Microsoft Silverlight Snubs Linux Users

Microsoft Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive user experiences for the web, desktop and mobile applications, either while connected online or offline. At least, that’s what Microsoft’s says on its website. Silverlight is a browser plugin people use to view streaming movies, videos, and sporting events, as well as running business applications online. Microsoft touts that Silverlight works on all browsers, from Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and of course, Internet Explorer.

However, Silverlight only works in Windows and in Safari on the Mac OS. It doesn’t work in Linux. There are however, several open-source alternatives, like Moonlight, which mimics Silverlight. But it has come up short. There are still a number of Silverlight-powered websites that are inaccessible from the Linux desktop. Netflix comes to mind. There are also several major sports leagues that use Silverlight exclusively for live streaming. The NFL, MLB, NBA, and the MLS are just a few.

Netflix uses Silverlight because of the DRM or digital rights management issue. Netflix has to some way protect movies from being pirated online, hence the use of Silverlight. Here’s the Netflix message you’ll get if you try to run Netflix on Linux. It doesn’t really say it doesn’t support Linux, but Linux is not on the list.

Microsoft or Netflix has no plans whatsoever to include Linux users into the fold. Micorosoft doesn’t seem bothered that Linux users are being isolated from viewing popular video streaming websites. I don’t see Microsoft or Netflix changing their stance anytime soon. They are certainly not going to throw resources to develop Silverlight for the Linux desktop. It’s really a shame, because I still have to keep an old copy of Windows XP running either in a dual-boot configuration or in a Virtualbox, just for the purpose of accessing Silverlight-powered websites and other programs that work in Windows only.

I won’t hold my breath for this to change anytime soon. Maybe, one of these days Linux developers can come up with a better alternative to Moonlight. Waiting for Microsoft to open up the source code for Silverlight, is a waste of time. In the meantime, you can get a Roku box or a Xbox 360, albeit a Microsoft product, to view Netflix and other websites online.

But, there’s a catch. You also have to fork out an additional $60 a year for Xbox Live, and whatever additional subscription price others have with their services. Microsoft technology is just the opposite of what open-source and Linux stands for. It’s all about money and doesn’t care about standards.  It just doesn’t act in the best interest of all.

Boot Virtualbox From ISO

There are many advantages to having Virtualbox. One such advantage is having the ability to try out any Linux distro that you want, without deleting or touching one file or program on your Desktop computer. You can keep your desktop environment intact, and at the same time, play with a brand new Linux distro.

Trying out a new distro usually requires downloading the ISO from a project’s website, whether it’s from Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint or openSuse. This whole process can get tedious after a while, not to mention all the wasted CDs and DVDs, each time a new distro comes out.

There is a way where you can avoid burning CDs and DVDs, and still be able to install a new Linux distro in a Virtualbox. So, instead of booting a distro from a CD or DVD drive, you will have to tell Virtualbox to boot from a virtual disk file or ISO.

Let’s say, you created a brand new virtual machine. You go through the process of assigning the appropriate resources, e.g. CPU, RAM, diskspace, etc. Once you are done, you will be asked to start the virtual machine.

The virtual machine, by default, looks for a bootable CD or DVD. Since you don’t have one CD or DVD on hand, it will complain that there is no bootable partition. You can now tell Virtualbox to use a virtual file instead of a CD or DVD.

You can do this by going to Devices > CD/DVD Devices > Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file. Point it to your downloaded ISO file. Mine resides in my Downloads folder in my home directory. Here’s a snaphot of how to assign the CD/DVD drive to a virtual file.

Once you have the ISO selected, you will need to restart the virtual machine, to get it to boot from the ISO. The virtual machine should now boot with the latest distro you just downloaded. You can now proceed with the install of your latest Linux distro.

Find Your Linux Release Info

What’s the likelihood of you not knowing which version of Linux distro you are running? It’s probably a lot higher than you expect. I’ve had to do this at least twice before. If you’re not sure or you simply want to validate your distro, you can run the following commands to get the distro info.

Ubuntu

cat /etc/lsb-release

Fedora

cat /etc/fedora-release

Debian

cat /etc/*release

OpenSuse

cat /etc/SuSE-release

In Ubuntu, running the command above returns the following info.

DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu
DISTRIB_RELEASE=10.04
DISTRIB_CODENAME=lucid
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION="Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS"

Back To Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Remember the good old days of Ubuntu, way before Unity and Gnome 3 were the norm? Everything seemed to work just fine in those days. I finally did it. I took a major step back. I am now using Ubuntu 10.04 as my default Ubuntu Desktop.

Crazy as that may seem. It wasn’t because I was searching for a piece of nostalgia. I just wanted to go back to when everything worked. Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is a great distro to use as your base system.

Now that I am back to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, everything works as I remembered. By the way, Ubuntu 10.04 is LTS or Long Term Support and is now supported for 3 years instead of the usual 2 years. Ubuntu 10.04.3 Desktop is set to expire April 2013.

Incidentally, I still have the latest Ubuntu releases on hand, as well as other notable Linux distros. They run as virtual machines via Virtualbox on my desktop. In reality, the latest Ubuntu releases are only a few clicks away.

Backup Linux Using Clonezilla Live

There are many ways to backup Linux. There are different tools in the arsenal that you could use, such as tar, rcopy or  some backup software. One tool I recently started using is called Clonezilla, a cloning software similar to the popular Norton Ghost for Windows systems.

Clonezilla allows you to backup and restore file systems by cloning file systems or devices as image files. Clonezilla comes in two versions: Clonezilla Live and Clonezilla SE (Server Edition). Clonezilla Live is suitable for single machine backup and restore.

While Clonezilla SE is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the hard disk. I’m using Clonezilla Live since I don’t need to backup and restore multiple computers.

To get started, you will need to download the Clonezilla Live iso file. Create a bootable CD from the iso file. Once the boot CD is created, you need to boot up from the Clonezilla Live CD on the desktop you want to perform a backup.

I recommend using a secondary USB drive for storing the backup image files. It will serve as a repository for your backup images as well as a restore point for later on. For further instructions, follow these instructions for using Clonezilla Live.

Ubuntu Is Losing Steam

If you’ve visited Distrowatch.com lately, you probably noticed Ubuntu has slipped down to number 2 in terms of number of page hits on Distrowatch’s website. Linux Mint now holds the distinction of being number 1.

It wasn’t long ago, that Ubuntu held that prestigious position for months, perhaps years. What happened exactly to Ubuntu? Was it Unity, the new desktop environment that was introduced a couple of releases ago?

I think, a large part of the slide is indeed Unity, but it’s not solely the reason for the loss of its popularity. There are other issues. Ubuntu was already losing steam before Unity was first introduced.

You got to hand it to Linux Mint developers. They have done a great job of making Mint a solid distro that simply works out of the box with no fuss.

In the meantime, I went back to the two year old release, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, or Long Term Support. It’s still supported until 2015. It runs the stable Gnome 2.3.

Selling Antivirus Software To A Linux User

Selling Antivirus software to a Linux user will probably not get you anywhere. On a recent trip to Frys Electronics, I was asked by a sales associate if I wanted to take advantage of a 50% discount on Antivirus software if combined with a purchase of a hard drive. I politely declined.

I wasn’t going to explain to him why I didn’t need it, but he tried selling it to me one more time. So, I finally told him that I’m a Linux user, and I don’t get viruses. So, that was the end of the conversation. I really hated doing that, sounding so smug and everything, but sometimes, you got to do what got to do.

I was only half serious about getting a hard drive anyways, since prices have gone up at least 10% due to the short supply, mainly due to the flood in Thailand that’s causing shortfall of hard drives to retailers and PC manufacturers alike. It’s probably not the best time to get a hard drive anyways. At least, not until the waters subside, and the supply side gets sorted out.

Multi Boot vs Virtual Machine

When I bought a 1TB hard drive last year, I had a decision to make. How would I slice up the new 1TB drive? I was running multiple operating systems on my computer desktop. I was using Linux 95% of the time and the other 5% on Windows, if at all.

So, I partitioned my drive and gave Windows 160GB. The rest went to Ubuntu. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it the way I did it. I would format all 1TB for the Linux partition. What about Windows? From hindsight, I could easily install Windows as a virtual machine instead of having a multi boot setup.

There are several advantages to using virtual machines over multi boot.

  1. You can easily launch a virtual machine without rebooting your computer.
  2. You can have both Linux and Windows running at the same time.
  3. You can clone as many instances of Windows.
  4. You can easily delete a virtual machine and free up the partition.

These are good enough reasons for me to prefer virtual machines over a multi boot setup. Knowing what I know, I would rather install Windows in a virtual machine using Virtualbox. So, if you’re at the same juncture of trying to make a decision whether to partition your drive. Don’t. Use virtual machines instead.

Increase Disk Space Of A Virtual Machine

One of the cooler technologies to arrive on the desktop the past  ten years is virtualization. With virtualization software, desktops are able to run multiple virtual environments on a host computer. You can easily run Windows on top of Linux and vice versa. Two of the most popular virtualization software that come to mind are VMWare and Virtualbox. I use the latter because it’s open-source.

My host system is Ubuntu 11.04 and I run several Linux distributions on it, as well as a single instance of Windows XP. Unfortunately, I’ve only allocated a 10GB for my Windows XP virtual machine, which is the default size when you create a new virtual machine or VM. After several weeks of normal use, I found out that I needed more disk space.

Increasing the disk space on the VM is not quite the easy as I thought it would be. In fact, the process was more elaborate than first conceived. I’m not going to write every detail of what I did, but I will explain the high level process. Hopefully, you’re able to get the idea. The process was trial and error, but the result was successful. I was able to get results twice now, on two different systems.

Tools

5 Step Process

  1. Clone the Windows XP virtual machine to a USB hard drive.
  2. Create a new virtual machine with a bigger disk space.
  3. Use GParted to create a new partition. NTFS in this case.
  4. Restore the Clonezilla image to the new virtual machine.
  5. Run GParted again to allocate the increased disk space.

Step 1.

Clonezilla a free software disaster recovery and disk cloning utility that you can readily download online. Choose the latest stable version from the website. Make a bootable CD from the ISO that’s provided on the download. Boot Clonezilla on your old virtual machine. You may need to disable the hard drive from your boot up options to make the virtual machine boot from Clonezilla. Make sure you are able to add the USB drive to the virtual machine. Follow the instructions how to clone your old partition to the USB drive.

Step 2.

Create a new virtual machine with a bigger disk space. I used 50GB this time around. I assume you are familiar with Virtualbox how to create a new virtual machine. Don’t load any OS just yet. Just leave it blank.

Step 3.

Boot the GParted on the new virtual machine. Just follow all the instructions on how to create a new partition. Allocate all 50GB to the new partition using the NTFS file system. NTFS is the native file systems for Windows.

Step 4.

Boot Clonezilla on the new virtual machine. Restore your Clonezilla image that you stored on your USB drive. Just follow the instructions how to restore a Clonezilla image.

Step 5.

Run GParted again. The current OS (in this case, Windows XP) is still using the older and smaller partition. It doesn’t recognize the new and unallocated partition on the drive. So, run GParted again and increase the size of your current partition. Use all of the unallocated disk space on the partition. Reboot. Windows XP ran a Chkdsk on bootup, and then rebooted. I checked the disk space and sure enough, it says 50GB.

Done

There you have it. How to increase drive space of your existing virtual machine.

Install SSH Server on Ubuntu Desktop

So you just installed the latest version of Ubuntu on your desktop. You want to access your spanking new Ubuntu machine from another computer. There are two ways in accomplishing this: (1) the fast and easy way via SSH, or (2) the slightly more difficult way via graphics called Remote Desktop.

Let’s say we go with the easy route in this article. We want to access it via SSH. I’ll follow up with another article how to access your Ubuntu desktop using Remote Desktop. So, we want to access your Ubuntu desktop via SSH. What we need is a SSH server. We can easily install OpenSSH Server by just installing the SSH server from the Terminal.

Install SSH Server

sudo apt-get install ssh-server

Done. Simple.

SSH Client

Your remote computer must have a SSH client to access your Ubuntu desktop. I recommend that you use Putty if you are a Windows users. Putty is a SSH client program to access your Ubuntu desktop. If you are a Mac or a Linux user, you can simply use the Terminal. Access your Ubuntu server by invoking the SSH client.

ssh 10.10.10.10

That’s the IP address of my Ubuntu desktop. You can specify a hostname if you have an internal DNS that’s working. You can also specify the username and the port number if you using a different port from the standard port 22.

ssh 10.10.10.10 -l username -p 2222