Enterprise Unix Roundup: Singing an Open Source Tune Page 2

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Oct 6, 2005

Main     In Other News     Elsewhere in the Corral     Tips of the Trade

In Other News

» Given the chance, some people will go on and on about why Linux is not ready for the desktop. Since we at Enterprise Unix Roundup regularly make use of Linux as we sift through the World o' Unix, we remain unconvinced these folks actually know what they're talking about.

Still, it is a little bit disheartening to know that as of now, no major PC manufacturer in the United States has come out with a pre-loaded Linux machine for the U.S. market.

So we were tickled pink when we heard that Dell, the PC maker that is apparently too confused by the sheer number of Linux distributions to go with one, did the next best thing and started shipping boxes without an onboard operating system.

And there was much rejoicing.

For about a minute. Then, when we checked the online Dell catalog, we noticed something interesting: Dell machines without an operating system were selling for more than the exact same machine preloaded with Windows. Instead of a Microsoft tax on OEM machines, as so many believed, we're now wondering if there is actually a subsidy from Redmond to get its software preloaded out the door?

Specifically, the Dimension 5150 (with Windows) sells for $649, while the Dimension 5150n (sans operating systems) goes for $579. The only difference between the machines is the n-series box has a floppy drive and the Windows box does not. Now, we haven't shopped for floppy drives lately, but it seems that $70 is a lot to tack on to the price of a PC. More so, when you consider that the cost of the operating system should be removed. Did the Pentagon buy these floppy drives? Or is this Dell trying to get more money out of the sale now that Microsoft subsidies are not in the equation?

Certainly interesting questions. We eagerly await the answers.

» For the first part of the week, the hype was huge: Google and Sun Microsystems were going to have a press conference on Tuesday. No one knew what it was about, but there was rampant speculation.

Would there be an Web-enabled version of OpenOffice.org for Google users (which is oh, what, the entire Internet population)? Would Microsoft be able to survive? We waited with anxious, bated breath for the big news. And when the conference came, the press shifted forward on their seats to hear ...

Google was going to have Java tools on its toolbar!

Um. Hello? Is this thing on?

That's right, Google Hype Mania 2005 ground to a screeching halt when the much-anticipated announcement was revealed to be none other than a low-key technology partnership that would have Java tools highlighted in Google's browser toolbar. Thoughts of a titanic battle between Google and Microsoft sank faster than, well, the Titanic.

But hold on, faithful reader, there could be something to this whole Web-enabled OpenOffice.org bit. We may be dating ourselves, but we remember that before Sun owned StarOffice (the proprietary ancestor to OpenOffice.org), the previous owner, Star Division, was making plans to make a future version of StarOffice — you guessed it — Web-enabled. But then the purchase by Sun and the subsequent dot-bomb seemed to make those plans disappear.

But we remember them, and if they are indeed tucked away in some dusty back office at Sun, you can bet they won't be there for long. Indeed, they are very likely being dusted off and adapted for OpenOffice.org 2.0. This would give Sun, and its new buddy Google, a very good head start to making their Web-enabled office suite a reality.

Elsewhere in the Corral

Recent relevant articles about enterprise Unix

  • How do you migrate your whole company to Linux? How about some ideas from a Linux company that's doing it? LinuxPlanet takes a look at Novell's internal migration plans and what it means for its Linux and Unix deployments.
  • Wall Street is a big potential customer for Linux. It's high speed, high performance, and high money. So what's holding it back?
  • Google, Microsoft, AOL, eBay, and SBC are all onto something. Maybe now is the time to take a serious look at the changing face of telecom, according to this Enterprise IT Planet article.

Tips of the Trade

Unix and Linux admins are familiar with using tail to monitor log files in real time:

# tail -f /var/log/secure

MultiTail takes this to the next level and monitors multiple files simultaneously. MultiTail runs on pretty much any Linux or Unix. It uses ncurses to create multiple windows, showing different monitored files. You can monitor a complete directory of files by using wildcards; MultiTail will automatically switch to the file with the most recent activity. Canny use of a few simple regular expressions colorizes the output, or beeps the PC speaker, so important bits can be highlighted. The update frequency is configurable, so slow links need not be overwhelmed.

The simplest way to use MultiTail is to name some files with no options:

# multitail file1 file2 file3

This opens the three files in three windows, with status lines under each window. Then, you can run various commands as the files are monitored. Press the "b" key to bring up a scrolling menu; select the window, then navigate up and down with the arrow keys or PgUp-PgDn. The default is 100 lines. To increase this, use the -m or -M flag:

# multitail -M 200 file1 file2 file3
# multitail -m 200 file1 file2 -m 300 file3

The big -M sets the value for all files; the little -m sets the value for only the following file.

MultiTail can also monitor command output from programs. This is a neat example from the MultiTail manual:

# multitail -R 3 -l "netstat -p tcp"

This displays all TCP activity as it occurs — new connections and closing connections. You'll find this excellent utility at www.vanheusden.com/multitail, and the documentation at www.vanheusden.com/multitail/manual.html.

Carla Schroder writes the Tips of the Trade section of Enterprise Unix Roundup. She also appears on Enterprise Networking Planet and Linux Planet, covering Linux from the desktop to the server room. She is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the upcoming "Linux Networking Cookbook."

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