A Linux for every trade…

While puttering around the internet the other day I came upon this software AptonCD and while going through it – a set of light bulbs went off in my head and I actually had an idea ! I was so excited by this that I thought I’d blog about it :-)

I participate in the Free Software Users Group, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and one if it’s main activities is making Linux available to the general populace. As part of this activity a local company Zyxware Technologies (these really cool guys BTW) put together vending machine (Freedom Toaster) which burns various Linux distributions on CD/DVD media. This proved to be a very successful project (broadband is still limited and expensive in India so downloading distributions is quite difficult).

One of my challenges as a developer has been around setting up the development environment. All developers have a certain toolkit that they are comfortable with. Depending on their level of  sophistication this can be as simple as a text editor to a full blown IDE…  The challenge for me was finding and setting up equivalent tools in the Linux platform to the ones I used in Windows.

It occurred to me  that the challenge I detailed above would be a common one for anyone that is using a set of software tools for their trade.  It would also be useful to people in other professions (other than programming software) that are switching to Linux from another OS platform like Windows to get a set of equivalent tools in Linux for the ones they use in Windows. In fact there are lists out there that detail Linux equivalents to Windows tools.

So here is my idea – We could leverage AptonCD to create meta-packages that people could simply install over the base Linux distribution. These packages would be prepared separately from the base Debian install (Apt is the Debian package manager) and applied after the distribution is installed.

This is not a new idea – in fact here in Kerala we already have a custom Debian distribution that is targeted for schools – IT@School .  The twist here is that while the IT@School is a custom Debian distribution what I have in mind is more in terms of meta-packages that can be installed over a base Debian distribution like Ubuntu. We can leverage the Freedom Toaster to distribute these packages for people. The packages would be created by professionals in a trade  for other professionals who want to use Linux but are not sure how to get all the tools of their trade on it. These people can simply install the OS distribution and install the meta-package for their trade and voila – they can get to work :-)

Of course there are still challenges – Linux often has several tools for a particular task and there may be version conflicts as well. I have also not accounted for the learning curve in getting used to these tools. Nonetheless, I think this would at least give a head-start to professionals wanting to use Linux as a platform for their trade and drive adoption of Linux.

The ultimate aim IMHO is not to make everyone in the world a super-duper Linux hacker but to make people productive in Linux :-)


Setting up Ubuntu 8.04 Server on VirtualBox

Yesterday, I was trying to install Ubuntu 8.04 server on my desktop using VirtualBox to set up a virtual LAMP server to play with.

VirtualBox is a virtualizer software like VM-Ware or Virtual PC. It is supported by Sun and is the the only one which is open source. It’s a pretty slick piece of software and  comes with a set of pre built host environments on which you can install various operating systems.  It has a nice intuitive user interface and pretty full featured.

So, I started off on my installation – picked Ubuntu host environment and assigned 512 MB of RAM and 10GB for the hard drive. Then I pointed it to the Ubuntu 8.04 server install ISO and off I went through the install. The install itself went off without any problems – I chose the LAMP server setup and everything went smoothly. The problem was after the install when I tried to boot up the server – I got the following error –

The kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU


Unable to boot - please use a kernel appropriate for your CPU

So I Googled around for the error and got some blog posts (oh good so I am not crazy :-)) that I went through and I thought I’d summarize it here for reference. So here goes –
The Ubuntu 8.04 Server installation comes with a kernel that assumes that Physical Address Extension (PAE) is enabled in the processor. This is a feature in x86 and x86-64 bit processors that allow them to address more that 4GB of physical address space (which makes sense – this is a server install after all…). This feature is not turned on by default in the VirtualBox software’s virtual processor.  The simple solution is to enable this feature in the VirtualBox software – one does that as follows –

  1. Shutdown the Virtual Machine (VM) instance.
  2. Open the settings on the VM through the VM VirtualBox manager
  3. Go to  -> General -> Advanced -> check Enable PAE/NX
  4. Start your VM
  5. Check to ensure that the Virtual Machine boots properly

That’s it – many thanks to the following bloggers and their blog entries :-)

  1. Hype-Free
  2. Blog Foo