From the Editor
As Linux approaches the fifth anniversary of its conception (in June), it is perhaps worthwhile to ask if it has been a success so far. It has certainly been far more successful than anyone originally thought it could be, as support for new hardware has increased tremendously and users all over the world number at least in the hundreds of thousands, and more likely in the millions. Is that success?
For those of us who use it every day to take care of all of our computing needs, Linux is a success regardless of the numbers of people and organizations who use it. Without even a magazine for its users, it would be a success. Without commercial applications, it would still be a success. Linux has nothing to prove.
But that doesn't mean that there is nothing to improve.
Linux is a success with technical people, and has been for a long time. Linux comes with a huge, well-understood tool box of programs for data manipulation and services. And for basic, well-understood services, the Linux distributions provide (more or less) out-of-the-box solutions. FTP services, WWW services, NFS file services, LPD print services, SMB/Lan Manager file and print services, and more all work out-of-the-box, or with a little configuration. In part because of this, Linux is seeing growing personal, corporate, educational, and governmental use.
So what's missing? Fairly obviously, as Linus Torvalds himself points out, a wide choice of desktop applications. But that's being worked on (native applications, Wine, DOSEMU, Executor) and nothing I could say would speed up any of those projects. Instead, I'd like to present one particular challenge for growth: the market for pre-configured (“works out-of-the-box”) software that fills the needs of particular niche markets. If this challenge isn't met, Linux will still be a success; Linux use won't shrink. This is just an area in which Linux has the potential to be very useful, but where important pieces are still missing.
I'll use the example of Point Of Sale (POS) systems, since I know a little bit about them. It is very definitely possible for a technically competent person to use a Linux system to create a POS system. The goal is essentially to piece together a database with a terminal or network of terminals in order to quickly look up the prices of individual items and compute the total cost of a sale, as well as manage inventory and do financial transactions.
The standard Linux techie (call him Jon Hacker) answer runs something like this: “Oh, that's easy. Just build a database (flat text, DBM, Postgres 95, or one of the commercial databases for Linux) and write a program (Tcl/Tk for X, curses for text terminals) for a user interface. I could do that in a week. Then add things like credit card validation on-line, inventory control, etc. That could take, um, a while longer.”
Jo Store Owner doesn't have a week. She isn't a guru, and she doesn't have a guru to write the system for her, either. And she's not going to hire Jon Hacker to write a POS system based on Linux, since she can buy a system that does meet her needs—though perhaps not as well as a customized system—which runs on DOS or Windows or Mac, and it will cost her less to get it up and running. It may not be as well customized for her business, and it may not even be flexible enough to customize, but it will work well enough for her, and to instead hire Jon Hacker would invoke the law of diminishing returns—it simply wouldn't be profitable.
However, if a POS package (free or commercial; it doesn't much matter) were available for Linux, and came configured intelligently, but used Linux tools to do the job and was therefore easily customized, it would be an attractive option. Joe might even hire Jon to customize it for him.
My point isn't really POS systems; there is already at least one complete POS system based on Linux. However, there are lots of niches like this that Linux is a great technology base for, but which don't have off-the-shelf solutions based on Linux yet, even though more free and commercial tools are available all the time. (Read comp.os.linux.announce and LJ's own New Products if you need convincing.) Being able to start doing something after running a simple installation (like a:setup under DOS and Windows) is the basis of meeting this challenge.
As I see it, this challenge is being met to some degree, but sporadically and piecemeal. My goal is merely to help popularize the idea of making Linux a useful business solution, and encourage Jon Hacker to search for and support niches in a way that Jo Store Owner can understand and trust. I'm not suggesting this to help Linux take over the world, but rather because I think that the technology available for Linux has lots of price/benefit potential for Jo and employment benefit for Jon, and because I think that the price pressure that Linux's low cost can provide will invigorate niche markets.
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.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
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