Day: May 1, 2004

  • PmWiki: Tarball to Wiki in 60 Seconds

    Via freshmeat, PmWiki is a PHP-based Wiki with a clean but nice look to it.  I really like the editable sidebar.  Also, if you add a URL of a .gif, .jpg, or .png, it’ll display the image on the page.  Pretty slick.  The basic syntax looks good, though as with every other wiki on the plant, it’s just different enough to leave you constantly scratching your head.

    “which wiki planet am I on right now?”

    Update: Wow.  I decided to install PmWiki.  I was thoroughly impressed with how lightweight it is (no mysql neccesary) and how easy it was to set up.  I followed the installation instructions and went from a tarball to a working wiki in less than 60 seconds.

    Now to be fair, I should probably edit a few things in the config file in order to customize my wiki.  However, being able to go from a bunch of files to a working installation in a minute is awesome.

  • OpenBSD: First Impressions

    I took a bit of time this morning to download OpenBSD 3.5, fresh from the oven.  It took me awhile to find a near-ish mirror that had 3.5 on it, but I booted from the tiny CD ISO and away I went.

    Overall the install process was the usual no-frills text-based system that gets the job done but isn’t pretty.  I was pretty happy with it, except for one thing:

    Disk partitioning/disk labeling

    Jeez.  There’s really no excuse for this.  I’ve done my fair share of installing *nix systems.  My first experience involved downloading disksets of Slackware (in a subdirectory called slakware) over a 14.4 modem.  The whole process was new to me, but I got through it.  A, AP, D, K, etc.  I did a whole lot of rawriting.  The text install system was good but not pretty (albeit prettier than the OpenBSD installer).

    It worked.  I moved on.  I’ve since installed pretty much every major version of Red Hat in addition to modern Slackware, Debian, SUSE, Fedora, Mandrake, the BSDs, and more that I can’t even remember.

    I’m not a *nix newb by any stretch of the imagination, yet the OpenBSD disk partition/disk label system totally makes me step back and say “WTF?”

    After I look at the install guide and blink several times, it all comes back to me and I’m able to limp through the partitioning and disk label process.

    Hey guys, it doesn’t have to be this hard.  When I was lost at the partition prompt, I typed ‘?’ and was only able to see about half of the help.  Where was the rest?  Oh, it had already scrolled off the screen.  It’d be great to know that at the size: prompt 150M is an option.  It’s not obvious by any stretch of the imagination.

    All of my complaints aside, the rest of the process went smoothly and made a lot of sense to a veteran Linux user.  OpenBSD managed to find the el-cheapo NIC that is in my test box, DHCP gave me all of my settings, and away I went.  I opted to load the basic OpenBSD packages from CD.  They loaded quickly, and I soon rebooted the system in to OpenBSD.  SSH works great out of the box, and we should all thank the OpenBSD team for the glory that is OpenSSH.

    It’s lean and mean, baby.  It’s not like a default Red Hat install where you’ve got a bajillion processes running and a bajillion ports open.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  There are just enough processes running for the machine to be able to function.  This is the reason that only one root exploit has been found in the default install.

    Since installing 3.5, I’ve used adduser to add a non-root user to the system (remember to add youself to the group wheel if you’d like to su), set up and used X using xf86cfg, and added a few packages using pkg_add.  I’ll probably start playing with the ports collection soon.

    Summary: OpenBSD is a tight little secure distro that gets the job done.  The install process is bare-bones but makes sense except for disk partitioning/labeling.  You don’t get a lot by default, but if you only add what you need, you won’t have to deal with insecure bloat.

    Congrats to the OpenBSD team on a great release!

  • Open Sourcing Solaris: GPL? BSD? A Good Decision?


    Sun Microsystems Inc. may be selling servers running Linux, but that doesn’t mean it is cutting back on the evolution of Solaris. Among its plans, the company is considering offering a free, open source version of its flagship operating system, said Jonathan Schwartz, the company’s recently appointed president and chief operating officer.

    “Maybe we’ll GPL it,” Schwartz said of Solaris, referring to the GNU General Public License under which the Linux operating system is distributed. “We’re still looking at that.”

    Those are not words to be thrown around lightly.  Of course it would be more logical for Solaris to bre released under a BSD-like operating system, as it was derived from BSD code.  It is encouraging to see Sun thinking about such things.

    Solaris no longer has the clout that it used to.  People use it, sure, but many have migrated away from Solaris on Sparc hardware to a flavour of Linux on x86.  I’m sure that an open-source version of Solaris would give it a lot of publicity.  It may need such publicity in order to survive.

    Solaris 9 (and a preview version of 10) can be downloaded for free, but a per-seat commercial license does apply.

    Here’s another interesting tidbit:

    Sun will likely move “very quickly” to a free licensing model where Solaris revenue would come from a paid subscription, Schwartz said. He wasn’t specific about when this might occur or what the pricing of such a model might be, other than to say it would be “less than Red Hat.”

    “Less than Red Hat” still leaves a good bit of room to be overpriced though.  Once again, I’m really stoked that Sun is thinking about such things, given how anti-open source they’ve been about Java.  Keep up the intelligent decisions, Sun!