Want to know more about Linux? On August 24th Jacob Wilkins helped newbie and power Linux users get better performance from their Linux operating systems. If you couldn’t join us then, enjoy the transcript and we hope to see you on our next live Guild Meeting. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail, or on the Guild Meeting calendar.This paragraph for print only.

Want to know more about Linux? On August 24th Jacob Wilkins helped newbie and power Linux users get better performance from their Linux operating systems. If you couldn’t join us then, enjoy the transcript and we hope to see you on our next live Guild Meeting. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail, or on the Guild Meeting calendar.

Note: TechProGuild edits Guild Meeting transcripts for clarity.

Linux free-for-all
MODERATOR: Good to see you in tonight’s TechProGuild Guild Meeting. Please welcome Jacob Wilkins, one of TechRepublic’s wonderful contractors. We will be hosting a Linux free for all tonight! Without further ado, I give you Jacob Wilkins, who will help us discuss Linux in that free-for-all way that only Linux users can do.

JACOB WILKINS: So how many Guild Meeting regulars do we have here?

TCPORET: This is my first meeting.

TLSNC: Count me regular or maybe extra tall.

EVERYTECH: I love the meetings.

JECASSERLY: Good evening, I like the meetings also.

TLSNC: I wish there were more from the TechPro Guild membership that participated.

EVERYTECH: Yeah, we need to get more folks in here. If you have any ideas of how to do so, send them to tpgeditor@techrepublic.com!

JECASSERLY: I’m a TechRepublic member.

GBLOCKER: I am a contractor for the FAA.

What OS do you run?
JACOB WILKINS: Well, let’s get things started. Just to give you a little info about myself, I work for a Louisville consulting company.

TLSNC: Do you work mostly with Linux?

JACOB WILKINS: We specialize in Linux and Java, two great technologies that taste great together.

How many here use Linux in your place of work?

EVERYTECH: I have Caldera installed as a dual-boot with Win98.

JACOB WILKINS: We don’t touch NT, not with a 50-ft pole!

EVERYTECH: Do you mean your contracting company doesn’t touch NT?

JACOB WILKINS: Correct. Our contracting company won’t touch it. Anything we install new is Linux. We have no problems working with existing Solaris and Aix.

EVERYTECH: Wow, at TechRepublic (should I say this?) NT is the OS of forced choice, even on the laptops.

JACOB WILKINS: TechRepublic seems partial to it.

TCPORET: Everytech, how did you get it to work? I have one that I have been working on for three months, and it won’t install properly.

JACOB WILKINS: We do a lot of Web servers and proxy servers. We’re starting to see a few Samba file servers as well.

TLSNC: Oh, I can believe that!

JACOB WILKINS: Those of you who are currently using Linux, what distribution are you running?

TLSNC: It has been a long time since I have done any UNIX work, and I admit I have not kept up with all the Linux innovations.

JACOB WILKINS: I’m a big Debian GNU/Linux supporter.

MODERATOR: I’ve tried Corel, Linux, and Caldera. I much prefer Caldera. I haven’t tried RedHat yet.

KVM switch problems
EVERYTECH: I admit to being stumped to getting some features of Linux to work, so if anyone can help me, I’ll be so grateful!

JACOB WILKINS: Ask away, that’s what we are here for.

EVERYTECH: I have a KVM switch between all my machines. On the Linux/Win 98 machine, Win 98 works fine, but when I load Linux, as soon as I get to the Caldera login screen, the monitor stops reading. Up until then, while Linux is loading, it’s fine. What’s going on?

JACOB WILKINS: Everytech, are you running X windows or the text login screen?

EVERYTECH: It’s not the text login screen; it’s the GUI, probably Xwindows, unless the KDE window manager has already loaded at that point. I don’t know.

JACOB WILKINS: Is it an analog switch or one of the newer digital ones?

EVERYTECH: I believe it is digital, but I’m not sure. It does mouse and keyboard emulation, does that help?

TCPORET: Are you using Boot Magic?

EVERYTECH: No, I’m not using Boot Magic, but I have the Caldera boot loader.

TCPORET: Try Boot Magic.

EVERYTECH: OK. I’m also going to try configuring the monitor and see what happens. I thought it would automatically read it, but it’s a weird, unexpected problem (though not unlike using NT).

JACOB WILKINS: Everytech, after it boots, try hitting [Alt]F1 to get to a console.

EVERYTECH: Thank you will do.

Portable computing with Linux
TLSNC: So tell me about portable computing with Linux.

JACOB WILKINS: Tlsnc, well, the speaker who was going to talk about that canceled. I’m the fill in.

MODERATOR: Maybe all of us can help.

JACOB WILKINS: I can tell you that IBM has Linux running on a wristwatch. Can’t get much more portable than that. Also, the WearComp folks have a 640 x 480 display, with camera built in to a watch. It hooks back to a belt-mounted wearable.

TLSNC: Participating in the meeting last Tuesday has made me very curious about the portable/remote advances in the Linux world.

MODERATOR: Hey, thanks, Tlsnc, put in a good word for the speaker, which was me.

TLSNC: Shameless promotion

JHARVEY: Tlsnc, don’t give Mike a big head now!

JECASSERLY: That was a great meeting.

JACOB WILKINS: And there are some Linux-based Palm clones floating around now.

TLSNC: Yeah, that is the one we were all drooling over on Tuesday.

EVERYTECH: I tried to get info on how to put a scaled-down Linux on a Palm Pilot, but I haven’t found the how-to yet.

JACOB WILKINS: Well, Linux will boot on the Palm, but there isn’t much you can do with it once it’s up. It’s the same thing with the IBM wristwatch. You don’t know what time it is, but you are way cool for having a watch running Linux.

JECASSERLY: But you can connect to the Net and to your servers, can’t you?

JACOB WILKINS: I don’t know if it’s wired for networking or not.

JECASSERLY: If it isn’t, now it will be.

EVERYTECH: So we should write apps, right?

TLSNC: No wait for the new one. It is only $149!

JECASSERLY: Is it like a mini palm?

JACOB WILKINS: I’m not sure what all the watch does. It is just an engineering prototype. They aren’t going to market it.

TLSNC: They created it just so they could say they have done it, eh?

MODERATOR: Jacob, in your use of Linux, you’re running servers as well as workstations, correct?

JACOB WILKINS: Most definitely.

MODERATOR: What kinds of apps do you use?

JACOB WILKINS: Linux is extremely strong in the Web server market. Price for performance, you can’t beat Linux. And now that IBM has released Java2 JDK for Linux, there is no reason to choose Solaris, otherwise nicknamed “Slowaris.”

TLSNC: Are you using anything other than Apache on the Web servers, Jacob?

JACOB WILKINS: Not presently. But thttpd is a tool we keep handy. It’s a lightweight, multithreaded Web server good for serving static contents.

EVERYTECH: When you administer the server, what tools do you use?

JACOB WILKINS: What tools to administer? Well, vi of course. Since we use Debian, we use the “apt-get” command for package management. Debian has the most advanced package system of any UNIX.

JECASSERLY: What is vi?

JACOB WILKINS: Vi is a text editor. It’s used to edit configuration files.

MODERATOR: Isn’t VI a line-editor? I always thought it was rather difficult.

TLSNC: It all depends on what you were “raised with.” I never did get to be very advanced with vi though.

JACOB WILKINS: Vi is about two steps up from a line editor. It is easy to use, but hard to learn.

EVERYTECH: VI and EMACS were always pretty tough for me.

Do you use any Web management tools?

JACOB WILKINS: No, we don’t use any Web-based tools. We use ssh, because of its security, to access remote systems.

EVERYTECH: Is it hard to set up ssh?

JACOB WILKINS: The base functionality of ssh is easy to set up. It’s no harder to set up than telnet. I have my RSA keys copied out, and my ssh-agent running, so I don’t have to type passwords when I connect to remote hosts. I just make sure my screen stays locked when I’m away from the keyboard.

Debian’s package system
JACOB WILKINS: I feel the need to tell you folks a bit about Debian’s package system. Debian is the only self-upgrading Linux distribution out there. It makes installing packaged with tons of dependencies a snap.

TLSNC: This is the first I have heard of the Debian distribution. Please continue.

JACOB WILKINS: Another great thing about Debian is its ability to upgrade itself. Debian maintains a list of packages available for it to install. To update this list, you type apt-get update. Now, if you want to have the system check all the versions of packages installed (with the master list), see if new versions are available, and install them, then type apt-get upgrade. It takes care of everything.

JECASSERLY: That’s easy.

JACOB WILKINS: In Debian, if I wanted to install the Gimp, a drawing tool, on a bare machine, I could type apt-get install gimp The system would then inform me of the other required packages it would download and install, and ask me to proceed. It’s very powerful; you never have to track down dependencies on your own.

EVERYTECH: That’s pretty good. Could I install this package tool on Caldera as well? Maybe it could help me get pine running!

TLSNC: Where can we get more info on Debian?

JACOB WILKINS: Go to their Web site: www.debian.org.

File and print sharing on Linux
EVERYTECH: How do you do file and print sharing on Linux? I’m more familiar with NT server.

JACOB WILKINS: Well, Linux to UNIX file and print sharing would be with NFS and LPD, respectively, both are established protocols. For Linux windows file and print sharing, you use a package called Samba. It can make a Linux machine look like an NT machine to the rest of the Microsoft machines on the network.

EVERYTECH: NFS is the file system, correct? What’s LPD?

JACOB WILKINS: Everytech, LPD is an old acronym for Line Printer Daemon. It’s how UNIX machines share printers.

GNOME supporters
JECASSERLY: Is GNOME part of Debian Linux or is that a separate installation?

JACOB WILKINS: Helix Gnome, from www.helixcode.com, can provide packages for Debian. I have them installed, but I rarely use them. I prefer a clean window manager. I run Window Maker, which you can download from www.windowmaker.org.

EVERYTECH: Gnome is the window manager?

JACOB WILKINS: Gnome is a desktop environment; it works with many window managers and many applications. It provides for IPC between applications.


JACOB WILKINS: InterProcess Communication. Things like drag and drop across multiple apps.

Gnome is big news these days. Sun is going to make Gnome the default desktop of Solaris. Sun, HP, IBM, and many other Linux and non-Linux companies have formed the Gnome Foundation. They are planning to make Gnome the standard UNIX desktop and attack Microsoft with it.

JACOB WILKINS: StarOffice has been released under the GPL and is going to be integrated into Gnome. That should fix things on the office front.

TLSNC: Evertech, have you tried StarOffice.

EVERYTECH: Yes, Tlsnc, and I found it, well, slow.

JECASSERLY: I think it will be the standard.

TLSNC: It is supposed to be compatible with Word and Excel.

JECASSERLY: It is compatible with WordPerfect.

Linux advances and compatibility issues
JACOB WILKINS: These are very interesting times to be in the Linux arena. For most people, there is no reason they shouldn’t be running Linux right now.

EVERYTECH: Except perhaps it’s tough to get laptops working, and there are those darn office compatibility issues.

JACOB WILKINS: And when the 2.4 kernel comes out, no one will have a reason to shun Linux.

EVERYTECH: Do tell about the 2.4 kernel. What are the highlights?

JACOB WILKINS: Ahh, 2.4, the mythical beast that it is, expect it by the end of the year or there abouts.

JACOB WILKINS: Its greatest boon is the multithreaded IP stack. Lack of a threaded IP stack is why Linux did so poorly in those Mindcraft benchmarks.

Also, 2.4 has an httpd kernel module. You never have to enter userspace to serve static content. Modules to plug this into Apache are on the way as well.

One thing that will completely change, better or worse, is the /dev structure. Gone will be /dev/hda. Enter /dev/ide/0 and /dev/ide/1.

This helps greatly with removable devices. As in USB, which has good support in 2.4

EVERYTECH: Jacob Williams, so mounting drives is completely different. What about SCSI?

JACOB WILKINS: SCSI will have similar changes.

EVERYTECH: What about power management in 2.4 and firewire?

JACOB WILKINS: ReiserFS may not make it into 2.4 officially, but there will be stable, supported patches against 2.4. I’m not sure how far along firewire will be. Only Apple really supports it.

EVERYTECH: So does Win 2000, I believe.

TLSNC: Yes, there is supposed to be support for firewire in W2K.

JACOB WILKINS: I don’t know of any great leaps and bounds made to power management.

New Linux office apps
TCPORET: I believe I read where there is a new office app coming out for Linux shortly.

EVERYTECH: What’s it called, Tcporet?

TCPORET: I can’t remember right now. I think I read it in PC Magazine.

EVERYTECH: Doesn’t Corel have an office suite for Linux?

TCPORET: Yes, they are out with it.

JECASSERLY: Yes, it’s called Penguin.

Thanks for coming
MODERATOR: OK, all, let’s wrap it up. Terrific meeting! Let’s have a big hand for Jacob!

TLSNC: Thanks for the great chat tonight, Jacob.

EVERYTECH: Super, Jacob. Do more. I learned so much.

MODERATOR: Don’t forget to check our Guild Meeting calendar for other meetings.

JACOB WILKINS: It’s been great chatting with everyone.
Our Guild Meetings feature top-flight professionals leading discussions on interesting and valuable IT issues. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail, or on the Guild Meeting calendar.