Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Server v desktop

i have used a Linux distribution since 1993 and it frankly scares me that distributions nowadays are blurring the line between a server and a desktop.

What do I mean by that statement?

Well, one should never, ever, put a GUI (Graphical User Interface) such as KDE or Gnome or even plain old Xorg on a server.

RedHat led the way in this area, now Ubuntu is following. Sure many others have done such a stupid thing along the away but that does not make it right. In fact, I think it is downright dangerous.

I have built and installed at many locations around the world servers and desktops and not once in all the years I have done it have I installed a GUI on a server.

If you or your server administrators have anything about them at all they will not, nah, they should not, need a GUI to get things done. If they do then they are sorely lacking the most basic skills a Linux Administrator should have and those skills are the ability to wake up a seemingly dead server from the commandline.

What if for whatever reason the X server or GUI woke bootup?

I will say it again. Putting Xorg and a GUI on a server it downright stupid at best and downright dangerous at worse.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What a crock.

Over the last weekend, and for 4 months previous for the design phase, I got to use a modern MAC with its modern Operating System (OS). I was offered a job setting up this network of computers and during a discussion with the man he requested Apple hardware and a MAC OS. Hmmm. Still, that is what he wanted and that is what he got. All told there were 23 computers including the server that held the Internet connection. Three other machines did the web serving, mail serving and a few other tasks. One further machine did file file serving that services the remaining machines that had a desktop role. Once in place everything gelled perfectly first time. Now those using those desktop machines will have to learn how to use them as their previous desktops were all a mix of MS Windows 98 and MS Windows XP. I am sure we all know how different from the user perspective these OS's are hence the learning curve their boss(es) have forced them into. The setup itself is not mission critical nor is this learning period going to have an affect on their business but I cannot help thinking they should have been given some time to learn this new OS before being thrust headlong into it. It seems unfair to do it this way but this way they decided to do it. On the Sunday I had a few of the desk workers in to show them the very basics of this new, to them, OS and I have to say they seemed on the face of things to manage very well. There were some who had issues with various parts but all told they seemed comfortable with it, That was the end of my job with this company apart from a contract that runs for 1 year that gives me unfettered access should something go wrong. Plus a login once a week to do some housekeeping. I highly doubt anything will go wrong, save for hardware failing, but as a safety net for the company this contract will suffice. You have to realise I deal almost exclusively in the Linux OS and while I am totally comfortable in dealing with any other OS available, either as a whole netowork or as a mixed enviroment, I much prefer a Linux OS for many reasons I am not going into today in this post. So, what is a crock? The MAC OS is that is what. I saw nothing innovative. I saw nothing special at all. Oh sure, all the machines gelled into one network with consummate ease but the actual OS itself compared to what a well configured Linux distribution offers or a well setup MS Windows box offers was nothing special at all. Sure is has 'ease of use' written all over it. It has some wonderful applications, the hardware is nice and the lack of viri and malware etc on that platform is a positive plus, but then none of those things are any different to a well configured Linux based OS nor in fact a well setup MS Windows OS (not including Vista as that has issues of its own). In fact I told the boss of this company how much he could of saved not only on the hardware but on the OS as well by choosing a Linux distribution instead and yet he still insisted on this well over-hyped setup. It was his call and he made it so I went ahead and designed the network layout on paper, well actually on a computer, then bought the hardware (being given money, a lot of money, prior to any actual work is a major plus to a small time network/system administrator/hardware guy like myself) and finally installed it all into a working environment. Only time will tell how his workers get along with this OS but I guessimate that within a year, during the lifetime of my contract with them, that they will change this crock of an OS to something else. And yes, I will say it again. What a crock MAC OS is for what one pays for it. Totally overhyped and totally expensive.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Whine whine whine.

It seems that there are some folks out on the Internet involved in some peripheral way with Slackware are not happy with Slackwares creator Patrick Volkerding. Apparently the guy is narked because P.V. has little perceived interest in the market value of his beloved project. Has anybody got any right to dictate to the maker of Slackware, or any other distribution, how he/she should run it or have any say in what each release is ready? I say not. This however has not stopped Jim from linuxpackges dissing P.V. I have no idea if P.V. cares for market value or not and frankly I don't care either. He puts time into creating what is in my opinion the best distribution there is to be had for new and experienced users alike. If he does it for his own amusement than distributes it that is his choice and everyone who uses it gets a huge plus. People these days either do not know or simply forget many of the larger distributions were created on the back of Slackware. I also have no idea if Jim from linuxpackages.net has some hidden beef or not but on the face of his post on his own web site it certainly smells of it. I think Jim is pissed because his linuxpackages web site is slowly but surely being seen for what it has always been and that is a poor web site full of dubious Slackware packages with no sources. His web site has been marginalized by many slackbuild sites who provide not only packages for Slackware but the build scripts which enable users to create their own packages. More and more users are seeing the benefits of doing their own packages and are increasingly leaving Jim's web site alone. There have been a few spats over the years between these two and always has Jim been in the wrong. I have dealt with Jim and a few others a few years ago when we all combined to set out some standards for Slackware build scripts. We broke up not long after forming because he wanted to enforce all sorts of none standard things which in our opinion broke away from P.V.'s methods. He was very insistent and some would say arrogant over his dealings during the whole affair. He is now showing the same "me me me" arrogance over this current affair. His attack on P.V. smells of what it is. Soar grapes.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Security hole in the making?

Everyone knows Apple uses BSD as its base and wraps all manner of inhouse (inbred?) applications around it to create the user experience known as OS X. Ubuntu and friends (Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu etc) are all based on debian and uses the 'sudo' application with gay abandon.

Many 'LiveCD`s' use a root account and a root account only. By passing the root versus user setup that Linux distributions and BSD distributions have used since forever. Linspire is another distribution, amongst many others, that uses root for everything. There are many examples of this blatant security breach everywhere.

This deliberate breaking of the dual root/user account setup has the ability to become a clear breach of security. Having a user account with limited ability to break things is one of the major reasons why Linux Distributions have a deserved record of lack of rootkits and spyware, malware etc etc. Sure there are rootkits available out there for Linux distributions but properly secured they are all but useless and this fact is where the run as root could open a whole can of worms.

'Sudo' has its place and used properly has all sorts of advantages but by creating a distribution that breaks away from the normal usage of 'sudo' takes away any advantages that it has when used properly.

Ignoring the advantages of the root versus user accounts by removing the need for a user account is in my opinion, one step closer to the abyss of darkness that is the MS Windows way of doing things with all the rootkits, viri, malware etc that brings with it.

Patent pledges.

Is it just me or are Microsoft digging themselves a hole so deep even they will never find a way out? They duped Novell into signing a patent pledge, which is now backfiring against Novell, and a few other lesser distributions have followed suit. Many, however, have not and amongst those who have not sits Red Hat. Red Hat wants dual indemnification but without the patent pledge (This pledge apparently is a dual 'we won't sue you' thing). Whether or not this plan is workable from both sides remains to be seen but so far Microsoft has said a firm 'no' to the idea. As an aside it is worth mentioning that the all new and shiny GPL Version 3 has a covenant within it that will stop these backhanded patent pledges so from Red Hat's point of view it makes perfect sense to seek doing it the way they want. Plus, they have shown Microsoft to be what others suspected them to be. A wolf in sheeps clothing. I will not claim to know the ins and outs of patent law but it does seem to me that Microsoft wants these patent pledges to deflect the view away from themselves. I also do not know how much, if any, GPL code sits within a Microsoft OS, be it NT, XP or Vista. It is almost a given that there is no Microsoft patents in a Linux distribution and that all this mutual indemnification pacts are nothing more than a smokescreen for what is really happening out there in the world of OS's/distributions. I am not the first to comment on this subject and no doubt will not be the last but nobody, that i have read online, is seeing this the way i have written about above. So, from that angle it is worth writing as if nothing else this blog was created to stimulate discussion.