Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Quarterback's Operating System

"Perhaps this is what needs to happen. Every Linux seller from Novell to Dell (via Canonical) buys air time during the Super Bowl and co-ops a website and a call center phone number for people interested in getting more information."

- Matt Hartley at Mad Penguin dot org

At the beginning of 2007, I was saying the same thing! I was extremely disappointed during the last Super Bowl! Well, not really. The Colts defeated the Bears in an exciting game where the combined efforts of Peyton Manning, Adam Vinatieri, and the Colts offense and defense put enough points up on the scoreboard to defeat the Bears. As one of the only two undefeated teams in the NFL this year, the Colts could end up playing at another Super Bowl game once again.

Although I wrote this article before the Colts loss to the Patriots, the Colts are still in the running and could still defeat the Patriots if they play as aggressively as the Eagles did!

This time, I'd like to see Peyton Manning take his acting career a step further. Last season, Peyton was the spokesman for Verizon. Instead of gaining sponsorship from Verizon, this year I'd like to see Peyton Manning in a Linux commercial. Linux is touted as a geeks' operating system. However, Linux distributions such as Ubuntu are clearly targeting your average home users. So what better way to advertise than to do exactly what Matt Hartley has suggested?

As I mentioned, I didn't see a single Linux commercial during the last Super Bowl, but I totally expected to see one! I was so sure that Linux would make its debut into mainstream media. With Vista looming on the horizon, now is the perfect opportunity for Ubuntu, SUSE, and other Linux distributions to spread the word during the largest televised event during the year.

Novell, you are a corporation. Throw some of those corporate dollars to Peyton Manning! Dell, you already advertise. Help out the open source movement and promote Ubuntu on your laptops! This is what makes you stand out from the crowd! Capitalize on it!

No one ever said it was illegal to make sales from open source software!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Google Releases New Version of Gmail

Google has released a new version of Gmail. The ui parameter that appeared in the URL recently, the one that broke the HTML Reply Signatures for Gmail Signatures Firefox Extension and Greasemonkey, was part of the plan for allowing users to switch between the newer version and the older version.

How to Go Back to Gmail's Older Version explains more of the details regarding the new version features as well as how to switch back to the older version.

I just bought a 1968 Ford Thunderbird! I bought it yesterday actually. It hasn't even been 24 hours! It has a 429 cubic inch big block V8, suicide doors, a nice, well-preserved leather interior, and driving this well-engineered machine is like stepping back in time! It also has enough power to propel you into tomorrow!

And just how does this relate to the Gmail Reply Signatures Extension you ask? Well, it will be awhile before I will be able to fix this newly created Gmail bug, so for now, I'm going to recommend that you use the older version of Gmail so you can still use your HTML Signatures. Fortunately, Google is good at allowing us to enjoy backwards compatibility for awhile.

I'll post pictures of the car soon!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rebooting Linux

Rebooting Linux. These are two words that are seldom said in the same sentence. Its something that most Linux users just never think about; but recently, rebooting Linux was the topic of conversation between myself, and a coworker with a Windows background.

"Why are we using Linux as a server?", she asked. This is a very good question that is likely to evoke a myriad of different responses.

"I think that Linux is used because of it's modular nature. Updates, configuration changes, and other maintenance can be done to the server without needing to reboot it.", I stated. Restart or reboot the computer

"Well, when does it need to be rebooted?", asked my coworker. Wow! I never really thought about it like that before. When does it need to be rebooted? Of course, I knew from experience that Linux could run for months without requiring a restart ever since Professor James Caldwell of the University of Wyoming stated that his office computer reported over 100 days of uptime since the last reboot. But I never really thought about why Linux would require a reboot.

With Windows, it's fairly obvious. Rebooting a Windows box is done in all of the following situations, yet none of these situations require a Linux reboot:

1 - When updating or patching the operating system.
2 - When installing new software of any kind.
3 - When it locks up or slows down.
4 - As the first step in any troubleshooting procedure.
5 - As a secondary, tertiary, intermediary, or final step in any troubleshooting procedure.
6 - Automatically, when you're not looking.
7 - As a troubleshooting step.
8 - When an application conflicts with the system.
9 - As a troubleshooting step.
10 - As a trou...

Anyway, I've had the opportunity to install some software on the servers at work, and not once have I had to reboot the server. Not once has the server locked up, acted sluggish, or thrown the blue screen of death. I've heard our IT department speak of worms on Windows Servers, but laughter ensues when someone asks what kind of virus software is installed on the Linux servers.

The conversation between my coworker and I continued: "When do we need to reboot a server?", she asked.Restart or reboot computer

"That's a good question. I'm not sure. I don't think it matters. But you've made me curious... Let's see how long it's been since svrXX was rebooted...". So at the SSH terminal, I type 'uptime' at the prompt, "162 days!", I exclaim.

"It has to be rebooted in 162 days?", she asks. Having primarily a Windows background, the concept of not having to reboot is a bit perplexing to her.

"No, that is how long it has been since it was last rebooted!", I explain. I try running 'uptime' on another server, "Check out this one, 315 days! This server was last rebooted almost a year ago! Now, there's no uptime command for Windows --", probably because hours are easier to remember than months, "but if you could type uptime at the prompt it would probably tell you that it had been running for only a few days."

"Oh! Can I try uptime?", she asks.

Another coworker overhears our conversation, "Actually,", he begins, "there is indeed a command you can use to view statistics from the DOS prompt. Type 'net statistics server'."

Upon discovering this information, my curious coworker types the command in her DOS window. "My computer has been running for eight(8) hours!", she said. "I just turned it on this morning."

I looked at my screen. "Mine shows a whopping six(6) days!", and it definitely showed. The PC was running slow. Clicking on an icon resulted in a delayed reaction, kind of like in cartoons where the character gets his foot stepped on and it takes a few minutes for the signal to reach his brain. There were 46 Firefox tabs open, 2 VMWare images running, a few Notepad windows, collaboration software, a database manager, a couple folders, and several Putty windows along with a mess of other open programs.

Like an old muscle car, I was pushing this thing to it's limit and it was still driving forward. It was definitely being taxed, so no wonder I have problems with my computers, but I wonder if I would have the same problems with Ubuntu or SUSE installed on my workstation PC? With SUSE or Ubuntu, I could "rip the process out of the wall" using 'kill -9', as another co-worker would say; but with Windows, eventually you come to a point where you have to just kill the motor and restart.

But why risk any downtime if you don't need to?

P.S. In all fairness to Windows, I did take note of the fact that Ubuntu 6.0.6 did require a restart after some updates. I was unpleasantly surprised by this and am not quite sure what to make of it. Of course, I think Ubuntu was designed more for home desktop users rather than for use as a server. More research will be needed in order to determine if Ubuntu Server suffers from this same requirement.