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July 31, 2006

“The Easiest Linux Guide You’ll Ever Read – an introduction to Linux for Windows users” – a book by Scott Morris

by @ 6:46 am. Filed under freebies, General SUSE, How-To, SUSE Blog News, SUSE Tips & Tricks

It’s finally here!

After several months of writing and revising, I have made available the “Easiest Linux Guide You’ll Ever Read”. It is a 160-page book geared towards people who are competent with using Windows, who have never attempted to use Linux but are interested in giving it a try.

When I was first learning Linux, I got so lost so fast in so many areas, it was hugely overwhelming for me. I was impressed that I was able to download Linux, burn it onto CDs, and get it installed. But once I got that far, I was excited, but my excitement was short-lived. I had no idea what to do next, how to install software, or what software even to install for what I needed. I didn’t understand the concept of Open Source software. I didn’t know where to go for help. I most assuredly did not know a thing about the command line. 10 years of using Windows was of very little help. I felt that though I was a fairly able computer user, I had stepped into a situation where such experience did me little good.

In the book, I try to explain some concepts of how Linux is similar to Windows, helping people become familiar with it very quickly. I also explain some of the most important differences, many of which are improvements from the environment to which they have become accustomed. The book also dispels many myths that may serve to hamper the adoption of Linux more fully. The overall purpose is to give people a bridge from what they already know to the powerful, fascinating world that is the Linux operating system. Because that world can be a little daunting at first, it’s nice to have a little help getting used to things. This is what the “Easiest Linux Guide You’ll Ever Read” is designed to do.

After seeing what Linux has to offer, it is very much worth my time to help other people see it too. At very least take some time and try it out once. You can even dual-boot your machine (covered in the book) to be able to boot into whichever operating system you want. If you dont’ like it, that’s fine. It is an acquired taste for some people. However, it’s hard to tell people why you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it. Try it out and make an informed opinion based off personal experience.

I wrote this book because I really dig Linux and I want to make it easy to try for people who want to. It’s for you, it’s for the community, it’s for anyone who might benefit from it.

How do I help other people try Linux?

A few days ago, I wrote a post about how to share Linux with others. The article is called “SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for Spreading the Linux Cure“. It got quite an impressive number of comments, most of which were praiseworthy. The article discusses ways that we can spread the word about using Linux to people who have never heard of it or who might be interested in trying it out. Between the “Easiest Linux Guide You’ll Ever Read” and “SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for Spreading the Linux Cure.” you should have ample tools and resources for helping people learn how to use Linux.

How do I get the book?

If you would like to download the book, it is available from here. It is in PDF format. Just click the link to download, or right-click and “Save Target As…” you’ll be in great shape. Feedback for the book can be left on the feedback form.

This book is released under the Creative Commons License.

July 27, 2006

The Easiest Linux Guide You’ll Ever Read

by @ 6:57 am. Filed under General SUSE, SUSE Blog News

I’m finally (mostly) finished with it. I have been working on a book for the past couple of months. The main goal behind the book is to assist marginally-experienced Windows users to be able to check out Linux without too much worry. I have a few more things to iron out with it, but when it’s all finished, I will post it for all to have, free of charge. As of right now, it is about 160 pages long. Below is an excerpt of the first few pages of it:

About the Author

Scott Morris began using computers over 20 years ago, at the age of 10. He has used 25 different versions of 5 different operating systems over this time period. Of those many operating systems, he has experience using MS-DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Mac OS 9.x – X. He has enjoyed using many different distributions of Linux, including Mandrake, Red Hat, Gentoo, Fedora Core, Debian, and SUSE.

He has worked recently as Editor of the Novell CoolSolutions Linux communities. During his employment there, Novell, along with many other news outlets, has published over 110 of his articles. He gets particular enjoyment out of helping people discover the excitement of the Linux operating system. Articles he has written can be found on his author page, located at: http://www.novell.com/coolsolutions/author/1012.html .

He also has a personal blog, located at http://www.suseblog.com, which he uses for personal enjoyment and to help others. He writes opinions, news, tips, and tricks about the SUSE Linux operating system. This blog is a light-hearted resource for beginning Linux users. The latest version of this book can be found at this website.

Table of Contents

Who should read this book 7

An introduction before we start 9

More familiar than you think 9

Common Myths 10

Things to know about Linux 13

Getting Help and Learning More 18

General reading material 18

Forums 19

Mailing Lists 19

Other Resources 20

How do I get Linux? 21

Download Linux and put it onto CDs 21

Purchasing Linux Installation CDs 23

Installing SUSE Linux 23

Installation Options 23

Linux-only Installation 24

Beginning the Installation 25

Sharing the computer between Linux and Windows 58

Beginning the Installation 59

Introduction to Users and Groups 89

Get to Know Your Desktop 90

What is KDE? 90

The K Menu 91

The Kicker Panel 94

The KDE Control Center 94

Changing Mouse Behavior 95

Changing Time and Date Display Format 99

Window Themes 104

Desktop Preferences 111

Konqueror: filesystem and web browser 116

Browsing through your files 116

As a web browser 118

Kicker Panel 119

Installing Applications 122

Applications 129

OpenOffice 129

OpenOffice Writer 130

OpenOffice Calc 132

Thunderbird 135

Setting up your email account 136

Sending and receiving email 146

Firefox 147

So you want to use the command line? 151

View directory contents with ‘ls’ 153

Make a directory with ‘mkdir’ 154

Remove a directory with ‘rmdir’ 154

Change to a directory with ‘cd’ 155

What directory am I in? Using ‘pwd’ 155

Copying files with ‘cp’ 156

Moving files with ‘mv’ 156

Deleting files with ‘rm’ 157

Viewing text files with ‘cat’ 157

Viewing text files with ‘less’ 158

What time is it? What is the date? Using ‘date’ 158

Using ‘man’ to find help 159

Conclusion 160

Who should read this book

This book is geared towards Windows users who want to take a look at Linux. Are you interested in trying Linux on your computer? If so, you have found the perfect book. In this book, I will give you a gentle introduction into using Linux, and help you ease into it. The only technical skills you should have include browsing the Internet and downloading files. It will help if you have burned your own CDs before, but such skills are not required. If you have a computer geek handy, that also couldn’t hurt. The purpose of this book is to make it easy to try the Linux operating system, particularly for people who are used to Microsoft Windows. Even if you only use your Windows computer for checking email and surfing the Internet, this book was written just for you.

Having used Windows myself for nearly 15 years, I was very used to that platform. I didn’t realize how used to it I was until I tried to use something else. As an illustration of what I mean, let’s say that you download Linux, and eventually figure out how to download Linux. Even when you finally do get it installed, it is somewhat of a bitter-sweet triumph. On the one hand, you feel good about having successfully gotten that far.

On the other hand, after you have installed it, you sit there, staring blankly at your new desktop wondering what in the world to do next. You may feel somewhat lost. You have heard how wonderful Linux is, but don’t know why, or how to make it perform all the impressive tricks. In many cases, you don’t even know what those tricks are (at least I didn’t when I first started).

If you are considering trying out Linux on your desktop, but have some anxiety about learning everything, from this point on, you have no need to worry. We will take it one step at a time. The top priority of this book is to make everything as easy to learn as possible. I am going to give as much background and explanation as I can.

My goal is that you understand the purpose and concepts involved with each step that we take. I want to go over the why as well as the what. The more you understand, the better your foundation will be. A good, strong foundation provides a solid base upon which you can build as you learn more. This helps you learn more efficiently, and retain more of what you learn in the future.

Before we try and get Linux to install it, we will discuss some fundamental topics. When you are switching from Windows to Linux, there are some expectations that you will need to change. You are going to be using a brand new platform. You cannot assume that the new platform to be equivalent in all aspects to the old one.

To begin with, we will mold your expectations. If you know what to plan on, your experience will be more pleasant. In other words, there is a mental shift that will take place as well as you switch platforms from Windows to Linux. I want to make that shift as easy and pleasant as possible for you.

If all goes well, this introduction will be painless. At very least, I hope to make the migration process as enjoyable and easy for you as I can.

Your experience will gradually increase as we explore the various aspects of the Linux operating system. As this occurs, you will have questions. You will want to learn more about different things. If, heaven forbid, something goes wrong with your system, you may wish to seek help. You may want to interact with other Linux enthusiasts. You may even wish to share what you have learned with others.

There is almost an endless list of online resources and communities that will address all of these issues and plenty more. I will share with you many great resources that you can use to learn more about Linux. Hopefully, I will be able to help you know where to go for each of the different types of help or information that you seek. This way, if you have a question that I do not address here, you will know where you can find your answer.

Well, there you have it. A short introduction to what the book discusses. Hang tight and in a few days I will have the final draft ready for everyone to download. Have a good one.

July 26, 2006

If SUSE Linux took over the world…

by @ 6:55 am. Filed under General Linux, My Opinion

Here are some questions I need answered:

As Linux captures more and more of the market share, what will happen? Many Windows zealots claim that Linux is secure only because it is obscure. What would really happen if Linux was on 95% of desktops? Would there be 120,000 known viruses for Linux like there are for Windows? Would Windows only have 500 known viruses? Or would Linux be even better than it is now?

As a Linux user, I hear all sorts of bogus claims about how Linux would be just as vulnerable as Windows if the tables were turned. I want to know what everyone thinks about these kinds of claims.

Just to illustrate, I’ll take you through some points of logic concerning what I think about all this.

  1. First, there will obviously be many more script kiddies, hackers, and other types of hackers. This means that there will be more malicious eyes looking through the code to find ways to breach systems running that code.
  2. Also, however, you will have almost the entire programming community who would be using Linux machines. In Microsoft’s own survey, they found that 86% of IT personnel who had experience with Windows and Linux preferred Linux. Especially if 95% of people are already using Linux, you are going to have a huge load of programmers using it. Because of the amount of programmers working on the code, there will be faster development of higher quality code.
  3. The number of programmers working on Linux projects would be astronomical compared to the number of programmers working on the Windows code. Truly, Microsoft would be at an even more massive disadvantage than they already are.
  4. Because of these things, I think that more vulnerabilities might be found faster, but that patches will be available almost immediately. I think that the development of open source projects would be hugely accelerated. Patches would be available immediately for known vulnerabilities in the Linux platform. I always hear about “when they write viruses for Linux”. Well, should this extremely hypothetical day ever come, the vulnerabilities being exploited for such a virus would be released within hours of the virus hitting. Thus, the virus would have to spread at about the speed of light to penetrate enough computers to cause any big outages.

I really think that people who say that there are no viruses for Linux because it is the minority need to realize that viruses don’t work on a platform because of how many people use that platform. Viruses work because of poor code and an even worse operating system.

The inherent design of how Windows works is flawed. You can send unauthenticated messages to any window that is open, allowing a programmer to take control of any program you have on your system. Want to shutdown any known firewall or antivirus on a Windows machine? Enumerate the windows open on the desktop and send known antivirus windows a kill message, and then enumerate the processes and send known antivirus processes a kill message. In a tenth of a second, you’ve completely rendered security software on Windows completely useless. If you really want to get nasty, delete the registry keys and files associated with these antivirus and firewall software applications, essentially uninstalling them. How do I know this works? I have personally written programs that do this very thing. Why would this work? Because the fundamental design of how the windowing system works is flawed. You can send any message you want to any open window and it will accept it. Who decided that that ws a good idea?

Quite often, I hear, “Microsoft will never go away.” Well, their market share is slipping. They have seen their best days. They are only going down from here.

Yes, I’m as one-sided as usual. Please, though, let me know your take on the original question: What would happen to Linux if it owned 95% of the desktop market share?

July 25, 2006

SUSE Linux at work / ways to improve Linux

by @ 6:40 am. Filed under General Linux, My Opinion

Sometime in the near future, I will be installing SUSE 10.0 on a handful of our servers. As part of this, I will be initiating two new Linux users into SUSE 10.1. Gotta make it bright and shiny for the “wow” effect. The servers have to be a little more stable, though, so we’re gonna go 10.0 with them. It’s cool to see people who have just accepted Windows all their life wake up to the possibilities of the power that an operating system can offer. You don’t have to just accept that you have to reboot every time you install something, or when something goes wrong, or whenever you move your mouse. You wake up from the assumption that you have to run antivirus and spyware scanning software all the time. There are no virus definition updates you have to download. It’s quite liberating seeing Linux develop as fast as it is. It’s super cool to see the momentum it is gaining as more people adopt it. Share it with everyone you know. Introduce it to whoever shows interest. Think about it this way: Whatever level you believe it is on (whether enterprise-ready or whatnot), it is only getting better from here. Take a look at the amazing strides it’s made in the past 3 or so years. Think about what that implies for future progress. I can’t wait to see where it will be a few years from now.

You want to help push Linux? Take a look at what Stephen J. Vaughan-Nichols posted a few days back. He calls it “Top five things Linux can learn from Microsoft.” Yeah, an interesting title. Think about what he’s saying. He’s right on, as he usually is. He suggests that Linux could really use something like the MSDN. Boy, if you want to get started programming in Linux, you have to really beat on it. Not exciting to people like me. He suggests that Linux use a common interface for applications. I guess the fact that KDE and Gnome both have pretty standard interfaces. He wants them to be the same from Gnome to KDE to the different window managers. He does have a point, but the fact that all my KDE apps look the same is good enough for me. He mentions common formats. ODF is long overdue. At least we’re going in the right direction with that. Marketing is the hugest one for me. M$ is one of the best marketing companies ever to exist. The Linux community could sure learn a few marketing concepts. Mr. Vaughan-Nichols also talks about having the Linux OS come preinstalled with new computers. This is essential if we are going to introduce more people to Linux. In any case, give the story a read. It’s a decent read.

July 24, 2006

Throttling Downloads in SUSE Linux 10.1

by @ 6:37 am. Filed under General Linux, General SUSE, How-To, SUSE Tips & Tricks

Once in awhile, it’s nice to be considerate of the other users of your network. If I have a huge file that I want to download, and I just start the download, it will take up as much of the available bandwidth as it can, usually. If there were 30 people on the network, and 5 were downloading huge files all day long, the remaining 25 people would be pretty much unable to access the network.

What if you could throttle the bandwidth of your downloads? It may take a little longer, this is true. It is a nice tool to be able to implement when necessary.

How do you throttle the download bandwidth? The command you use is called wget. The syntax of this command is as follows:


wget ––limit-rate=[byte limit per second] [url]

To download the first CD of SUSE 10.1 at 20k per second, I would run this command:


wget ––limit-rate=20000 http://mirrors.kernel.org/opensuse/distribution/SL-10.1/iso/SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD1.iso

What’s cool is that you could write a bash script something like the following that would download the entire SUSE Linux 10.1 distribution for you completely unattended, limiting your download speed to 20k per second with a script looking like this:


#!/bin/sh
wget ––limit-rate=20000 http://mirrors.kernel.org/opensuse/distribution/SL-10.1/iso/SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD1.iso
wget ––limit-rate=20000 http://mirrors.kernel.org/opensuse/distribution/SL-10.1/iso/SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD2.iso
wget ––limit-rate=20000 http://mirrors.kernel.org/opensuse/distribution/SL-10.1/iso/SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD3.iso
wget ––limit-rate=20000 http://mirrors.kernel.org/opensuse/distribution/SL-10.1/iso/SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD4.iso
wget ––limit-rate=20000 http://mirrors.kernel.org/opensuse/distribution/SL-10.1/iso/SUSE-Linux-10.1-GM-i386-CD5.iso

Bandwidth throttling can come in very useful when you want to be considerate of the other people using your network. Also, say you were downloading SUSE 10.1. Then, you decide that you want to browse the Internet. Unthrottled, you would already be using all of your available bandwidth for your download. Browsing the Internet would be almost impossible. If you were throttling it, however, you would have at least some of your bandwidth free for browsing.

Another of the really slick ways Linux really does it for me.

July 18, 2006

Ravin’ to the tunes with amaroK on SUSE Linux 10.1

by @ 6:38 am. Filed under General SUSE, SUSE Tips & Tricks

New jobs can be stressful. Old ones can be, too, I guess. But new ones are, for sure. So, when you’re at your new job and trying to concentrate on your work in your brand new, shiny, spacious 6 x 6 ft cubicle, what do you do? Did I mention that there are about 382 cubicles in this one huge room? And everyone else’s job in the room is to be on the phone. And there are always about 10 times more things to do than can realistically be done (great for the job security, though). The stress is high, the pressure is high, and the time is short. What do you do to get into the zone?

Well, a few years ago, I worked at a certain software company where the main developer of our flagship software listened to what he called “trance.” I thought to myself, “Self, that is truly a wanna-be genre. Sounds like a joke to me.” Thus, I never gave it the chance that I normally would have. See, I’m totally open-minded when it comes to anything. That is why I told him to sell it somewhere else.

Anyway, my good friend Jason said to me, “Dude, you should listen to ‘trance.’ It will totally help you concentrate.” I was all like, “Dude, no way, man!” He was all, “Dude, yeah, totally.” And I was like, “Dude.” And he was like “Dude.” And I was like, “Dude.” And he was like “Dude.” And I was like, “Dude.” And he was like “Dude.”

I finally gave in and decided to try it.

Well, naturally the golden question came up: How should I listen to my exciting new fresh, artistically-charged tunes? That’s when Jason broke out the heavy artillery. He simply suggested, “Man, you need to try amaroK.”

amaroK is actually quite slick. If I had three hours, I could explain everything about it. For now, just install it and take my word for it. You will really like it. It’s a slick media player. It can even do your podcast subscriptions for you. Very cool stuff.

Oh, and you should try out Paul Okenfold. He has some sick stuff. Also, go to http://www.tranceaddict.com/ and check out some of the tunes there.

Trance works a lot like some of my ADD medication did, especially the adderall. Helps your entire body and mind focus on the task at hand, and gives you a lot of motivation, energy, and desire to do whatever you’re working on. Good stuff, baby.

July 15, 2006

Filter piercing with Linux

by @ 7:15 am. Filed under General Linux, How-To, ssh tips, SUSE Tips & Tricks

The other day, I was given a challenge. My friend said to me, “I sure wish I knew how to get around this filter.” Of course, he was talking about a web content filtration system that was active on the network’s Internet connection. I thought about it for a second, looked around to see if anyone was listening, and whispered, “I can show you how to do that.”

What’s funny is that it is a one-line command, and uses the ssh command.

The idea is that you set up a tunnel between two computers. One is the computer that you are on, which is behind the filter (in a local network with the connection being filtered). The other computer is one accessible from the Internet to which you have ssh access. This might be your router box at home, or your web server, or whatever machine. As long as it is directly on the Internet and you can ssh into it.

The next thing you need is to know the hostname of the machine you are trying to access (which your filter is blocking). If this is a single webhost, you can just use that machine directly. If it is several webhosts, you are in a bit of a bind. This is because when you set up the tunnel, you can only forward the connection to a single host.

It’s probably a great time to start using examples. Alright, so I am on a machine which is in a local network. My machine will be called alpha. Now, I also have a router box at home. I am going to use this box to set up my tunnel. This machine is called homebox.

Now, I can create my ssh connection, but I still need to tell homebox to forward my HTTP requests to somewhere. The catch is that I can only tell it a single place. Therefore, if it is one webhost, I’m great. However, if there are multiple websites that I want to access, I would have to tell homebox to forward my HTTP requests to some kind of HTTP proxy server. Then, because the proxy server just forwards requests, it will be able to hit any and all websites, rather than just a single one.

I will call the proxy server notreal.proxyserver.com.

The cool part of the ssh tunnel is that I can tell the end on the local alpha machine to listen for connections. When something connects, that connection is forwarded to homebox, which is then forwarded to notreal.proxyserver.com, which makes the actual request to the site that we are trying to view. When the page is served, it first arrives at notreal.proxyserver.com, then gets sent to homebox, and finally arrives back at alpha.

Now, all we have to do is tell these machines which ports to do all this on, and we are SET! To do this, I will give you the syntax:

ssh -L [LOCAL PORT TO LISTEN ON]:[PROXY SERVER]:[PROXY SERVER PORT] [USERNAME]@[SSHSERVER]

OK, so my local port to listen on will be 8080. The proxy server is notreal.proxyserver.com. The proxy server port will be 8080. The username will obviously be a user that exists on your ssh server, which in this case is homebox. Thus, the final commandline will look like this:

ssh -L 8080:notreal.proxyserver.com:8080 scott@homebox

Once you have that connection established, do not close the window. As long as that window is open, your tunnel is active.

All you have to do now is set the proxy server in your browser to 127.0.0.1 and port to 8080, and you will have access to whatever websites your heart desires.

Ain’t Linux cool?!

July 14, 2006

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for Spreading the Linux Cure

by @ 7:14 am. Filed under General Linux, General SUSE, My Opinion

Introduction

OpenSource software remains a mystery for quite an astounding number of computer users. Many who have heard of it are not interested in trying it because they believe things that are not true, or they simply don’t care about it. Of those who have tried it and don’t like it, perhaps they tried the wrong distribution, and maybe a different one would be more agreeable for them. Linux doesn’t have to be for everyone. There are many people who have tried several distributions to find that none of them suite their taste. That is great. At least they were able to make a fully-informed decision based on personal experience and not out of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Linux is a very powerful operating system with a lot to offer. It provides solutions to problems that have been plaguing proprietary software for decades. It seems that many people would be very excited to give Linux a try if only they were properly informed about it. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. If we, as Linux users, were able to reach out to those around us to introduce them to Linux and all it has to offer, maybe they would someday thank us for providing a solution to problems they may not even know they had. Maybe they had grown accustomed to worrying about security. Maybe they just accepted the fact that they have to reboot often.

Linux solves so many problems. It seems like if people were informed a little better, they could make a more educated decision about whether Linux is really right for them or not. If so, we’ve helped someone out. If not, they are no worse off than they were. So, you see, even in the worst-case scenario, no one is any worse off than they were to begin with. There is absolutely nothing to lose by suggesting that people try out Linux.

Where can we suggest that people try Linux?

First, it may be a good idea to identify people who may benefit from using Linux. Possible users could perhaps be split into three groups: people who will be using it at home, people who will be using it in the workplace, and those who may be using it at school. For home users, you will want to find people who may be well-suited to using Linux rather than suggesting it to just everyone. For example, if the person is able to problem-solve or trouble-shoot on their own (or isn’t afraid to learn how), they are a good candidate. You don’t want to be providing technical support for everyone you suggest Linux to. As you introduce them to Linux, be sure to provide plenty of links to online resources (i.e., mailing lists, support forums, IRC channels, etc.) where they can go for help.

For workplace users, you may very well already be the system administrator or hold some kind of technical position at your company. All you really need to do is determine where Linux could be of benefit to your employer. The most general reasons for people switching to Linux in the workplace include increased security and decreased costs. This is true both for servers and desktops. Employee productivity on the desktop is also important to most employers, which Linux can certainly provide if you get the right distribution. You probably have enough experience with Linux that you can explore your employer’s needs and see how well Linux matches up with them. If it does, you may be able to make a case for switching at least some of your workplace machines to Linux.

It seems that one of the most important places to get Linux going is in schools. If you teach the younger folks while they are in school, I think that you will have a best-case scenario for helping people learn about Linux. This is true for higher education institutions as well as high school and even middle school. This may be the hardest place to make policy changes to allow for Linux usage, however. You will basically have to get the curriculum changed, which is not an easy thing to do. That said, if you can even make available an optional course (you could even volunteer to teach it) available, we’ve made steps in the right direction.

I’d like to discuss in a little more detail how we can help home users to use Linux or how we could suggest it at work.

Home Users

With home users, whether you suggest Linux will depend on a number of things. How tech-savvy are they? Will they need to admin their own machine, or will they just be and end user? Are they willing or able to seek help on their own? The last thing you want is someone having a bad experience with Linux. You’ll have to kind of feel out those people who you think would be best suited to using it. For example, if a given person does nothing on their computer but play games, those games may not run on Linux. At best, you could suggest a dual-boot for these types of people. Also, there are people whose knowledge of computers is so limited that they have great difficulty in using their own desktop, even with a well-known proprietary operating system on it. These are probably not good candidates for Linux, as you will very likely be their first thought when something goes awry (unless they do that already, because you’ll likely be able to fix problems remotely via ssh). Helping people use Linux is great, but teaching people to help themselves learn and use Linux is even better.

How might be an appropriate way to approach suggesting that someone try out Linux? One way you might do this is to inquire as to how they use their computer. Prime candidates for Linux seem to me to be people who are of at least average intelligence, people who like to explore new things, or those who are really into computers. These types of people will probably gravitate towards being admin over their own machines and will likely have little trouble making the shift. Another type of home user is the point-and-click type who just uses it for email and browsing the Internet. You can likely just set them up a box and give it to them. They probably will not be as interested in being the admin on the machine. However, as it is Linux, it probably won’t require a whole lot of maintenance. When these types of users have trouble, you will be the first one they call, however infrequently that may be.

After you have done a little investigation into whether you think they’ll like Linux, you can try different approaches. You may just start with, “Have you ever heard of Linux? What do you know about it? Have you ever tried it? If not, why?” These types of questions will help you get a feel for existing attitudes, myths, or experiences that they’ve had that might be keeping them from trying it out. Or, you may find that they don’t even know what it is. Depending on their responses, you can get a feel for where they stand with regards to trying Linux.

If you find that they are open to discussing it, you could continue with your views on what you like about Linux. You might mention that the cost for getting Linux is unbelievably low in regards to Windows (in many cases free, unless they want to buy the packaged version for a little extra tech support). You could explain that they’d never have to worry about viruses again. Or spyware. Or adware. Or most kinds of malware for that matter. They don’t need to buy antivirus software, because viruses don’t plague Linux like they always have on other systems. Explain that nearly all the software that works on Linux is completely free, including the Office suite.

If you’re up to it, you may offer to help them install it and show them some great books or websites from which they can learn to use Linux better.

At Work

Consideration of using Linux in your workplace will involve many layers of decisions. Do your desktops use specialized software that runs only on Windows? If so, Linux is probably not a good fit for your company. If many of your users do common tasks like email, word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, or instant messaging, Linux is a prime candidate for desktops at your workplace. If your company does web programming, such as HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Perl, Python, or any other web programming language, Linux could be a great choice for you. Linux also offers a very nice graphic design program, as well as some excellent software for burning CDs. If you do work on remote machines, Linux comes highly recommended for your users.

Once you feel that Linux is a great option for your company, you may have to convince someone else, such as a C-level executive (CTO, CIO, COO, etc.). To do this, you have to think how they think. In my experience, these types are mostly interested in swiftness of execution. They don’t care as much how great or slick a solution is as much as they care about the volume of work that can be accomplished in the least possible amount fo time. A lot of them sacrifice the quality of a project for how fast their employees can get it done. For this type of person, they are likely going to say, “What we have right now works, so I don’t think we’ll switch to Linux.” Switching may mean down-time. If this is not acceptable, they won’t want to do it.

In some cases, your boss may immediately see the benefits of using Linux on the desktop. If not, they may need some kind of slideshow based on the following:

One point upon which you can engage them is that of price. A quick calculation presented the right way may very well grab your boss’ attention. Let’s look at an example. A basic office employee’s workstation needs an operating system and an office productivity suite (word processor, spreadsheet, and email). To purchase this software from Microsoft, you will be spending at least $500 on each workstation. If you use SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, you’ll be spending about $50 per workstation. If you have 40 workstations, and buy your software from Microsoft, you will be spending about $20,000 on just software for those machines. If you use SLED 10, you will spend only $2,000 to fully equip 40 workstations with an OS, an office production suite, and several thousand excellent applications. The bottom has fallen out of the cost of running Linux on the desktop.

A myth that some C-level executives still hold to is that Linux is not mature enough for the desktop. They believe that it is too hard to use, and therefore will cause employee productivity to go down. There is a myriad of ways that this is not true.

The number one tool that Linux now has for the desktop is the free office suite called OpenOffice.org 2.0. It provides several different applications, such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and software for editing graphics. This office suite is packed to the brim with features.

Another thing you can sell them on is the security and stability of Linux. “If we switch to Linux, there will be much less overall down-time.” The same is even more true with maintenance. With Windows machines, you have to run anti-virus software. You have to scan for adware, spyware, and other types of malicious software. In Linux, this is not necessary, as it is not susceptible to the viruses, worms, and such software that has plagued Windows for the past decade at least.

But how well does it integrate into a network where Windows is the principal operating system?

First of all, it can access Windows shares using a SAMBA client. It can also share files with Windows computers using a SAMBA server. Because of this, Linux is able to give and take in terms of file sharing, printer sharing, and all that comes with Windows shares. Communication with Windows machines is part of the stock package with Linux.

In an enterprise or small business, it is important for a user to log in to any machine using the same username and password. In many cases, this is done through some kind of directory like Active Directory or LDAP. Some distributions, like Novell’s shiny new SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 platform, can actually authenticate users with existing Active Directory servers. This makes integration with current Windows networks quite a bit more manageable, let alone possible.

Would you like to have your Linux desktop integrate directly with collaboration systems such as Microsoft Exchange? Be not surprised to know that SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is able to do this. As part of its standard setup, it offers Evolution, a very similar collaboration application to Outlook. As part of its offerings, Evolution provides email (including the ability to plug into GroupWise servers), scheduling, to-do lists, and task lists. Again, this all comes as part of the standard software included with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10.

One other thing that is useful, even essential, is the ability to read in and save out documents created by Microsoft Office. This allows collaboration with colleagues who use Windows. One of the nice benefits of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is that it includes OpenOffice.org 2.0, which comes installed by default. This office suite will give you the ability to read and save documents created in Microsoft Office. It can open documents made in Word and Excel, for example.

With all of these (and more, for certain) capabilities, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is more than capable of plugging right into a Windows-centric environment. If you have additional questions about the degree to which SLED 10 is capable of working in a Windows-centric environment, please contact Ted Haeger at Novell. I worked with him for quite a while. He is much more eloquent, well-versed, and well-informed than I. If you have any questions, he is your guy.

Conclusion

Linux is a really solid operating system. Because it is different than what people are used to, those who know Linux should make some effort at helping their Windows-only friends, family, and co-workers to at least be exposed to what Linux has to offer. There is quite a bit. SLED 10 can do things that only a year ago were entirely impossible to do in Linux. One huge area of advancement is in how well it drops right into a Windows-centric environment. It plays well with Windows, allowing for a gradual migration. Take a look. See for yourself. Then, spread the word about how awesome it really is.

July 7, 2006

SUSE Linux 10.1 as a DVD and a VNC client

by @ 6:51 am. Filed under Linux News, SUSE Tips & Tricks

Man, only in a tech job.

I have a new job which I’ve started this week. One of my co-workers is running me through everything to get me up to speed. He’s explaining what databases are updated by which php scripts. He is showing me what login scripts check which databases, and sends an email to the customer, and all that. OK, sweet.

What makes it really sweet is that we did it all from within our own cubicles. I got ahold of the new beta version of Skype. I also popped open krdc and connected to the VNC server running on his Wind0Z3 desktop. We connected on a Skype call, he ran me through the servers, configs, logins, scripts, IP addresses, domains, databases, and everything else, just as though I was sitting right there.

What makes this a little bitter-sweet is that his cubicle is right across the aisle from mine, so it wasn’t a “truly” remote session.

So anyway…

In a clear step backwards, a Toronto school closed their Linux lab. The reasons given were “because the principal said.” His reasons were “because of the limited resources they have.” Um, last time I checked, putting WinderZ on 30 machines would cost many thousands of dollars. Linux is the cost of 4G of bandwidth and one blank DVD. Well, that sucks. Someone call that principal and screw his head on right.

*growls a bit*

Alrighty, it’s about time for a tip.

I found a set of CDs the other day that, when installed, actually got the libzypp/rug/yum/etc. package management system installed properly so that it worked. Loving that I had found it, but wanting a DVD instead of 3,829,324,584,371,173,348,383 CDs. I can already hear someone saying, “Well, download the DVD.” OK, but what if I don’t feel like waiting for that? Well, it is possible to make a DVD from the SUSE Linux 10.1 CDs. It’s also FASTER if you already have the CDs.

It’s also pretty simple, as you can see by checking that link.

BTW, if you have the CDs as actual burned CDs, and you don’t have the images, you can create the images using a VERY simple command called dd, as in:

dd if=/dev/cdrom of=/home/scott/SUSE_Linux_10.1_i386_DISC1.iso

Modify it to suit your needs/tastes.

When you are done making your image files, it’s wise to check the md5sums to make sure they match.

Check the md5sum of the ISO:

md5sum /home/scott/SUSE_Linux_10.1_i386_DISC1.iso

Wait for it to complete.

Check the md5sum of the burned CD:

md5sum /dev/cdrom

Wait for it to complete.

If they match, you are golden to start making your DVD out of the CD ISOs.

July 6, 2006

Service Outage

by @ 6:14 pm. Filed under SUSE Blog News

Well, a vital piece of connection equipment had failed, so I spent the day without a website. Do computers really make life easier? *growls*

July 5, 2006

Educating the Educators about SUSE Linux

by @ 7:29 pm. Filed under General Linux, General SUSE, Linux News, My Opinion, SUSE News

Novell is moving in THE ideal direction for spreading Linux interest. I have long believed that if you want to get Linux out there, you have to get the educational system involved. Imagine that. To get people educated, you have to involve the educators. Novell has decided that they like that approach. They have started a couple of really slick programs involving educating people about SUSE Linux.

As part of one of their historical steps forward, they are giving a free week-long workshop to Linux educators. That is a great, great step in the right direction for Linux evangelization. Get the educational system involved. A LOT. Good choice.

Here’s a quick excerpt of one of the several stories I read about this:

“Novell announced two new innovative programs for Linux training designed to promote education around open source. Novell unveiled its ‘Train the Teacher’ series, the industry’s first free week-long boot camp for Linux educators. In addition, Novell is the first Linux vendor to partner with Thomson Course Technology, the world’s leading technology education publishers, with the release of a series of new joint SUSE Linux Enterprise courseware offerings. As a result, students and teachers interested in Linux have compelling new options for building their expertise on the increasingly popular open source platform.”

That is so great, tell you what.

Read the whole article here.

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