Virtual Machines

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There are several benefits to running virtual machines. Not only to try different distros or Operating systems(which is one of my favorite uses), but they provide so much more functionality.

First a little about virtualization and who needs it? It is the ability to run several different operating systems inside of one. Whether you are a Linux user, and cannot find an open source alternative for that one Windows based application, a Systems Administrator of several servers, a programmer testing software or just the average computer user curious to see what is outside the Windows;)

Virtualization Software Options

Virtualization software is available for a variety of needs, ranging from free or no-cost software for desktop users to six-figure packages for data-center operators.

The package you choose will depend on what you need to accomplish with the technology. Other factors to consider include how many computers you currently have, your level of technical expertise, and the kind of tech support available at your nonprofit.

If your organization is considering virtualization technology, here are three popular options you may wish to consider. For a broader comparison of the features of these and other packages, Wikipedia's Comparison of Virtual Machines may provide a general reference as well.

VMWare, Parallels, and Microsoft Virtual PC are several os the commercial developers of such software, but I would like to promote VirtualBox for it is free and recently has become my software of choice. I learned about such software at college, where they really take advantage of it's potential (VMWare). Whether learning Linux, Novell, or windows server 200X, the ability to have all these installed at home, without the worry of formatting a hard drive or mis-configuring anything I was intrigued.But that seems like an eternity now.

I now use VirtualBox on an Ubuntu host running Windows XP only because I need Windows and IE7 to run our MLS client for work. For Linux users Do not use the repository version because it is limited in functionality(No USB port, 3D Acceleration. etc). Below is a list of benefits created by Kevin Lo technology analyst for Techsoup:

The Benefits of Virtualization

Depending on your IT architecture, the nature of your work, and your IT budget, virtualization software can offer a variety of advantages to your nonprofit.

Server consolidation.

One of the primary benefits of virtualization software is that it allows you to increase the scale of your server infrastructure without purchasing additional pieces of hardware. (Keep in mind, however, that you may still need to purchase software licenses for the virtualization software, depending on the package you choose.)

Energy conservation.

In addition to savings in hardware costs, virtualization software may also save you money on your energy bill. According to Energy Star, the energy costs for running a server for a year will soon exceed the price of acquiring it.

Improving ease of management.

Managing virtual machines is a lot easier than managing “real” machines, since hardware upgrades, for example, can be done with the click of several buttons, rather than having to power down the machine, install the hardware, verify the change, then power up again. Moreover, managing virtual machines can often be done via a console server, thereby reducing the time needed to deploy them.

Reducing backup and recovery time.

Since virtual machines are essentially files, backing up and restoring them is a lot less time-consuming. And while the files can be huge, a directory of many 2-GB files is still easier to restore than a real machine of the same specifications. Moreover, hardware failures ― such as a failed hard drive ― will not affect virtual machines in the same way they would a physical machine. (Of course, the real hard drive on which the virtual machine reside needs to be backed up as usual.)

Testing software configurations.

Another way you can use virtualization software is for testing software configurations before deploying them on a live system. If you needed to verify whether a program is incompatible with your existing setup, for example, you may try testing in on a virtual machine first. This can be immensely useful for organizations that have legacy systems or applications and must test out systems before deploying them. Virtual machines can also interact with one another in virtual networks, allowing you to test server-client applications virtually.

Maintaining legacy applications.

If you do have old applications that have compatibility issues with newer software or that must run on a certain version of an operating system, you can dedicate a virtual machine just for those tasks. That way, your IT architecture and planning won't be constrained because of a few applications.

Maintaining a cross-platform office.

It is not uncommon for offices that run mostly Macs to need to run one or two Windows-only programs; in this case, virtual software can be an affordable, easy way to do this. Note, however, that the reverse is not applicable; many virtualization applications for PCs allow you to run Linux, but not Mac operating systems.


Not only is acquiring maintaining multiple computers costly, it can also take up a great deal of office space. Virtualizing your machines can free up space and reduce electronics clutter.

So if you are an average, curious user, administer for a mid-size corporation, or a large educational facility virtualzation could be for you. There are several appliances and operating systems available for free download on the Web, and if you haven't tried any Virtual appliances I highly recommend it, it's worth the effort. Even if you have tried VMWare at school or work, give VirtualBox a won't be disappointed.


Linux Mint 6 Codename: Felicia

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Linux Mint has been one of my favorite Linux distrubutions since Mint 4 Codenammed Daryna. It is a light-weight distro based on Ubuntu. Linux Mint 6 (Felicia) is based on Ubuntu 8.10 and has all the same great features of Intrepid (Ubuntu 8.10) with many enhanced extras.

Mint has utalized the "Software Portal" as a web based software repossitory. This enables users to rate software as well as acquire screenshots for the less common available software. While the site was elegant and useful, it had security flaws. Earlier this year their site was hacked and malitious software was added to the repository. While Linux is a more secure operating system than other major OS's, it is not completely Virus safe.

With the implementation of Felicia, the Linux Mint team decided to bring the Software Portal to the distrubution. They have placed susch feature as ranking, screenshots, etc to the software manager. While this is a "handy" feature, there is one downfall to this concept. The problem is loading time. It now takes several minutes to load the packages due to the thousands of images, but is still useful.

Mint has always been a beautiful working out-of-the-box distro, and Mint 6 is no different. With support for many hardware and architecture types, Mint is sure suit most users as well as machines. Being based on the latest Ubuntu it is sure to be a stable enviroment with a large community of supporters.

As I stated Felicia is an elegant easy to use distribuion. Easy for Linux Newbies, yet powerful enough for the more savvy users. With thousands of available free software (free as in free beer)there is packages to have a full replacement OS for that Vista headache (Billy's Little Bugware). Without the need of needing 3+ GB of RAM just to have a functioning desktop.

Systm Requirements for Linux Mint 6:
To install Linux Mint 6, you will need minimum 512 MB of RAM (however, the system will work very well with 256 MB of RAM after installation). Be aware that the installation may hang if you have less than 512 MB of RAM. As a solution, you can try to repeat the installation process several times. Also, you must have at least 3 or 4 GB of free hard drive space.

Special Features of Mint 6
· mint4win allows you to install Linux Mint from the Microsoft Windows operating system;
· mintInstall 5 with a new offline interface, software versions information and support for multiple portals;
· mintUpdate 3 with a revamped GUI, proxy support, updates history;
· mintUpload 2 with support for FTP transfers;
· mintNanny, a useful parental control tool;
· Giver, a LAN (Local Area Network) transfer tool;
· Gufw, a Graphical User Interface (GUI) frontend for the ufw firewall;
· Flegita, an utility for scanners.

On top of that, the Linux Mint team is proud to present the introduction of the Linux Mint Universal Edition, a customized version of Felicia, available as a Live DVD. The Universal Edition contains the following features:

· Installs all the missing audio and video codecs;
· Offers support for English, Italian, German, Spanish, Indonesian, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Hindi, Greek, Urdu, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Danish, Filipino, Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Hebrew, Korean, Catalan, Esperanto, Croatian, Serbian and Farsi languages;
· Available as a Live DVD.


Mandriva 2009

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As I have mentioned I have tried many distributions of Linux. Rescently Mandriva had released it's 2009 version and I must say that it is absolutely beautiful. I downloaded the Live CD (Mandriva One), and it is functional as is beautiful eye candy. I have tried different Linux distros with KDE4 as the default window manager and they all failed miserably. Not the case with Mandriva 2009, I found it to be the best implementation of KDE4 thus far.

Mandriva has tons of software using the URPMI repository. It supported my NVidia card out of the box which was no suprise because I had no issues with recent releases. As usual excellent support for many codecs and proprietry formats are available through the "non-free" repositories. Flash support has greatly improved in Linux as well.

Mandriva stills seems to me to be the best Linux disto for newer users and expiernced users as well. I am not new to Linux by no means, I've been using since Fedora Core4 and love it. PCLOS 2009 will be released soon and I imagine it will be as stable and eye-catching as Man. 2009.

My first Impression:

The Good:

Easy Installation
Excellent Hardware Support
Beautiful Desktop with solid KDE4 implementation
Many software packages available
Easy to Use and/or learn for newbies

The Not-So-Good (Cannot use the word "Bad", because I found no real "Bad" in this distro)
Didn't ship with CD/DVD Burning software. K3B and Brasero in repositories
After installation I had some missing system fonts (EZ Fix)
The clock in the system tray is 24hr and not easily configurable KDE4 issue not Mandriva)

Linux has came far in the past few years. It has evolved from a command line, only good for server and security operating system, to a gorgeous, fun and easy to use stable desktop OS also.
Mandriva 2009is a wonderful distrobution for all you frustrated Vista users. It is prettier and more functional than M$ Vista, and best of all free, lke most of the available software.


Free and Open SourceSoftware Web Sites

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There are many sites that offer software that is labled freeware and Open Source. There are many similarities between the two, however; they are noyt the same. Open Source Software (OSS) is usually licensed under the GNU GPL (General Puublic Licensing) which enables users to modify the source code to allow software to suit the users needs. SourceForge is the most used site for downloading these types of software.

Freeware is computer software that is available for use at no cost or for an optional fee. Freeware is often made available in a binary-only, proprietary form, thus making it distinct from free software. Proprietary freeware allows authors to contribute something for the benefit of the community, while at the same time allowing them to retain control of the source code. There are many sites that offer freeware applications, one drawback is these applications are generally for personal use only, opposed to business use, and the developers maintain the source so the software is as is and no modifications can be made. CNet, FreeWare Home, and File Hippo are only a few of many sites that allow you to download freeware software.

Commercial software may have some extra features than the previous mentioned, however; it sometimes get pretty expensive. GAOTD or Give Away of The Day is a site that offers users various commercial software for free to its users. They give a commercial application to use with no support from vendors and can be used for personal use. This idea is good to allow users to use software they may have never heard of or intended on buying. These are not demos they are the whole application with usually no expiration. Not all are gems. but I have downloaded some really good applications from this site.

With the economy dimenishing it is time to look into alternetives to pricy software. I hope this site enlightens readers that these alternetives do exist. Although I have mentioned several resources to find free and open software there are many others available. These sites just happen to be the ones I frequent the most.


Web Tools and Applications

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Joomla! is one of the widest used open source Content Management Systems. It is a fork of Mambo. Ihave created may websites utilizing this feature-rich software with it's very friendly interface. The Joomla! community is very large and developers design extensions to enhance your development. FlintHomes is the first site I used this software and I must say there was a very small learning curve, however; it was painless.

Kompozer and NVU WYSIWYG editors are open source alternetives to applications like DreamWeaver and M$ FrontPage. For editing logos my preferred application is Adobe FireWorks , however Krita and Karbon14 are fairly reasonable replacements. For photo manipulation you must check out the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). Although many believe it to have a steeper learning curve compared to Adobe Photo Shop, others find it easier. Many plug-ins are available for this software and after a little practice, I'm sure it is very commparible to Photo Shop and Corel Draw.

Although I do use Adobe CS3 MAster Collection for much of my design and publishing, I have built entire sites using strict Open Source software. Please list any applications and tools I may have left out. I know there are many but the Apps listed above, I found to be the easiest to learn. Give them a try and I am looking forward to anyones comments and soggestions.


Thinking About Trying Linux

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There are thousands of available distributions ( Or "Distros") of Linux. DistroWatch is a great place to start. Many believe that Linux is only for the "techi types" out there, however; in the past few years the Linux community has made great strides in developing distros to make converting to Linux a painless step. While there are many distrobutions out there that are geared to the more tech savvy users (Skackware, Gentoo etc.), there are also many that try to mirror other enviroments so the conversion is real easy.

There are several different ways to aquire Linux, from fully installable CDs and DVDs, to Live CDs that enable the user to run Linux from the optical drive utilizing the system RAM without the need of installing to the HDD. This is one of the greatest technologies I believe because most of the Live CDs allow the user to install to HDD after trying them. For new users I suggest trying PCLOS 2007 or Granular (both Mandriva based Distros), this is probably one of the most user-friendly distributions I have ever tried, and believe me I have tried many. Ubuntu, a debian based version of Linux is also one I would reccomend due to its' large community. Although Linux may not offer the support that you get from companies like Microsoft, and MAC, they are community based with active members that can answer most of your questions.


What is Open Source

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The Open Source Initiative began in the early '80s under 'free software", which later changed to open source to the misleading term free. Free meant freedom, not free as in a monetary since, rather giving the user the freedom to modify the source code.

The software included the source code which can be modified and changed to suit the users needs. The Firefox Web browser is probably the most used open source application. Created by Mozilla, strong supporters of the Open Source Initiative. Users who use the Firefox Web browser are probably familiar with the many features available. Users can also modify the plug-ins being used, speed of the browser, and hundreds of configurations by going into the configuration file. Simply type " about:config " minus the "" in the address bar of the browser.

Linux is probably the most powerful of all open source software. It is an entire server and/or desktop operating system. Users can configure their computers, everything from themes, schema's, functionality, etc, everything is configurable. Giving the usr total control over the system. Many may feel they have this in a Windows environment, (Until they try Linux that is).

Everything from office software to enterprise business software , Open source software is a great alternative to expensive commercial software, and many titles have more powerful tools than their commercial counterparts. In todays economy it is important to budget finances, open source software will help businesses maintain the top secure technologies on any budget.