Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.
IBM announced that it will offer [three free months of IBM Smart Business Cloud] computing and storage services to government agencies, charitable non-profit organizations, and other organizations involved with reconstruction resulting from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan and the northern Pacific region.
With traditional communications down, and many data centers incapacitated, Cloud Computing can be a great way to resume operations. According to the announcement, organizations can submit their requests now until April 30, and the program will run until July 31, 2011. Options include:
Virtual machine images running 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Linux or Windows.
60GB to 2 TB of disk storage per instance.
Options for various IBM middleware (DB2, Informix, Lotus, and WebSphere)
Rational Application Lifecycle Management and Tivoli Monitoring software
The offer also includes [LotusLive] Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for email and online collaboration. For more about LotusLive, see this [Red Paper].
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], I have gotten all my programs operational, transferred and organized all my data, and now ready for testing. You can read my previous posts on this series: [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3], [Day 4].
At this point, you might be thinking, "Testing? Just use your laptop already, deal with problems as you find them!" In my case, I need to sign off that the new laptop meets my needs, and then send back my previous laptop, wiped clean of all passwords and data. I have until the end of June to do this.
The value of testing is to avoid problems later, perhaps an inconvenient time such as a business trip or client briefing. It is better to work out any issues while I am still in the office, connected to the internal IBM intranet on a high-speed wired connection. Also, I plan to do a Physical-to-Virtual (P-to-V) conversion of my Windows XP C: drive to run as a virtual guest OS on Linux, so I want to make sure the image is in working order before the conversion. That said, here is what my testing encountered.
Of the 134 applications I had identified as being installed on my old laptop, I determined that I only needed about 70 of them. The others I did not bother to install on the new.
I had not thought about "addons" and "plugins" that I have that attach themselves inside browsers or other applications. I made sure that Flash, Shockwave and Java worked correctly on all three browsers: IE6, Firefox and Opera.
One of my "plugins" is an application called [iSpring Pro, which plugs into Microsoft PowerPoint. I thought I had Microsoft Office installed, but found out the standard IBM build had only the viewers. I installed Microsoft Office 2003 Standard Edition with PowerPoint, Excel and Word. I then realized that I did not have the original V4.3 installation file for iSpring Pro, so I downloaded the latest v5 from their website. However, my license key is only for version 4, so a quick email got this resolved, and the nice folks at iSpring Solutions sent me the v4.3 installation file.
Shameless Plug: We use iSpring Pro to record our voices with PowerPoint slides to generate web videos for the [IBM Virtual Briefing Center] which we use to complement face-to-face briefings. This allows attendees to review introductory materials to prepare for their visit to Tucson, or to stay up-to-date on products and features in between annual visits. If you have not checked out the IBM Virtual Briefing Center, now is a good time to see what videos and other resources we have out there. You can even request to schedule a briefing in Tucson!
Testing out iSpring Pro, I realized that there are no jacks for my headset. On my old ThinkPad T60, I had two jacks, one green for headphone and one pink for microphone. My headset has two cables, one for each, which I then use for the recordings. I also use this for online webinars and training sessions. Apparently, ThinkPad T410 went for a single 3.5mm "Combo" audio jack that handles both roles. Fortunately, there is a [Headset Buddy] adapter that merges the two cables from my headset to the combo jack on my new laptop. I ordered one which will arrive some time next week.
My new laptop doesn't fit my old docking station either. I had set the docking station aside while I had the two laptops latched together for the file transfers, but now that I am done with the old laptop, I discovered that my new T410 doesn't fit. I ordered a new one.
Using find, grep, awk, sort and uniq, I was able to generate a list of all the file extensions on my Documents foler. I was able to find old Lotus 123, Freelance Graphics, and Wordpro files. I thought Lotus Symphony would handle these, but it does not. I was able to install an old version of Lotus Smartsuite that includes these programs so that I can process these files.
I also found in the extensions list pptx, docx and xlsx files, which represent the new Microsoft Office 2007 formats. I installed the "Format Compatability Pack" that allows Office 2003 read these files.
Lastly, I installed a few programs that support a wide variety of file formats. VideoLAN's [VLC] plays a variety of audio and video files. [7-Zip] packs and unpacks a variety of archive files. (Note: Another program, BitZipper, also supports a variety of archive formats, but the install will corrupt your Firefox and IE browsers with new tool bars, change your search engine default, and install a lot of other unwanted software. Cleaning up the mess can be time-consuming. You have been warned!) I also installed [MadEdit], a binary/hex/text editor that will open any file to see what kind of format it has inside. From this, I was able to determine that some of my extension-less files were GIF, RTF or PDF format, and rename them accordingly.
With the testing done, I am ready to go wipe my old system of all passwords and data!
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], let's recap my progress so far:
[Day 1 afternoon], I received the laptop from shipping on Wednesday, took a backup of the factory install image to an external USB drive, and re-partitioned to run both Windows and Linux operating systems.
[Day 2], I spent Thursday using the "Migration Assistant" tool, and completed the operation sending the rest of my data over to the /dev/sda6 NTFS partition.
So now, Friday (day 3), I get to install any applications that were not part of the pre-installed image. Thankfully, I had planned ahead and figured out the 134 different applications that I had on my old system. I printed out a copy of my spreadsheet, and used it as a checklist to systematically go through the list. For each one, I determined one of the following:
If I could find the application already installed, either the same version or newer, or functionally equivalent, then I would mark it down as being part of the factory build. Of those programs pre-installed, I am quite pleased that the settings were carried over during yesterday's file transfer. For example, my bookmarks and bookmarklets on Firefox are all in tact. However, it did not carry forward all of my Firefox addons, so these I had to install separately.
IBM Standard Software Installer is our internal website for IBM and select third-party software for the different operating systems supported. Many of the ISSI programs were already included in the factory build, such as Lotus Notes, Lotus Symphony, Firefox browser, and so I had very few left remaining to do manually from ISSI.
INSTALL from D:\Install-Files
As I mentioned in my previous post, I saved the ZIP or EXE files of installation, as well as any license keys, URLs and other useful information to re-install each application.
COPY over from D:\Prog-Files
Many programs don't have installation files, because they don't need to update the registry or create Desktop icons or Taskbar management buttons. For these I can just copy the directory over to C:\Program Files.
In some cases, the Install-File was fairly downlevel, so I downloaded a fresh copy from the Web. In other cases, I forgot to save the ZIP or EXE, so this was the backup plan.
DEFER for later install
I worked down the list alphabetically, but some programs needed other programs to be installed first, or I needed to find the license registry key, or whatever. This allowed me to focus on the most important programs first. Others I might defer indefinitely until I need them, such as programs to access Second Life, or to build software for Lego Mindstorms robots.
SKIP those applications no longer required
Some programs just don't need to be on my new system. This includes software to manage printers I no longer have, drivers to attach to gadgets and devices I no longer own, and software that might have been specific to the old ThinkPad T60. This was also a good time to "de-duplicate" similar applications. For example, I have decided to limit myself to just three browsers: Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer IE6.
The planning paid off. I was able to confirm or install all of my applications today and have a fully working Windows XP system partition. I celebrated by taking another backup.
"With Cisco Systems, EMC, and VMware teaming up to sell integrated IT stacks, Oracle buying Sun Microsystems to create its own integrated stacks, and IBM having sold integrated legacy system stacks and rolling in profits from them for decades, it was only a matter of time before other big IT players paired off."
Once again we are reminded that IBM, as an IT "supermarket", is able to deliver integrated software/server/storage solutions, and our competitors are scrambling to form their own alliances to be "more like IBM." This week, IBM announced new ordering options for storage software with System x servers, including BladeCenter blade servers and IntelliStation workstations. Here's a quick recap:
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack v6.1 supports both Windows and Linux! FastBack is a data protection solution for ROBO (Remote Office, Branch Office) locations. It can protect Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, DB2, Oracle applications. FastBack can provide full volume-level recovery, as well as individual file recovery, and in some cases Bare Machine Recovery. FastBack v6.1 can be run stand-alone, or integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution.
FlashCopy Manager v2.1
FlashCopy Manager uses point-in-time copy capabilities, such as SnapShot or FlashCopy, to protect application data using an application-aware approach for Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL server, DB2, Oracle, and SAP. It can be used with IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), DS8000 series, DS5000 series, DS4000 series, DS3000 series, and XIV storage systems. When applicable, FlashCopy manager coordinates its work with Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interface. FlashCopy Manager can provide data protection using just point-in-time disk-resident copies, or can be integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution to move backup images to external storage pools, such as low-cost, energy-efficient tape cartridges.
General Parallel File System (GPFS) v3.3 Multiplatform
GPFS can support AIX, Linux, and Windows! Version 3.3 adds support for Windows 2008 Server on 64-bit chipset architectures from AMD and Intel. Now you can have a common GPFS cluster with AIX, Linux and Windows servers all sharing and accessing the same files. A GPFS cluster can have up to 256 file systems. Each of these file systems can be up to 1 billion files, up to 1PB of data, and can have up to 256 snapshots. GPFS can be used stand-alone, or integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution with parallel backup streams.
For full details on these new ordering options, see the IBM [Press Release].