Want some frustration? Buy a piece of hardware with “Linux support” and
try to use it on anything besides x86 GNU/Linux. If you’re fortunate enough
to choose a device for which there exists free drivers, you’ll have much
more luck. Often, recompiling is all that’s necessary–and if you use a
modern distribution, you may not even have to compile it yourself.
Otherwise, you may be in for days of fun trying to explain that the
Linux kernel and almost any piece of software you can run on x86 works just
fine on PPC, or that FreeBSD or OpenSolaris or all of the other open and
stable free operating systems can do much the same.
It’s easy to make the argument that supporting multiple operating
systems and hardware platforms with source code (or better, specifications)
requires little work on the part of hardware vendors. I’ve made just that
argument. Customers don’t pay for drivers–we pay for the hardware.
Some companies do release open drivers and, perhaps more importantly,
open specifications for their hardware. These vendors deserve tremendous
What about the other vendors? Let us assume that they are familar with
the potential benefits of open source development models and that they
appreciate the value of a larger market not tied to a single platform or OS
vendor. Assuming this good faith from vendors, there must exist some
compelling contrary reason not to provide open specifications or driver
An oft-cited reason is the existence of nebulous “intellectual property
concerns”. Yet as the Free Software Foundation points out, using the phrase
intellectual property often confuses the issue.
Perhaps disentangling all of the possible types of “IP” will provide
It’s important to understand volunteer motivation to encourage further altruistic and mutually beneficial behavior. O’Reilly Editor Andy Oram has created a short survey for people to contribute to community documentation:
“Do you answer questions on mailing lists about how to use a software tool or language? Do you write documentation, put up web pages, or contribute to wikis about software? If so, please take the following survey to help O’Reilly do research that will help us understand why people contribute to documentation (versus software projects themselves.) The results will be published on the O’Reilly web site, and may help software projects and communities get more such contributions. We’re only interested in hearing from people who do this for non-monetary reasons.
I run LDAP + Kerberos on my network for information and authentication. After setting everything up initially, I later acquired a spare machine and decided to run it as a slave LDAP server, using slurpd.
Executive summary: if trying to use two different Kerberos-authenticated users at the same time, you need to set the KRB5CCNAME value accordingly. Details follow…
From the Xfce website, dated 17 January 2007:After more than two years of development, Xfce 4.4.0 has just been released.
Xfce 4.4 features new tools such as the much awaited Thunar file manager as well as several huge improvements of its core components.
A while back I was trying to set up kpropd on a Debian system, and came across a problem whereby one of my hosts was identifying itself as
host/localhost.localdomain (this was Not Helpful).
Investigation revealed firstly that
hostname returned the correct thing (i.e. servername), and secondly that
/etc/hosts looked like this:
x.x.x.x servername.mydomain.com servername
127.0.0.1 localhost.localdomain localhost servername
There has been discussion on the Debian lists about the order of this last line being incorrect; some applications (including, it seems, at least some aspects of Kerberos admin) can’t cope with 127.0.0.1 returning
localhost.localdomain instead of
Replacing that last line with
127.0.0.1 localhost localhost.localdomain servername
solved the problem - i.e.
wants to be an alias, not the canonical hostname.
(Note: this was using a sarge system (and in fact I was working on this quite some time ago); I don’t know what the current situation is with etch, nor whether it has been fixed in recent sarge bugfixes. Just documenting it in case others encounter the same/similar problem.)
Will everyone for shitsake quit re-inventing Linux, and put your energies into making it work better? Having five hundred half-baked distributions, and a half-dozen good solid ones, to choose from is INSANE and STUPID and VEXING oh dear, I’m shouting. But you get my drift. :)
–Carla Schroder, author of Linux Cookbook
Carla’s rant in response to my review of Vector Linux is well taken if misplaced. Vector Linux has been around since the late ’90s. Her point, though, is very valid. There are literally hundreds of distributions out there if not more. Ryan Lortie made the same point, albeit less clearly, in his article in response to the Free Software Foundation’s Bad Vista Campaign which Chromatic lampooned.
An open letter to PETA, inspired by Ryan Lortie’s very silly My stance on Ubuntu and the Bad Vista campaign.
Once upon a time there was a small, lightweight distribution based on Slackware. It wasn’t all that different from any of a number of small, lightweight distros designed to work on older hardware though it seemed to be well thought out. That was Vector Linux 1.8 six years ago. Since then VL has grown into a full featured distribution available in several different configurations. The latest release, Vector Linux 5.8, appeared on December 18th and it is clearly the most mature yet, in many ways equaling or even surpassing more popular distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and Mandriva. If the developers manage to smooth out the few remaining rough edges they may find themselves with a distro that is as popular as any of those.
Vector Linux comes in four flavors: Standard, Deluxe, SOHO, and Live. SOHO, with KDE as the default desktop and all the most popular applications, is the full featured version. Standard is the descendant of the original Vector Linux and is designed to be fast and lightweight. It is based on the Xfce4 desktop and provides superior speed and performance especially on older hardware. Both are freely downloadable. Deluxe, available for purchase, is Standard plus a second CD with additional applications as well as Gnome and Enlightenment DR17, the latter packaged from a recent CVS build. Live, as the name implies, is a live CD version of Standard. So far only new Standard and Deluxe versions have been released.
Much like Xubuntu Edgy which I reviewed three weeks ago, Vector is built around the Xfce4 desktop and mostly uses applications that don’t have KDE or Gnome dependencies. The Standard version of Vector Linux is polished enough to be used almost anywhere, not just on older hardware, provided you get through some potential installation and configuration issues.
Last May I wrote about reviving a pair of ancient laptops using Damn Small Linux. I called them “atticware” (a term I can’t take credit for inventing, BTW) because the attic is where computers that old often end up. My point is that there are current Linux distributions that can allow even decade old hardware to run a current if lightweight OS and software. The uses for this should be obvious: non-profits, the proverbial starving students, anyone of limited means, developing countries, and so on. Various programs to recycle old system and get them into deserving hands have sprung up like weeds though I suspect few if any bother to load Linux on such systems.
Anyway, I wrote a follow up piece in July linking to step-by-step installation instructions. I’ve received lots of responses since then. The interesting quirks I reported in the Damn Small Linux (DSL) frugal installation were fixed in version 3.1 along with lots of other improvements.. As a result I’ve updated the web page to reflect changes with the new version. I know the DSL developers had read and commented favorably on the page. DSL developers famously respond to their user community and this is just one example of that. This is one of the many advantages of running something under current development.
Another response I received informed me that Memory Ten sells 64MB and 128MB memory upgrades for the Mitsubishi Amity CN, which raises the possibility of running a somewhat heavier distribution or at least using more and varied MyDSL extensions on the machine. You still won’t be able to run a full sized Linux distro without upgrading the hard drive as well. It’s more memory than Mitsubishi ever intended for those machines but heck.. I’m told it works just fine. Thanks to Todd Bergey for the information.
If you get capital letters inserted when using the cursor keys in vi on solaris, here is how to fix it by editing your .exrc.
I’m not going to indulge in the shopworn habit of doing a year-end review or making predictions for the new year. Feh. Old mold and who cares. Instead, I am going to share my list of Most Wanted Computer Things.