Computers, Hardware, Linux, Open-source, Software, Windows

Get in the Zone

Solaris offers something that actually impressed me this week. The concept of a “zone” (or “container” they are having a branding issue) is a twist on the traditional virtual machine analogy. Lets take everyones favorite operating system Windows as an example to illustrate the differences between a “virtual machine” and a “zone”.

In a traditional virtual machine, the entire environment is replicated. So for Windows, this would be “C:” partition.  This would include the “Program Files”, and “Windows” directories, etc. Because everything is self contained, it is a fully functional copy of a Windows installation.  However, what if you have 5 virtual machines, or 500? Well, then you are looking at significant waste (beyond the fact that my example uses Windows). For the most part, the “Windows” directory isn’t going to change too much. Its just the core operating system files needed for operations. Its not really customized for each installation. So if its the same, why replicate it?

Solaris zones tackle just that – the “Windows” directory would be hosted and shared from the root zone. Basically, the container is just the user’s files (with a few exceptions). Whats more is applying updates propogate into the Solaris Zones (which can be good or bad) so all of the systems are up to date with minimal patching effort.

Of course, this example could never work with the Windows operating system because of technical, and political limitations, but for real operating systems, this is a cool concept – especially in the server arena. I read somewhere that the impact of running a Solaris zone is less than 1% of your system resources. The maximum number of zones per host is theoretically somewhere around 8,000 – actually results will be dependent on avaialble processing power, memory, and hard drive storage space.

So kudos Sun, for finally getting something right. Now lets talk about shipping Solaris with “dpkg” instead of “pkg-get”…

Computers, Hardware, Linux, Open-source, Personal, Software, Thoughts, Windows

Ubuntu – How I Have Missed You…

Since I started working in Administrative Systems, I have been tasked with supporting a myriad of Windows-only applications. I assumed that it would be close to impossible to try and continue running any form of Linux on my work machines – especially with my boss popping in my office and telling me to pull up application X at any given second.

However, now I am tasked to work with Solaris about 90% of my day and I have to say that despite how great Putty can be – it just isn’t the best solution. Nothing beats a native terminal connection. Especially given that Windows doesn’t know jack about any filesystems other than its own. This makes editing files on the Solaris machine difficult and slow.

Slowly Linux started creeping back into my mind, and it made me homesick everytime I would go visit Scott and Chris over in VS (Well that problem took care of itself…). I have had much time to ponder how feasible a switchover would be (and what I would need to take care of as prerequisites) and I came up with a list of issues I would have to resolve first:

  1. Where can I place files that would be common to both Windows and Linux?
  2. How could I synchronize my email clients, and web browsers (history, bookmarks, passwords)?
  3. How can I access Windows applications if there is no other alternative?

These issues required some research on my part, but I finally found the following solutions:

  • ntfs-3g:  This particular piece of software is the read/write driver for NTFS partitions for Mac/Linux.  am counting on this to read/write data on the NTFS partition. It has matured so much recently that the latest version of Ubuntu can be installed inside the Windows NTFS partition. Condition #1 satistied – the files can stay where they are.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird / Mozilla Firefox: The Mozilla corporation did something so clever I have to applaud them (*clap clap clap*) – they made all application data, as well as settings reside in a profile folder. On Windows, Firefox is located at “C:Documents and Settings<user>Application DataMozillaFirefoxProfiles<profile instance>”. In Linux, this is located at “/home/<user>/.mozilla/firefox/profiles/<profile instance>”. Mozilla Thunderbird is essentially the same. The applause is becase the settings are the same on any OS! I placed the folders on the Linux partition by symlinking them to the Windows partition. Condition #2 satisfied – Email and Web browsers are always in sync because it is the same instance.
  • VMWare Server: No surprises here – this kind of software is a dime a dozen today. However VMWare offers a feature where with a bit of configuration the Operating System you can run can be the physical partition of your existing Windows partition. Pretty slick – that is after Windows throws a bitch fit that its configuration has been change and you absolutely positively must activate it again. The solution for that is to create a seperate hardware profile for Windows (a configuration that Windows made mandatory because of its bitch fits). Condition #3 satisfied – if I need Windows I can just flip over to Workspace 4 (I named it hell) and Windows is waiting for my input.