [Turley] says that’s not the case.”


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Real-Time and Linux, Part 2: the preemptible kernel

“By improving the kernel, and not changing or adding to the API, applications can run more responsively by merely switching out a standard kernel for the improved one. This is a big benefit. It means that ISVs need not create special versions for different real-time efforts. For example, DVD players may run more reliably on an improved kernel without needing to be aware that the kernel they are running on has been improved.” More at LinuxDevices.


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Weekly news wrap-up: Microsoft loses Lindows fight, Sun to charge for StarOffice

By Grant Gross

A judge has ruled against an injunction Microsoft is seeking against Lindows.com, the company that’s trying to make more Microsoft programs work in Linux. Microsoft alleges that Lindows is violating its Windows trademark, but our own Jack Bryar notes dozens of other cases where Windows or Windows-like names are used in company products.

Looks like Microsoft either has dozens of trademark violation cases to sue over, or much more likely, will be told by a judge that if it wants a trademark, it should come up with words less common than windows, word or office. But don’t hold your breath — when was the last time you saw Microsoft do something truly innovative?

In other business-related news, there were several reports this week of Sun Microsystems’ plans to start charging for its popular StarOffice suite, an alternative to Windows that opens most Microsoft-formatted documents. The Open Source project for OpenOffice will continue, however.

Disney buys a bill

Sen. Fritz Hollings — who’s from South Carolina but gets a sizable chuck of money from Disney and other large copyright holders –finally introduced a version of his Security Systems Standards and Certification Act, now going by the name the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act. The proposed law would require electronics manufacturers to embed copy-protection controls in all PCs and consumer electronic devices sold in the United States, pretty much squashing any kind of fair use rights the public has on copyrighted works, and further limiting legitimate reverse engineering done by Open Source developers and others.

I’m not sure how much good a few thousand signatures will do against the corporate resources of Disney and and the motion picture industry, but there is an anti-SSSCA petition available. The petition had more than 70,000 signatures as of Sunday evening.

Linux at federal trade show

Linux continues to be in the background at the FOSE technology-in-government trade show, but don’t blame the efforts of the Northern Virginia LUG. Members were hoping to pass out 1,000 Linux CDs at the three-day event.

Several government agencies are using Linux and Open Source, however. On Friday, the Cyberspace Policy Institute at The George Washington University announced a plan to gain an international security rating for the U.S. National Security Agency’s Security Enhanced Linux project.

Also this week, Internet architects at the U.S. Census Bureau detailed how Open Source software is being used on several agency Web projects.

Newly released

  • Mandrake 8.2 was release, but some users reported some installation problems.

  • Netscape 6.2.2 hit the download sites this week.

  • One reader says we should “prepare to fall in love with KDE 3. The was released this week.

    Newly reviewed

  • LinuxLookup.com reviews RAV AntiVirus v8.5 for Linux. “Defiantly a must have for you system administrators!”

  • OSNews has a review of the Lycoris Desktop/LX Linux distribution, but says the OS isn’t quite ready for the desktop.

    New at NewsForge and Linux.com

    Other stories that NewsForge and Linux.com reported first this week:

  • Tina Gasperson reported on Caldera’s OpenLearning product, a Linux training curriculum for everyone from new users to big business customers.

  • Robin “Roblimo” Miller talked to a custom browser programmer about the ease of moving from development based on Internet Explorer to Mozilla, now that AOL is planning to use the Mozilla engine as its default browser.

    Stock news

    The Nasdaq ended last week at 1.851.30, down ever-so-slightly from the 1,868.30 March 15 close. It was the second week in a row the Nasdaq fell. Of our index of 11 Open Source-related stocks, 10 fell, with only MandrakeSoft rising a week after the company asked for more customer support because of a cash crunch.

    Red Hat saw its stock price tumble 17% Wednesday on reports of lower than expected quarterly earnings. The company did report an “adjusted” profit, despite what was called “weak” sales.

    Hewlett-Packard’s merger with Compaq was approved by Compaq shareholders, but even that didn’t help HP’s stock price.

    Here’s how Open Source and related stocks ended this past week:

    Company Name Symbol 315 Close 3/22 Close
    Apple AAPL 24.95 24.09
    Borland Software Int’l BORL 12.26 11.99
    Caldera International CALD 2.05 1.61
    Hewlett-Packard HWP 19.05 18.15
    IBM IBM 106.79 105.60
    MandrakeSoft 4477.PA e2.89 e3.00
    Red Hat RHAT 7.10 5.95
    Sun Microsystems SUNW 9.06 8.86
    TiVo TIVO 5.32 5.18
    VA Software LNUX 1.89 1.72
    Wind River Systems WIND 13.73 12.53
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