Saturday, October 12, 2013

state of my linux

Fedora 19 virtualized on my Windows 8 desktop

It's been a while since I commented about Linux. I've been very busy with my career changes as well as learning a new set of skills associated with that career change, including some travel. My use of Linux has settled down as a super-application that runs on top of my Windows 8 system (running on the Samsung Series 7 Chronos).

I have four distributions installed these days; Fedora 19, Linux Mint 15, CentOS 5 and CentOS 6. The CentOS installations are there primarily as my final testing sandboxes for RHEL 5 and 6, respectively. Otherwise I do my leading testing and development on Mint and Fedora, usually in that order.

Here's a quick rundown of my experiences and observations to date running Linux in this way.
  • Linux Mint 15. By far and away the cleanest and easiest to work with. Its gcc and clang/llvm installations aren't up-to-date with the latest and greatest as the versions installed on Fedora, so if I really need to check out the latest C++11 additions I fire up Fedora and check some things out. Otherwise it's easy, fast, and looks the best of the four.
  • Fedora 19. I would like to live totally in Fedora 19 since it has the latest kernel and C++ tool chain, but I can't. The biggest issue is their decision to include OpenVMware instead of supporting the regular installation of VMware's tools. I've tried to uninstall all OpenVMware packages (successfully) but when I try to install the regular VMware tools, it fails because it can't find C Linux headers, which it needs because the VMware tools are built on the system. Why do I need the regular VMware tools? Because shared directories are broken in OpenVMware and thus Fedora 19. If I want to move files from Fedora 19 to my notebook and back again, I have to stick a USB stick in the Samsung, put all the files on it, then mount the USB stick as an external device to Fedora. Move files back and forth as needed, then unmount the stick. A clumsy workaround, but a workaround. All the other Linux VMs see the shared drive under Windows 8, and so moving files around with them is no issue. That's a big deal when I'm doing some complicated development and testing.
  • CentOS5 and CentOS 6. Both of these are, as noted above, clones of RHEL 5 and 6, respectively. These are fired up when I need to do a full check under a RHEL environment before moving everything over to a "real" RHEL environment. The kernels and C/C++ tool chains are fairly ancient compared to current distributions, so I do no new development on either VM. Their ability to see the same shared drive on Windows 8 means that moving files around for testing is painless and fast.
  • Free BSD and PC-BSD 9.2. I did say Linux, didn't I? Bear with me... I got a wild hair to try to install Free BSD as a VM. It succeeded, but I wasn't at all happy with the final results. I tried to install both because I still have a soft spot for BSD Unix (especially DEC Ultrix), and I wanted to see if I was missing anything. In spite of running four Linux distributions, I'm still living in a Linux monoculture (kernel, libraries, tools are all the same, only the exterior desktops vary in small details). I figured it would be a Good Thing to have a real alternative to both Linux and Windows. But alas, it wasn't to be. After installing both and attempting to customize both (installing X on Free BSD was interesting), I gave up and just deleted both. Of the two I find PC-BSD to be the lesser of the two BSDs. If I go back into this I will install the kind of desktop I want, not KDE. I tried to install X on Free BSD and wound up with TWM (Tabbed Window Manager), which immediately killed Free BSD for me. I have since found instructions for installing Gnome. Free BSD with Gnome 2 looks quite a bit like CentOS5/6, so there may be hope there yet.
All of the Linux VMs are running the latest 64-bit Oracle Java, 7 update 40, as is Windows 8. Other languages, such as C++, are being supported by their various native compilers on all operating systems. Two of the four distributions, Fedora and Mint, are running Apache Tomcat 8 RC3. I develop on the VMs and then fire up a Windows 8 browser (usually Firefox or Chrome) to do the testing. VMware allows for a local notebook-based network, which works just fine for me.

Conspicuous by its absence is Mac OS X. Apple's intention of binding the OS to their machines and only their machines has led them to allowing only a direct install or a download from their OS X app store. I think Microsoft is heading in the same direction, although I can easily pick up ISOs of Windows operating systems and install into a VM if I need a Windows sandbox. But with Jobs dead and the kind of artsy-fartsy/process folks now in charge, the idea of real innovation that would allow anyone to work with the OS on non-sanctioned hardware is pretty much dead. I used to love the Apple // because it was just so wide open. But Jobs has truly and finally killed the real heart of innovation, the heart that drives true technology innovations. And building devices with special colors and curves is not what I'm talking about. That kind of tweaking is the technical equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on a very slowly sinking ship.

When it's time for me to buy a new machine I'm going to see if I can install hypervisor on the notebook and then all the operating systems as guests, including whatever the latest version of Windows is. I want it for development, but more significantly, I want to create sterile sandboxed systems for going around the web. The NSA revelations have made me re-think personal computing on many levels...


  1. I run my system dual boot. Windows 7 and Mac OSX 10.5. Google TonyMac for the latter.

    Linux is something that I've wanted to love, but unfortunately almost 15 years later, it still has limited support (of commercial apps). Still fun to play with though and for unattended tasks, there is nothing more capable.

    I am surprised to see you using Windows 8. I'm not a fan. I only use Windows 7 because I have a Steam account and 90% of those apps run only on Windows.

    I do have to say that I'm more on the Windows side than the OSX side these days. Probably because it boots up faster since the SSD is on that side.

    I have taken a serious photograph in months. The new Flickr layout has killed my will to do so.

    Anyways, always nice to read your intelligent blog. Keep up the good work!

    ps. what are your thoughts on Windows 8.1 ?

    Jack (Lenzflair)

  2. Still fun to play with though and for unattended tasks, there is nothing more capable.

    I run my installations because my primary customer uses it as the foundation for their application. They also run Oracle on it, which is a part of the overall installation. You're right about a good majority of commercial applications. In my particular case all I need is support for Java, and for RHEL, that's good enough.

    I am surprised to see you using Windows 8.

    I find that Windows 8 is, by far, the best version of Windows NT I've used since Windows NT 3.51 was released in 1995. Many have complained about Windows 8's UI, but I have not had any issues with it.

    I [haven't] taken a serious photograph in months. The new Flickr layout has killed my will to do so.

    I can certainly understand that. I now have long periods where I don't post anything up on Flickr because of the same issues. I still do a fair amount of photography, for my own personal satisfaction, but post very little. I'm getting ready to transition to something else the end of this year.

    Anyways, always nice to read your intelligent blog. Keep up the good work!

    Thanks, Jack.

    ps. what are your thoughts on Windows 8.1 ?

    I'll let you know when it finishes upgrading later this evening. Probably a full blown post....


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