Status Update for Devnet

Devnet on vacation

For those of you who follow me here at Yet Another Linux Blog you might be wondering where I went the last month.  I assure you I’m still here and I still use Linux every single day.  I’m currently running both Arch Linux (32bit) and Unity Linux (64bit) on my main computer.

I’ve been working pretty hard through the holidays at my full time job where I am a server administrator for a medium sized hospital in the U.S.  Recently (in December), I moved 2000+ users from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007.  We considered farming out our Exchange environment to the cloud or perhaps going with Microsoft Exchange Hosting services but in the end, upper management decided they’d rather underpay someone to work exceedingly long hours with minimal training on a system not built by him.  So, that’s why I’ve been pretty inactive as of late.  As you can imagine working with Microsoft technologies…I always have something to fix and things are always unstable.

I know that some of you might be saying “why not use linux based exchange alternatives in your enterprise?” and I’d say, why indeed.  But I inherited this beast and it’s been Exchange since Exchange came out.  Not only that, but the primary application for all departments (ERM app) runs completely on Windows and plugs into Exchange and nothing else.  Talk about vendor lock in eh?  Well, it’s a job.

I used to work with Linux when I worked for rPath but parted ways with them about a year and a half ago when I had to move away to help out after a death in the family.  I was very sad to leave but am very happy with the large pay increase that came with my current position.  However, migrations do take their toll…lots of hours worked and frustrations vented.  Now that I’m over the hump, I’ll be able to get back into a normal swing of things.

For those of you who might be Exchange administrators in your day to day work, I’ve begun blogging about my experiences and setup a community to share tips, tricks, powershell commandlets, and a place to talk shop.  I figure if I have to work with closed source at least I can open source some help.  Find my Exchange blog at http://teknologist.net

Thanks for hanging in there everyone, and sorry for the inactivity.  Now that I’ve hit 6+ years blogging (in December) here I have even more incentive to continue sharing great Linux help with everyone.  I’ve got some good tips directly in the pipeline and here’s to a great 2010!

Foresight Users and Developer Conference 2008

Are you interested in Foresight Linux or the Conary package management system? Are you located in or near North Carolina…specifically Raleigh? If so, join us April 18th through the 20th for the Foresight Users and Developer Conference!

Even if you’re not a Foresight User and are just curious about the Conary System Manager, Software Appliances, or software packaging…it would be a great boon to understanding how these things give Foresight an edge over most distros.

Signup on the wiki page (add your name) to attend and we’ll see you there 😉

Use Foresight Linux? Add Some Spice to Your Life!

Hot on the heels of the .4 beta release of Spicebird and a Lifehacker article previewing spicebird (with many screenshots and functionality tests) I bring you the Conary package available for your consumption. To install spicebird on Foresight:

sudo conary update spicebird=/foresight.rpath.org@fl:1-contrib

What is Spicebird? From the Spicebird.com homepage:

Spicebird is your one platform for many collaboration needs. It provides e-mail, calendaring and instant messaging with intuitive integration and unlimited extensibility.

  1. View the Demo
  2. See Screenshots
  3. Check the Roadmap

Please remember that Spicebird is beta software currently so use it at your own risk. Enjoy!

Bringing Linux to Work – Portal Part 3

Ubuntu just doesn’t want to be chosen for me. I’ve had nothing but problems with it since I started going on it. I decided that it would be easier to use Ubuntu (1 disk install, apt-get abilities) to house the in house Intranet portal page here where I work. However, I didn’t count on Ubuntu having so many problems.

The first of many problems was mod_ntlm. This Apache module WILL NOT compile on my server. I emailed someone who actually got this to compile in Ubuntu and asked for how they got it to work, implemented their changes in the .c file, yet still couldn’t get it to compile. This reason alone is enough for me to not use it. But there are more reasons still that Ubuntu doesn’t do it for me.

The second reason is going cold. What I mean by going cold is that it almost froze up. For example, it would take over an hour to run apt-get update, about the same to run apt-get upgrade (depending on downloads) and even 20 minutes to do a standard ls -al | grep keyword command. After a reboot everything was fine. This led me to believe that some sort of power saving module was kicking in. So I removed all power saving modules, recompiled a kernel from scratch, turned off all BIOS power saving items, crossed my fingers and rebooted. Even with all of these actions, Ubuntu still went cold after a day of uptime. This is on an IBM NetVista P4 with 1 GB RAM. Ubuntu however will not be staying on any PC at my job due to the previous problems experienced.

I’ve got an exact match of this machine to provide backup for it so I’ve simulataneously been using CentOS to experiment around with it. There’s a reason that Red Hat is the leader in the server arena…because they get it done and provide a fantastically stable Linux environment. CentOS is repackaged Red Hat Enterprise Linux and it is fantastic. So from this point on, Ubuntu will not be actively developed on by myself…I’ll be using CentOS from this point on. Which leads me to the decisions I’ve been trying to come to.

I’ve been trying to find a good portal CMS that can house documents and provide news announcements for my department. No chat is needed…no forums…just a repository for docs. With all of this being said, I need to provide a flexible solution to house these documents as well because who knows what the director will come back and say. Perhaps tomorrow he’ll change his mind and want to have all documentation developed and worked on in Sharepoint and all reports to go on our intranet page. So I need flexibility if I’m going to get a CMS running on Linux and I need it to be stable so I can show tangible results to upper managment. Otherwise, they’ll continue to go with what has been working for them…and that is Windows.

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Brining Linux to Work – Portal Part 2

Beginning this month, I’ll be attempting to infuse my place of work with Linux. I am an new Applications Analyst and resident AIX/Linux expert for a government agency that lives and breaths Microsoft. I feel that Open Source software, mainly, Linux…can be a great addition to this agency. I’ll be documenting my attempts here while I go along. If you have tips, tricks, solutions, advice or supportive comments…please respond in kind.


Well, Ubuntu had some troubles but CentOS did a fine job for me. The problem was in the compilation of the mod_ntlm module for Apache. Ubuntu couldn’t get it right. Changing the makefile a bit (Thanks Billy!) did allow me to post the mod_ntlm.so file (finally) but I couldn’t get things to work for Apache 2. I reverted back to Apache 1.3 on the Ubuntu box but ran into the same problem that I did on the CentOS box with odd authentication issues. Alternatively, CentOS had no problems compiling the mod_ntlm Apache module for Apache 1.3 OR Apache 2.X which was much better than Ubuntu.

Of course, the real problem wasn’t getting the various software installed, the problem was doing it in the correct order. My advice to someone that wants to use mod_ntlm with Apache to pass parameters to a zope server for plone: Install zope and plone first…get a working site up and running on port 80 (intranet site that is) THEN install apache and work on mod_ntlm. I had trouble figuring this out as most of the instructions I found allowed for Apache to be working first before the zope server comes into play. Another thing you could do is turn off Apache during your zope/plone configuration.

Something else that is odd is that by default when you install zope in CentOS, it isn’t started. You can add it to automatic start using checkconfig in CentOS but finding out where the rpm installs zope is another story. Not being familiar with zope hindered my progress initially. After some fumbling I was able to get things working.

Overall on both the Ubuntu and CentOS installs, I was able to get things in working order but could not get Apache to use mod_ntlm correctly. Normally, if mod_ntlm is setup correctly and all directives are listed correctly (I was using .htaccess to house the ntlm directives) you’ll get to a page 404 not found if accessing the document root. Instead, I received 401 Unauthorized Access. This meant that I was not validating according to Apache to my active directory source.

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Discovering Redmond

Some readers of this blog know that I recently moved my family from North Carolina to Virginia. The move went smoothly and I now find myself employment with a Fortune 500 company as a project manager. Therefore, I am in both unfamiliar territory as well as familiar territory. Familiar because there is a complete lack of Linux in this entire business; which is something I’ve read about considerably across many Linux websites…and also unfamiliar because I thought that reading these same articles allowed me to know the scope of Microsoft in business. I was dead wrong.


Unveiling the Beast

How could I have been so blind? I ask myself this question often now… Other new IT Professionals finding employment in corporate America might have asked themselves the same question. My conclusion is that Microsoft is far larger than I had EVER imagined. It’s model, its business presence, its structure, and its existence in IT. Straight massive. They’re everywhere IT is…no matter how large an operation or how small it is, Redmond is staring back at you from every neck of the woods. It is so large that I can’t even get a firm grasp of every market it is in or every area it encompasses, nor every niche it has found foothold. Microsoft has a department for every new technology and every standard currently being developed. They also have the largest piggy bank in the world and they don’t hesitate to raid it.

You’re saying, “Yes, Yes, we know this. Everyone that uses Linux knows this.” Perhaps some OSS users get it. But I don’t think everyone truly grasps how large Redmond is and how far its tendrils thread out in business…a majority of Linux users don’t have the whole sprawl of Microsoft in front of them daily to allow it to ‘sink in.’

Most Linux users have to settle for reading about this “whole sprawl” at a technology website or hearing it from a friend of a friend whose brother works at Microsoft. In these situations, reading or hearing about something and actually seeing it put to action are two separate things. With this line of thinking, most Linux users may not fully comprehend the size, involvement, and area that Microsoft currently has.

Realization
Being a project manager here has enabled me to see each and every area that Redmond has infiltrated in corporate America. It’s everywhere. And not just in my company, it is also ingrained in every other company that we work with. It’s everywhere and in everything. I was flabbergasted and knocked for a loop when the realization hit me. No longer was it David vs. Goliath. Microsoft is much larger than Goliath could ever hope to be. Nay, it became a spec of dust vs. the sun.

I was completely sunk for about a day. I looked at the Linux business desktop (mainly Suse 9.3 and Red Hat) and then back to XP with all of its enterprise and server manipulation tools staring at me on my work computer and I physically dropped my jaw and slumped my shoulders in disappointment. The Linux business desktop is far inferior in abilities to Microsoft and is conversely inferior to corporate businesses because of its lack of features and abilities. I do understand that this isn’t the fault of Linux but rather, because most vendors develop third party applications to run using Windows. The lack of third party server admin applications and enterprise manipulation tools on the Linux desktop is painfully evident and completely understandable as most vendors do not support *nix desktops. I’m sure that there are many active projects in this area right now. That’s the beauty of Linux…when something isn’t present and there is a need for it, a project springs up and developers begin to remedy the situation.

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