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Journal Journal: Linux Development Question

If anyone cares to comment, what is the easiest type of Linux development to get into as far as knowledge required to be effective? I rate myself as a good developer in general (say 8 out of 10 for kicks), have good knowledge of the web, and can learn new languages fairly quickly. I'm just about a 3 or 4 out of 10 on Linux. Do you find you have to know a lot more about Linux to be a web developer (say with PHP/MySQL) or to be a Java developer doing business apps (perhaps with J2EE or something similar)? What would be the perfect small development project to get someone up to speed on Linux development?


Journal Journal: Still a M$ whore. Sigh.

Yes, I'm still a M$ whore. But before you judge, please hear my tale of woe...

Barely a week after my last journal entry, I was laid off from my job. I was a Microsoft developer doing VB6, VC++ 6, and ASP for a DotCom. (Yeah, yeah, DotComs, I know...) Fortunately I did receive a decent severance package, so at least I could pay the bills for a while. This did present me with an opportunity to finally do what I always wanted to do - go into business for myself. So I set myself up as Munson Technologies, LLC, and found a gig doing TabletPC development with C# and .NET. The only problem is that this project has kept me busy like 60+ hours a week, so I have precious little time to really get into Linux. And now I'm a release behind on Mandrake - 9.2's out now with the 10.0 Community Edition also being released (shoulda subscribed to the Mandrake club, grrrrr...)

So basically the only thing I've had time to do with Linux is install the Java SDK 1.4 and Opera. Sheesh - wish I could win the lottery so I could really spend some time with Linux. In any event, I feel that being an independent developer will give me the opportunity to focus more on Linux in the future. But until I can save up enough to take some time off, I'm afraid I'll still be a M$ whore. Sigh.


Journal Journal: My Linux Journey, Part 2 4

Part 2 - The Installation

After prepping my system two nights ago (see Part 1), I was anxious to install Mandrake 9.1. Last night I actually had some free time (miracle of miracles!) so I went to work installing Mandrake. I popped in the first CD, booted up and the install program came up. I opted to go with the standard install, rather than the advanced install and proceeded to go through most installation options quickly. It recoginized my mouse and keyboard without trouble and I chose standard security (not really interested in opening up this box to the Internet at large yet.) So far so good...

The first major decision was what to do about disk partitioning. This was my biggest worry about the whole process, but fortunately Mandrake made it easy. I chose custom disk partitioning and the DiskDrake utility started. My worry was I didn't want to wipe out my Windows XP disk. Since I installed a new hard drive I wasn't too worried. I selected the "hdb" tab and clicked "AutoPartition". Done! It created a 5 GB root partition, a ~ 500 MB swap partition, and used the remainder (~ 24.5 GB) for the user partition. Impressive - I barely had to do anything. Even WinXP won't do automatic partitioning - maybe there *is* something to this Linux thing I keep hearing about! :P After formatting the partitions on the drive, the install moved on to the packages installation section.

I'm a software developer (mostly Windows, but I'm trying to learn Linux programming), so I like having software tools and compilers installed. Naturally I selected that package group. And console tools, of course! I selected just about every package and added the Web/FTP and Database server groups. I also made sure KDE was selected for the graphical environment, then hit next and let Mandrake install the packages. Uh oh, wife calling, Queer Eye is about to start! (That show is hysterical! :P) So I let the install continue in my absence...

Back from watching Queer Eye (episode 106), I checked on the install - "Please insert CD labelled 'disc 2'..." DOH! Ok, well that's an hour of time lost... So I swapped CDs and let the install progress. After at least one more CD swap, the package install was done. I set the Root password, created a user account for me (hmmm, I'll add the wife later :P) and then it skipped the Boot Loader section and went straight to the configuration review screen. I went through that through the Internet package update, then the install was finished! I clicked Reboot and...

... Linux came up! Woohoo! So I logged on with my user account, and I was in! Next step, update the system. So I went to the Mandrake Control Center and searched for updates for my system. There were a *ton*! So rather than download ~100 MB worth of updates, I just pick the few that were the most relevant. I'll get the rest later. That's when it hit me...

I didn't recall seeing "WindowsXP" or "OtherOS" in the LILO menu. Uh oh, I've got a bad feeling about this... So I went to the Boot configuration section in the Mandrake Control Center. Hmmm, how to add an entry for WinXP... I try to add a menu item for WinXP, told it to boot from hda1, but "Check configuration" didn't like that. Yikes! Ok, so I'm having trouble with getting Windows XP to boot. It's about 12:30 AM now. This can't be fixed tonight - it's going to have to wait until I can research the issue. Now I *did* look into this before I installed, and the consensus I got was "It's ok, Mandrake will take care of it for you." Hmmmm, well that didn't quite work out. So that's my next todo...

Fast-forward to this morning:
/wife: "Honey, where's Windows?"
/me: "Ummmm, it's there, it's just hidden. I'll fix it. Eventually..."
/wife: "Sigh. What did you do?"
/me: "Well, I, uh, I'll fix it. Use the laptop for now." :P

To be continued...


Journal Journal: My Linux Journey, Part 1

This is the first in a series of journal entries about my installation of Mandrake Linux 9.1. My goal is to set up my desktop workstation with Mandrake running KDE with a dual boot with Windows XP. (I know, I know, but my wife still has to use it, plus there are some games I like that will only run on XP :P) By necessity I have to install / configure in chunks since I only have so much free time each day (I have a three year old son plus lots of "honeydos") so any time I can spend working on the install is a miracle...

So, let the fun begin...

Part 1 - Prepping the System

First things first, I have a Gateway E5200 that I got back in 1999. It's a Pentium III 500 MHz and I had previously bumped the RAM up from 256 MB to 512 MB. I have a 30 GB hard drive plus a CDROM and a CDRW. Granted it's not the most up to date box in the world, but it should be good enough for Mandrake 9.1. I actually bought (yes, *paid* for!) the Mandrake Linux PowerPack & Definitive Guide bundle. I want to try to do my part to keep Mandrake around, plus it's cheaper than buying Windows XP and definitely a lot better - that to me is worth $79 + shipping!

First thing I really had to do was buy a new hard drive. With Windows XP I had partitioned and formatted all of the old drive. Rather than have Mandrake fight XP over the old drive (and from what I've read it would probably work just fine) I went ahead and got a new 30 GB hard drive from CompUSA. So last night, I installed it. It did not go smoothly, as it seems that Gateway used to (still does?) go out of their way to make it difficult to get to the hardware inside the box. The hard drive bay was screwed into the case, betwixt the cooling fan and the 5.5" drive bays. Took me forever to get the bay uninstalled so that I could add the new hard drive. Finally it came out, almost ripping all of the other wires out of place in the process. (I *did* remember to unplug the box, of course! :P) After setting the new hard drive to "slave" mode, attaching it to the drive bay, and fixing it with the screws, I plugged in the connector ribbon & power cable. Of course I had to reconnect the IDE cable back to the motherboard as it was way to short to allow free access to the drive bay and had to be unplugged. Finally, after twisting and turning the drive bay I managed to get it back in place and screw it back to the case. I put the cover back on, plugged everything back in and powered up...

... only to have the system fail to boot! Yeah, it stuck on the BIOS screen, not recognizing any of the IDE drives save for the CDRW (which oddly enough was the secondary slave - weird!) I guessed maybe the IDE ribbons were not plugged in solidly, so I powered down and went back into the case. I removed the entire 3.5" drive bay again (sigh) and unplugged the IDE ribbon from the motherboard. It just looked too old and twisted to be funtional (plus it was barely long enough to be of use) so I just replaced the whole ribbon with a new one from the new hard drive. This ribbon was much longer and more flexible, allowing me to easily reinstall the 3.5" bay without worrying about inadvertently unplugging the IDE ribbon from the motherboard. Once everything was reattached, I closed the case, powered up, and...

... this time it booted just fine! I watched the BIOS screen as it booted and the BIOS recognized all of the IDE drives this time (whew!) and Windows XP came up. I half expected Clippy to pop up and say, "I see you have installed a new hard drive, would you like me to help you format that?" but mericfully no Clippy appeared... I did get the "New hardware installed" popup, but I just had to click the X to make it go away. Yeah, I definitely don't want XP to mess with my future home for Mandrake!

As it was now 12:30 AM, and installing the darn hard drive took *way* longer than expected, I decided to give it a rest and come back to install Mandrake later. Can't wait!


Journal Journal: Sigh. Yet *another* critical Windows vulnerability...

WTFFF? Another critical vulnerability in Windows? I'm shocked! Here's the article.

Is it possible to secure a Windows box? I have done my best in my professional career to ensure that each Windows box I have had any control over is secure, but I can't feel 100% confident that one of the boxes I've configured won't be 0wn3d at some point in the future. Especially if they're not patched every other day to prevent the latest 'sploit. If I were still a consultant, I could not in good conscience recommend a Windows setup anymore if security were critical to the application.

I used to think that it was possible to secure Windows. I even took a course on Windows security that was taught by a former NSA spook who claimed he had set up a secure NT4 based network that was never compromised. Hmmmmm - that he *knew* of anyway... ;^) Since then I have given up on ever thinking that Windows will be totally secure. Trustworthy Computing? Sha, right! I don't even attempt to any open ports on my home router to forward to my Win2K server since who knows when the next 'sploit will be found?

I feel that the main reason for the continuing Windows security problems is that Windows was never designed to be a secure operating system. That and what Tackhead said about Trustworthy Computing. All the security code that has been added is nothing but window dressing (pun intended :^)). If M$FT truly wanted a secure OS, it should start over - flat out rebuild Windows.

Now to be fair, Linux can be made insecure and people do find security flaws (usually not with the core OS, tho.) Can Linux be misconfigured by an admin? Sure, same as Windows. But Linux is designed with security in mind - that's a huge difference! My eyes are opening - I feel like I've finally been unplugged from The Matrix...

User Journal

Journal Journal: About me...

I'm a Microsoft developer who has finally "seen the light". For me, the light bulb turned on last year after really trying to comprehend Microsoft's licensing and the direction they seem to be headed (always seemed to be headed?) That and after receiving the umteenth report of a "critical Windows flaw" from their security bulletin...

So, after years of hearing about Linux I finally downloaded Mandrake Linux for an old Pentium box I had and tried it out. I was amazed at how easily it installed on my old hardware, and just *worked*! It's running rock solid now, and my college UNIX knowlege is finally paying off for me. I would consider myself an advanced newbie (know enough to be dangerous) but I'm learning fast. I'll probably dedicate a more up-to-date workstation for the latest Mandrake release soon and try to use it for my desktop, supplanting WinXP Pro.

I'm also starting to get the Open Source bug. Who'd have thought there's so much *good*, *free* software available? The quality I've seen of open source software in most cases seems to equal or surpass that of most commercial software (especially from *ahem* that company in Redmond...) I plan to contribute some tools I'm working on at some point to open source. When that happens I'll post to my journal so check back.

One thing I think that M$FT has done right is they've always spoiled their developers. I've found that it's very easy to get up to speed on their technology and finding documentation is not difficult. Their .NET technology is pretty good IMO (the actual framework & languages, not their marketing BS and world domination bent). I like their idea of coding for the framework and not the OS. That's one reason why I'm rooting for Mono to succeed. I guess time will tell how far M$FT lets Mono progress, but right now it looks promising.


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