I was a competitive swimmer for many years, including my varsity years at U of A and McGill. I’ve lost touch with a lot of the people I swam with, so when an opportunity comes to reconnect, I try to jump at it. This past weekend, Canadian Intercollegiate Sports Swimming Championships were hosted in Edmonton, and my friend of many years, Reagan Williams, took the opportunity with the help of some other U of A Swimming Alumni to host a mixer during the swim meet.
Several dozen ex-swimmers showed up, and some of the current U of A team came as well. It was good to get an update from Reagan, Colleen, Chris, Jason, Tim and Tim, Deano, Linda, Lee Ann, Rob, Jupiter ;-) and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. It’s nice to see so many people I grew up with living interesting and successful lives.
I also got a chance to say a quick hello to my McGill Swimming coach Frank Laurin, and to an old national team compatriot, Vlastimil Cerny, who coaches for Manitoba University. Unfortunately due to the hectic schedule of the coaches, I didn’t get a chance to really catch up, but it was good to see them nonetheless.
We are getting more interest in using Linux desktops in our organization, at least from some of us in the technology services department. As I blogged about before, my boss has decided he’d better learn about Linux. We are getting more Linux servers into production, and that means our technology services staff is in need of more Linux knowledge. Hence the opportunity to put Linux on a few desktops, as a technology learning environment.
Installing Linux on your carefully installed, patched, configured, patched, tweaked, and patched Windows box can be quite disruptive. After spending umpteen hours to get a Windows machine working properly, and then painstakingly keeping it up to date, nobody wants to turf all that work right away and switch to something else. In order to prevent that necessity, I’ve been looking at minimal-impact ways of getting Linux out there and available for users on the desktop. One great way, that I’ve used at home in the past is to configure a Linux desktop system as an X Terminal server and use thin clients to connect to it. That lets you boot a system from the network into Linux, and leave the local disk untouched, so that you just have to reboot to get back into Windows.
I set up an HP Proliant ML370 in Novell Linux Desktop in Engineering. Then I downloaded an RPM from the Linux Terminal Server Project that helped me set up the NLD server as an X Terminal Server. I used ltspadmin to configure nfs, tftp and dhcp on the NLD box, so that I could boot machines over the network into X Windows, and login to desktop sessions on the NLD box. Then I got a couple of boxes that support PXE boot on the network cards, plugged them into my test network, and booted them up. It takes about 15-20 seconds to boot a PPro 200 into X, and then I can login and work as if I was right on the NLD box.
As a proof of concept it’s pretty impressive. I think we could convert whole departments of general knowledge workers like our accounting staff to this mode of computing with little trouble. They run spreadsheets, web browsers, email, documents and telnet sessions to our financial management package, all tasks which are trivial to do in Linux, and lightweight enough to perform well on a multi-user X Terminal server.
While I was hacking on this, James has been setting up desktops for our accounting department in XP. He has 7 new boxes to roll out, and they are the first XP boxes for the accounting staff, who up until now have been using NT4. In the time it took him to install all the security patches for XP, I had built the X Terminal server from scratch, and gotten several thin clients working. He still has to install MS Office, GroupWise, Corel Office, Reflection Telnet, and the NetWare client, and then image the prototype machine and duplicate the images to all the other boxes. I think he was thinking “Why are we doing this rollout when we could be doing that?”
If we moved to X Terminals the users would never need hardware upgrades on the desktop again, until their machines died.
I was concerned that some of the sessions I wanted to register for at Brainshare this year would be full quickly, and today the session registration system opened. I woke up early and started trying to get into the registration computer. I finally gave up at home, and left for work at about 07:30, and when I got here I had an email from the sytem saying it was open, that was delivered at 07:50 or so.
I quickly logged on and got all my sessions registered. The auto-scheduler and conflict resolver Novell made for registrations worked great. I’m pretty excited about going to Brainshare again this year, and I’m planning on attending lots of interesting sessions about GroupWise, NSure Identity Manager, eDirectory, Open Enterprise Server, Novell Linux Management and Mono Development for GroupWise. The only session I couldn’t get into because it was full was one about the future of Linux on the Desktop, which is Monday night. I’m on the waiting list, so hopefully I’ll still get in.
It was a long weekend here in the real land of the free (Alberta) and we took the opportunity to do two days at Rabbit Hill. We went with the kids, and everyone had a great time, but at the end of the second day my legs were getting pretty tired. I don’t have the energy or quick recovery of Mack or Emily, that’s for sure. I fell a couple of times after saying to Jennifer “I’m getting tired,” and I should have known to quit one run earlier. I fell hard and rang my bell, so to speak. I also got enough bruises that when I go to my doctor’s appointment Wednesday, my doctor will think I’m a battered husband.
My boss installed Novell Linux Desktop on his laptop today. He’s the manager of our company’s corporate technology services group. I’m officially not the only Linux desktop user in the company anymore. Wow.
My sister had her baby yesterday evening! Welcome Morgan to the family! She was born at 7:30 MST yesterday and weighed a little over 7 lbs. Joe sent us a couple of pictures, and I sat here going “awwww”.
Congratulations Paige and Joe.
Yesterday I started building a replica of our Trim records management servers in VMWare GSX Server in Engineering. The build was done on an old server that I have in my lab, with only 768 MB of RAM, and dual 550 MHZ Xeon processors, so the hardware is quite underpowered compared to what I would put in production. The test migration from the real system images to virtual machines worked fine, with some driver tweaking, and the records management services all ran properly. Even terminal sessions to the newly built virtual terminal server worked as expected, so we’ve decided to go ahead and virtualize the systems.
I’ll be ordering another copy of GSX server ASAP for this application, and some more RAM for one of the exising production servers. VMWare is amazing.