A Rift Opens Between KDE and GNOME

This is unfortunate indeed. KDE developers are accusing GNOME developers of not conforming to standards and not collaborating, and Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, expressed agreement with this view.

The focus seems to be directly related to something called appindicators – and to a larger degree, over the Ubuntu Unity desktop.

The argument goes like this: Canonical and KDE have in the past both approached the GNOME project with ideas, and have been shot down for poor reasons; GNOME refuses to collaborate on projects; others are working together and GNOME refuses.

You can decide for yourself whether this is valid or not. Blog posts have been erupting everywhere on this topic: Dave Neary of GNOME: Has GNOME rejected Canonical help? and Lessons Learned – Aaron Siego of KDE: collaboration’s demise – Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical: Internal competition is healthy, but depends on strong and mature leadership.

Over at OSNews, Thom Holwerda has two very informative pieces on the conflict – one on 10 March and one on 14 March.

Where this conflict will hurt the user is when the user chooses an application: will it work with GNOME or KDE et al? It will also hurt application development as the applications will have to choose – and many will have to choose one technology or the other (not both). This means that applications may only work on one environment or the other – or will have reduced capabilities in one environment or the other. It’s really too bad that the developers can’t come together and work together instead of conflicts like this.

System Management Software (Spacewalk and Landscape)

System management software is a nebulous term; the discussion here is about software to provision new servers, manage packages, control updates, and monitor servers, all from a central location. This does not necessarily include server hardware inventory, software build management, and other related tasks.

The Red Hat Network is a perfect example; Spacewalk is the open-source version of the Red Hat Network Satellite. Spacewalk has been out for a while, and recently released version 0.7. Originally, Spacewalk required Oracle as the back-end database; they may have been able to remove this dependency (replacing Oracle with PostgreSQL). The CentOS Wiki has a very nice HowTo describing how to install and run Spacewalk.

However, before implementing Spacewalk 0.7, note that Lee Verbern notes that the 0.7 client is broken (rhnsd does not work properly). The problems should be fixed in the next release.

Canonical’s Landscape is a counterpart to the Red Hat Network and is available for Ubuntu systems. Like the Red Hat Network, Canonical’s Landscape is a commercial product and closed source. Canonical has a blog for Landscape news, but the blog hasn’t been updated since November 2009. The Landscape project has a nice page with links to descriptions, tours, frequently asked questions, and more.

The blog WorkswithU has a nice article describing Landscape (albeit from February 2009).

Amazingly, the Canonical Landscape team even has a YouTube account with many valuable videos describing Landscape as well as many tutorials. They have a video introduction to Landscape you might want to see.

Finding an open source provisioning tool (outside of Spacewalk) is difficult; these tools are not common nor are they used by the average user.

One apparently powerful tool seems to be ControlTier, although it leans more towards package (and service) management than provisioning. ControlTier seems to be extremely flexible, allowing you to write scripts to interface with a variety of products and systems. ControlTier also has a blog, though it hasn’t been updated since November 2009.

The ControlTier team worked with Reductive Labs (the folks behind the open source configuration management tool Puppet) to create an interesting whitepaper about integrating ControlTier with Puppet.

I think I’d like to try ControlTier with Puppet; in particular, learning Puppet would be a good thing. I’ll report my experiences.

Putting Linux on a Compaq nc4010

The HP/Compaq nc4010 is a business-class laptop with no CDROM, no DVD, and no floppy – but with network, modem, USB ports, SD slot, and PCMCIA slot. The system has a 1.7GHz Pentium M – snappier than a Pentium II for sure. It will also boot from the network with PXE or from the USB ports.

Booting this platform is the most difficult part. I didn’t try using PXE, because although I was once set up for PXE on my home network, I don’t have the distributions (Kubuntu and Fedora) set up for installing from PXE and it seemed like a bigger headache than try to make it boot through USB. USB booting is not (apparently) enabled by default; it requires setting USB to use Legacy in the BIOS settings – and in my case, it also required playing with the setting for Quickboot: I had turned it off, but upon re-enabling it the system booted from a USB key.

I tried using Fedora 9, but the Live USB version come up in a lower resolution and crashed upon exiting. I tried also Kubuntu Hardy (8.04.1) and it worked beautifully.

Loading Kubuntu was a breeze – and recognized all of the capabilities of the laptop (amazing!). USB works, network works (albeit with proprietary drivers), PCMCIA works – it just works. Even hibernate works (although suspend may not).

I’ve never quite liked Ubuntu, and I mostly chalked that up to its standard themes (brown and orange) and its use of Gnome and so on – never fully experiencing Ubuntu and always wanting to get a better feel for it. I’ve tried running Kubuntu (which uses KDE) before, but never as an “active” desktop.

Kubuntu made a believer out of me. Everything works in the laptop. Even MP3s, Adobe Flash, Java – it all installed cleanly (upon demand) and works out of the box. Installation was extremely simple. The available packages are quite extensive, and include Debian’s packages.

I attribute some of this ease of support (specifically, MP3 support, Flash, Java, proprietary drivers) to the fact that the company behind Ubuntu (Canonical) is not an American company, but a South African company – which has different laws. So they can make it easy to get proprietary “parts” that they could not sell or support otherwise.

I’m switching from my FreeBSD laptop to this one for the most part: this system is smaller, lighter, faster, and has more memory. It was good to build a FreeBSD desktop though – and took more doing than I thought. I wonder what PC-BSD would be like….. Hmm….

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