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SCALE 3X - Windows to Linux, Remastering Knoppix, Personal Linux (3 Reviews)

by Ken Leyba on Feb 21, 2005

Review #1 - Windows to Linux Desktop Migration

About the Presenter:
Jon Walker serves as CTO of Versora, an ISV providing Microsoft to Linux migration software. Mr. Walker is a Contributing Editor to LinuxWorld Magazine and has co-authored two whitepapers with Novell. Prior to Versora, Mr. Walker was CTO/VP of Engineering for Miramar Systems. Software developed under his direction at Miramar has been deployed to over 20 million computers worldwide. Mr. Walker has also served as senior technologist for Nortel and Xing Technology (now Real Networks).

Jon Walker at the beginning of his talk indicated that he wanted his presentation to be interactive and though sometimes interactive presentations can lead astray everything stayed on track. Walker looked at the "best practices" of Linux desktop migrations and the technical issues associated with migration. This big picture view can be used for any desktop migration including Linux to Linux or Windows to Windows migrations as the issues are similar.

One of the first things to consider is the best approach to your migration and Walker identified three types of migrations. The first being what Walker called the "Big Bang" or "rip and replace" method in which there is no migration but a complete replacement of the desktops. The second type of migrations are dual boot or Linux & Wine migrations in which there are some applications that cannot be replaced and a particular application must be run from Windows or emulated through Wine. Finally, the incremental migration or transitional desktop.

The remaining topics covered the issues and decisions that would need to be made in any migration. Which type of hardware to use, should you use new or existing PC's, software inventory and which types of users to migrate first are common issues in desktop migration. One of Walker's contentions was that Linux running well on lesser hardware is a myth. Though a debatable issue he does make that point that it depends on what software you are running. Walker does prefer enterprise (i.e. commercial) versions of the Linux desktop and they tend to require more hardware resources in default configurations. He does point out that Linux runs well on older hardware due to driver support of older devices.

According to Walker IDC classifies desktop users into four groups, transactional users, knowledge workers, power users and developers. Of those four groups Walker believes the best candidates for transition are the knowledge workers. He then went on to the "best practices" of Linux desktop deployment. Topics included software inventory, backup strategies, disk imaging, software distribution methods, settings migration and patch management. Along with the desktop migration the back end connectivity issues were presented which included file and print services, authentication, database services, e-mail and ERP/SAP. One point of disagreement was Walker's comment that OpenLDAP is an Open Source version of Microsoft's Active Directory. Active Directory is actually a proprietary directory service based on LDAP, an open standard. Finally issues related to training and Help Desk support complete the desktop migration strategies.

Walker gave examples of some automated tools that can be used to assist in migrations yet he managed to omit the popular software distribution/patch management tool yum. Referring to imaging and deployment along with g4u and AutoYaST Walker said that Symantec Ghost required the enterprise version for Linux imaging and that journaling file systems are not well supported. My recent experience is that the enterprise version of Ghost would be required for a migration and I had no problems imaging and deploying Mandrake 10.1 and ext3. I may also add for consideration partimage for imaging Linux and journaled file systems. The presentation Walker gave was well rounded and even though I had a few disagreements was a good blueprint for Linux migration strategies.

Review #2 - Remastering Knoppix

About the Presenter:
Cecil Watson has been using Linux as his primary OS since 1998. He's been a network and systems administrator. While not working his "regular" job, he works on his own remaster, KnoppMyth, which can be found at

Cecil Watson said he had a need for a custom Knoppix for his job and set upon creating one. Watson's talk covered the topics of Knoppix, why remaster Knoppix, some examples (including his own remaster) and step-by-step instructions on how to remaster your own Knoppix.

So what is Knoppix? Knoppix is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software with automatic hardware detection, support for many graphics and sound cards and other peripherals. Knoppix can be used to demonstrate Linux, as an educational tool to teach Linux, as a tool for system recovery as well as other custom applications. All of this can be done without installing or disturbing existing operating systems on a PC's hard drive.

Why would you need to remaster your own Knoppix? Watson's answers are to personalize the distribution to your own particular hardware needs. Secondly, to customize the applications on the CD, that is to add, remove or update applications. Finally, "Because you can!" Watson gave several examples of custom Knoppix distributions including: Auditor Security Collection, Bioknoppix the aforementioned KnoppMyth, as well as others. The examples show the wide variety of applications a remastered Knoppix can be used for.

The next area of Watson's presentation was a step-by-step overview of how to remaster your own Knoppix. Due to time constraints he was not able to demonstrate a complete remaster. However, he did show examples of the steps and gave tips at specific points in the process. Handouts with step-by-step instructions, references and tips were handed out to everyone in the audience. Probably the best example of Knoppix usefulness was during his presentation. One of the first steps of remastering is to install Knoppix on to a hard drive for modification. Watson had taken a removeable drive home to work on with another machine. The machine that he was doing the demonstration on had a different graphics controller. No problem, he booted Knoppix, mounted the drive and made the necessary changes to X and booted back into the Knoppix on the hard drive.

Cecil Watson's presentation was a good step for anyone who wishes to create a customized Knoppix distribution, be it for personal or professional reasons, or even "Because you can!" Additionally, the introduction to Knoppix would make anyone not aware of the distribution knowledgable about the uses and the availability of other Knoppix based distributions. The KnoppMyth project also had a booth at SCALE and was demonstrating the distribution as well as giving away CD's of KnoppMyth.

Revew #3 - Personal Linux Operating System

About the Presenter:
Dr. Giovanni A. Orlando is president and founder of Future Technologies, Inc. which creates and distributes the FTOSX Linux distribution. Dr. Orlando is also the author of "The Art of Build Your Personal Operating System" which details how to build your own customized GNU/Linux operating system. The book has its own web site at

By the title of this session I had thought the topic was going to be about how to customize or use your desktop Linux system. This is about the most customized you can get, building your own Linux operating system from the source code up. There are existing tools to build your own distribution, such as the Linux From Scratch project, Dr. Orlando tells us why and how to build your own Linux distribution based on his book which was four years in the making.

Dr. Orlando spoke of the motivation for creating a "Personal Operating System" based on Linux. His main reason was "final and complete independence" of the distribution. You can include or exclude any packages, applications or features to fit your needs. Another reason is full customization, for example when including Mozilla you can customize the default links and logo's. Of course, Dr. Orlando didn't mention, with this amount of power comes the responsibility of maintaining, securing and updating your distribution. Dr. Orlando's primary example of a custom Linux distribution is Wienux developed by the Vienna Municipal Authority which has been installed on thousands of desktops.

The rest of the presentation then went on to building your personal operating system. Some specifics were given but the amount of material wouldn't lend itself to covering any significant discussion of how to build the operating system. Dr. Orlando classifies Linux distributions by the packaging systems used, the Red Hat created RPM system or the Debian apt system. He also says that you could build your own package system, though his own FTOSX is RPM based.

"Personal Linux Operating System" wasn't what I had expected but for those who want to build their own independent operating system Dr. Orlando's presentation covered enough to get you started and what to expect. Though, I haven't read his book, it would seem to be a good guide and reference for such a daunting task.

About the Author:
Ken Leyba is Unix/Linux server administrator as well as a consultant who obtained his RHCT certification recently.
He has taught at the junior college level and has been working with Unix since 1989 (Linux since 1995).