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Open Source projects I follow and their professional maturity

*WORK IN PROGRESS*

NoMachine NXClient and server (Terminal Emulation, similar Citrix)

A great tool indeed is NXClient. You can log into any linux system with it and have a X session.
Any unix/linux specialist might interject that this is nothing special, as Linux and Unix offer transparent transfer of screen output over the network as a standard, it was built in from the very start (unlike Windows).
Now one of the problems is, although there are quite a few X-Windows servers for MS Windows (yes, that is the server part, that allows to display output on that machine), they all are highly fiddly, very expensive (following the Unix creed) or in another way evil. I have worked with them for years, but when NX came around, I was delighted at its performance.

It brings the following powerful features:
  • It works over a encrypted ssh link. Port 22 is all you need, no spending hours configuring the firewall for 13 different ports.
  • It uses compression to make input/output fast and lag free.
  • With the possibility to save the password, a login is just 1 click.
  • It offers the possibility to suspend and free everything on the server, so that when you relogin, things are preserved.
Now unlike Citrix, NXclient is very cheap. This is partly due to that Citrix needs to provide much more code and functionality that Windows itself does not offer, which NXclient just uses Unix/Linux X Server forwarding on a ssh link and perfects it.
You might say that Windows has the terminal server functionality built in, but it is very lousy and the main reason that Citrix is so successful on Windows.
(How else can you sell a product sucessfully by providing a functionality that Windows has already built it?)

NoMachine is a small italian company that has a bright future ahead of itself. I for myself can recommend their products with great enthusiasm.

Addition:
They now offer a totally free alternative called NX free, which is limited on 2 users logging in at the same time. I am not exactly sure of how much the whole thing is under the GPL, but there is a totally free unrestricted alternative called FreeNX (as in contrast to NX free above).

Now a very intruiging idea is, to have a Linux Server and use it as a terminal server to let users run Microsoft Office in Crossover Office thin client style.
This will cost a lot less than using a Windows Server and Citrix, since Linux does not use the CAL model and last time I checked, ONE Citrix License (around 400$) pays for a whole SITE LICENSE of NX... Sometimes it can be very profitable to work together with talented small companies.

Crossover Office (Windows "emulation" on Linux)

I have been running my laptop on linux for the last 3 years and would not have been able to without being able to run windows software on it. One great commercial tool for this is Crossover Office (based on wine)
http://www.codeweavers.com/

Crossover Office is basically the same a wine, but comes with a neat configuration point-and-click interface which makes setup easy and fast. Everything done in Crossover is also ported back into wine, as the GPL requires, so the choice is yours: invest your time, fiddle around and configure wine by hand or use the Crossover frontend and pay money in exchange (when I last checked, it was around 50$). Businesses will probably chose the second alternative.

Codeweavers, the guys behind it, also payed great attention to the fact what businesses really need and so the list of software running on it is extensive:
Lotus Notes
Microsoft Office
Quicken

and even Photoshop, who would have thought this?

(this list is not complete, please check on their website mentioned above)



Open MOSSIX

This is a project that I was taking a look at in 2005 and found it very interesting indeed.
OpenMossix is a kernel patch and some tools that make something really magical:
Imagine you got 5 servers and want to do some load balancing, using all the power all the systems.
You want to use ordinary programs, not any specially written software.
OpenMossix does exactly that. It connects the machines together, keeps each machine up to date on the cpu load of any other and shifts processes from a heavy load machine to a low load box.
It does this, without the knowledge or involvement of the processes itself, they are oblivious to it.
And it really does work.

My test setup were 5 machines with 1ghz AMD cpus, so theoretically giving a total of 5 ghz of computing power.
I used povray (raytracer) to render a scene. After making sure that povray splits its rendering into seperate tasks (OpenMossix cannot split one process into many obviously), they were nicely distributed onto the 5 machines.


Linux Desktop

The linux desktop is something that I have been following over the years, it used to be a wild dream, now it becomes more and more feasible even more less experienced users.

The reason why I switched my XP laptop about 3 years ago to Linux were the following:

Constant XP reinstalls:
No matter how nice you are to it, it will need reinstalling from time to time. When this happens, an absurd amount of work needs to be done to reinstall everything. Just copying the program over from backup is not a solution in Windows, since it's heavy reliance on the registry, and saving keys and reimporting them is no solution for me, since the registry as single point of failure is not to be messed around with.

Antivirus:
The should rename it into Antiproductivity, because that is what it is. Especially the policy based overkill feature antivirus suites used in the corporate environment are a total performance killer and I regulary see users turn them off just to be able to work.

Read more here about the linux desktop.


Ext2/3 Filesystem for Windows

Microsoft has so far fought Linux nail and teeth, blocked dataexchange and kept standards closed. In an environment where not everything is Windows, interoperability is a absolute must.
So far, Microsoft has kept NTFS totally secret and there is currently no fully functional, efficient and easy to use way to use NTFS on Linux, despite the valiant efforts of reverse engineering so far done on the NTFS project (reading is possible, mind you).
So, as in many areas, Microsoft is just sitting on their technologies with paranoia, putting the big fat lock of proprietary trade secret on it, and risking to  making themselves obsolete with it (other examples of the same have proven that such restrictions hinder the proliveration of a technology. The Apache web server has for example not won against IIS in global dominance because it is open source, but because it is openly available for all OSes.)
Till this point, I have been using FAT32 for this purpose, like many still do. Especially memory sticks and flash cards still use the old aweful filesystem. They could have theoretically been switched to NTFS long ago, except that of course Macs can't write to NTFS neither for the above reasons.

So my strategic decision was to use the EXT3 filesystem for all my dataneeds. And what better way to use it also for Windows whenever possible, since a large variety of tools are available and data integrity has been excellent on EXT3.

  • Unlike NTFS, it does not fragment at all.
  • Has to finds its way into the datacenter by technological brilliance and not just "it's the only one available" like in the case of NTFS.
  • The specifications and documentation is openly available.

As with all great and STABLE software, the thing is not brand new.

[cannot boot windows off it]

[commercial version]

[free version]



this document was created on:
09. Nov. 2006
updated on:
09. May. 2007