Archive for October, 2007

I’ve tried to separate the chaff from the wheat. Here is a list of application I’ve found to be the best (my opinion) in their particular areas.  Suggestions for additional applications/ categories are always appreciated.

Outlook replacement:
Still looking. Evolution, Kontact, and Thunderbird (and its variants) don’t come close to the speed and usability of Outlook yet. I’d like to see something integrated/ included in the OpenOffice system that could better compete with Outlook in this respect
UPDATE 11.29.07:
Evolution is the winner. I have worked around the issues, and will write a new article about it soon. Take a look at the latest Evolution http://www.gnome.org/projects/evolution/

Office replacement:
OpenOffice.org. I don’t even use MSOffice (other than Outlook I use Evolution now) anymore. OpenOffice has come a long way – and most distributions include it. If you are using Ubuntu (I recommend it) than you have it already.

Firefox, Opera – Opera is slicker, Firefox is GPL. You probably already have Firefox.

Music Player:
Amarok – hands down. Works with iPod, among many other useful features (I do not own, or want to own, an iPod, BTW)

TV, Multimedia player for home entertainment (Tivo-ish):
Myth TV – Not too difficult to setup. Works very well with standard cable, DVDs, and multi-location systems. I am working on setting up a single back end server in my office, with several smaller front-end PCs for general TV viewing in the living room and bedroom. You can add your DVDs to your server’s library on disk, so they can easily be selected.
LinuxMCE – Includes MythTV, but then takes it up a notch with home security, presence awareness, and a bunch of other features. Looks like it has special hardware requirements, and a lot of patience… worth taking a look.

IT Backoffice (Server) Apps:

Small Office Server:
EBox – Simple to install and manage, for the inexperienced (and time constrained). Quick setup. Probably would be difficult to expand to your own solution (such as, if you wanted to open up the LDAP server, or integrate with a different e-mail package. Overall though, covers everything you need for home or small office.

Website/ CMS:
Joomla (I looked at Mambo, of which Joomla forked from a while back – I prefer Joomla’s AJAX, plug-ins, etc.  They are both still very similar, however.

EGroupware – Nice Intranet server, with web mail capabilities, among many other functions. Probably works well with EBox (above) – I’ll let you know when I am finished. UPDATE: Not working well with E-box yet…

Exchange Server replacement:
Scalix (better than Zimbra, my 2 cents) – drop in replacement for Exchange in organizations needing to replace Exchange; the purchased edition of Scalix is the only one that fits the bill. The Open Source Community Edition is nice to, but is limited to 25 premium users (Exchange MAPI users). If you don’t absolutely have to use MAPI for Outlook, I’d go with an alternative for sharing Calenders, Tasks, and Contacts. When I settle on one, I’ll let you know.

Kolab – still looking at this one, but right now it is difficult to setup and get started.

Courier, Postfix, MySQL, RoundCube – this is what I am currently using.  Standard, solid, works.

Firewall/ Routing:
Monowall, PFSense (Derives from Monowall) – I use PFSense myself. Easy to setup and configure, lots of features, low requirements.
IPCop – tons of features, powerful, in wide use. Probably more for larger organizations.
Vyatta – Heavy duty routing. One of those partially open-source projects. I looked at it initially, but went with Quagga, which is a little more hard-core, and is working great.
Linux w/ Zebra – Zebra hasn’t been touched in a while, instead use:
Quagga on Linux – I am using Quagga for BGP on high-end Internet connection (w/ OSPF).  Fast, technical setup, but works well when serious routing is needed – see my other article on this(coming soon).
Shorewall/ IPTables

These are packaged products (above). However, it can be useful/ rewarding to put together the pieces yourself. For example, instead of IPCop, setup you own Shorewall firewall, SpamAssasin, ClamAV, HTTP/FPT/SMTP Proxy, etc…


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Next, I want to make sure I can play MP3s, DVDs, etc. You should first check with your local laws to make sure this is legal. I am not sure why that is listed on every site that says anything to do with MP3s and DVDs, but there it is, the disclaimer. You have been warned.

Apparently, there is a new way to enable some of these items, right within Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy):

  • Go to ApplicationsAdd/Remove…
  • Set Show: to All available applications
  • Search for ubuntu-restricted-extras and install it. Note that there is also xubuntu-restricted-extras and kubuntu-restricted-extras.

NOTE: I still found the old way added some useful items. Those are listed below:

In Terminal (Applications, Terminal)
(note: most commands are run from Terminal, I am not going to tell you to use it every time)
– sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/gutsy.list -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list
– wget -q http://packages.medibuntu.org/medibuntu-key.gpg -O- | sudo apt-key add – && sudo apt-get update

Install apps:
Free apps from Medibuntu (as of Sept 2007)
– sudo apt-get install amarok ffmpeg k3b kaffeine libdvdcss2 mplayer xmms-wma

(note: errors on: bmp-wma (would not install properly from Medibuntu))

Non-free apps from Medibuntu (as of Sept 2007)
– sudo apt-get install acroread googleearth skype w32codecs flashplugin-nonfree
(note: errors on: ibm-j2re1.5 ibm-j2sdk1.5 ppc-codecs skype-static (would not install properly from Medibuntu))

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Now that Ubuntu is installed the fun begins. First things first:

– Install all available updates
– Reboot if necessary
– Add medibuntu repository (check your local laws for usability)
– Install VMWare Server for virtualization

To install apps from the repositories (that is this great big pile of software that Ubuntu maintains for you to easily access over the Internet) you can use the Synaptic Package Manager (Menu:System-Administration). I personally prefer to use the command line where possible, as it makes it easier (for me) to make a list of what I will do.

To get started, let’s update the system: Menu:System-Administration-Update Manager. Note: You can’t have Synaptic and Update Manager open at the same time. The Update Manager is basically a subset of Synaptic – it just checks for updates for packages you already have installed. Also, after login (with an Internet connection) you will see a pop-up dialog in the top right menu of your Desktop letting you know if there are updates available.

Moving on… check for updates, install any available, and reboot if required.

Step 5 will be on multimedia configuration

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VMWare auto-start

You want to make sure your Virtual starts automatically when your server boots up?

drop to a terminal:

sudo nano /etc/rc.d/rc.local

add the same command you would, as starting from the command line:

vmwar-cmd /fullPATHtoVMWAREfile/thevm.vmx start


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When you are running VMWare on your desktop, you are likely doing it for testing (or, like me, for running XP so I can use Outlook – please point me to a good FAST Outlook replacement – Evolution, Kontact, Thunderbird aren’t there yet).

But when used on a server, for ‘production’ purposes, you are likely running it ‘headless’ (without a keyboard/mouse/monitor) and don’t use a GUI – you want everything manageable remotely, or by the command line.

VMWare can be remotely managed, via a remote console, or you can install their web management tools. But, if you have SSHServer running on your Linux server (who doesn’t), you can easily make changes via the command-line.

Quite simple, it’s


Just type that at your terminal prompt, and you will see a helpful response. Google it for more info, I’ll touch a few items here:

start a Virtual Machine:

vmware-cmd /pathtoVMhere/vmfile.vmx start

stop a VM:

vmware-cmd /pathtoVMhere/vmfile.vmx stop

check the current status:

vmware-cmd /pathtoVMhere/vmfile.vmx getstate

Configuration changes:

sudo vmware-config.pl

Register a VM: 

vmware-cmd -s register /pathtoVMhere/vmwarename.vmx

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This is for VMWare Server 1.04 on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon):

– From a terminal prompt, I would first create a directory to store VMWare, and from that directory:

– download VMWare Server http://www.vmware.com
as of 11/07/07, you can execute the following command to download version 1.0.4:
wget http://download3.vmware.com/software/vmserver/VMware-server-1.0.4-56528.tar.gz

– download the required patch to make it work at:
wget http://knihovny.cvut.cz/ftp/pub/vmware/vmware-any-any-update115.tar.gz
(if this link doesn’t work, just google for the VMWare Any Any patch)

– register for licenses for Linux on the VMWare website

– install the needed build tools (you may already have them)
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r` build-essential
this installs the build tools, and kernel headers for your linux version. NOTE – if you update your kernel, you will need to repeat these steps

UPDATE(11/13): you need to install this set of tools instead, if installing to a vanilla server build:
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r` libx11-6 libx11-dev x-window-system-core x-window-system xspecs libxtst6 psmisc build-essential xinetd zip unzip
when prompted for X11 display settings, just select 800*600 and move on

Apparently, some functions with VMWare Server 1.04 now look for X11 extensions. X11 is the windowing system on Linux (the GUI). For a server platform, you likely only have a command-line interface, as I did one time (which is how I came across this). My installation had errors, and then failed when typing in the license key, as it was looking for some of these libraries. Hopefully, there may be a better work around then loading up my server with unneeded X11 libraries – until then, run the above to setup VMWare server on a GUI-less server.

– run the following commands:
tar -xzf ./VMware-server-1.0.4-56528.tar.gz
(VMware-server-1.0.4-56528.tar.gz – replace with the name of the file you downloaded from VMWare)

tar xvzf ./vmware-any-any-update115.tar.gz
(vmware-any-any-update115.tar.gz – replace with the name of the file you downloaded for the anyany patch)

– Change to the directory where VMWare extracted to:
cd vmware-server-distrib– Run the installer:
sudo ./vmware-install.pl

Choose the defaults to each question, until the end when you are prompted: “Before running VMware Server for the first time, you need to configure it by invoking the following command: “/usr/bin/vmware-config.pl”. Do you want this program to invoke the command for you now? [yes]”

Type: no and press enter to quit the installation

Type: cd ../vmware-any-any-update
(vmware-any-any-update – replace with the name of the folder created when you extracted the patch. Type ls for a listing of the folder)

sudo ./runme.pl

This time, when prompted to configure, select the default of yes.

Now you will configure the network interfaces. Select the defaults. You can customize your virtual networks as you wish. I may go into detail on that later.

As of version 1.04, I still had to do the following:
You will then need to edit a file to make VMWare work properly:
sudo vi /etc/pam.d/vmware-authd

File will look like this:
auth sufficient /usr/lib/vmware-server/lib/libpam.so.0/security/pam_unix2.so shadow nullok
auth required /usr/lib/vmware-server/lib/libpam.so.0/security/pam_unix_auth.so shadow nullok
account sufficient /usr/lib/vmware-server/lib/libpam.so.0/security/pam_unix2.so
account required /usr/lib/vmware-server/lib/libpam.so.0/security/pam_unix_acct.so

change it all to this:
@include common-auth
@include common-account

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Now that you have either partitioned your hard drive, or are skipping the partitioning part, it is time to install your Operating System.

Pop the CD in your PC, and turn on the computer.  With Ubuntu, it is a ‘Live CD’.  That means it will boot into the full Ubuntu OS, and you can use it without installing it.  Since it is running from the CD drive it will be slow.  When you are ready to install, click the Install icon on the desktop.

You’ll be asked some basic questions.  The tricky one is the partitioning.  If you followed my steps, then select Manual, and then select the partition mark as ‘/’ – your primary Linux partition for installation.

If you didn’t partition, and want to just use the free space of your existing hard drive (and keep whatever OS you already have installed intact), select the first option to use a percentage of free space for the install.  Try to give your new OS at least 10 GB of space (although that much is not required).

Click next a few more times, and reboot when told to.  You are done with the install!

When your computer reboots, it will take you to the ‘Grub Bootloader’.  You will have a few seconds to pick from the list of options – a list of the avaialble Operating Systems to boot into.  If you had Windows previously installed, it will be listed.  However, it will default to the OS you just installed, so just wait a few seconds, and Ubuntu will startup.

Login with the user name and password that you responded with at installation.

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