The Linux Leap

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The Linux Leap

Postby Snorkasaurus » 24 Jan 2014, 19:48

Greetings Earthlings,

I run mostly Windows OS's... I certainly don't brag about it, but that seems to be how life has worked out. I have tried a number of Linux distros and environments over the years, and would much prefer to be running Linux, but there always seems to be issues that send me back to Windows. In my mind there are three "kinds" of operating system that I need:

1. Server OS
2. Desktop OS
3. Newb OS (better explanation below)

Right now I am using some version of Windows for all three and I am hoping that you folks might be able to help me find a way to switch over at least one of them to a Linux-based OS. I am aware that these are very different computer uses and may require a different distro for each (or at least a significantly different configuration). Here are the basics of each scenario:

1. Servers
I am running a box with Windows Server 2003 and a number of publicly available services. I use FreeSSHd and RDP for remote access, TeamSpeak for audio, and Apache/PHP/MySQL for a web server (installed separately, not as a WAMP stack). All of these have reasonable Linux counterparts, except that I haven't found anything to be quite as smooth as RDP. The place I seem to fall is mail... I run hMailServer and SpamAssassin for my mail services. Clearly SpamAssassin can also be run under Linux and I have done so occasionally (usually in a VM). However, I can't find a decent substitute for hMailServer in the Linux world. The typical Linux solution for mail seems to be Postfix with all kinds of modular crap added to it like Amavis, ClamAV, SpamAssassin, Dovecot, etc. To me the idea of having an MTA that supports only SMTP and does not offer IMAP or at least POP3 is awful.

My primary problem with Linux based mail solutions is that they consist of a handful of different applications that each need to be configured separately, but that all need to work together. They have independent config files and each may have different syntax or standards, they each require separate updating (if you do that kind of thing), and it is generally a management nightmare. It is my understanding that some pre-packaged mail solutions exist but it seems to me that they are all big fat bloated pigs and I'd be better off just running Exchange. *sticks finger in throat*

Image

I have a second server at another location which uses WinSCP to SSH in to the server above each night to back it up. The scripting features of WinSCP are quite powerful and I haven't found a Linux equivalent that I like. I admit that I haven't tried anything in a while so maybe something better has come along (or perhaps I'll just be told to go back to rsync). I have no issue with making my own scripts to do the backups but I sure would like it if I didn't have to learn a new language to make it happen. If I could find suitable replacements for these two functions I might try the switch again... which would be awesome since I believe that Linux is best suited to server purposes.

2. Desktops:
My main problems with using Linux as a desktop are graphics and networking. I like to play Guild Wars... it is not a terribly graphics intensive game and is playable on a Dell Latitude C640 P4/512M laptop, though I will admit it is a bit choppy. Trying to get it to run under Wine (on significantly better PCs) always seems to be a fight and ultimately appears to require an nVidia graphics card. Even with an nVidia card it still seems to be a fight with drivers and wine setup to just get to a login screen... and I have certainly never achieved the platinum rating that some people have given it at winhq. While I am fine with the fact that using Linux generally may require some fiddling, I think that the effort (and hardware) required to run what the gaming community would call a "crappy old game with shitty graphics" is unreasonable.

My other graphics related beef is multiple monitors. I recall trying this years ago and wanting to strangle someone over the results... a more recent effort was significantly more successful but still not good enough to keep me in Linuxland. The machine I am on right now is an Asus laptop with a native resolution of 1366x768 which sits to the left of an Acer monitor with a native resolution of 1920x1080. Using xrandr I was able to setup both monitors and even get their orientation the way I wanted to... but I couldn't get my XFCE panels on the monitor. Then if I unplug the monitor and move my laptop to another room I want to be able to easily drop the monitor for my configuration. Then when I plug it in to my TV in the basement I want to be able to easily add that in. Perhaps my issue is XFCE, or maybe Debian... I'd love to hear if anyone has a simple and elegant way to control this. In Windows I have a tray icon that I can click which allows me to add and remove displays quite easily... it is like comparing cheeseburgers and carrots.

Lastly, I haven't found a good way to manage network connectivity. In the same scenarios with my Asus laptop above, when I move my laptop from my desk to the deck outside I want to switch from wired to wireless and then perhaps a different wireless network when I walk over to my neighbour's place. The best Linux solution I have found is the networkmonitor app that comes with Ubuntu (or at least the one that came with Ubuntu v8.x or 10.x) I gotta admit that I just don't like Ubuntu... I typically run hardware that is not the current "speed champion" and as a result I prefer a "light" OS that isn't filled with flash and glitter (my favourite 'buntu is actually Xubuntu). The shortcomings of the networkmonitor app seems to be that it has issues with unplugging from one wired network and plugging in to another. In my experience it got a little confused and refused to release and renew its IP address.

3. Newbs
I have the pleasure of also managing my father's desktop which has one monitor, stays on the same network all the time, and makes extensive use of Intuit's irritating software. He has Quickbooks for record keeping, QuickTax for tax returns, Quickwealth Planner for planning the retirement he should have started years ago, and Profile for some corporate tax returns he does (I guess Intuit ran out of names that start with "Quick"). I have a feeling that I am going to have to concede defeat on this one since the QuickJunk doesn't run well (or at all) under wine and he is dead set on using it. If anyone has any suggestions for how to ween a Canadian accountant off of Intuit's commercial software monopoly I would love to hear it... but it would have to be some serious competition to please this 40+ year veteran of accounting.


Overall I seem to like Debian the most, since it is pretty lean, runs stable, and has a well packed set of repositories. Being slightly behind the curve is not only acceptable but preferred in my case because of my habit of using hardware that is typically at least 6 months old (and far less expensive). I am open to other distros, but would gravitate towards lean and functional rather than pretty and new. Any suggestions greatly appreciated... with the pending expiry of XP support as viking60 has been posting about, I think this is the perfect time to start considering the leap to Linux.

S.

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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby viking60 » 24 Jan 2014, 23:17

Thanks for this good descriptrion :greetings We will get you there +1 It will take some Gurus and maybe some time...

    b1o is a professional programmer and has his bachelor degree in "IT and IS systems". His input will be needed.
    jkerr is our experienced oracle berserk and what he does not know is not worth knowing.
    dedanna is our sound berserk.
    rolf has a lot of rpm experience (and has a true berserk temper - as it is fitting here :-D )
    dubigrasu has helped me a lot with Gaming but I don't know if he is alive anymore :S Dubi !
3. Newbs
To start I would say that your dad looks the most hopeless project - I know that because he sounds exactly like my dad.
His Quick Windows based software will work best on Windows - Wine is only going to bother him. If he is like my father; mostly any change in that department would be annoying.
You may argue your case and he will probably not listen. In general Book-keeping software on Linux is a problem and there are plenty for Windows.

Since XP will expire there is still hope though - my father who dramatically declared that he was an old man and did not want to much change - ended up with Windows 8 and thought it would not be much of a change from Windows XP :lol:

That is a harsh price to pay for a bit of stubbornness. :-D

There are tools like gnu-cash etc that can be used and there are cloud services that could cover the need . but it will not be what he prefers. So the best thing might be to box his XP into a VB under Linux so that he can use his tools as he is used to( he does have the experience and knows his tools).

If you have a decent desktop that would be a snappy solution. And he could gradually get used to Linux.

I admit that this is the most challenging bit of your post though. For my old mother I installed Mageia (KDE) on her old laptop and she is happy with it (I don't think she even knows the difference between Linux and Windows). She can write here letters and mail, listen to music and communicate with Skype etc that's what the computer is for - and that is what it does.

She has less problems than my father...
Debian is a good choice too, but it lacks the easy to use control panel that Mageia has.
:A
Image


Diving into your other requests now.... I'll be back with something that might make sense....(and hopefully our gurus too...)
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby Snorkasaurus » 24 Jan 2014, 23:55

viking60 wrote:dad looks the most hopeless project - I know that because he sounds exactly like my dad.
...
In general Book-keeping software on Linux is a problem and there are plenty for Windows.

That seems to be what I have run in to, and frankly I think getting him to dump Intuit will be a hard sell. He is running XP right now and I am considering leaving him there until Intuit releases a version that won't run on XP anymore. He is actually running an XP virtual machine on a Debian Squeeze machine via VirtualBox. Luckily his browsing habits are minimal and I have him so frightened of emails that he calls me when he sees a message from someone he doesn't know. :-)

viking60 wrote:Since XP will expire there is still hope though - my father who dramatically declared that he was an old man and did not want to much change - ended up with Windows 8 and thought it would not be much of a change from Windows XP :lol:

Heh... I might be able to get my dad to use Win7 if I strip it back to look mostly like XP.

viking60 wrote:There are tools like gnu-cash etc that can be used and there are cloud services that could cover the need . but it will not be what he prefers. So the best thing might be to box his XP into a VB under Linux so that he can use his tools as he is used to.

My limited accounting knowledge and extensive knowledge of my father's habits lead me to believe that he won't like GNU-Cash. I think his unreasonable attraction to the Intuit skin/interface will keep him from giving it a fair chance. The idea of a cloud based service sounds awesome though! I haven't checked in to Intuit's current cloud offerings but if they had a way to present their familiar interface via browser that would be about as good as I could hope for. I am going to go see what they have real soon! Awesome suggestion! :dance:

viking60 wrote:For my old mother I installed Mageia (KDE) on her old laptop and she is happy with it

I haven't tried Mageia yet - just started the torrent now. I didn't really read up on it yet but I am interested in this control panel from your screenshot. Hopefully it'll finish tonight so I can try a VM before I hit the sack tonight!

Thanks for the suggestions, that gives me some homework to do and hopefully some ideas about my dad's PC. To be honest I am a little skeptical about finding a solution for my laptop, and I have essentially given up on Guild Wars under wine... but I am kind of hopeful about finding a solid mail server solution. I really do like hMailServer but being able to dump Server 2003 in favour of Linux would make me quite happy!

HF!
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby viking60 » 25 Jan 2014, 16:42

Snorkasaurus wrote:Greetings Earthlings,

2. Desktops:
My main problems with using Linux as a desktop are graphics and networking. I like to play Guild Wars... it is not a terribly graphics intensive game and is playable on a Dell Latitude C640 P4/512M laptop, though I will admit it is a bit choppy. Trying to get it to run under Wine (on significantly better PCs) always seems to be a fight and ultimately appears to require an nVidia graphics card. Even with an nVidia card it still seems to be a fight with drivers and wine setup to just get to a login screen... and I have certainly never achieved the platinum rating that some people have given it at winhq. While I am fine with the fact that using Linux generally may require some fiddling, I think that the effort (and hardware) required to run what the gaming community would call a "crappy old game with shitty graphics" is unreasonable.

As I recall PlayOnLinux can be a sollution here. It got my beloved Age of Empires up and running with Dubis help.

This might also be of use for you:
http://mikebeach.org/2011/06/24/guild-w ... ayonlinux/

You can install PlayOnLinux in addition to Wine, they will not conflict.
Manjaro 64bit on the main box -Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU 920 @ 2.67GHz and nVidia Corporation GT200b [GeForce GTX 275] (rev a1. + Centos on the server - Arch on the laptop.
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby viking60 » 26 Jan 2014, 17:14

Snorkasaurus wrote:Greetings Earthlings,



1. Servers
I am running a box with Windows Server 2003 and a number of publicly available services. I use FreeSSHd and RDP for remote access, TeamSpeak for audio, and Apache/PHP/MySQL for a web server (installed separately, not as a WAMP stack). All of these have reasonable Linux counterparts, except that I haven't found anything to be quite as smooth as RDP. The place I seem to fall is mail... I run hMailServer and SpamAssassin for my mail services. Clearly SpamAssassin can also be run under Linux and I have done so occasionally (usually in a VM). However, I can't find a decent substitute for hMailServer in the Linux world. The typical Linux solution for mail seems to be Postfix with all kinds of modular crap added to it like Amavis, ClamAV, SpamAssassin, Dovecot, etc. To me the idea of having an MTA that supports only SMTP and does not offer IMAP or at least POP3 is awful.

My primary problem with Linux based mail solutions is that they consist of a handful of different applications that each need to be configured separately, but that all need to work together. They have independent config files and each may have different syntax or standards, they each require separate updating (if you do that kind of thing), and it is generally a management nightmare. It is my understanding that some pre-packaged mail solutions exist but it seems to me that they are all big fat bloated pigs and I'd be better off just running Exchange. *sticks finger in throat*

Image

I have a second server at another location which uses WinSCP to SSH in to the server above each night to back it up. The scripting features of WinSCP are quite powerful and I haven't found a Linux equivalent that I like. I admit that I haven't tried anything in a while so maybe something better has come along (or perhaps I'll just be told to go back to rsync). I have no issue with making my own scripts to do the backups but I sure would like it if I didn't have to learn a new language to make it happen. If I could find suitable replacements for these two functions I might try the switch again... which would be awesome since I believe that Linux is best suited to server purposes.



S.


Ok server is a Linux strong-point. I have tried out Centos, Debian, Slackware and some other stuff. As I recall it I liked Debian best because it was the easiest to set up.

Here is my server test:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1597
Some general comments here:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1597

But you could very well use Mageia for a server too. I use Arch as a server on one box but that is not recommended since Arch is more bleeding edge than rock solid.
Debian stands out as the most rock solid server alternative - the one that you just turn on and it will work and work....
Slackware Suse and Ubuntu can be used as servers too.



Regarding SSH you will be perfectly happy with OpenSSH. And I am pretty sure that you will find easy to use alternative to RDP.
In fact there is an open source version of the RDP protocoll for Linux called rdesktop.
I have not tried it but it should be somewhat familiar to you.
Image

You can also use SSH to start remote GUI programs on your local box:
http://www.bjoernvold.com/forum/viewtop ... f=25&t=679

If you want to remote control your external box or easy remote access with a GUI I have had success with x2go and nx

To be continued...
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby Snorkasaurus » 26 Jan 2014, 18:00

Hey v60!

viking60 wrote:Ok server is a Linux strong-point. I have tried out Centos, Debian, Slackware and some other stuff. As I recall it I liked Debian best because it was the easiest to set up.

At one point [a little over a year ago] I had it setup as a Debian host running headless VirtualBox... the two guest OS's were Debian for most services, and Windows for my mail server. I have no issues with using Linux for Apache, PHP, MySQL, and TeamSpeak - but I can't find reasonable mail and backup solutions. If I could find Linux-based replacements for hMailServer and WinSCP scripted backups I would switch to Linux and likely never look back.

viking60 wrote:Regarding SSH you will be perfectly happy with OpenSSH. And I am pretty sure that you will find easy to use alternative to RDP.
In fact there is an open source version of the RDP protocoll for Linux called rdesktop.
I have not tried it but it should be somewhat familiar to you.

Actually, I am quite familiar with rdesktop as well as a number of other RDP client applications, it is strictly the server side I want to find. My long standing beef with RDP apps is that none of them seem to have a session selection menu... by which I mean I would like to be able to click an icon or menu somewhere that gives me a list of currently running RDP sessions and allow me to switch between them. This would be especially helpful for switching between full screen sessions of course.

viking60 wrote:You can also use SSH to start remote GUI programs on your local box:
http://www.bjoernvold.com/forum/viewtop ... f=25&t=679

Now this I am going to have to fiddle with some more... can you tell me what the filesystem access is when doing this? If I open mousepad via SSH for example, and click File->Open do I see my local filesystem or do I see the filesystem of the remote machine?

viking60 wrote:If you want to remote control your external box or easy remote access with a GUI I have had success with x2go and nx

I remember trying out NX a long time ago and I believe that my biggest issue was that I found it to be an overcomplicated setup. One thing that I would really like to stick with is non-console remote access which kills off many of the VNC variants out there (though if I recall correctly, NX didn't have this issue). I also have to assume that a number of my clients will be Windows based and whatever client application I use can't have dependencies on Java, .NET, Perl, Python, etc.

Thanks v60... my homework seems to be piling up. :-)

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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby Snorkasaurus » 26 Jan 2014, 21:06

Oh man... I was bashing my head against the wall for a while trying to get screen resolutions to work properly via x2go when I found this which seems to say that Gnome is simply not going to work properly. So I installed XFCE on the server and it worked better but still had some issues showing the bottom panel... this fixes itself by resizing the window but I admit I wouldn't want to do that every time I log in.

Back to it now I guess.
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby viking60 » 26 Jan 2014, 21:36

I just logged in to my gnome setup (gnome3) and got the OH no something went wrong message. It might work in fallback though (I am pretty sure it will..).
I prefer light DE's on servers like Enlightenment or Openbox but I am sure I had it working with Gnome2.
Openbox works fine but you get a new session so you will not noctice until you right-click to see the menu. Wallpapers etc can be set for the X2go session and saved. So you could have a hundred different users on the server with different wallpapers :-D
(Xfce should work just fine too - or maybe Lxde is even better)

Regarding resolution I use full screen and have that working just fine. But I seem to remember that I had to set the resolution to the resolution of my client (lap with 1366x788) to make it perfect.
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby Snorkasaurus » 26 Jan 2014, 21:51

viking60 wrote:I just logged in to my gnome setup (gnome3) and got the OH no something went wrong message. It might work in fallback though (I am pretty sure it will..).
I prefer light DE's on servers like Enlightenment or Openbox but I am sure I had it working with Gnome2.

Their bug tracker says it is specifically an issue with Gnome3 and Unity (just to frustrate me).

viking60 wrote:Regarding resolution I use full screen and have that working just fine. But I seem to remember that I had to set the resolution to the resolution of my client (lap with 1366x788) to make it perfect.

I typically run my remote sessions just short of full screen so I get as much desktop space as I can without covering up my client's taskbar. That lets me switch between remote sessions and other applications on the client easily.

x2go seems slow to initialize sessions but once it is up and running it is smooth... I guess I would have to test across a WAN link to see how well it would do with bandwidth restrictions. The Windows client is a bit clunky but I think I could probably get by with it as a remote desktop solution with XFCE. :B

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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby viking60 » 26 Jan 2014, 21:57

:s
I do not use x2go that much anymore because I can do everything I need with ssh and a terminal. If I should feel the need to start nautilus I can simply type nautilus and explore the files. Or netbeans to program directly on the server or Gimp or whatever....

The secret is to start ssh with X like this:


I keep track of several servers in tmux
It is another matter with Windows of course....
Regarding lamp it is pretty much the same setup on all Linux servers. Install apache php and Mysql/Mariadb and maybe webmin as a server controlpanel.

I must check out that headless VB stuff now - you made me curious.....
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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby Snorkasaurus » 27 Jan 2014, 04:59

viking60 wrote:As I recall PlayOnLinux can be a sollution here. It got my beloved Age of Empires up and running with Dubis help.


Well holy crap! I never expected this!

Image

I don't even have the 2D or 3D acceleration enabled in VirtualBox! I guess this means I am going to have to do the install on a real piece of hardware! :berserkf

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Re: The Linux Leap

Postby viking60 » 27 Jan 2014, 12:42

Yup! And I'll help you with the LAMP server if necessary. Once you have things going on Debian they will keep going. Debian is probably the best server. Good job there :s
For desktop use Mint Mageia Mandriva and if you have a tiny bit of experience; Manjaro are good. Manjaro comes with the Steam engine so you can do some serious gaming (Team Fortress etc).

Clearly my desktop favorite these days. I also have some Arch Boxes and actually my wife is running Arch on her lap (without knowing it) - but Arch takes some experience and is not for everyone.

Regarding backup I am perfectly happy with our killer backup tool:
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1088#p7157

I have all my boxes backed up on a disk by cron jobs. It is on Github too:
https://github.com/viking60/berserk_stuff
Here is the Wiki

For backing up the entire box (cloning everything regardless of OS) I use Redo I have backed up and restored several times with it and never had a problem.
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