My Linux life has been pretty stable and mundane lately (other than a DAVMail outage, mentioned below). The main desktop runs Ubuntu 10.04, and it has been humming along without issue. Every now and then the summer rainstorms come along and pop the mains, and it and its companion PC, a Windows 7 system, crash to the ground. When power returns, the Linux system spins right back up and keeps right on going. The Windows 7 system committed Harikiri a couple weeks ago after one of the power hits, and it was a slow painful process to get it put back together. The office UPS system went to meet its maker a few month back, and I guess I should have replaced it sooner. I did not replace it because I had a new laptop coming, and I was rethinking the need for desktop PC's at all. Laptops have their own built in UPS's.
There is a lesson in business continuance in there I think. I was in the middle of playing around with some new data center designs (working on trying to push our green envelope) and I did not need that down time. No one ever does I think.
As soon as the Windows 7 computer had been built, and the missing/lost/corrupted data center designs re-created, the new laptop arrived, as if on queue.
In my personal life, I use a Mac mostly, so I am used to the Apple design ethic. I don't know what I thought the M4500 would look like (it was ordered for me, so I had done ne research on them), but I was not expecting the slab that arrived to be sure. The is not a laptop. It is a tank. I have never used a laptop.. or even a desktop... that has the kind of power and resources this beast has. Quad core i7, 1.73 Ghz, hyperthreaded, full virtualization support, 8GB of RAM, and two 64 GB SSD hard drives. There was supposed to be one SSD and one 500GB mechanical, and soon there will be, but for right now two SSD's. When the fan comes on, it si amazingly quiet: I just notice it because my left hand feels this subtle warm breeze. Sometimes even a hot breeze.
Wow. Big bright beautiful screen, LED back-light, nice keyboard touch... it is a nice nice system. Way more powerful than any laptop one would normally need for day to day office stuff, but there is a reason I needed this M-1.
BMC buys companies from time to time, and when we do, one of my jobs is to work on the M&A team that integrates the new R&D team into our existing facilities. One of the BSM-related tasks around that is to know, as quickly and as accurately as possible exactly what computer hardware the new company has. Windows systems need to be updated and anti-virus standardised. R&D systems need to be known so we can figure out what we need to do and in which lab to accommodate them. Etc. Etc.
Fortunately, we make a product that does network discovery, ADDM (for Atrium Discovery and Dependency Mapping), and there is an appliance version of it that runs on Linux. I can load it up to a stout laptop and on Day One, I can collect the data about the systems... all the systems... and report those back to the CMDB, and plans can be made from that.
For obvious reasons, I have no idea before we are well into the process of buying a company how big the company might be, so I can not predict how big this mobile network probe needs to be. Our internal ADDM expert, 3 doors from my office, configured up this computer and said "this will do for most of the situations". Thus, a monster laptop that is normally what you would expect as a CAD workstation or the like.
It would be silly to have such a computer just sitting around, so it was decided this was my next laptop for the rest of the time. With the option of two internal drives (and SSD card + a standard 2.5inch, 7200 rpm disk) dual booting would be easy, and maintaining the ADDM appliance to keep it current would be something I would be able to do all the time because I would always have it with me. A win-win.
Ubuntu 10.10 Beta 1
I wondered how well such a new technology laptop would work with Linux. Linux will sooner or later support everything, but on bleeding edge hardware, if the manufacturer of the internal devices, like the wireless card, have not released open source versions of their drivers, then it can sometimes be a bit of trouble getting things going.
Ubuntu works around most of those issues, and Mint does even more, but they do so at the cost of "purity". I am not a purist about my Linux, so this does not matter to me: I just want it to work. Others in the Linux community live and die by whether or not a device has unencumbered drivers.
I figured 10.10 was a good place to start: It would have the most current kernel in a mainstream distro (184.108.40.206 as I type this), and the latest of pretty much everything else. When the appliance is loaded, that will be RedHat based, but all that needs to work there is the NIC, the screen, the keyboard, the processors, and all the other basic bits. It does not matter if the SD card reads or the PCI express slot works. They are not going to be needed. A personal laptop is a different story: Even if it is my corporate laptop, it is handy to have wireless working, at the very least.
Everything I have tested so far works. In the case of the wireless and the Nvidia graphics card, I am running the non-sourced versions (though Broadcom just released an open source driver for their cards, so that will change). Here is the 'lspci':
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor DMI (rev 11)
00:03.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor PCI Express Root Port 1 (rev 11)
00:08.0 System peripheral: Intel Corporation Core Processor System Management Registers (rev 11)
00:08.1 System peripheral: Intel Corporation Core Processor Semaphore and Scratchpad Registers (rev 11)
00:08.2 System peripheral: Intel Corporation Core Processor System Control and Status Registers (rev 11)
00:08.3 System peripheral: Intel Corporation Core Processor Miscellaneous Registers (rev 11)
00:10.0 System peripheral: Intel Corporation Core Processor QPI Link (rev 11)
00:10.1 System peripheral: Intel Corporation Core Processor QPI Routing and Protocol Registers (rev 11)
00:19.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82577LM Gigabit Network Connection (rev 05)
00:1a.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset USB2 Enhanced Host Controller (rev 05)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset High Definition Audio (rev 05)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset PCI Express Root Port 1 (rev 05)
00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset PCI Express Root Port 2 (rev 05)
00:1c.2 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset PCI Express Root Port 3 (rev 05)
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset PCI Express Root Port 4 (rev 05)
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset USB2 Enhanced Host Controller (rev 05)
00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev a5)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 5 Series Chipset LPC Interface Controller (rev 05)
00:1f.2 RAID bus controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 82801 SATA RAID Controller (rev 05)
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 5 Series/3400 Series Chipset SMBus Controller (rev 05)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GT216 [Quadro FX 880M] (rev a2)
01:00.1 Audio device: nVidia Corporation High Definition Audio Controller (rev a1)
03:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4313 802.11b/g LP-PHY (rev 01)
04:00.0 CardBus bridge: Ricoh Co Ltd Device e476 (rev 02)
04:00.1 SD Host controller: Ricoh Co Ltd Device e822 (rev 03)
04:00.4 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Ricoh Co Ltd Device e832 (rev 03)
3f:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor QuickPath Architecture Generic Non-Core Registers (rev 04)
3f:00.1 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor QuickPath Architecture System Address Decoder (rev 04)
3f:02.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor QPI Link 0 (rev 04)
3f:02.1 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor QPI Physical 0 (rev 04)
3f:03.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller (rev 04)
3f:03.1 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Target Address Decoder (rev 04)
3f:03.4 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Test Registers (rev 04)
3f:04.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 0 Control Registers (rev 04)
3f:04.1 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 0 Address Registers (rev 04)
3f:04.2 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 0 Rank Registers (rev 04)
3f:04.3 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 0 Thermal Control Registers (rev 04)
3f:05.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 1 Control Registers (rev 04)
3f:05.1 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 1 Address Registers (rev 04)
3f:05.2 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 1 Rank Registers (rev 04)
3f:05.3 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Core Processor Integrated Memory Controller Channel 1 Thermal Control Registers (rev 04)
Look at all the Intel bits: Intel has always been great about supporting Linux (even to the point of co-creating their own version) so all the Intel bits are probably at least part of the reason why this is working so well with Linux out of the box.
This bodes well for RedHat 5.x working on here: The person that configured this laptop and did the research probably already knew all this. I'll know more about that when the 500GB drive arrives and I have room to install it.
I won't say I had high hopes for Evolution and MAPI this go round: I had already tested the Gnome 2.30 / Mapi .30 software on Fedora 13, and it was still slow, and did not do well with calendaring. Saying it was better than the last release (2.28) would be damning with faint praise. 10.04 just carried forward the same Gnome and MAPI as 9.10 had. Suffice it to say that the Gnome / Evolution (and for that matter, Ubuntu) community has not really been focused on solving this problem.
I think that is probably the key viewpoint. Linux desktops in the Enterprise are about waiting for companies to catch up to the Cloud, and things like Open Standards around messaging and calendaring, rather than spending a great deal of time trying to go back and figure out the intricacies of the MAPI / RPC stack. If one used Google Apps (for example) then Linux works perfectly well as your desktop / laptop / tablet as-is.
MS Exchange 2010 is supposed to have a decent web client for the first time, so I am hoping we'll upgrade to there soon. My other choices are installing Codeweavers so I can run IE / Outlook, or a VM under VirtualBox / Parallels / Vmware, and while I already have suchs VM's built, I would really prefer a native solution.
DAVMail is now at 3.8.5, and includes EWS functionality. This is a lifesaver for me because the WebDAV access to our MS Exchange servers was disabled altogether, and I was having to revert for a while to using IMAP / LDAP direct to the Exchange server. That never works as well because of oddities in the MS implementations of those protocols. DAVMail has been my workaround for a while for that, and not having it was hard to deal with. With EWS support added, DAVMail is not actually WebDAV anymore (though it can still do that for those with WebDAV enabled servers). It is RPC-over-HTTP. The current Holy Grail of MS Exchange compatibility.
EWS in DAVMail is still under development: Autodiscover for example is not there yet. Calendaring does not work from Evolution, but does from Thunderbird's Lightening plugin... Not sure why Evolution stopped working with DAVMail in EWS mode, but whatever. The new Thunderbird is nice. Reminders are not working, but I can live with that.
(Addendum 3: To use EWS in DAVMail you do have to enable a hidden setting. I assume this will appear the the GUI soon. Edit .davmail.properties in your home directory, and add the line davmail.enableEws=true to it)
The fact that someone.. anyone... in the Linux community is doing this makes my ability to stay on my Linux desktop possible, or at least less stressful.
I continue to be amazed with Pidgin / Sipe. Having the ability to IM others using MS's Office Communicator from Linux is very nice. No having to run a VM as I never was able to get Communicator going in Codeweavers.
IM is very big around here, especially when working with folks in different office or time zones. I am guessing that IM was more important to the folks that develop Linux than getting MS Exchange access working via MAPI/RPC.... although it probably was a simpler nut to crack too.
Pidgin is not the default IM for Ubuntu anymore (that is now Empathy), but it is supported and installable easily.
I have Firefox 3.6.10 installed by default in Ubuntu 10.10, and there is nothing really wrong with that on this super-speedy laptop. I can not really feel only of the bloat FF may have these days here. I have not tried FF 4.0 yet: I use FF as my fall back browser, so I keep it at the supported release.
Chrome is at "7.0.517.13 dev", as I installed it from Google. It is screaming fast, and has lots of new features like add-ins and themes and other FF-like things. It coughs on a few pages (like the editor for Communities.bmc.com), but otherwise is my preferred browser.
Unless I am spoofing my user agent.
Sometimes, to get around poorly designed web sites (or websites that were well designed, but used poor, non-standards complaint toolsets), I have to pretend to be something I am not, and for that, I turn to Opera. with site settable UA changing, accessible from a right click, as well as good speed and reliability, Opera is my go-to when the Web Application is not smart enough to be standards compliant. 10.62 is the version I have installed on the M4500. It is also the best of the three browsers for working with this web site. Editing / spell checking just work better.
Ubuntu's Install and Installer
Not much has changed with the way Ubuntu installs. There are a few new screens, chief of which is a reminder that one should be connected to power, and have network access. (Addendum: It also asks you if you have enough disk space, and whether you want to do updates at the end of the install or not. Even nicer, it asks you if you want to install things like MP3 support. This makes it a bit more Mint-like out of the box).
Addendum II: The disk layout prompt is the next question, before things like times zones and userids. This is nice because once it knows the disk layout, it goes ahead and starts laying things down even while asking you its other configuration questions. Makes too much sense...
The disk layout dialog is "simplified", except that if is slightly harder to use if you don't take the defaults, which I never do, and with the complex disk layout and booting arrangement this laptop will have (Ubuntu, RedHat, and Window 7, across two disks) if would have been nicer to have a more complete disk management option. I can get it done, it is just that the screen presentation is very basic and clean, but not very distinctive. Hard to see the difference at first between /dev/sda and /dev/sdb. Kind of important though.
The software installer called "Ubuntu Software Center" is very clean and nice. Invoked when I click on something with a .deb extension, such as when I was installing Opera, if does a very nice job depicting the install as it runs along. The software selector reminds me strongly of Lindow's / Linspire's software management application. Most of the time I still go to Synaptic, but that is habit as much as anything.
Another recent trend in Ubuntu that I have not ever talked about here is the propensity to use Java implementations other than the Sun one. I do not know why, but it is annoying because the other Java's are not functionally equivalent. DAVMail, one of two Java apps I currently run, only works with the Sun version. Better as in it does not work at all unless I take out the Ubuntu sourced Java and replace it with Sun's version.
With 10.10... at least with the Beta, there is not even a repository with the Sun Java, so I had to go and add the one for 10.04 for now. That installs Java 6.20, which DAVMail likes. It is not the end of the world that it is not the default. It is just annoying, and when trying to attract people to your desktop, it seems to me a good idea not to annoy them unnecessarily.
Maybe it is Necessary. Maybe there is a legal thing here. I don't know. I would not even care if the version sourced worked that same: I am not a purist. I just want it to work.
BMC Blade Logic
This brings me to a happy place: BMC's own Blade Logic. I have the latest and greatest version client version installed, and that is a Java application. It takes a while to spool up for some reason, but after that I can go in and work with the Blade Logic jobs exactly the same way I can with the BL console installed on MS Windows. It is even a 64 bit app!
BMC probably does not list Ubuntu as supported, and clearly a beta version would not be, but still: It works for me, and as I spend more and more time inside the Blade Logic Console, working on things like running compliance jobs to install another BMC product (BPA), it is wonderful to be able to run the console from Linux, and not have to run a guest, and RDP into a virtual desktop, etc. Big win.