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Retail CIOs: How to Love Your Linux Operating System
Posted by Simon Mitchell on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 @ 04:00 AM
Gain skills to support your retail Open Source roll-out
Moving to ‘free’ Open Source software (OSS) from licensed proprietary software often seems like it’s a no contest. Yet OSS doesn’t mean that organisations like your own can just install the latest Open Source software and leave it to its own devices – particularly if you wish to avoid mounting hidden expenses. Like the romantic partner in your life, OSS needs some tender, loving care to make sure that it delivers the results your retail organisation requires.
“Done correctly, maintaining and managing Open Source environments can be easier than proprietary ones due to the number of management tools that are available and the scriptability of UNIX in general”, says Mark Reynolds, Director of Technology at Linux consulting expert LinuxIT. He adds the following points for consideration:
Open Source installations for retail or for any other sector should be automated to create a high level of predictability;Software components should be packaged using an appropriate distribution format for Linux to allow for easier upgrades and downgrades as well as simpler integration with other software companies;Larger scale deployments will require centralised patch deployment and configuration management tools, such as Red Hat satellite server or Puppet, to significantly rationalise overheads.
As a retailer, our teams are sure you can’t afford any disruption, and so to minimise it you might want to consider working with a company like Linux consulting expert LinuxIT – particularly if you need access to strong systems administration skills, which are founded on the understanding of current industry best practices like ITIL, Visible Ops and so on. Furthermore, by working with LinuxIT you can enhance your existing IT skills to ensure that the project is a success.
“There is a steep learning curve with moving from Microsoft Windows environments to Linux, and companies should engage with third parties to get the initial infrastructure right from the start to prevent Linux and Open Source software from becoming an experiment”, says Reynolds.
A poor response can be far more damaging than the attack itself. A McKinsey Quarterly Business Technology article.
Can it happen to us?” All over the world, technology executives have been fielding this question from boards of directors and CEOs in the wake of highly publicized cyberattacks on large, well-respected companies and public institutions. “Yes” is the only honest answer at a time when ever more value is migrating online, when business strategies require more open and interconnected technology environments, when attackers have always-expanding capabilities, and when attacks take advantage of limited security awareness among employees and customers. In fact, it may already have happened to you—but you may not know it. Although political “hacktivists,” such as Anonymous and LulzSec, certainly delight in announcing their exploits to the world and causing embarrassment to their targets, other sophisticated attackers seek to cover their tracks. Organized-crime rings engaging in cyberfraud have no interest in letting their targets know they have been infiltrated. We believe that boards and senior business leaders should be asking the technology team a different question—namely, “Are we ready to respond to a cyberattack?” An ill-thought-out response can be far more damaging than the attack itself. Whether customers cancel their accounts in the wake of a successful cyberattack depends as much on the quality of a company’s communications as on the gravity of the breach. How much value is destroyed by the loss of sensitive business plans depends on the ability to adjust tactics quickly.
The recent hubbub over Linus Torvalds’ comments towards Nvidia as well as Nvidia’s response to those comments have once again brought up intense debates between Linux users and the rest of the computing pack. Reading the comments on Engadget or The Verge for these news articles, I realized that the general public has some misconceptions about Linux and its ecosystem. I use Linux distributions every single day both on my phone and on the desktop. When I read such comments, I find it kind of funny, but also kind of sad that the Linux that I use so routinely and productively is getting this sort of rap. So here, now, are five misconceptions I think I see most commonly on the Internet regarding Linux and its ecosystem.
Misconception #1: Linux is an operating system
I just wanted to get this one out of the way really quick. Linux is not an operating system. Instead, it is a kernel. It sits in between the hardware and the actual operating system (Linux distributions, as they are called) to enable all the userspace software to run smoothly and correctly.
Misconception #2: Linux has terrible driver support
The whole news about Torvalds’ Nvidia comments I mentioned earlier stemmed a bunch of comments on driver support in Linux from a ton of people. Neglecting the fact that most of the commenters didn’t actually see the talk in which Linus made his remarks and thusly assumed he was just saying Nvidia’s driver support on Linux was awful, most of the comments were pretty misinformed in general.
In regards to Nvidia, its proprietary drivers are actually pretty superb as far as performance goes. This is one of the things Engadget and The Verge participators were griping about, and rebutting that AMD’s graphics drivers are terrible. The truth is, AMD’s Catalyst drivers (its proprietary set) are also excellent and wonderful and masterful and all that. Its open source driver, dubbed “radeon” in the Linux kernel, works pretty well too, albeit with some 3D performance issues.
Apart from graphics, I’ve never had any real problem with other drivers. LockerGnome writer Ryan Pierson talked with me earlier and make the comment that he had struggles with a wireless card in one of his old notebook computers a few years ago. To be honest, those are edge cases, especially in this day and age. Wireless cards are fairly well supported (by the manufacturers, even) on Linux, especially if you have one of the mainstream brands (Broadcom, Intel, etc.), which you most likely are to have. As such, I can only assume that any driver issues that one person might encounter is either: a] user error, or b] a rare edge case, which means you shouldn’t go spouting off on a technology site to complain that Linux has terrible driver support if you can’t get your collection of silicon to work correctly.
I should note, however, that notebooks with Nvidia Optimus are a problem area — one that Linus was specifically targeting when he made his remarks. The issue with Optimus is that Nvidia has refused to support it on Linux in its proprietary driver, and it offers no support to the open source alternative, Nouveau, whose team is forced to reverse-engineer Nvidia cards in order to write the drivers. This lack of support on Linux can cause a variety of problems, from both GPUs (the integrated GPU as well as the Nvidia GPU) to run at the same time and waste battery life, to the worst case scenario of your laptop booting to a black screen of death, so to speak. This isn’t Linux’s fault, though, it’s Nvidia’s. The Linux community has been asking Nvidia to merely release the specifications behind its hardware so that the open source community at least has a good shot at writing working drivers. AMD has done this with its Radeon graphics line, even going so far as to committing employees to assist with the development of the open source driver. One last note if you’re reading this and you are affected by the Optimus issue on Linux: Try giving the Bumblebee project a look.
Misconception #3: There isn’t any decent software available for Linux
I have had this discussion with the other LockerGnome writers plenty of times, and we usually come to agree that the software available on Linux is definitely usable save for a few specific workflows. If you need a photo editor, use the GIMP or another alternative. If you want an office suite, there’s LibreOffice or you could even use Google Docs online. Linux has games, browsers, video editors, vector image editors, screencasters, instant messaging and IRC clients, development tools (oh boy, the development tools!), and so much more to offer if you’re simply willing to look around.
As I mentioned, there are a few areas where software on Linux can use some work. LockerGnome’s Ryan Pierson, in particular, wishes the video editing solutions on Linux were more competitive to the Windows and OS X market. Like I said, they exist, but they’re no Sony Vegas or Adobe Premier. When will the situation get better? It’ll have to wait for either: a] the developers of the open source alternatives to get more free time on their hands (unlikely) or b] for the commercial developers to pay more attention to Linux.
When will this attention arrive? I personally think the arrival of Valve’s Steam platform, Valve’s collection of games running on the Source engine, as well as Unity’s newly baked Linux support, will start the ball rolling. More games on Linux means gamers will start to see the platform as a useful, free alternative to Windows. As the desktop Linux market share increases as a result, more companies will consider developing ports of their software for Linux. It’s a snowball effect that I hope happens soon.
Misconception #4: Linux has a small market share
This was a fun one to read about on Engadget. Apparently, Linus’ “school project” that is Linux has failed to gain any market share for all the computers in the world whatsoever, and he should just give up and call it quits. What the ill-informed do not understand is that, quite frankly, Linux dominates computers everywhere. More than 90% of the world’s Top 500 supercomputers run a Linux-based operating system. Over half of all mobile smartphone devices now run Android, which is built on top of the Linux kernel. In addition, more than 60% of Web servers are running on a Linux distribution.
Only in the desktop space has Linux yet to leave its mark. Like I mentioned in the previous section, I expect the arrival of Steam, Source, and other gaming platforms to help boost Linux’s desktop market share considerably. Let’s hope so, anyway.
Misconception #5: Linux is only for developers and computer “experts” (aka Linux distributions are too hard to use)
This one is kind of silly. Granted, I am a developer and have been using Linux for many, many years now (since I was ten years old, at least), but the ease of use of Linux distributions has improved drastically over the years. Ubuntu, specifically, has helped make desktop Linux usable enough for ordinary human beings, as per its motto. Like I said, the software is there, so all it takes is getting used to a slightly different desktop environment when switching from OS X or Windows. I dual boot Windows and Debian here, and I hardly ever touch Windows anymore; Linux distributions have come far enough to be my daily driver from here on out.
I think Linux distributions can be intimidating and scary. I get it, though; new and different things naturally repel most of us (I’m a certified creature of habit, I’ll have you know). Many people shrug Linux off as difficult to use because they haven’t spent the time with it that it really deserves. Spend a couple of days trying to get your workflow up and running on a Linux distribution and see how you like it. Perhaps then you’ll gain a different perspective.
UNIX to Linux migration is easy with help from the team at LinuxIT, experts in Linux Support services...
Migrating from UNIX to Linux might seem very difficult at first. Some understanding of the pitfalls and how to avoid them is really worthwhile. In the public and private sectors the pressure to drive down costs is putting pressure on organisations to migrate to Open Source systems, including Linux-based platforms.
Last week, we showed you how to build your own custom PC, from picking the parts, to putting it together and installing your OS. Here's the complete guide, along with a printable PDF version that you can use as a reference.
Ten days from today, on July 4, the European Parliament will vote on ACTA. This is the end-of-level boss; this is where ACTA lives or dies. We have won in five out of five committees – it is time for one huge final push.
Every Member of European Parliament (MEP) and assistant I have spoken to have said the same thing – the calls and mails from ordinary, concerned citizens have made all the difference. This is not obvious when looking from the outside, but as I walked around in the European Parliament last week, that impression was stronger than I had ever anticipated.
As the final vote approaches, scheduled for July 4, it is easy to let your guard down. But this is when all the trickery happens. The battle of ACTA is not over: it will be over in ten days, but not before.
It can be hard to know what to write to a MEP to make your voice heard. Believe it or not, they are people like you and me, and so, they react like you and me would to mails they receive. You don’t have to be a legal political expert to voice your concern: to the contrary, writing exactly what you feel is often the most effective way to come across.
See on Scoop.it – Tracking Transmedia Today marks what would be the 100th birthday of Alan Turing, one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, who laid the foundations for computer science by developing the ...
This tutorial assumes no previous knowledge of scripting or programming, but progresses rapidly toward an intermediate/advanced level of instruction . . . all the while sneaking in little nuggets of UNIX® wisdom and lore. It serves as a textbook, a manual for self-study, and a reference and source of knowledge on shell scripting techniques. The exercises and heavily-commented examples invite active reader participation, under the premise that the only way to really learn scripting is to write scripts.
This book is suitable for classroom use as a general introduction to programming concepts.
''When you have learned to snatch the error code from the trap frame, it will be time for you to leave.''
Something mysterious is formed, born in the silent void. Waiting alone and unmoving, it is at once still and yet in constant motion. It is the source of all programs. I do not know its name, so I will call it the Tao of Programming.
If the Tao is great, then the operating system is great. If the operating system is great, then the compiler is great. If the compiler is great, then the application is great. The user is pleased and there exists harmony in the world.
The Tao of Programming flows far away and returns on the wind of morning.
The Tao gave birth to machine language. Machine language gave birth to the assembler.
The assembler gave birth to the compiler. Now there are ten thousand languages.
Each language has its purpose, however humble. Each language expresses the Yin and Yang of software. Each language has its place within the Tao.
"Microsoft will be offering signing services through their sysdev portal," wrote Red Hat developer Matthew Garrett late last month.
"This certainly gives me a bit of concern because it puts Microsoft in the position of controlling the hardware and being a gatekeeper on what can be installed," explained Google+ blogger Kevin O'Brien. "IS there any evidence that they have ever had this kind of power and *not* used it to crush their competition?" O'Brien wondered. "I hope the anti-trust authorities look into this."
It's not exactly any secret that Linux dominates the world of high-performance computing, so perhaps it should go without saying that last week's exciting Higgs Boson announcement would involve Linux in some not-insignificant way.
The dream of achieving rapid, large-scale process automation is becoming a reality for some banks. Competitors cannot afford to miss the opportunity to transform their own back-office processes. A McKinsey Quarterly Business Technology article.
Carla Schroder writes: The ARM platform is exploding like a mad wet cat out of the bath. Here are four good distros cram-full of ARM fun.
Linux has had ARM support since forever, but it's been bumpy. There are hundreds of vendors of ARM devices (see Tiny Pluggable Linux ARM Computers Are Red-Hot for a sampling), all shoving their own personal hacked code out the door as fast as possible. This made Linux support complicated and unwieldy, to the point that Linus Torvalds threatened to stop accepting ARM changes in the mainline Linux kernel.
So, in classic Linux fashion, vendors and developers banded together and coordinated and consolidated their efforts, formed the Linaro non-profit engineering organization, and performed a sizable cleanup of redundant and bad code. Jonathan Corbet, editor of Linux Weekly News, predicts that "ARM will take its place as one of the primary Linux architectures" in 2012. This seems a safe prediction as ARM-based mobile devices are going to continue to sell like ice water in hell.
Android is also expected to harmonize, over time, with the mainline Linux kernel. So this confluence of ARM events means that we who like to play with stuff will have a little easier time of it. Me, I dream of embedded and mobile devices being as friendly to experimentation as the x86 platform. Don't laugh, it could happen. So which Linux is best for ARM? Why, lots of them.
There are a lot of different ARM processors, so this guide should help you sort them out. Wikipedia has an invaluable table that lists all the ARM microprocessor cores, so when you see terms like ARMv5TE or ARM9TDMI or Cortex-something, consult this table to know what the heck these are.
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Lowell laugh in the face of Intel's weedy handful of cores in its new CPU lineup: They've just squeezed over a thousand processor cores onto a single chip.
The Raspberry Pi is a tasty little Linux computing device but it's so far been rather hard to buy. I've wanted to order one since it officially started to ship in April. However, due to the limited quantities, retailers sold out nearly immediately.
If you'd like to try a new twist on virtualization, FAUmachine might be the next cool thing.
For those of you who don’t already know about FAUmachine (FAU), it’s a virtual machine that allows you to install full operating systems and run them as if they were independent computers. FAUmachine is similar to VirtualBox, QEMU, and other full virtualization technologies. It is a project sponsored by the Friedrich Alexander University Computer Science Department in Germany (Erlangen-Nuremberg*). FAU is a computer simulator that is an independent virtual machine project. The CPU is based on the virtual CPU in QEMU.
FAU distinguishes itself from other virtualization technologies in the following ways:
FAU runs as a normal user process. Root privileges and kernel modules not required.Fault injection capability for experimentation.VHDL interpreter and several example scripts for the VHDL interpreter.
From the FAUmachine web site:
FAUmachine simulates a large variety of different hardware components, including several x86 and x86_64 CPUs,
IDE and SCSI controllers,NE2000- and Intel eepro100 network interface adapters,a Sound Blaster 16 sound card,a generic VGA and a Cirrus GD5446 graphics adapter,a 24 and a 48 pin direct-I/O PCI-card,
but also peripherals such as
networking hubs and routers,serial terminals,modems,USB-to-Serial adapters,and even a three-story elevator.***
FAU also simulates the whole PC environment, like the power switch, the monitor, the power supply, and more. You can also configure memor
JAP (called JonDo in the scope of the commercial JonDonym anonymous proxy servers - AN.ON remains free of charge) makes it possible to surf the internet anonymously and unobservably.
Without Anonymization, every computer in the internet communicates using a traceable Address. That means:
the website visited,the internet service provider (ISP),and any eavesdropper on the internet connection
can determine which websites the user of a specific computer visits. Even the information which the user calls up can be intercepted and seen if encryptionis not used. JAP uses a single static address which is shared by many JAP users. That way neither the visited website, nor an eavesdropper can determine which user visited which website.How it works
Instead of connecting directly to a webserver, users take a detour, connecting with encryption through several intermediaries, so-called Mixes. JAP uses a predetermined sequence for the mixes. Such a sequence of linked mixes is called a Mix Cascade. Users can choose between different mix cascades.
Since many users use these intermediaries at the same time, the internet connection of any one single user is hidden among the connections of all the other users. No one, not anyone from outside, not any of the other users, not even the provider of the intermediary service can determine which connection belongs to which user. A relationship between a connection and its user could only be determined if all intermediaries worked together to sabotage the anonymization. more...
The intermediaries (mix providers) are generally provided by independent institutions which officially declare, that they do not keep connection log files or exchange such data with other mix providers. JAP shows the identity and number of organisations in each Mix cascade in detail, and verifies this information by cryptographic means. The users are thus able to selectively choose trustable mix cascades.
Linux configuration, Linux administration, Linux commands and Linux News...
This article explains basic commands for navigation within Linux file system. The diagram below represents (part of) a Linux file system know as Filesystem Hierarchy Standard. A line from one node to a node on its right indicates containment. For example, the student directory is contained within the home directory.
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