February 2007

Here’s a nice overview article from Ken Milberg on SearchOpenSource.com which talks about features and benefits of Linux on the mainframe platform compared to Unix – in general terms.  The short of it is that Linux on the Mainframe can provide the “best of both worlds” — the innovation and “flexibility of Linux, along with the availability and support of an IBM mainframe”

While we’re on the subject, here’s a website with a lot of great information and links related to Linux on the Mainframe…  http://www.linuxvm.org


The openSUSE KIWI Image System provides a complete operating system image solution for Linux supported hardware platforms as well as for virtualization systems like Xen. KIWI is an ideal solution for creating and imaging thin client devices.

KIWI is a complete imaging solution and can be split up in to three distinct parts.

  1. Physical Extend:This stage “prepares” a directory containing the the contents of your new filesystem based on a software package source (SLED 10) and an image description file (config.xml). In this stage you determine what packages you want installed on your image and what configuration files should be included. As part of the process “smart package manager” will handle dependencies.
    • To “prepare” the physical extend enter: kiwi -p /path
    • /path is the path to the DIRECTORY containing your config.xml file
    • The output of this command is the directory /tmp/kiwi.<random> where random is a random string
  2. Logical Extend: This stage is based on the previous “physical extend” and “creates” an operating system image. You can utilize the images.sh configuration script while creating the logical extend to clean-up your image or to perform additional configuration. This script is called at the beginning of the image creation process.
    • To “create” the logical extend enter: kiwi -c /path1 -d /path2
    • /path1 is the path to your previously prepared kiwi.<random> directory
    • /path2 is the desired “destination” path of the output of the command
    • The output of this command is the image file and the associated MD5 checksum
  3. Deployment: There are several ways to deploy the new image.
  • Netboot: ATFTP is used to deploy the newly created image via PXE. You can utilize KIWI to create a special kernel and initrd for the purpose of deploying a KIWI based image. You have the choice of loading the image into volatile RAM or onto non-volatile, persistent storage like flash memory or a hard drive. KIWI will check whether a KIWI image is installed on the target system. If the version installed on the target system is older than the one being served the image will be updated.
  • Locally Accessible Hard Disk: The image can be installed by dumping (dd) the image file on a previously created partition on this disk. To activate the system a boot manager like grub or lilo can be used.
  • Paravirtualized: In case of a paravirtualized target system like Xen, the image can be be installed by copying the image file on the target system. To activate the virtual system a configuration must be provided which points to the image in some way. One possibility is to use a loop mounted location.
  • Fully Virtualized: In case of a full virtualized target system like VMware the
    image represents a virtual disk as a file which can be “played” by the virtualization

While the KIWI Image System is under very active development, customers are realizing the value of this very exciting technology and deploying TODAY!

For more information check out the following websites:

This interesting article from CNet points out what most of us already know… Windows is anything but inexpensive. It’s interesting to see some of the arguments that MS makes about this point…

Microsoft General Manger Brad Brooks argues that Windows is a bargain,… “If you break down the cost of the software over the life of the PC, it works out to be less than how much you’d spend on milk for your family over that same period of time,” Brooks said.

(Personally, I have small kids at home and we go thru quite a bit of milk) – I figure the average family drinks 1 gallon of milk per week ($3.00 per gallon) x 52 weeks = $156.00 per year in milk. So I suppose when you consider that MS is currently releasing a new desktop every 5 years — milk is more expensive than Vista. If you start to figure in things like required hardware replacements or upgrades, and an upgrade to MS Office 2007… the difference is price begins to shrink rapidly.

If you consider a Linux desktop alternative – such as SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 which includes OpenOffice (compatible with MS Office, btw) – you will end up with the features and functionality that makes the typical office worker productive, at a far better price-point than either Vista or milk. 🙂

You’ll also end up with freedom from proprietary lock-in, and freedom from the annoying milk moustache.

The Bexley City Schools couldn’t afford to upgrade to Windows XP from Windows ME, so they chose SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop instead, dropping the costs from almost $500,000 to about $150,000. You can read the article here, and then check out the Novell Case Study that was done, very helpful in understanding the use of OSS in education.

Dell recently posted a survey on its website asking customers to chime in and let them know what they’d like to see from Dell.

As of this writing, the top 5 requests are:

  1. Preinstalled Linux on all Dell PCs
  2. Preinstalled OpenOffice.org instead of MS Office
  3. Linux Laptop (where all laptop components work with Linux out of the box)
  4. No extra software option
  5. Have Firefox preinstalled as an option

Clearly, somebody out there is interested in using Linux on Dell equipment 😉

A small article about these survey results has also appeared in Business Week. Here’s an interesting snippet from the article…

“Dell says it’s already listening. In a Feb. 23 posting on IdeaStorm, the company said it’s working with Novell to certify its business desktops, notebooks, and workstations for compatibility with Linux, and is working with other Linux distributors about additional certifications.”

In this nice “state-of-the-union” article about KVM and its position in the general Linux and open source marketplace, the author talks about one of the key differences between KVM and other virtualization technologies — such as VMware and Xen — that KVM’s code has been entered into the Linux kernel code.

This makes KVM a very interesting technology to keep your/our eyes on… but, despite getting some good press lately, it seems that KVM won’t be ready for primetime for 1-3 years (depending on who you believe in the article).

Suffice to say that while there are some great technical developments (generally) in the world of virtualization, there’s still much work to be done.  Thankfully, Xen and VMware are available now and ready for use, so you can start realizing the advantages of virtualization in the data center sooner than later.

For those who’ve never used it, rsync makes backups easy, it can be used to sync two directories on the same machine, on two different drives, even on another machine without any mounting necessary (through SSH), and with the right settings, you’ll sync just the changed bytes of the files, saving network bandwidth and time.

You’ll see plenty of examples out there, but for myself I typically backup my /home/rbrunson/novell data directory to a USB drive with the command:

rsync -avz /home/rbrunson/novell  /media/BFD300G/novell

The -a stands for “archive mode” which includes handling symlinks, devices, attributes, permissions, ownership, date and time etc.  The -v stands for “verbose” and shows you what’s happening and to what file (a LOT of output) and -z is for compression of the data, such as when you send it over a LAN or WAN connection to another machine, not necessary in this instance, but deeply part of my CLI muscle memory.

Enjoy the articles

Rsync and Linux
Create Incremental Snapshot Backups with rsync and ssh
 Easy Automated Snapshot-style Backups with rsync and ssh
GUI Tools and Front-ends for rsync

Hope you find these helpful.


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