Take a leap into the future…

So the MetroUI is awesome on a tablet/phone but I could never see me using it on a real computer without pulling my hair out.  Several different Linux Windows Managers seem to be heading down the same path.  It has been my opinion for some time that no matter who is doing it, it sucks.  Then I saw the Leap Motion interface.  It’s basically the Kinect for your computer but far more accurate.  It has sub millimeter accuracy and can track all 10 fingers at once just like most modern touch screens.  Unlike touch screens though this works in 3 dimensions.   The best part is that it will sell for only $70 and it comes out this winter.  They are working on Linux, MacOSX and Windows drivers concurrently.


The question we want to know the answer to is whether this is the next evolution in User Interfaces.  Will this be how we replace the mouse/touch pad?

PCWorld is at war with itself over Linux on the Desktop…

So the story all starts with a very misguided reporter,  Tony Bradley,  failed to give Linux a chance to grow and change.  So much so that he declared it dead on the desktop.  He tried linux as his primary machine for 30 days.  Sounds like a good trial?  Well maybe it was but that was almost 2 years ago.  In the last two years for example Unity came from Shuttleworth’s dreams to reality.  OpenOffice forked and LibreOffice has seen development explode. In general the world of Linux marches on and at an impressive pace.  Microsoft and Apple have been around for since the 1970’s which makes them a little more than 30 years old.  As everyone will remember Linux just turned 20 last summer/fall.  So all things considered it’s amazing how far it’s come with no major financial backers.  You can read my own account of my life with Linux.  Oh yeah I am still using it as my main OS and using Windows 7 as little as possible.  I have found the latest versions of LibreOffice function nearly flawlessly and transparently with their Windows counterparts.  I digress though because this is supposed to be about the fact that even his fellow reporters at PCWorld don’t agree.  This where things get interesting.

Katherine Noyes wrote a rebuttal that pretty much attacked Bradley for saying Linux only makes up 1% of the desktop market.  She goes on to rant amazingly for Linux on the desktop is not dead yet.  She makes some great points and finished by agreeing with us on the fact that while Tablets are here we certainly not seeing the end of the PC era as lots of people would like us to believe.

Bradley can’t seem to just let this die and write another even more insulting response.  He goes off again about how few people are using Linux on the desktop.  He is of course forgetting that Linux is only sold, the numbers he is using, on about 30-40 models of PC’s.  Most of those are from Linux Speciality builders not the mainstream builders.  This isn’t to say none of them are the big builders, except Apple of course, all have a few PC’s you can buy with Linux.  What he is missing is people like me and many friends of mine who are repurposing old PC’s as Linux machines.  I know of a few companies that are also doing this for Kiosks, Point of Sale/Service Machines, School terminal servers and Terminal emulators.  So while Linux may not be a contender yet they are moving in and picking off the low hanging fruit.  So like the improvements we have seen in the interface and easy of install the number of users is growing fast.

At this point I thought the story would be over.  Then the Mayor of Munich came out last week and gave an interview about how easy, fast and cheaply they have managed to switch over to their own custom version of Linux called LiMux.  Even with them spinning their own version, standing up a development environment, hiring staff to do all of this, they still will save 4 Million Euros in the switch.  Then an additional 2.8 Million Euros each year in lowered/eliminated license fees.  Then there is the fact that helpdesk calls complaining about the change dropped from 70 a month to just 46 as the number of PC’s running LiMux increased from 1,500 to 9500.  It’s stories like these that will make CEO’s and more likely CFO’s sit up and take notice.  This isn’t a small business, it’s not a simple environment, it’s a large cities entire infrastructure being converted to Linux.  What else comes close to a modern Enterprise.

So in conclusion, yes you should look to see if you could switch out some Windows machines with Linux.  The exercise and evaluation of whether it’s possible is relatively cheap, fast and low impact.  If you could save even 25% off your Windows related software fees wouldn’t it be worth it?

A review of a recent swipe at Linux….

The folks over at TechNewsWorld.com did a nice job breaking down a recent series of debates about Linux and how good it is.  As per usual the attacks and rebuttle’s are still the same.  The fight is an old a tired one.  The result is that Linux is still not a darling on the desktop.  Are you surprised?  We aren’t either.  The dialog is great but focusing on the negatives of anything is never helpful.  We should all be looking to promote our little underdog and celebrate it’s dominance in the Server and Embedded arena’s.

Does Desktop Linux Need a Steve Jobs?

What an interesting question.  Apple had Jobs and Windows had Gates.  Do we really need a persona like that to get linux on the desktop rolling?  Answering that question is the attempt of this article over at Datamation.com.  The concept seems to completely fly in the face of the community focus that the Open Source strives to be.  At the same time the kernel has Linus.  That one person who everyone knows and associates with it.  One of the big challenges we have with that is that there isn’t only one desktop.  Gnome, KDE, XFCE and most recently Unity are some of the biggest.  But there are more.  So which team should be that person?  Let us know.


What do you think?

My life with a Linux Desktop in the Corporate World…

When I recently changed jobs I was given the opportunity to build my dream machine and put what ever OS “I thought would be best”.  Several of my counterparts were running Linux or dual booting between Linux and Windows.  In my new position, I will mainly be supporting the IBM Tivoli family of security products.  Most of these applications run on Linux and the ones that don’t, run on Windows in a VM just fine.  So I was all set and ready to begin.  The first question was which distro?

After looking at and doing quick tests of several, I decided to go with PinguyOS.  Unlike Shannon from Hak5, I haven’t seen any real problems with it.  As I have come to expect with Ubuntu and it’s derivatives, everything in my new Dell Laptop including the web cam and finger print reader, were found and configured during the install.  So far, everything was going great.

I installed Vmware Workstation, even though PinguyOS comes with VirtualBox and Vmware Player pre-installed.  This was done mostly because I actually use the higher end features like VM Teaming and network manipulation.  VM Teaming allows you to group a set of VM’s into a team that then share a special network and can be managed as a group.  It is really nice when you are setting up a demo system where you need multiple servers or a mix of workstations and servers.  Even though I wasn’t dual booting, I set the system up like I was.  Then after getting all of this up and migrated to an SSD, I created a VM out of the original install of Windows 7 from the native spindle hard drive.  This give me the benefit of booting both Windows and Linux from the SSD.  It’s just plain fast.  As I said in a recent podcast, both Linux and Windows(as a VM) boot in less than 15 seconds.  The majority of the other VM’s I need are stored on the original 750GB spindle hard drive.  After getting myself to a workable state, I started migrating the rest of my world off of Windows and into Linux.

Setting up mounts to the corporate network was simple. go to the Samba setup app and with a few clicks and a little typing everything was available.  Connecting to Windows machines I required access too for various AD and other tasks was even simpler with the Reminna Remote Desktop Client.  This was probably one of the finds that made me the happiest.  I have long searched for a putty type program for Linux.  By that I don’t mean the SSH part but the session/server list part.  The customers I am working with are all within different types of business markets and there is no standardization in their systems names.  So having a client app I can store the system names in, is awesome.  The great part of this is that whether it’s Windows or Linux, I can use the same program and connect to anything that I need too.  I use Eclipse for my IDE when developing in Python, shell and JavaScript.  As with most Java applications, it works fine and took no more effort to configure on Linux than it does on Windows.  Pidigin is what I chose for my instant messaging needs.

Now for the things that have, in the past, stopped me from switching to Linux completely as a work desktop.  Office and E-mail apps seem to be hard to keep compatible and usable.  I have been working with this system for just over two months now.  I keep switching from running MS Office and Exchange in a Windows VM,  to using LibreOffice and the Web client for Exchange and back again.  I haven’t found a good native client for Exchange, and by that, I just mean one I like.  There are several workable solutions but each is missing something I need.  So for now, I have decided to stick with a Windows VM for them.

The next issue has been VPN Clients.  This was not an area that  I thought would be a problem at this time.  I have used VPN’s on Linux before and read plenty of articles talking about how easy it is to set up Linux to talk to just about any VPN.  From my experience, it just doesn’t seem to be working that way.  At one client, they are using a Cisco VPN.  I have the Linux Cisco VPN client installed, but need to compile it to make it work.  That is fine and I am capable of doing it, but it is not very fun.  Several hours of work later, I finally got it working.  On the other end of the spectrum is a smaller client who is using a WatchGuard firewall.  It’s a Linux based appliance and supports OpenVPN.  Within about 30 minutes, I had the VPN up and working.  The only client I will be supporting that has forced me to use a VM to connect to, is one that requires you run a check for AntiVirus software which only supports a small list of Windows software.  When I asked if I could get help connecting with Linux, the silence on the other end of the phone had me convinced we had gotten disconnected.  So for them I will just fire up a VM.

The only Linux oddity I have experienced is a missing mouse pointer.  While it’s still completely functional on my two monitor setup when using VMWare, the pointer occasionally disappears.  I can still move it around and highlight menus, but I cannot see it.  If I logout and back in, it comes right back and will often work on one screen but not the other.

The thing I like the best so far is Conky and the Docky app.  Docky looks like the MacOSX dock with shortcuts to your favorite apps on it.   Conky, the system status widget on the PinguyOS screen snapshots, gives you CPU usage, Network usage and the like.  It’s extremely customizable and easy to use.  Both of these are great tools that make life just that little bit more useful and fun.  The system is fast, stable and everything works.

I am a linux lover for servers.  I love the stability and tools available to stand up machines consistently.  I like the control and manageability I get and find troubleshooting it easier than any other OS I get asked to support.  (Yes even other *nix flavors.)  I would say that my experience with Linux on my desktop doesn’t quit leave me with the same passion for it on my desktop as I have for it on my servers.  However, it is completely usable, fully functional, and will probably be the base for my next computer build at home.  If you are going to switch to a full time Linux desktop,  I strongly suggest following my path.  I have been able to remain completely functional while I work out what I need,  to get my job done.  For most normal situations, VMWare Player or VirutalBox should work so you don’t need to invest the $180 for VMWare WorkStation.  I believe that at the one year mark, I will have myself completely switched over to Linux.  I will write another story at the one year point and update the news blog as I find cool new tools to use as replacements for MS and Mac Tools.

In case you missed it Linux Turned 20….