Topic linux

Is this the year of Linux of the desktop? For these guys, that's old news

in linux on (#2S8R)
story imageMunich city council's decision to move from Windows to Linux may be under scrutiny, but it's worth remembering it's not the only major organisation to have chosen open source for its desktops. Linux-based desktop operating systems face barriers to widespread adoption and skepticism about their future prospects due to their limited use today. Yet major users do exist, including companies such as Google and a small but growing number of government bodies. TechRepublic covers five of the major players that have invested seriously in Linux desktops.
  1. Google
  2. NASA
  3. French Gendarmerie
  4. US Dept of Defense
  5. CERN
  6. yo mamma

Paul Venezia asks: what if we split Linux into desktop and server versions?

in linux on (#2S7T)
story imageWell, can't blame the guy for asking. Over at ITWorld, Paul Venezia wonders, "Is it time to split Linux distros in two?"
You can take a Linux installation of nearly any distribution and turn it into a server, then back into a workstation by installing and uninstalling various packages. The OS core remains the same, and the stability and performance will be roughly the same, assuming you tune they system along the way. Those two workloads are very different, however, and as computing power continues to increase, the workloads are diverging even more.

Maybe it's time Linux is split in two. I suggested this possibility last week when discussing systemd (or that FreeBSD could see higher server adoption), but it's more than systemd coming into play here. It's from the bootloader all the way up. The more we see Linux distributions trying to offer chimera-like operating systems that can be a server or a desktop at a whim, the more we tend to see the dilution of both. You can run stock Debian Jessie on your laptop or on a 64-way server. Does it not make sense to concentrate all efforts on one or the other?
There's quite a bit more to his argument than these two paragraphs so read on before pointing out that Linux distros are already mostly divided into server and desktop focuses.

"Boycott Systemd" movement takes shape

in linux on (#2S4F)
story imageSome people have had enough, and they've organized a boycott at "" to organize efforts. From the top: "Disclaimer: We are not sysvinit purists by any means. We do recognize the need for a new init system in the 21st century, but systemd is not it." OK, that's enough to keep me reading. They outline twelve well-thought-out reasons systemd is dangerous, and a set of ways you can get involved, including refusing to use systemd distros, moving to slackware, crux, gentoo, BSD, and more. Here's just one of them:
systemd clusters itself into PID 1. Due to it controlling lots of different components, this means that there are tons of scenarios in which it can crash and bring down the whole system. But in addition, this means that plenty of non-kernel system upgrades will now require a reboot. Enjoy your new Windows 9 Linux system! In fairness, systemd does provide a mechanism to reserialize and reexecute systemctl in real time. If this fails, of course, the system goes down. There are several ways that this can occur9. This happens to be another example of SPOF.
Interesting times. When's the last time you heard someone advocate moving immediately to Slackware or Gentoo?

Friday Distro: Kali Linux

in linux on (#2S34)
story imageIn the Hindu pantheon, Kali represents death and change, the dispelling of evil and the devouring of the unwanted. She is forbidden, and even death itself, but therefore also an element of salvation. In the Linux world, she is like opening a can of whoop-ass on your server.

Kali Linux (appropriately named, if I may say so) is a Linux distro focused on penetration and exploit testing, and therefore the element of change that will get you to shore up all those gaping configuration gaps in your systems: it's perhaps your salvation! But enough metaphors. Practically, Kali Linux installs on a DVD or pendrive, and contains dozens and dozens of specialized penetration testing tools to test your system. It's developed by the folks at Offensive Security, and grew out of the well-acclaimed Backtrack Linux, which had the same focus.

It's based on Debian rather than Ubuntu so you get a dated version of the Gnome 2 desktop, but who cares? It's not really a desktop, just a platform for launching tools. Over three hundred of them, from information gathering to vulnerability analysis, password attacks, wireless attacks, spoofing, stress testing, reverse engineering, hardware hacking, forensics, and more. As mentioned, you can run it from a DVD, pendrive, or even remote-boot from PXE or install to Amazon cloud. To make it as useful as possible they support ARM aggressively including ARMEL and ARMHF (and of course Raspberry Pi and cousins), plus as many different wifi devices as humanly possible.

They're innovating, too, producing opensource products like the ISO of Doom (hardware backdoor), custom images, the Evil Wireless Access Point, and more.

Fun stuff if you want to ensure your system is as safe as possible; scary stuff if you don't want to bother. Kali's Distrowatch page has more information including a link to their excellent documentation (the best place to start if you want to know what else Kali does), but ZDNet has a good review and LinuxBSDOS has another cursory review with some decent screenshots.

RedHat CTO Brian Stevens to stepdown immediately

in linux on (#2R56)
story imageIn a surprise move, RedHat has announced the departure of their Chief Technical Officer, Brian Stevens. While no official reason was given (certainly, don't expect to find it in the terse, canned statement offered by the corporation's HR department), many speculate it may have been due to executive friction and personal ambition.
Stevens, whose Red Hat page was taken down minutes after the news was released, had been with Red Hat since 2001. Before that he had been the CTO at Mission Critical Linux, and a senior architect at Digital Equipment Company (DEC), where he worked on Digital's Unix operating system, Digital Unix. Today it lives on as HP's Tru64. In technical circles, he's perhaps best known for his work on the X Window System, the foundation of Unix and Linux graphic systems.

While at Red Hat, Stevens often outlines the company's technical and business plans for the public. Most recently for example, he spoke at Gigaom Structure on Red Hat and OpenStack. Before that, he laid out Red Hat's future technology plans at Red Hat Summit in April.
Look for his LinkedIn requests in your mailbox sometime soon, I suppose?

Calibre ebook reader/editor/creator reaches 2.0 milestone

in linux on (#40Z)
story imageAs a writer and avid reader, I find the Calibre ebook manager/editor invaluable. Not only does it allow you to produce, fix, or edit ebooks, but it's a good ebook reader app on its own if all you want to do is read an EPUB on your computer. When I wrote and published The Dictator's Handbook, Calibre played an important part of my workflow as I took LaTeX source code and turned it into an epub.

And it's just gotten better. Version 2.0 is out, with huge improvements and additions in functionality.
According to the changelog, Calibre now has an e-book editor capable of editing books in the EPUB and AZW3 (Kindle) formats, with many powerful tools and features specially designed for making editing e-books easier, users now have the ability to compare books, which allows them to see all the differences between two books, highlighted, side-by-side, and it's now possible to connect to any Android phone or tablet on OS X and the application should automatically detect and connect to it.

It's worth noting that Calibre has also switched to Qt 5, which means that the interface should look a lot more modern and it should integrate much better with the operating system. Also, a number of improvements have been added to the way the library is now organized, which should make the entire experience much more streamlined.
Last I checked, it runs on just about every major desktop OS platform. I run it on FreeBSD and Linux.

Friday Distro: LinuxBBQ

in linux on (#3W4)
story imageSome say, "Linux should reduce complexity by standardizing on a specific subset of tools, packages, and desktop environments." To that, the guys at LinuxBBQ respond, "Sorry, can't hear you, too busy having fun!" LinuxBBQ is a riot of diversity, but not complexity, and guarantees you can have not just the workspace you want but that it will be your very own.

Check out their website, "Get Roasted!", where they boast an environment of 100 different specific editions (micro-editions, really, in my opinion) and an unprecedented choice of 70 different window managers. The haters might say, "Too many!" I say, "Sounds like fun." Turns out, at the base, LinuxBBQ isn't that complicated: it used to be based on Debian Sid, but now starts with Ubuntu 13.10, and has integrated some scripts, kernels, and tools from the guys at GRML, Siduction, and Linux Mint. Then they add in the window managers. Offhand, I can only name about 13, so these guys have dug deep: everything from KDE to Razor-QT, WMii, Monsterwm, Herbstluftwm, xmonad, nullwm, oroborus, tmux, spectrwm, and another 30 beyond what's on their wiki page.

Then they break it up into editions. Here's where you can tell these guys are just hackers having fun, and they're well removed from the starchiness of some of the big, 'classic' distros, who have to look over their shoulders at their lawyers and worry about being politically correct. Check out just a sample of what they produce:
  1. RMS: (No X, compiled for 486 with a full emacs
  2. Psychedelic shitstorm: based on windowlab
  3. gangbang: 53 window managers on a live CD
  4. neckbeard: ratpoison and emacs
  5. cameltoe: based on the jwm window manager
There's more, and yes you could probably get most of these packages on another distro with some effort, but you know when you can download the "clit", "noob-killah", or "pringles" editions, you are fully in the realm of hackers having fun. So, where to begin? Start with Cream, their June 2014 release, including netsurf and firefox as browsers, mc, ranger, and pcmanfm as file managers, and cmus for listening to music. Or as they say, "Follow that crap on G+" where you can see a screenshot or two. Finally, here's their own introduction to the distro, and I think it reveals their philosophy very well:
Why is LinuxBBQ not recommended for me?

We do not say that LinuxBBQ is the best distro under the sun - quite the opposite. It will most probably not fit the average users needs. There are many, many reasons not to come to BBQ-Land.
1) LinuxBBQ is more or less default Debian Unstable
2) You will probably not have "plug-and-play" out of the box, for example your printer needs to be set up via CUPS (and CUPS is also not pre-installed) - in our opinion not everybody needs to have all services and daemons ticking in the background. If you need additional services, you will have to set them up by yourself. Of course the BBQ staff is happy to help you. But think twice if you want to get your hands *greasy*.
3) You have to edit configuration files to make things look like you want them and you will
need to spend countless hours customizing the look & feel. Believe us, you will probably want to go back to the "fast-food" distros, and enjoy the defaults there.
4) The BBQ philosophy is: provide the meat, let the user season. So, you will have to download your favourite applications. They are partly coming from experimental sources and carry much
higher version numbers than what you find in Debian Stable. If you don't want to run the newest GIMP, Inkscape, Iceweasel browser or WINE, look somewhere else.
Curious? Visit LinuxBBQ here.

Linux kernel hacker's open rant about systemd

in linux on (#3V8)
Linux kernel hacker Christopher Barry has engaged a full frontal assault of the systemd Linux subsystem and its creator, Lennart Poettering, on an "Open Letter to the Linux world" published on the Linux kernel hackers' mailing list. Here's a taste:
So why would very smart people who love and use Linux want to create or embrace such a creepy 'Master of All' daemon? Ostensibly, it's for the reasons they say, as I mentioned at the top. But partially I think it's from a lack of experience. Not a lack as in programming hours, but a lack as in time on the Planet. Intelligence alone is not a substitute for life experience and, yes I'll say it, wisdom. There's no manual for wisdom. Implementing systemd by distros is not a wise move for them over the long term. It will, in fact, be their ultimate undoing.
Systemd has been no stranger to controversy. It broke a lot of systems, and important figures in the Linux world have registered their doubt about the replacement to the well-known System V init system, which was a fully transparent collection of human-readable scripts but that led to slow boot times. It will be interesting to see if Barry's rant generates a groundswell of antagonism against the new system, or if it gets ignored, or if it leads to meaningful debate and change.

[Ed. note: picked up this story from comp.misc. Thanks, Rich!]

Friday distro: Securepoint Security Solutions

in linux on (#3S4)
story imageThis Friday's distro is
Securepoint Security Solutions, a firewall and VPN distro that offers a full-featured suite of firewall tools designed for enterprisewide deployment
. Not only can it protect an internal network from outside attacks, it also helps segregate parts of your internal network and define custom protection rules for each. Securepoint lets you create and manage VPN tunnels for remote users and define traffic filters, reports, and alerts for your entire network. Securepoint Freeware is a very secure and free firewall solution for protecting your Internet gateway. Securepoint can as well be used with existing firewalls and to protect interconnected locations or divisions.

These days a lot of distros are built off of Debian or Ubuntu. This isn't one of them. In fact it appears the distro is simply the software side of a hardware solution they sell at along with VPN clients, email archiving storage, and other products aimed for the modern corporation or enterprise.

I've tried building a system like this myself though and realized it's not easy. If they are making it easier to build and manage segregated networks they are probably going to find a ready market interested in this software.

Friday Distro: KaOS Linux

in linux on (#3RT)
story imageThis Friday's distro is KaOS Linux, and the K stands for KDE. But this isn't just a "lean KDE distro," as is their motto: the focus is quite a bit better defined even than that:
The idea behind KaOS is to create a tightly integrated rolling and transparent distribution for the modern desktop, built from scratch with a very specific focus.
Focus on one DE (KDE), one toolkit (Qt), one architecture (x86_64) plus a focus on evaluating and selecting the most suitable tools and applications. ... It targets users who have tried many Operating Systems/Distributions/Desktop Environments and have found they prefer a Distribution that uses all its available resources to work on one DE to make that the best it can be, and know that after their searches, the best for them is KDE.
The KaOS Linux website was my first reference point for familiarizing myself with this distro, but we're lucky in that it's recently gotten quite a bit of press, too. ZDNet looked at it and called it "solid and focused: The reviewer wasn't thrilled with the installer but found it a reasonable package selections (that even transcends the "QT only" philosophy by also providing LibreOffice and GIMP). And HecticGeek also gave it a spin, though the site was down as I write this.

For me, the killer decision point is really the choice of the Calligra office suite as primary productivity suite. And the fact that LibreOffice is in the repos tells me that it is still not totally baked as an office suite; too bad because I've always rooted for what was once called Koffice and would love to see it blossom, though it always seems to let me down: font kerning was still a mess the last time I tried it in 2012.

Anyway, the folks behind KaOS admit this distro isn't going to be for everyone. But for people that have tried the other options and decided on KDE, this is a distro that promises you that all its effort has gone into ensuring this KDE-centric distro gives you a great experience. I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl.