TLWIR 15: Virtualization,Tough Times, and Free Software Support

by Rex Djere on September 1, 2011

in TLWIR

In this week’s edition of The Linux Week in Review, I discuss my recent foray into the exciting world of virtualization. I played with Oracle’s VirtualBox and Red Hat’s KVM hypervisors. I will also talk about the wonderful state of Linux jobs. As a technology professional myself, I am always aware of the status of the jobs market. Right now, it is not good. However, the growth in the number of jobs for people with Linux skills is very encouraging. Lastly, I look at Jim Zemlin’s contention that don’t give back to open source project are “idiots”. This week’s stories are:

  • Virtualization Takes the (GNU/Linux) World By Storm
  • In Tough Economic Times, Linux Provides Job
  • Don’t Be An Idiot! Support Free Software!


Virtualization Takes the (GNU/Linux) World By Storm

I’ve never had a cause or need to use virtualization, until recently. While virtualization always seemed like a very cool idea to me, it appeared to be a technology more geared towards businesses. I am a GNU/Linux power user, but I am pretty loyal to my favorite desktop: Fedora 15. I saw no need to test other distros in a virtualized environment. However, a friend of mine recently asked me to help out on a project that required me to boot, run, and test an alternative GNU/Linux distro known as LPS, or Lightweight Portable Security. I wrote about this new GNU/Linux distribution in a previous edition of TLWIR. LPS is a secure, small GNU/Linux distribution that boots from a live cd, or a usb flash drive. LPS was created by the U.S. Department of Defense as a secure operating system that employees could use while on the road. It offers ease of use, and inherent security from corruption or hacking. These features are provided by the read-only nature of the cd or flash media. Over the course of several hours, I got a crash course in hypervisors, and in virtualization technology. I attempted to boot LPS in Oracle’s VirtualBox hypervisor, and in Fedora 15’s native KVM hypervisor. Unfortunately, both attempts failed. However, even in failure, I learned the power provided by virtualization.

If I had tried harder, I could have gotten LPS running in VirtualBox. The problem stemmed from a missing kernel driver. I am currently running version 2.6.40 of the Linux kernel on my Fedora 15 laptop; the VirtualBox version that I was using had a kernel module for kernel 2.6.38. I was not motivated enough to downgrade my kernel version. So, I then tried to boot the .iso image of LPS in Fedora’s KVM. It booted all the way up to the splash screen, and then it stopped. I am still not sure what the problem was. However, I still had a Fedora 15 .iso on my laptop, so I booted that in KVM, and it worked perfectly! I had successfully run my first virtualized desktop: Fedora 15 running within Fedora 15! LPS is such a new distribution that I am not surprised that it doesn’t work as smoothly as an “old” stalwart such as Fedora. I ended up burning LPS to a DVD, and booting it live. Once I got it booted, I was greeted by a light, but very effective, GNU/Linux desktop environment.

When I booted Fedora 15 in KVM, I was really surprised by how fast and responsive the virtualized Fedora was. My laptop is fairly new, with a dual core AMD processor. Except for a few occasional video artifacts, I would have had a very hard time telling the difference between the virtualized Fedora 15 and the “real” Fedora 15. I was able to surf the Internet on the virtual desktop, and do everything that I was used to doing. I could see how this technology could make life easier for those who run and test a lot of different OSs, and GNU/Linux distros. I can even think of my future use of virtualization: running music and multimedia-friendly software in a virtual GNU/Linux distro on top of Fedora 15. I don’t know yet how such a system would perform, but I look forward to doing some more testing in the near future. This may be a superior alternative to installing and booting multiple GNU/Linux distros from my hard drive.

My conclusion is that virtualization is a powerful tool that is destined to permanently change the nature of computing. I think that its biggest impact on the home user is in the area of testing out different distros, but I DEFINITELY see how it could save businesses serious money by allowing them to run a lot more software on the same hardware. I look forward to investigating virtualization further in future editions of The Linux Week in Review.


In Tough Economic Times, Linux Provides Job

The Linux Foundation provides a great service on its Linux.com website, it allows companies to post Linux job listings here: http://jobs.linux.com/. There are currently more than 30 good paying Linux jobs posted on the board. If we look at this critically, it all makes sense. Companies are moving to GNU, Linux, and other free software to save money, and to prevent getting locked in to one company’s products and services. What companies need is the technical expertise of people who KNOW HOW to operate free software based systems. The cost savings provided by such systems allow these companies to provide a lot of employment opportunities. The new paradigm also spreads a culture that values freedom, collaboration, and sharing. It appears that an investment in mastering Linux pays off very handsomely. According to Linux.com, there are over 11,000 Linux jobs posted on Dice.com.

The thing that I love about Linux is that the creativity of the community allows people to create jobs that did not exist before. For example, I could walk into a company and offer to move all of their proprietary systems over to GNU/Linux. In doing so, I could create a job that pays me for saving them money. In doing so, I convert money wasted into money earned. The Obama administration has taken a lot of heat for not creating more jobs. Though I applaud the green jobs initiative, a lot more jobs would be created by funneling the billions of dollars wasted on over-priced software and services into hiring highly skilled free software experts.


Don’t Be An Idiot! Support Free Software!

Wikipedia defines an idiot as a mentally deficient person. Mr. Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, defines an idiot as a person who uses free software, but doesn’t give back. I agree with him. I personally feel guilty if I use a free software package extensively without giving anything back. Giving back can take on everal forms:

  • Contributing code.
  • Contributing artwork.
  • Helping to write technical documentation.
  • Contributing financially.

These are tough financial times. In my opinion, this makes it even more important to give back. A lot of free software code is contributed by volunteers who write code in their free time. Somehow, these heroes find time to write code after working at their day jobs. They code around their kids’ soccer practice, errands, spending quality time with their significant others, etc. There are a lot of other things that these people could be doing. Yet they choose to contribute high quality code that makes our lives easier. This leads us to a very important question: HOW do we contribute? I will answer this question in the next section.

The simple answer is this: you have to be willing to do some research. Here, Google is your friend. For example, it took me 5 seconds to find the Free Software Foundation’s donation page here: https://my.fsf.org/donate/. However, another compelling way to contribute is to find centralized entities that allow you to contribute to a lot of different projects from one location. Today, I found a very good website that allows people to do exactly this: http://pledgie.com/. I searched the site, and I found a lot of very good projects that had received a lot of donations. For example, Contact Form 7, a plugin for the open source WordPress contact management system, has received 162 donations for a total of $2206. I was a little bit disappointed that I did not see more GNU/Linux projects on the site, but they have a great concept. There is no reason why more GNU/Linux based projects could not join. I would love to see LibreOffice, Audacity, Rosegarden, and a lot of other very useful free software projects on Pledgie. Hopefully, this article will popularize what they are doing, and bring a lot more projects into their fold.

Conclusions

Free software is maturing and expanding. Its expansion is fueled by the commitment of free software advocates. However, financial donations, and other contributions of resources, are also helping to fuel the growth. As the free software movement grows, it is providing a lot of career opportunities for people that are willing consider options that are not based in the old way of doing things. Virtualization is just one of the products of this exciting new culture.

Thank you for your time! I look forward to see you in the next edition of The Linux Week in Review!

 

References

  • Bort, J. (2011, August 30). Linux foundation chief: ‘you are an idiot’ if you don’t give back to open source. Network World. Retrieved August 30, 2011, from http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/083011-zemlin-250234.html
  • Morgan, T. P. (2011, August 17). Red hat beta revs kvm hypervisor to 3.0. The Register. Retrieved August 30, 2011, from http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/17/redhat_rhev_3_beta/
  • Stacoviak, A. (2010, October 1). How to fund your open source projects. The Changelog. Retrieved August 30, 2011, from http://thechangelog.com/post/1223333770/how-to-fund-your-open-source-projects

 

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