Sunday, March 18, 2007

From SUSE 9.2 Pro to SLED 10

Today I finally got around to updating the SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 installation on my ThinkPad 42p to SLED 10. I selected SLED 10 in place of openSUSE 10.2 in order to discover the difference between the two and get a feel for SLED 10.

At first I attempted to use the update feature on the SLED 10 EVAL DVD. This failed twice due to some missing files (I should have noted down the names of these, but did not - sorry!). The third time the update succeeded, but the first reboot failed.

This ThinkPad has 3 OS: Windows XP Professional, eComStation 1.2 MR and SUSE Linux Professional 9.2. Since neither GRUB nor LILO to the best of my knowledge knows anything about HPFS partitions and the IBM Boot Manager even in the new version included with eCS 1.2 MR don't recognise the Reiser file system the boot setup is somewhat special. From the IBM Boot Manager one can select either Windows XP, eComStation 1.2 MR or LILO, which is installed in a separate linux partition. From LILO one can select either Linux or Windows.

The update feature on the SLED 10 EVAL DVD did not as I expected leave this setup alone. In stead it attempted to install GRUB. The result was a kernel panic on the first reboot.

Then I decided to do a new install. The new install path allowed me to modify the startup, so it used LILO in stead of the default GRUB, and also to install LILO on a separate boot partition. With this setup the install of 3.04 GB from the SLED 10 EVAL DVD went without a problem.

The interest in Linux and openSUSE in particular is an attempt to migrate some computers at a local church office from Windows XP Home to an OS, which allows some more intelligent file sharing. Currently one computer has been migrated to openSUSE 10.2. On another FreeNAS has been installed, but I plan to migrate this rather old computer to a minimum openSUSE 102. install in order to use it as a file and print server (it contains a TANDBERG DAT TAPE drive).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The eComstation Community

Friday and Saturday is attended Linuxforum 2007, which toke place at the Copenhagen Architect School not too far from one of the trouble spots in Copenhagen during the past few days. This event is the largest local gathering of linux enthusiast in Denmark and this was the 10th anniversary of the event, which is arranged by 5 people and a large number of volunteers.

At the event I had a change to reflect over the size of the developer community around eComstation relative to the communities around some of the linux distributions. The eComstation at least have only one OS to worry about - two if you count the server offering as a separate OS. Compare that to the BSD linux community. They have FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, DragonFlyBSD, PC-BSD and DestopBSD to mention just some of the BSD based distributions. In additon to the mentioned distributions there are specialized distributions based on BSD, such as FreeNAS for network attached storage. All these communities need to worry about much the same issues as the eComstation community, i.e. the availability of drivers for differnt types of hardware. In one of the last releases of OpenBSD one of the achievements was the addition of 25 new drivers for different kinds of hardware. Of course all of these distributions are free, while eComstations cost money, and additionally our OS only run on Intel and AMD hardware. Nonetheless I believe we are better much better of, and I believe this is because the eComstation development takes place based on a sound business model, which in some areas is helped by volunters such the people at Netlabs.org and a significant number of individuals around the world, who ensure the availability of an increasing number of applications, such as PostgreSQL and MySQL to mention just a couple.

At Linuxforum 2007 I saw a couple of interesting things. First there was the new Playstation3 with the IBM Cell processor running Yellow Dog Linux in dual boot mode - games console for the kids and a powerfull computer for the rest of the family. A researcher at DIKU at Copenhagen University compared the performance of a 3,2 GHz Pentium from Intel with the CELL processor on a protein folding problem. The CELL processor was 8 times as fast as the Intel based computer! Now I finally have a reason to buy a PS3.

Then there was a guy from CSC, who needed some tool for monitoring > 4000 servers, and developed Hobbit to fit his and his companys needs. I just need to monitor two servers, but the application scales well, and it would be nice to know about problems with the servers before my boss.

Finally I have a choice. I like OS/2 and eComstation. During more than 10 years daily usage I have got used to some applications on OS/2 and eComstation. There are some applications I would like to continue to use, but I also need to exchange documents with others, and most of them work in a Windows based environment. One choice is to switch to a linux distribution such as OpenSUSE. Then I could use Innotek's VirtualBox to run the Windows and eComstations applications, which I still need. Also with the release of the next version of Notes I can get access to my old Smartsuite documents and convert them to OpenOffice.org or Microsoft Office documents using tools, which where previously only available on the Domino server. Notes 8 is build on top of the Eclipse Rich Client Platform, this opens up a second choice.

If someone, e.g. the current company behind eComstation, ports the Eclipse Rich Client Platform to eComstation, then eComstation users would gain access to a state of the art document conversion tool. So many old documents could be converted and distributed in new formats. Also the current effort used to make OpenOffice.org available to eComstation users could be directed to towards making the Eclipse RCP available on eComstation. This would have the advantage, that as future applications based on the Eclipse RCP become available, then they would automatically run on eComstation. To run the few Windows applications I still need to run I would need to rely on Innotek's VirtualBox on an OS/2 host. However, this software is currently in closed beta.

The first choice precently seems like the path of least resistance, and except for Notes 8 for linux everything is there today. They other choice allows me to continue with eComstation, but some other people need to make the right business decisions to make it happen.