The PictureBook, a.k.a Sony VAIO PCG-C1VN
This is our first look at an amazing little computer system, the Sony PictureBook. The look comes primarily from its travels with me in Costa Rica in December 2000.
Before getting into specifics, let me say that the basic machine is amazing. That is, you get an amazing amount of computer in a package that could not even have been imagined a few years ago.
However, it still isn't my favorite laptop; my favorite remains my five-year-old Toshiba T3600. While the T3600 is bigger and heavier, it is about as small as is practical for a serious laptop. Being primarily a vi user, the 486/50 and 16MB of RAM is sufficient for me, and the six-hour battery life is more than enough.
On its own merits, however, the PictureBook is a real winner. It measures 248 x 27 x 152 mm and weighs in at 2.2 lbs. The official name is the Sony VAIO PCG-C1VN. It has a 400MHz Crusoe processor, 128MB of RAM, a 12GB hard drive and a 1024 x 480 active matrix display.
Before getting too far past my mention of battery life, the PictureBook wins in this category. While we haven't run extensive tests yet, a good guess is three to four hours on the standard battery. A 4X battery is also available that should be good for well beyond a whole work day.
Additionally, interfaces are available for most anything, including FireWire, USB, sound, digital video and there's even a slot for Sony memory sticks. Note that no serial or parallel port is included; however, with all the other choices this is not likely to be a serious problem. Also included is a Winmodem (which isn't supported by Linux) and a Type II PCMCIA slot for anything else you may need.
If these features aren't enough, toss in a built-in camera that, under Linux, can capture JPGs or write an AVI file. The mouse is one of those little pencil eraser-like gizmos but, on the plus side, it has three buttons rather than the more standard and expected two.
By that, I mean, can you really treat this system as a laptop or is it more of a toy? The VAIO is no toy. The excellent screen, fast speed and huge disk make it a real computer. I see it as the perfect system for either travel to remote locations where size and weight are really important, or cases when you need a part-time system, such as making a presentation at a tradeshow.
The VAIO's speed and disk capacity make it a real computer. In fact, only one hardware item detracts from the system's overall usability--the keyboard. The size, while certainly on the small end, isn't the significant problem. In order to get the keys (specifically, the arrow keys) where they wanted them, Sony decided to make the slash key (/) substantially narrower than all of the other keys. They also made the right Shift key the width of a standard key rather than the same width as the left Shift key.
While the slash key may not be especially important to an MS-Windows user, a Linux/UNIX user can get frustrated quickly. I also found myself hitting the up arrow key when I intended to press the right Shift key.
That's it for my hardware complaints. However, I do have some hardware-created complaints and some software problems. First, the special "Fn" keys don't. These are key sequences where you press the Fn key, as a special sort of shift key, followed by another key. These sequences perform such functions as changing the display brightness, selecting external video port vs. local display and displaying battery status.
On earlier VAIO models, these sequences were handled by the BIOS, but in this system, they have been changed to software interpretations. While not an insurmountable problem, Linux support had not been added when I received this system. As this is a common "feature" of the new VAIOs, I'm sure a modified keyboard driver is in the works.
The computer comes with a USB to SVGA cable. Connect your monitor at boot time, and Linux sees and talks to it as well as the internal display. But it talks at the same resolution as the internal screen, so squares become rectangles. This problem will have to be addressed before this puppy is a good choice for connecting to overhead projectors.
The next problem was that only a modified version of Red Hat Linux was available. In an office that runs all Debian systems, this wasn't what I wanted to hear. If for no other reason, having to deal with a totally different configuration system was not what I needed. In addition, the vi command-line editing mode of bash does not work on the default version included with Red Hat--correctable but another unnecessary frustration. Hopefully, the lack of availability of other Linux distributions and the Fn key problem will be addressed before you read this review.
Finally, this system is running the 2.2.17 kernel. Rumor was the 2.4 kernel would not boot on the PictureBook with the Crusoe chip. This chip is made by Transmeta, Linus' employer, and Linus has one of these systems. He quickly traced the problem to APM. Disabling APM makes the 2.4 kernel boot fine; it is up to those working on APM to figure out what to do next.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide