Great Open Source Desktop,Laptops and Servers for your business

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We have been wondering how can we lead small business down a path were they can save money on much needed new hardware and at the same time get their work done. By getting their work done we mean having the basic default software requirements that most businesses would use such as an office suite, minor graphics, publishing applications.

On the hardware side we currently have a company called System76(www.system76.com) which provides most hardware that small businesses may require such as desktops, laptops and servers. They offer pretty good systems at a very low price compare to most major hardware vendors such as Dell, Acer or HP.

They currently have desktops/Nettops starting at $239 called the Meerkat NetTop(http://www.system76.com/product_info.php?cPath=27&products_id=91). For the amount of money this baby is going for it is pretty decent to get all of your work done and it comes with pretty much all the default software you would need to run your business or get some much needed work done. This particular NetTop comes with Ubuntu 10.04(64-Bit) and it also has the Open Office suite installed as default. It also comes with the Ubuntu Software Center by default so that you can download any additional software you may need such as the GIMP/inkscape(Graphics Design) or Scribus(Desktop Publishing) all are equivalents to Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, MS Publisher or Quark Express. We personally use these applications in-house for all of our needs and they work very well if not excellent, they are a total substitute to the above mentioned software packages.

On the portable/laptop side of things System76 also offers some pretty low priced systems that are pretty powerful for most basic business needs. For example there is the Starling Netbook(http://www.system76.com/product_info.php?cPath=28&products_id=105) for $389.00 and the Lemur Ultra thin(http://www.system76.com/product_info.php?cPath=28&products_id=106) for $729.00. These netbooks/laptops are pretty powerful for the price.

On the server side they offer the Eland Pedestal(http://www.system76.com/product_info.php?cPath=29&products_id=62) starting at $798.00 with 8GB of ram, an Intel processors(2.2GHZ Duo Core – Upgradeable) plus 250GB of storage space(upgradeable to 2TB). I say for that amount this server can be more than sufficient for any small business which requires an office server. The one thing about this particular server is that it requires some space as it is a tower and not rack mountable. However for those of you who require rack mounted servers and or have little room to spare you can always get the Jackal 1U(http://www.system76.com/product_info.php?cPath=29&products_id=64) with the same specifications for $898.00. If you require more power there are other offers you small business owners can take advantage of click here to view their line of servers.

As a reminder System76 is not the only vendor which provides a powerful operating system such as Ubuntu; Zareason is also another Hardware provider(http://zareason.com/shop/home.php). Dell offers Ubuntu as well for home users although their offerings is not as vast as System76. On the server side Dell can provide different variations of Linux. The difference once again is the price. System76 beats them in pricing and to some extend in features and component quality.

As a side note we recently performed some server installs of the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS server operating system along with some Ubuntu desktops for one of our clients and we were able to provide them with a complete scalable office solution which compensates for active directory, Microsoft office suites, desktop/web calendar solutions and document sharing. Our setup also included a complete configuration of the MYSQL Database server and the Postfix email/spam assassin server. All of this was configured on System76 hardware which included servers, laptops and desktops. If you are in need of setting up a complete office environment but can’t afford the Microsoft/Dell,HP(Insert Vendor here) high prices then consider using smaller vendors and using reliable open source solutions.

For more information on Ubuntu vendor support please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_%28operating_system%29#Vendor_support

The MAC OSX and Freedom of Choice

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I read an article this past weekend which refers to Steve Jobs as some kind of dictator. The author out of all things is trying to or actually intends to switch to Ubuntu/Linux. The author of this article is basing his decision on not having freedom of choice. I believe that if you run a business and you use your computer(s) to keep that business running then you should always have the freedom and choice to move to a different platform. However in this case I believe that the author of the article may not be doing it for the right reasons.

He claims that Apple is putting restrictions on his operating system and that Steve Jobs most likely will not continue to develop the MAC OSX any further or that at some point it will become stagnant. He also credits Microsoft for having a great OS in Windows 7 but also says that this OS is also too restrictive; And that all of Apple’s development will most likely go into the iPad/iPhone.

I feel that most users don’t care about freedom when it comes to a computer or software; to them they see it as a dishwasher or a refrigerator. If your not a geeky techie type then you really would not care about this and actually pay as much as you can for a piece of hardware/software regardless of what freedoms it may or may not offer you. Well if you are a business owner you should really pay more attention to this kind of freedom and stop looking at your computer as some piece of appliance equipment because it actually holds valuable information and it is an extension of you, yes an extension. Most PC user keep tons of personal information in it such as pictures, music, movies, documents etc… So what happens if and when you do decide to switch to a different operating system such as Windows or Ubuntu/Linux? Well on the MAC I think is fairly easy to move as it does not seem to have too many restrictions like on a Windows platform. Although anything like movies you’ve downloaded or anything that you have not created yourself maybe a bit hard to transfer over due to DRM (Digital Rights Management – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management / http://www.defectivebydesign.org/what_is_drm) restrictions.

The MAC OSX is actually a great operating system. The only issue is that is extremely expensive although some might argue that you are actually paying for quality which I tend to agree to a point. As far as freedom goes you have the freedom to do what you like with your own personal stuff that resides in that computer but like Microsoft you don’t really own the OS, you are merely renting it since you can’t make any modifications or anything like that and that is fine because most users don’t care(although they should).

So I wonder why is this particular author complaining about the MAC OSX since he knew from the start that the OS had its terms of agreement and he agreed to it when he purchased his MAC book pro.

Steve Jobs will not make the OS stagnant specially since the MAC is gaining so much market share and most Windows users seem to be switching over. I will also point out that they are not just moving to the MAC OS but also towards Linux(mainly Ubuntu). If you have no issues with renting an OS and not being able to tweak it as much as you like then the MAC OSX gives you freedom enough to the point were you can move your personal stuff in and out of it as long as you play within Apple’s rules and the same goes for Windows (DRM anyone).

The one thing the author was 100% correct was that at some point you will eventually be totally locked in on either platform(MAC OSX or Windows) and also claims this is the reason why he is moving to Linux, I will closely follow his progress and see how it goes.

But again if you don’t care about your OS freedom the MAC OSX is a damn good system.

Article: http://www.salon.com/technology/dan_gillmor/2010/06/20/from_mac_to_linux/index.html

How to administer Ubuntu/Linux servers through your web browser

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In the IT world it is very common to see IT administrators mange Windows servers. Most of these IT administrators either went to school where they were only taught how to setup networks using only Microsoft technology or only dealt with Windows servers and nothing else. We too at some point only dealt with Windows servers and yes we struggled with the reboots and the patches that sometimes brought them down. So we put ourselves through all these headaches simply because we did not want to deal with command line terminals or poor Linux/Unix point and click interfaces.

Well we got news for all those IT administrators who are still hanging on to their Windows servers just because of their GUIs. Yes we IT administrators now have the option to choose between Windows or Linux servers without the need to worry about the terminal/command line.

Most Linux servers give you the options to install a GUI or simply stick to the command line. While most hardcore Linux administrators will tell you that a server should not use a GUI and that the command line is the best way to go not only because of security reasons but also because you can get things done faster. And to some extend they are 100% correct but if you are a novice in Linux land and are trying to get your feet wet then why punish yourselves.

So instead of actually installing a complete desktop layer like Gnome(http://www.gnome.org/) or KDE(http://www.kde.org/) you could instead install Webmin(http://www.webmin.com/) which allows you to completely control and configure your servers. Webmin runs as a web application on a secure port and with a self signed security certificate so all of the information being transmitted is encrypted. It is also extremely easy to setup/install and once this is done you can use it to update your servers right from your web browser.

What can I do with Webmin?

  • Configure your server
  • Install/Update Server
  • Install and Update software
  • Manage Firewalls
  • Manage Email Servers
  • Manage SSH Servers/Connections
  • Manage Database servers(a variety to choose from)
  • Manage Network interfaces and connections
  • Manage Web Servers and Websites
  • Manage Hard disks and volume shares
  • Manage system backups
  • Manage Users/Groups/Directory/File permissions
  • Much more…

Don’t take our word for it take it for a spin http://webmin-demo.virtualmin.com/.

Now Windows administrators have zero excuse to not use Linux in their server rooms. We also recommend Ubuntu(http://www.ubuntu.com/) for Linux novice whom maybe reluctant to take the plunge trust me you will not regret it.