Tuesday, December 25, 2007

LINUX DISTRIBUTIONS

www.centos.org
www.fedoraproject.org
www.novell.com/linux
www.mandriva.com
www.ubuntu.com

Well, now that you know what LINUX is we need to explore how this loose collection of software is made available to the user.

The collections are called DISTRIBUTIONS or DISTROS. Several companies offer their LINUX DISTRO and SUPPORT as a commercial product, some DISTROS are freely available for download.

I am more familiar with REDHAT LINUX, so, I will use them as an example.

RHEL - Red Hat Enterprise Linux - a commercial LINUX DISTRO with SUPPORT
FEDORA - A community supported LINUX DISTRO that can be downloaded at no cost

Fedora may be a community supported product, but, RED HAT pours a good deal of time and money into the Fedora project in the form of employee development time and debugging. In return, the community reports bugs for the product for a wide variety of software configurations and computer equipment configurations. These bug reports and user experiences help RED HAT make improvements to the RHEL product.

So, if you run a business and want your server operating system to have support, RHEL may be the product you need. If you are looking for a LINUX DISTRO that has good community support, FEDORA may be your solution.

There are many DISTROS out there, about 300 at one time. The big ones seem to be:

SUSE (Novell)
RHEL/FEDORA (RedHat)
UBUNTU (Canonical)
MANDRIVA (Mandriva) Formerly MANDRAKE
CentOS a community supported derivative of RHEL

LINUX - what the heck is it, anyway?

Most complex computers systems have software that is organized in "layers".

The bottom most layer, the one that controls the physical machine, is often referred to as the KERNEL, it can be thought of as a resource manager. You need the keyboard, mouse, memory, video -- the program you are running will get to it using the KERNEL.

Under WINDOWS (PC) it is KERNEL32.EXE
Under LINUX (PC) it is KERNEL.
Under OS X (MAC) it is XNU.

The program you are running, say the FIREFOX WEB BROWSER, is obtaining system resources by making a request to the KERNEL of the OPERATING SYSTEM that you are running.

HARDWARE (PC) <--> KERNEL <--> FIREFOX

The operating system is a group of programs, usually the KERNEL and other utilities needed for running the elementary system operations (create file, delete file, view file, move file, backup file .. etc.). These elementary operations will boot the system and get you to the point of logging on and getting to your desktop.

Under LINUX the KERNEL is provided by Linus Torvalds and a team of volunteers (paid and unpaid) that work together over the internet. The LINUX KERNEL and the GNU TOOLS are largely responsible for booting the system and getting you to the point where you can RUN SOFTWARE, like a desktop. This bundle is often called LINUX or LINUX/GNU.

LINUX and GNU by themselves provide the foundation for the DESKTOP and OTHER SOFTWARE that makes up a LINUX DISTRIBUTION.

A normal LINUX distribution will include LINUX, the GNU TOOLS, a WINDOW MANAGER, several DESKTOP ENVIRONMENTS and 1,000's of applications including OFFICE, BROWSERS, NEWS READERS, INSTANT MESSAGING and many, many more.

The best part of all is, in most cases, the DISTRIBUTIONS ARE FREE OF CHARGE, and, FREE TO REDISTRIBUTE. FREE and FREEDOM.

That is the OPEN SOURCE or FREE SOFTWARE way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BIT TORRENT - open source file transfer

www.bittorrent.com

This technology is one of the few that comes along over the years that is SO USEFUL and POWERFUL and so UNKNOWN that it is unbelievable.

If you download files of any kind, you need to know about TORRENT or SWARM technology.

When you download a file you normally get one piece at a time from a single source.

When you download a file using swarm, you get a piece from everyone on the internet that is using the swarm to download the same file. Sometimes you get literally 100's of sources for the same data, and the improvement (in my experience) is UNBELIEVABLE. Files that used to take 8 hours or more are now in my hands in 1.5 hours.

Do a google search on "bittorrent" and read up, then download the torrent client and ENJOY.

FEDORA - open source LINUX OS

fedoraproject.org

Wow, anybody that knows me can tell you that I have a half dozen machines at my house running LINUX, and FEDORA is my LINUX of choice. It has been there for me since 1998 and it is sponsored by RED HAT, a good old NC company. I try others, but, I always end up here. That said, I do carry KNOPPIX with me everywhere I go (See RUN LIVE) and it is my RUN LIVE CD of choice.

It's not that I dislike Microsoft ENTIRELY, but, I just don't want a full time job managing Windows systems at home. I like to PLUG and PLAY ... Linux is the OS that allows me to install and forget (I still use Windows at work, and yes, Win2000 and WinXP made HUGE improvements in my attitude toward Microsoft).

MEDIA PLAYER CLASSIC - free ware multimedia

www.free-codecs.com/download/Media_Player_Classic.htm

If this link breaks, just google "media player classic".

This little multimedia program makes everything else overly complicated and bloated. It is fast, only ONE FILE and will play back anything I have ever thrown at it ... period. Basically for Windows (I run it on XP at work).

GMAIL - google e-mail service

gmail.google.com

If you are still using "somebody else's" e-mail service just get it over with and get your head examined. If you move to GOOGLE MAIL you can quit telling your friends to change your e-mail address every time a cheaper internet provider comes along. This will work with ANYBODY's INTERNET SERVICE and from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD that you can get to an internet capable computer.

FREE - not tied to your internet provider (ie. AOL, TIME WARNER, COMCAST, MINDSPRING)
FREE - POP service (so you can download your mail to your PC and your private e-mail program)
FREE - Over 2 Gigs of e-mail and booty busting attachment storage.
FREE - Calendar Application, linkable, shareable, downloadable, printable, multiple calendars ...
FREE - Instant Messages that will slide right through most firewalls
FREE - FAST AS BLAZES AND EASY TO USE

Are you still reading ... setup an account and learn why Microsoft and Yahoo hate Google.

RUN LIVE - open source test drive CD's

www.knoppix.org
fedoraproject.org

OK, what the heck is RUN LIVE? Well, you simply pop a CD or DVD full of free software in you CD/DVD player and reboot your machine. It runs ENTIRELY OFF THE CD and out of MEMORY, NOTHING IS INSTALLED on the HARD DRIVE and nothing is ALTERED on the HARD DRIVE.

The software gives you a chance to try different versions of LINUX on your system without having to install them (See the LINUX blogs). But wait, if you don't need the HARD DRIVE to run it, doesn't that mean that you could use this RUN LIVE stuff to boot a machine with a DEAD HARD DRIVE ?? Sure. Then, in the event that your hard drive is OK and just the operating system is damaged, you can look for and COPY YOUR FILES from the HARD DRIVE to a USB FLASH (PEN) DRIVE.

COOL? Darn right it is. Get your data saved before the GEEK SQUAD reinstalls the OS and you lose your data. There are other COOL applications for this technology too, but I try to keep these short.

GIMP - open source photo editing

www.gimp.org

OK, so the open source folks need help with program names.

But that is where the "poking fun" will stop. Gimp is one of those programs you "need when you need" and you don't need a multi-hundred dollar price tag for a "sometimes" application. It is a photo editor that is able to be "enhanced" via plug-ins and anybody can write plug-ins with this open source application.

Monday, December 10, 2007

THUNDERBIRD - open source e-mail

www.mozilla.com/thunderbird

Like their website says, "TAKE BACK YOUR INBOX".

Tire of taking what you get for an e-mail client from your operating system vendor?

Thunderbird is different, and free.

PORTABLE APPLICATIONS - productivity

portableapps.com

Ever wish you could take your browser, e-mail, instant messenger or other favorite application with you and still have all your contacts, bookmarks and the like? Well, portable apps may be for you.

The apps go with you on a memory stick and the settings (and data you save) go with you and the memory stick wherever you go. Too cool? It is!

FIREFOX - open source web browser

www.mozilla.com/firefox

Finally, an alternative to all the buggy WEB browsers out there. The Mozilla folks have finally brought us a web browser that works for US instead of working for every POP UP AD MAKER in the universe.

Tabbed browsing is a MUST. Each web page is in a tabbed window of its own. It is (of course) free and comes in flavors for Windows, Mac and Linux.

PIDGIN - open source Instant Messaging

www.pidgin.im

Tired of having half a dozen IM (instant messaging) clients open on your taskbar (or system tray?).

Pidgin is a God send ... it allows you to use different protocols (Yahoo, MSN, AOL) from one application at the same time. Each session is in a tabbed window for convenient tracking. All buddies show up in ONE BUDDY LIST! It is amazing, fast and rock solid. Available for Windows and Linux.

OPEN OFFICE - open source office suite

www.openoffice.org

OPEN OFFICE is a product similar to Microsoft Office and other office productivity products. A fine example of free software at its best, Open Office is available at no cost for Windows, Mac and Linux. It has features that easily rival the most feature complete office productivity suites, and, you can test drive the full, working version on your terms at no cost. Just download it and go.

Word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentations ... a complete office productivity suite.