Entries Tagged as 'open source'

Windows 7 – Virtualization

So you’ve upgraded to Windows 7 and now your considering the options for running virtual machines…

If you have a PC that’s capable of hardware assisted virtualization (I-VT or AMD-V) and you’re running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate the decision is fairly easy; use the virtualization technology from Microsoft that provides you with Virtual XP mode (as well as generalized virtualization).

However, if you don’t have a PC capable of hardware virtualization or you didn’t spring for the more expensive version of Windows you have some good (free) choices.

While Microsoft doesn’t officially support Virtual PC 2007 SP1 on Windows 7, since it was designed to run under Vista it will work.  The real downside is that you have fairly old virtualization technology emulating an antiquated hardware.

You could consider buying VMware or Parallels, but why spend money when there’s a better free alternative for personal use…

That would be – VirtualBox (yes, I’ve harped on VirtualBox for the Mac before, and now it’s time to harp on VirtualBox on the PC).

VirtualBox is a project sponsored by Sun Microsystems.  They’ve actually been working on virtualization technology for a very long time, and their virtualization technology is top notch. 

VirtualBox will run on several different operating system, you can even share the virtual machine files between operating systems if you like.  But one of the really nice things about VirtualBox is that it will support machines with or without hardware assisted virtualization and it emulates very modern hardware (which makes the paravirtualization of devices much more efficient).

Unless you have specific requirements that force you to choose other virtualization software, I would recommend you take a good look at VirtualBox.

VirtualBox

Originally posted 2009-11-14 01:00:43.

CompactCMS Review

CompactCMS is an extremely light weight and fast Content Management Solution (CMS).  Actually it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a CMS, it’s more like a content management foundation.

CompactCMS is an open source software project and is totally free (nothing related to it has any costs or restrictions beyond the Creative Commons License).

No question it makes managing a small site very easy, and it has a huge selection of (free) CSS templates that offer a wide variety of layouts and appearances.

Why do I say it’s a foundation?

Simple, it provides the basic of editing pages and content, builds a sitemap — but it really doesn’t offer modules that provide enhanced capabilities.  Now in it’s defense, it does provide the ability to build pages that can call PHP directly, but it doesn’t provide any framework to use managed content within your PHP code (well — you can access the MySQL database directly, but there’s zero abstraction).

Several days ago I made a comment about most users only need a two page (mostly static) web site — and that’s true, and CompactCMS certainly provides that ability to users with very little understanding of web editing (it certainly provided more than that to users who have some understanding of web editing).

The main problem with CompactCMS for users who just don’t know anything at all about web technology is it requires a little understanding of how to setup a database, import a schema, and edit configuration files (by hand).  Yeah, that’s not really much to ask a techie for sure, but there’s lots of people who know where the power button is on their computer, but re-arrange the icons on the desktop and they’re lost…

I personally like CompactCMS — I’m not sure I have any real use for it, but it would be fine to use to setup simple web sites for clients that actually wanted to be able to make modest changes to the site themselves (remember, most low end web site offerings don’t include unlimited changes — and generally don’t include any changes).

http://compactcms.nl/

Originally posted 2010-04-07 02:00:28.

Free Software!

Let me start off by saying that there is a lot of free software available for just about every popular operating system that works well, is well written, and straight forward to use.

Let me also point out that a lot of free software is free because is simply couldn’t be sold — yes it’s that bad (of course there is a lot of commercial software that is on the market that shouldn’t be sold; but that’s another rant).

I have a favorite saying:

You rarely get what you pay for.

And with free software that could be taken to mean, it almost always ends up costing you…

I always recommend that you read up on software before you use it; and try to read comments written by someone with similar computer skills and goals as you have.  Then ask yourself the simple questions “do you need the software” and “do you have something that already does the same thing that works”.

If you just want to play with a piece of software, consider using a virtual machine to try it out and then discard the changes; and I always try out a piece of software in a virtual machine even if I’m fairly sure it’s something I want.

I maintain a list of products (free and for pay) on my web site that I consider worth using…

It’s rare that I have any problems with any of my computers — and that’s mainly because I don’t “junk” them up with lots of software I never will use and don’t need… and keep in mind — COMPUTER PROBLEMS are one of the costs of installing software.

Originally posted 2008-12-17 12:00:43.

Linux BitTorrent Clients – Follow-Up

I’ve been using several Linux bit torrent clients fairly heavily for the past week or so, and I have a few new comments about each of the “contenders” — below I’ve ordered them as I would recommend using them.

KTorrent · KTorrent might be a little “fat”, but it works, and it works very well — particularly when dealing with a large number of torrents simultaneously.  This is my pick.

TorrentFlux · TorrentFlux is probably the best solution you’ll find for a torrent server.  Simply said, it works fine (though I don’t know that I’ll continue to use it, simply because it doesn’t seem to be being improved, and it’s far from perfection).

Transmission · Transmission is simple, and that simplicity seems to pay off — it works, it works well.

qBittorrent · qBittorrent works fairly well for a small number of simultaneous torrents; but if you want to download large numbers of torrents or seed large numbers of torrents stay away from this one — it actually crashes, and unless your goal is just to watch the integrity of your torrents be checked and over and over you can do much better.

Deluge · Deluge was what I really wanted to like; and it seemed to work, but it has two major problems — it doesn’t handle large numbers of torrents well, and it doesn’t properly handle port forwarding (either through UPnP / NAT-PMP or when you try and set the port forwarding manually).  We’ll just leave it at it has issues (that apparently are fairly well known) and the progress on it is glacial in it’s pace.

Moving torrents from one client to another isn’t all that hard to do, a little time consuming maybe… but once you figure out how to do it, and let your data files re-check, you’ll be on your way.

My experience over the past week reminds me that you can do your diligence by researching every fact and figure about a program all you like; but until you put it through the paces you just won’t know.

NOTES: My test included about 550 torrents totaling just under half a terabyte in total size.  I required that ports be forwarded through a firewall properly (either via UPnP, NAT-PMP, or by hand), and that I be able to control the total number of active torrents (preferably with control over uploads and downloads as well), and be able to restrict the bandwidth (a scheduler was a nice touch, but not a requirement).

Originally posted 2010-08-25 02:00:30.

Joomla Review

Joomla is one of the most popular open source Content Management Systems (CMSs) around.

The core of Joomla is open source and free to use; however, there are many add-ons and themes for Joomla that are commercial.  In fact, what I found is particularly with themes, almost none of the free themes are what I would consider “professional”.

Joomla has an extraordinarily steep learning curve.  You can do almost nothing with the CMS right after installing it without reading a fairly significant amount of documentation.

Even after reading the documentation, it is fairly involved to differentiate a Joomla site from every other Joomla site (which is why generally it’s so easy to identify a site that uses Joomla).  Don’t get me wrong, you can build a very customized site using Joomla — however, mere mortals might have to hire a consultant.

Joomla to me is unnecessarily complex technology looking for problems to solve in a way that creates job security.  Did I say that? LOL

If Joomla does what you want, and Joomla will create the look-and-feel that you like, and you can understand (and are comfortable with) the paradigm — then have at it.  It certainly works, and it’s very solid.  However, you should consider the total cost of Joomla before you dive head on into it (and while the core system is free, you may find that themes, modules, and consulting adds up quickly).

http://joomla.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-04 02:00:27.

VirtualBox LinuxDesktop RealPerformance

The other day I installed VirtualBox OSE on my Ubuntu machine so that I could migrate over a Windows Server 2003 machine.  I wasn’t really expecting great performance since I was putting the virtual disks on a single spindle…

Sometimes you get a good surprise.

When I started up the virtual instance, it seemed very fast — so I shut it down and started it again.  Then I performed a few quick tests and I realized that not only was VirtualBox on a Ubuntu 10.04LTS Linux machine substantially faster than on a Windows 7 machine (with a faster hard disk and faster processor), but it was faster than on a Windows Server 2008 machine running Hyper-V.

The really incredible thing was that Hyper-V was running on a disk array with fifteen spindles verses a single spindle for VirtualBox.

I really didn’t have any way to do a set of rigorous tests, but what I found was that as long as the disk wasn’t saturated, VirtualBox was able to handily outperform Hyper-V on every test (read or write) that I performed… it was only when I started to push near to the limits of the drive that VirtualBox and Hyper-V had similar disk IO performance.

I didn’t evaluate how VirtualBox performed on Linux with a disk array, but my guess is that it’s simply much more efficient at scheduling disk IO than Hyper-V; and likely Linux is more efficient at disk IO than Windows period.

I’m a huge fan of VirtualBox; and if I knew now what I knew about Hyper-V eighteen months ago I would have avoided it like the plague and simply used VirtualBox or Xen as a virtualization solution.

I’ll put a more thorough investigation of disk IO and VirtualBox verses Hyper-V performance on my “TO-DO” list; but I don’t expect it’ll float to the top until this Winter at the earliest; until then my advice is choose VirtualBox (or Xen).

Originally posted 2010-08-24 02:00:27.

Oracle – The Destroyer of Open Source

Yes I know Oracle supported open source Linux in the past; but that was when they felt they needed to help in the fight against Microsoft, but since their acquisition of Sun Microsystems and MySQL it seems that Oracle is killing off open source projects; like because Larry Ellison believes that’s the road to profit, and has feared open source from the beginning.

Open Solaris is a thing of the past (though the project will likely be reincarnated as a real open source project not under the control of a big company); who knows what will happen with VirtualBox and MySQL or any one of the many other open source projects that Sun Microsystems supported.

Originally posted 2010-08-26 02:00:53.

Linux BitTorrent Clients

I’ve been looking at bit torrent (BitTorrent) clients for Linux over the past few weeks — and to say there’s a huge number of candidates wouldn’t do justice to the number of choices a person has… but like so many things in life, quantity and quality are generally on perpendicular axises.

I set a fairly simple set of requirements for the client:

  • Open source
  • Stability
  • Simplicity
  • Configurability
  • Support protocol encryption (require it)
  • Light on resources
  • Ability to handle torrents via URLs

And I set some nice to haves:

  • Search integration
  • Daemon
  • IP black listing (though I use IPBlock, so this is only a nice to have for others)

So once again I set out to limit the field and do some real testing on Ubuntu 10.04LTS… and the ones I ended up really doing more than just kicking the tires are listed below (alphabetically).  Other failed because they didn’t meet my requirements, they were pieces of crap that should be expunged from the world (LOL), or I just didn’t like them enough to waste time and energy on them.  The links for each of the below are to Wikipedia; you can find links on there to the website for each client.  I installed all of the clients via the package manager on Ubuntu.

Deluge · Deluge is a fairly basic program, though has just about every setting configurable that you might want.  It does have a client / server model (use of it is optional); but a single instance of the daemon is unable to handle multiple users; but it does allow you to terminate your session and continue downloading, and it doesn’t seem to have any issue running multiple daemons (one for each user).   This client also offers a number of “plug ins” to provide a block list, a web ui, a schedule, etc — features most others just include as part of the base system.  I wanted to like this client more than I did; but in the end I can only call it acceptable.

KTorrent · KTorrent is a nicely done program, and it has just about every setting configurable that you might want.  Interestingly by default the queue manager is disabled, so it really doesn’t act much like any other bit torrent client I’ve ever used — but enabling it gives you the ability to download multiple torrent at once.  One short coming is you don’t seem to be able to limit the total number of downloads and uploads together — you can do them individually, but that means for trackers that limit your total active connections you could end up not using all of them.  I’ve also noted that this client seems to be a little “fat” and consume a significant amount of system resources (GUI in particular) when left running for extended periods.  I like this client; but there are better.

qBittorrent · qBittorrent is essentially a *nix clone of the Windows version of uTorrent (µTorrent); and it certainly does a good job mimicking it.  It seems to have all the features I wanted; and none of the downsides.  It has a web ui, a ip filter, etc.  It seems to be reasonably light on system resources and just works.  If I had to pick a standalone bit torrent client, this would probably be my recommendation.

TorrentFlux · TorrentFlux is actually a web ui for BitTornado.  There is a fork of the project called TorrentFlux-b4rt that looks like it will eventually offer more features (and support more bit torrent engines) but for the moment TorrentFlux appears to be much more stable.  It’s fairly basic, but has most all the features one might want.  While many of the others offer a web ui, I think this is probably one of the better “server” solutions for bit torrent clients.

Transmission · Transmission is a very simple bit torrent client; perhaps too simple.  It has all the settings you need, as well as a web ui.  It also has ports for just about every operating system (so if you only wanted to deal with one bit torrent client on multiple operating system this would be a good choice).  Transmission has a huge following; but personally I felt it just wasn’t quite what I wanted.

In the end, I guess I didn’t find a bit torrent client that I really liked… but I think TorrentFlux (or a re-incarnation of it) has good potential to be what I want; and I think qBittorrent is probably my favorite of the stand alone clients.  However, in saying that, let me underscore that every client on this list works, and works acceptably well — so I don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of them… and I’m sure that those with a religious conviction to one or the other will just not accept that their favorite client doesn’t top my list… but in fact, I’m holding the tops slots of my list open hoping I find something better.

NOTE: The use of torrents for downloading does not necessarily denotate that a user is breaking any laws.  That said, because many internet service providers will terminate a user that is using a torrent client, it is a good idea to require encrypted connections and use IP filtering software (with current black lists).

Originally posted 2010-08-16 02:00:55.

Concrete5 Review

Content Management Systems (CMSs) strive to make maintaining a web site simple; they generally are focused on allowing one person or many people to effectively contribute and edit content, change the overall appearance (without needing to re-enter content), produce reports, etc.

Many CMSs have a fairly steep learning curve before a user can build and deploy or even manage a site.

Concrete5 is different.

Concrete5 makes the task of managing a small to medium size web site as easy as using a WYSIWYG editor.  I installed the software and had it running in less than ten minutes.  The administrative interface was straight forward enough that I really didn’t need to refer to any documentation at all to use the product to publish content, change content, and add pages.

Downloading themes required me to register for the Concrete5 Market Place (registration is free, and many of the downloads are free, but some of them are not).

Concrete5 core is open source, and free; some of the add-ons for Concrete5 are free, some are not.  Concrete5 actually started as a closed source, commercial CMS, which recently became an open source (and free) product.  Concrete5 software can be downloaded and installed on your web site / server, or you can run a hosted site on Concrete5.

Concrete5 includes a RSS/ATOM feed add-on (I actually wrote one that’s a great deal more flexible for use on my web site, but you get this for free with no work) which makes it easy to provide live content on your web site.  Additionally there are free Flash, Google Maps (you need a Google Maps API key to use it), YouTube, and several other free add-ons as well.

One great feature of Concrete5 is that it keeps page revisions, so it’s easy to roll back to a previous version of a page; or to just see what’s changed (I do this on web sites I author from scratch using a source control system — and many CMSs provide this ability, but not as cleanly and as simply as Concrete5).

Overall, Concrete5 is simple, and will likely handle the vast majority of user’s needs — though a two page boiler-plate web site will handle the vast majority of user’s needs, so that’s not a high mark.

Snippy remarks aside…

If you can use a WYSIWYG editor, and you understand simple drag-and-drop paradigms and you’re comfortable using a web application and moving through menus you can maintain a web site.  You might need help setting up the web site, and you likely will need help installing the software — but even those are straight forward and something you could learn in less time than it would take to do simple tasks in a more sophisticated CMS.

The short of it, Concrete5 has a very low learning curve (almost no learning curve indeed); and will allow most any user to build and maintain their own web site with [virtually] no training.

The number of add-ons available for Concrete5 is small; but it appears from reading the information on their site and several other reviews that the add-ons all work, and work together (which isn’t necessarily the case with other CMSs).  Though as I’ve already enumerated, many useful add-ons are available and free.

For users who understand CSS, HTML, PHP it’s very straight forward to build your own themes; and actually extending Concrete5 would not be a daunting task.

What I like about Concrete5…

It’s easy to install, easy to use, and provides most basic functionality that a CMS should provide — and the core is free.  It does not overly abstract core parts of a web site (no doubt that’s where it get’s it’s name).  Concrete5 has a lot of potential.

What I don’t like about Concrete5…

The web site goes out of it’s way to criticize other content management systems (and that to me is ridiculous; both Joomla and Drupal are capable of being used to build more sophisticated sites — but both of those are much harder to use to build a simple site); it doesn’t support tables prefixes (which means each instance of Concrete5 needs it’s own database, and it’s dangerous to try and share a database between Concrete5 and any other software (this is significant because some hosting plans greatly limit the number of databases you are allowed); it’s a relatively new “community” project, and thus does not have a large body of people working on it or eyes reviewing it (which means it’s more likely to have security issues than some of the more mature CMSs).

I’m neutral on the fact that parts of Concrete5 are offered free, and parts are offered at a (generally) modest price.  I agree that developers are entitled to make a living off their software, and as long as it doesn’t become a razor/razor-blade type model I’m fine with it; but success often breeds greed (like familiarity breeds contempt).

One thing to keep in mind:  always select the right tool for the job.

What Concrete5 does it does well; but decide what it is you want to do before you select the tool.

http://concrete5.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-03 02:00:42.

GSM Hacked

Computer security researchers have reported that GSM phones (the cellular protocol used by most of the world — roughly 80% of all cell phones) can be cracked with a relatively small amount of hardware and free Open Source tools.

The weakness exploits the older 64-bit A5/1 algorithm not the newer 128-bit A5/3 algorithm.  However, it should be noted that most GSM providers have been slow to update their networks and do not currently employ the more secure 128-bit encryption standard.

The result is that conversations carried on GSM networks can be overheard and recorded.

No such weaknesses exist in the CDMA protocol; nor would this indicate a potential vulnerability in LTE.

Karsten Nohl, a German computer programmer, claims he demonstrated this weakness (and published the code) to encourage GSM carriers (and manufactures) to take serious the poor security that is currently in place.  ESTI (the standards organization behind GSM) claims that this hack (while legitimate) is too complex and would in fact not give hackers the ability to listen in on phone calls.

Originally posted 2009-12-29 02:00:50.