Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Take my money but leave my Podcasts!

For the last couple of weeks I have been struggling with getting Podcasts to work properly on my Ubuntu desktop. I evaluated a lot of different software packages (a lot of them with varying support of iTunes features) but still resolved to running iTunes on Windows XP as a VMware guest operating system... painful.

This process was very error prone to say the least. VMware would not my detect my iPod if the guest was already running, forcing me to reboot the Guest OS whenever I wanted to sync iTunes with the iPod. Ubuntu/dbus/usb kept on grabbing the iPod and mounting it whenever a sync was finished in iTunes (it automatically unmounts the iPod - music on the run). I had to resort to blacklisting "automount" for the iPod in fstab.

Being a FLOSS developer I resolved to investigate how to improve iPod support in Banshee. I quite enjoy Banshee and it supports basic iPod syncing pretty well - fine if you're just listening to music. The features I wanted to add:

  1. Support for the Podcast menu on the iPod (I hate having to browse through music/albums/artists to find my podcasts)
  2. Proper ordering of the podcast (sorted according to date, newest at the top)
  3. Read/Unread status (show me which ones I have not listened to please :-) )
Enter gPodder...

After searching a little bit for some sort of format specification I stumbled across a Free Software Magazine article in which the author mentions: gPodder

gPodder is a PyGTK application which supports all the critical features I mentioned above and does a great job of syncing the latest and greatest Podcasts to my iPod. A real life saver. gPodder even behaves well with Banshee - you can sync music from Banshee and add your Podcasts using gPodder.

Of course I also have the advantage of working for Impi Linux which meant that Francis (one of our distribution guys) could give me the luxury of just typing:

sudo apt-get install gpodder

Now I'm just waiting for my favorite shows to update so that I can enjoy my ride home listening to my favorite podcast programs. Joy!!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ubuntu and the Enterprise Directory

One of the Google Summer of Code projects for Ubuntu is "LDAP Out-of-the-box" (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/GoogleSoC2007) - something that we are busy addressing within Impi Linux at the moment.

After a cursory investigation I have come to belief that unfortunately not much has changed in the last 4 years regarding Linux and something like an Enterprise Directory.

What do I mean by an Enterprise Directory?
- A product like Microsoft Active Directory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_directory) and Novell eDirectory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novell_eDirectory) built from FLOSS

The challenges?
- Just as far as Kerberos is concerned here is a preview...
  1. Currently neither Heimdal or MIT Kerberos can be found in the stable Dapper repositories (only in Universe).
  2. A sane default configuration has to the developed and packaged for easy installation.
  3. Bootstrap processes need to be developed to get the system up and running.
  4. Clients have to recompiled/patches/fixed to support SSO via Kerberos
  5. The client OS has to be "kerberized" (pam support for kerberos logon, changing of passwords, password policies...)
Then there's LDAP, Samba, Cups, DNS, etc, etc.

No wonder the state has not changed much in the last 4 years...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The shoulders of giants

I've been in the privileged position over the last 2 months to see the company that I work for go from strength to strength. The company is of course Impi Linux (http://www.impilinux.co.za) and the majority shareholder is Mark Shuttleworth. The idea behind Impi is to create derivatives of Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com) for business and government.

Ubuntu is a fantastic Linux distribution, do yourself a favor and try the latest preview of the upcoming version 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). It is truly terrific and its getting rave reviews already (http://www.osnews.com/story.php/17505/Ubuntu-Feisty-Fawn-Desktop-Linux-Matured), Feisty Fawn demonstrates what the potential of a mature Linux distribution is.

Ubuntu aims primarily at the desktop and its audience is a global one. This means that although the offering is very mature and has most if not all of the features that a user would need, it does not cater out-of-the-box for the enterprise. That is where Impi comes in.

With Impi Linux we have the advantage and privilege of standing on the shoulders of giants, we take the solid base that Ubuntu offers us and we add what our customers require to deploy it in the business environment. To give you an idea of what this means, these are the features that we focus our attention on:
  1. Single-Sign On (Kerberos, Password Management)
  2. Directory Enabled clients and servers (based on Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Server)
  3. Groupware (based on Kolab/http://www.kolab.org)
And much, much more...

When a business looks at Impi they get the advantage of a great product, due to its Ubuntu heritage, but they also get those features that are critical to their day to day operation and productivity.

From high up here it sure looks promising for the Linux desktop and server.