Flexibility of GNU/Linux

I have often written that flexibility is one of the sweet spots of GNU/Linux. It runs on all kinds of hardware and the licence goes with it so there are no hassles like that other OS: an EULA from Hell and drivers have to be found when the software is run on different hardware from that on which it was installed. GNU/Linux has both of those issues covered. That makes it perfect for education.

Another huge strength is fixing things when that other OS refuses to boot. That is a “target-rich environment” according to Russell Hollander. He carries a bootable USB drive loaded with KNOPPIX as a Swiss Army Knife of IT. A couple of years ago I used a Live CD for much the same purpose but now I meet machines with no CD drive so the USB drive gives wider coverage. It is becoming rare to find a PC that will not boot from USB although even that could become more complex if that other OS and its partners changes the way new PCs boot.

I have often used GNU/Linux to examine systems for many reasons: hardware identification, testing, rescuing data from hard drives, and installation, of course. KNOPPIX is often used but SystemRescueCD is designed for the purpose and has a ton of great features such as chNTpass and memtest. Then there is CloneZilla which does efficient disc imaging to/from a device or a server and, with a server, multicasting. The world is “solution-rich” with GNU/Linux.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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35 Responses to Flexibility of GNU/Linux

  1. bilbophille says:

    I just allowed my machine to share its printer and it automatically became available on all the other Linux machines on the LAN. The most difficult thing was to remember the CUPS port, so I bookmarked it. The KDE printer configuration application is even easier.

    I am a mere office user using Debian testing on my desktop and Mageia 1 on my laptop.

  2. oiaohm says:

    oldman I wish windows 7 was as easy to use as you describes. Old printers can be complete hell on earth. You have a driver that should work but it only magically works after installing it 3 times.

    Yes complete magic. The first 2 times gets you part there.

    Then HP and other network crippled drivers. Where the printer works locally but will not work across network from windows. Yet shock horror the same printer works from network when its on a Linux box provided by samba for windows machines.

    Also is the case user plug printer in before installing the printers drivers. Windows 7 can detect the wrong driver and be very refusing to change it same 3 install process gets there in the end.

    Printer is where Windows does go completely to hell.

    Linux is very straight forwards either it works or it does not. If it works it works local and across network every time with Linux. At least its not have I install the driver 3 times yet.

    Nicest of them all for printer driver interface and dependability is OS X but it is also cups. Linux has the dependability but not the niceness of a desktop application of configuration. Windows with printer has the range but every way possible its out to kick your ass with printers.

    Ivan yes there are some good non bias posts from the likes of ESR. Yes I do prefer to see these. Since they are trueful even that the ESR one you have is a little old ie pre 2006 most of the bugs ESR is referring to in the web interface were fixed by 2006.

    KDE is at long last working on a proper front end to setup cups graphical without having to use the web page. Gnome is still missing in action on that topic.

    Being trueful posts I can answer them at least to show where work is being done or not being done to address the issues.

    See why I hate Miguel de icaza posts not enough information really to talk about anything. Too generic no stating of issues. Basically is quality is FUD.

    Ivan I want to point out a clear point. Miguel de icaza is not a true Open Source Developer any more either. He has systematically working to convert as much of the source code he has ever created as able to closed source.

    Ivan I have seen Miguel de icaza systematically convert sections of the mono project from GPL to mit license then from there release those sections closed source only. This is not actions of a true Open Source Developer. This is actions of a Closed Source Developer pretending to be a Open Source Developer to get free support. So yes his name is Mud to anyone who has been watching what he has been doing nothing todo with his comments against Linux Desktop or anything else. He is two faced. Yes right down to promising some coders that allowed there code to be converted from GPL to MIT that the section would never go closed source.

    Yes you are 100 percent right when you say De Icaza threatens Open Source business model. I guess you were not thinking he threatens the Open Source business model by being a known thief. Reason why his quotes are worthless.

  3. The comments have been about sharing the printer…

  4. oldman says:

    “I just clicked “Add Printer” in http://localhost:631

    And all I did in windows 7 was to turn on the printer and plug it into a USB port. Windows 7 recognized the printer installed the drivers and then presented me with a printer ready to use.

  5. Well, I have a shared printer in my home and it was no problem at all to set it up. CUPs finds shared printers on the LAN and gives a very simple way to print to those shared printers. What ESR wrote about is not software so much as it is documentation. Programmers tend not to write documentation, if they can help it. Since no one is telling them what to do, documentation sometimes slides.

    Interestingly, CUPS is a product of APPLE, the so-called paragon of usability. CUPS is very usable but the documentation assumes knowledge that is not universal. I just clicked “Add Printer” in http://localhost:631 and CUPs found several ways to connect to my networked printer. They all work. Aunt Tillie usually does not install printers and if she did she would likely call me to help. That’s the way things work for consumers in the real world. Most consumers just install a local printer and don’t know or care that it can be accessed over the network. They know nothing of protocols or how to do the “add printer” thing from any OS.

    I think it has been five years or so since I edited manually a printer configuration.

  6. Ivan says:

    Speaking of the flexibility of your software, when will it be as easy to share a printer in Linux as it is in Windows 7 and Mac OS X?

    ESR pointed this problem out to you in 2006* and print shares still require manually editing cups.conf in 2011, do you really believe a system that obtuse will ever be accepted by mainstream society?

    *http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html

  7. Ivan says:

    De Icaza is one of the few open source developers talking any sense, so of course you don’t like him.

    He threatens your business model.

  8. Neither do consumers loiter around business-to-business sites that NetApplications monitors.

  9. oiaohm says:

    ch the thing is the current project leads of Gnome and KDE do talk about incompatibility issues.

    Basically Miguel de icaza is the wrong person talking on the topic. He has vested interests in undermining also is not current with current goings on.

    Nice trying to claim party line as a defence.

    Traitor talking can say some truth but also a lot of lies. Issue is you need extra sources to sort what are lies and what are truth.

    This is why I said there are more important people speaking on the topic. Like some of the staff that have been employee to try to improve interfaces on Open source applications.

    Issue is that De Icaza is a traitor. But its not only in one way. De Icaza is one of the forces that broke down negitations on common desktop standards when he was Gnome project lead. He is also one of the people who started the cycle of breaking API’s.

    The 10 to 20 good application claim. Nice an bogus. No list of what he calls good. So just worthless numbers.

    So do you take to the person who stuffed the mess up or the people who are fixing it to make sure they are fixing it. The answer is the more important people to speak to are the ones fixing it.

    Now a person without a vested interest in failure of common ABI/API for Linux talking on the topic saying the same kinds of things I would take serous-ally.

    The major thing that makes De Icaza a traitor when talking on the topic is his vested interest in mono being a successful api. So just like what he did with Gnome heaping crap on everyone else making interfaces he is still doing.

    De Icaza has not changed. This is the problem his name is Mud. His name was mud when he ceased being Gnome project lead due to his lack of means to talk to KDE and others about common standards. Some of the worse existing messes come about due to De Icaza instance that gnome had its own versions of stuff.

  10. Phenom says:

    Pogson, do you really fancy that company employees loiter around Wikipedia daily? Many businesses even restrict the public sites their employees can access.

  11. oldman says:

    “oldman sorry I know of a lot of businesses that use Debian due to higher stability than Ubuntu or fedora.”

    I am a senior person in the business unit of a major educational institution. I spend a lot of time keeping up to date on the issues and uses of institutions in in my “niche” The onle thing that I can tell you is that I know a lot more who use Red Hat and Suse who together represent about 75% of the business market.

    Debian is a non starter.

    The business would Mr. oiaohm is a lot wider than YOUR niche as well.

  12. oldman says:

    “The world is a lot more deserve than you little subset oldman. Here you are again making statements about everyone that is not back by fact.”

    And who do you speak for Mr. oiaohm except for a narrow niche market of embedded systems developers and FOSS bigots.

    Go back to your bazaar oiaohm.

  13. Debian GNU/Linux breaks little. Today, I have a bunch of packages from Wheezy working amongst a bunch of packages from Squeeze. APT keeps track of it all and I can apt-get dist-upgrade any time I want. The GNU system keeps going no matter what the reckless folks making GUIs do.

  14. ch says:

    Yeah, of course. As long as De Icaza follows the party line, he is ok. If he says something against the party line, he becomes a traitor. With that kind of “thinking”, you never need to reflect on what De Icaza actually says – and so Linux on the desktop will never get anywhere. Great.

  15. oiaohm says:

    Miguel de icaza is a Microsoft MVP.

    So his job is to find the worst not the best.

    Really the we bit thinking he has not contributed code to any of the Linux desktops of the past 5 years is kinda rude of him.

    Linux Standard Base applications work on Redhat Ubuntu Suse and on on without issue. So they are not as incompatible as Miguel de icaza wishes to make out. In fact it is critical to his plans to sell mono to under mine the existing of cross distribution API’s.

    ch basically miguel de icaza comments use to be worth something when he was Gnome project lead. These days he is just background noise to more important people speaking on the topic.

  16. ch says:

    “Debian GNU/Linux is the most diverse distro on the planet.”

    If true, would that be a good thing ? Miguel says no:

    “To be honest, with Linux on the desktop, the benefits of open source have really played against Linux on the desktop in that we keep breaking things. It is not only incompatibilities between Red Hat, Unbuntu, Suse, but even between the same distribution. Ubuntu from this week is incompatible with the one nine months ago. And then there are multiple editions, the KDE version, the Gnome edition, the one that is the new launching system.”
    http://www.itwriting.com/blog/4925-miguel-de-icaza-talks-about-windows-8-and-the-failure-of-linux-on-the-desktop.html

  17. oiaohm says:

    oldman sorry I know of a lot of businesses that use Debian due to higher stability than Ubuntu or fedora.

    The world is a lot more deserve than you little subset oldman. Here you are again making statements about everyone that is not back by fact.

  18. oldman says:

    “Chuckle. You make me laugh sometimes, oldman. Debian GNU/Linux is the most diverse distro on the planet. It is not hobbled by anything except your imagination.”

    Live your fantasy Pog, with the exception of institutions for who can live with adding in what debian

    “Debian GNU/Linux is the root and the stem and the leaves. Only the boxes of fruit are labelled differently.”

    Thats your opinion Pog. the reality is that in the business world, debian if it is known if at all is as the hackers crap that most businesses wont go near.

  19. Chuckle. You make me laugh sometimes, oldman. Debian GNU/Linux is the most diverse distro on the planet. It is not hobbled by anything except your imagination.

    “Ubuntu and Debian are closely related.” see http://www.ubuntu.com/community/ubuntu-and-debian

    Debian GNU/Linux is the root and the stem and the leaves. Only the boxes of fruit are labelled differently.

  20. oldman says:

    “Nope. Ubuntu relies on Debian GNU/Linux so I should include them in Debian’s take.”

    Not really. Debian is a best a root source for friendlier distributions. It is also hobbled by its insistence on techno purity over utility.

    IN the end plenty of people will know (and IMHO swear as much at as by) Ubuntu before Debian.

  21. OMG. Tell NetApplicatons and Wikipedia that they are hit by Martians.

  22. Nope. Ubuntu relies on Debian GNU/Linux so I should include them in Debian’s take.

  23. oiaohm says:

    Phenom key point from me is that it does not matter if you are talking about XP vista or Windows 7. They all go down when migrating between hardware the same basic ways. Chipset memory manager fails to be compadible with the new motherboard chipset so is DOA.

    Windows Genuine advantage deciding to spit chips. Or some key program you depend on deciding to become no longer activated.

    There are a set of drivers the Windows boot loader pulls into memory the memory management is one. Most don’t contain any chipset checking to make sure its running something compadible worse the regestry can get damaged by this. This is why its DOA.

    There are some third party tools that exist that allow you to change these start up drivers under XP Vista and Windows 7 so increase chance of system living threw a motherboard change.

    Some cases you are lucky. But those lucky events are not the general happenings Phenom.

    Again its not crap I have to deal with in Linux. Issue is with windows it still good luck not good management if it works.

  24. JairJy says:

    So, if you are using XP as example because is the most used Windows OS, you must use Ubuntu Lucid as example because is the most used Linux Distro according to StatsOwl. So forget Debian, because only has 0.58% of the Linux marketshare.

  25. Phenom says:

    Not anymore, Pogson. Windows 7 finally surpassed XP this summer (source: Windows BUILD 2011 conference), and that doesn’t even take Vista into the picture.

  26. oiaohm says:

    ‘“Rip harddrive out of one machine put it in another and boot.”

    Seems like a silly thing to be doing, #oiaohm. Someone might do that about once every hundred years, I think, if ever. Can’t you find something better to do?’

    I do it about once every 5 years with my own machines when I replace one computers main boards. Mostly copy install from the old to new harddrive while I am using the computer. Compared to many hours putting my applications back in and configuring the system to taste again I like Linux for this.

    Basically I rarely for my home machine return to a clean install.

    Phenom I guess boxed set Vista not OEM Vista. Boxed set Vista it works on average 3 to 5 time before having to ring Microsoft to reactivate.

    Phenom you also could have been lucky enough that the chipsets were close enough not to trigger a hardware change event in the Windows Genuine advantage system. XP up have the same basic Windows Genuine Advantage stuff ups.

    I have been pity good over the years working out boards that are close enough to avoid Genuine Advantage triggers under windows and memory manager failure. Of course some people get lucky and pull it off. Linux intel to amd to via and back works. Don’t even consider doing the x86 chip shuffle with Windows.

    Linux is almost any same arch motherboard you can get you hands on will do. Highly tollerent to this.
    Linux has saved my ass few times with the high tolerance. Server crashed. Grab a PC from someone disconnect user harddrive put server harddrive in and go. Order the replacement server parts then down the track return the desktop machine.

    This is all about downtime. Linux I have had lower downtime compare to the Microsoft solution. All due to tolerance.

  27. XP is still the most used OS on the planet as far as I know and it is the best example.

    Generic drivers usually deal with hardware that performs absolutely the same way. It just takes some constants to identify the driver to use. Manufacturers revise hardware with small tweaks just as programmers do and the manufacturer likes to produce a new model which he can sell for better margin.

  28. Backup? Installation?

  29. Contrarian says:

    “If you have ~100 PCs or more of a variety of configurations, ”

    Well, I don’t have anywhere near that many, #pogson, and none of my neighbors do either. And if I did, why would I be interested in re-imaging all of them at any one time? None of that makes any sense to me.

    A new computer comes with the Windows OS and if you set it for automatic updates, it keeps itself happy. There may be some obscure need for IT managers to do some sort of across the board updates themselves, but I have never seen that to be the case and I have worked for some fairly large companies.

  30. Phenom says:

    Don’t know for you, Pogson, but I prefer specific, optimized drivers than generic ones. The former tend to demonstrate better performance and stability.

    Anyway, please stop giving XP as an example. It is more than 10-year old! You don’t make any point, you just make a laugh of yourself.

    I can give you a real life example with Vista, though. I had to replace the MB of a PC of a friend, which died after a power failure. The new one had a different chipset and different IDE controller. Just for the fun, I plugged back everything and booted from the hard-disk, where it had Vista with all the drivers for the old motherboard. And, you know what? To my huge surprise, it worked! I booted successfully passed the logon screen, and was ready for action, except for the front mic jack.

    Of course, later on I made sure proper drivers are installed to be sure the HDD worked in optimal mode, and all audio ports work properly, too.

  31. If you have ~100 PCs or more of a variety of configurations, one of the beauties of GNU/Linux is that a single image can work for all of them, whereas that other OS requires a particular set of drivers for a particular machine. I have been in schools that had 4-6 different machines but all with 40gB hard drives. They needed as many backed-up disc images to restore machines that died. With GNU/Linux one image is all that’s required because Linux ships with tons of drivers built in and they are generic drivers. One does not need one driver for each hardware item but one driver for a class of similar hardware items. e.g. I can use RTL 8139 driver for most NICs that use the 8139 chip. Whereas XP will want a different driver for each NIC. I have seen XP refuse to work with 8139C when the XP shipped with 8139B. Then you need a separate machine to find the driver. With GNU/Linux the driver just workedTM.

  32. Contrarian says:

    “Rip harddrive out of one machine put it in another and boot.”

    Seems like a silly thing to be doing, #oiaohm. Someone might do that about once every hundred years, I think, if ever. Can’t you find something better to do?

  33. Ray says:

    Can’t really deny it, you can build it from scratch.

  34. oiaohm says:

    Contrarian
    ‘I don’t know that anyone ever runs the software “on different hardware from that on which it was installed” either. I am not even very certain what that even means.’
    Linux world really simple. Rip harddrive out of one machine put it in another and boot. Reason makes bring machine back online faster after cpu or motherboard failure.

    Fix up required for Linux are network setting and video drivers. Less than 15 mins work on software. If the machines have the same video card drivers less than 5 even losing 1 min to booting up 3 mins to reset the network 1 min to inform the person of the machine they can start using it again.

    Windows repair install can be require but that can damage the installed applications so making it simpler to completely reinstall. By by quite a few hours.

    Yes Microsoft users are not use to the Linux way of only needing to reinstalled when they fell like it or have got breached even if they have changed hardware.

    Yes the speed of repair is where Linux does save on support costs. Does not take many failures to recover the extra time setting up a Linux network.

    “I have never tried to run a restore CD on anything but the original machine, so I cannot say what might happen, but I am not aware of anyone making it into an issue.”

    Remember restore CD shiped these days I don’t use where I can due to crapware. Instead I have a boxed set of windows instead disk I use as master.

    To be correct the OEM disks sent out by microsoft are not master install on everything due to product key failures. The master disk that will accept all OEM product keys is the boxed set or action pack disk. Restore disks made by hardware makers can be very hardware locked. This is for XP on. Reason I know this is people lose there master disks and I have had to repair there machines. Also I have use this for case of dead motherboard to transfer a windows license from 1 machine to another. Yes officially a repair since I was replacing the dead parts.

    Redhat Linux I don’t have to find a different install disk to install on different hardware to use their valid license.

    2000 before the OEM disks would take any valid key. Basically Contrarian you are being slowly cooked alive and don’t notice it.

  35. Contrarian says:

    “an EULA from Hell and drivers have to be found when the software is run on different hardware from that on which it was installed”

    Both of which are inconsequential in real life, #pogson. 100 users out of 100 never bother with the EULA, if indeed it displays anywhere. They click OK, if that is part of the startup process, and go on with their life. I don’t know why you would cast aspersions on the EULA in the first place, either. It just tells the user that he can use the computer as the manufacturer intended it to be used.

    I don’t know that anyone ever runs the software “on different hardware from that on which it was installed” either. I am not even very certain what that even means. If you get an OEM copy of Windows with your computer, how would you ever do that anyway? I have never tried to run a restore CD on anything but the original machine, so I cannot say what might happen, but I am not aware of anyone making it into an issue.

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