by Patrick G Horneker
First, my congratulations on the tenth anniversary of PCLinuxOS Magazine. I had the pleasure of writing what I did for this publication.
Speaking of anniversaries, this year marks the twentieth anniversary of my website which started out as an OS/2 support page on GeoCities (how many of you remember that hosting site before Yahoo! took over?), and evolved to a website now serving multiple Linux distributions.
Also, this year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Linux kernel (established in 1991).
The fact that PCLinuxOS was built without corporate support and without billionaires getting involved is amazing. PCLinuxOS does well for those just starting out in the world of Linux, but we still have a long way to go as far as development goes.
No longer is Linux itself simply about replacing the operating system on your laptop or desktop. Cloud computing and virtualization are two of the latest trends for Linux.
For those of you not familiar, cloud computing is the use of networked machines accessible through the Internet, where data is stored and applications are developed and deployed making such applications available to the end user, where all the end user has to do is access the application through a web browser.
Google Docs is an example of a cloud computing application. The office suite that we use to produce these articles was developed at Google and stored on their servers. All we do is use a web browser to access that application.
Patrick Horneker, from 2009.
OpenShift is another platform where applications are developed and deployed in programming languages such as Java, PHP, and Python. You can install OpenShift on a server as part of a private cloud, or you can use Red Hat's cloud (http://www.openshift.com) to develop and test applications, and sync those applications on your local machine for offline development (and maybe deployment on a private cloud running OpenShift).
SuSE Studio (http://www.susestudio.com) is another cloud computing service that allows you to create your own Linux distribution (based on OpenSuSE or SuSE Linux Enterprise) and distribute your product on a DVD (or a flash drive), a virtual machine image for QEMU or VirtualBox, or a cloud image for Amazon Web Services.
Docker (http://www.docker.com) is another technology developed for the deployment of applications in virtual machines called containers. The concept of containers can be compared to shipping of merchandise in containers that are loaded at a factory in some far away place, then taken to a terminal for the container to be loaded onto a ship bound for Prince Rupert, at which the container is then loaded onto a container train bound for Chicago. Then at Chicago, the container is then loaded onto a truck for local delivery.
A Docker container is intended for deployment of self contained application running on an instance of Linux (so far Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and OpenSuSE are supported), where the operating system image and its application (and dependencies) are stored on one image file.
The intent of Docker is to facilitate development and distribution of Internet applications, independent of the underlying operating system where the application was developed. Docker uses virtualization to execute containers.
Speaking of virtualization, we have QEMU, VirtualBox, Xen and VMWare available for Linux. Only VMWare is a commercial product. Hyper-V was designed as a virtual machine for Windows, and Parallels is a commercial product for Mac OS-X.
Installing and running PCLinuxOS on Parallels, fortunately, will not void the Apple warranty, and is a safe way to dual-boot between Mac OS-X and PCLinuxOS. In fact, you can run both operating systems at the same time on a Mac.
While I'm not as active on the PCLinuxOS forum as I once was, I have not given up on PCLinuxOS. On my laptop, it is running inside QEMU on the latest version of Fedora (which should be version 24 by the time you read this). I am deciding whether to convert to dual booting between Fedora and PCLinuxOS (an interesting American combination).
Which brings up the next topic: The future of PCLinuxOS.
December 1998 was when I first started using Linux. I obtained a AcerFrame 500 machine with a SCSI hard drive and a single floppy drive. The machine was running Novell Netware 3.x. I installed a CD-ROM drive (and an ATAPI controller), and replaced NetWare with Red Hat Linux 5.0.
This was a time when most people connected to the Internet through a 56K modem and a phone line, and data was backed up with a tape drive or on floppies.
Fast forward to 2007. I was introduced to PCLinuxOS when I purchased a magazine containing a DVD-ROM that had the distribution. It replaced the Mepis installation I was running at the time. (Note: Mepis itself is no longer being developed, but has continued on as Anti-X, and even that has not been as successful.)
I have tried other distributions over the years, and am now split between PCLinuxOS and Fedora, both of which are great products, and both keep up to date with what I consider to be essential software.
The fact that PCLinuxOS has dropped 32-bit support altogether is an indication that 64-bit operating systems are the future of computing. There are still plenty of distributions that support 32-bit machines (Pentium IV or earlier class), but then older machines will never be able to effectively run a modern Linux distribution and/or a modern desktop such as KDE 5 (which is still under development for PCLinuxOS).
So, dropping 32-bit support makes sense here. Where 32-bit support is needed, say for running Wine, there is a separate 32-bit libraries package in the repository.
Also the decision to not include systemd was a risk taken. (Some of you will disagree with me on this, but that is just my opinion.)
Yes, systemd is a complex system of controlling your Linux machine, but it is not that bad as it looks. In fact, systemd actually makes easier work when it comes to system administration.
Having said that, I would like to bring up another question.
Is PCLinuxOS ready for the future of information technology, especially when it comes to the enterprise, cybersecurity, and cloud computing?
I'll leave that for you the readers to decide.
In my opinion, PCLinuxOS is a great system for a desktop replacement. As of this writing, DistroWatch ranks PCLinuxOS as 15th, with Slackware just below that at 16th (creeping up from 20th last month), Fedora at 6th, CentOS at 7th, Manjaro at 5th, OpenSuSE at 4th, and Mint at the top of the list.
This is not the only thing of concern here. Microsoft has included some Linux functionality in Windows 10, with a compatibility layer that allows some Linux binaries to run on Windows, not unlike WINE that is available in the repository. Also, the Bourne Again Shell (or bash as we know it) has been ported to Windows 10. Microsoft in exchange has provided the Visual Studio Editor for Linux distributions.
All of this is thanks to Canonical and its recent partnership with Microsoft. From what I have seen going on with their flagship product lately, Canonical is fast becoming another Microsoft.
So now, we also have Windows 10 to compete with. Fortunately for us, PCLinuxOS does not automatically delete any software without the user's permission.
Ease of use in PCLinuxOS is one thing, but keeping PCLinuxOS safe and secure (just as Red Hat has done with SELinux) is another. While SELinux provides a second layer of security in the form of file and resource labelling and auditing, there is nothing like common sense and Internet safety to ensure that security.
As for cloud computing, I would like to be able to run Docker on PCLinuxOS. This would allow a database server, Apache, and a Java application server all running at the same time on PCLinuxOS, using fewer resources, not to mention a few instances of a few Linux distributions running inside those containers.
If this is not possible, then we could come up with a similar product (to add to the list of packages written specifically for PCLinuxOS) that does something similar to Docker.
Patrick Horneker was a contributor to The PCLinuxOS Magazine after its relaunch in July, 2009. He wrote several articles for the magazine back then, and accepted an invitation to write an article for the magazine's 10th anniversary.