Why are there too many Linux Distros

Linux (/ˈlinəks/) is An open-source version of the UNIX operating system. It’s kind of a big deal for Servers Mainframes and Super computers.

More than 90% of today’s super computers run on a some kind of Linux. Also many small devices run on Linux even if you can’t tell they do… for example the Android OS is based on Linux.

Linux is great, it’s powering most of the webservers for your favorite websites, since it’s free, highly customizable and very reliable.

That’s great, but why are there way too many Linux distros or distributions?

To answer this question we have to define the difference between Linux and other operating systems (Windows or Mac OS). Any operating system comes with a preinstalled set of applications, a user-interface and built-in drivers. For Windows, Microsoft decides what software they’ll have built-in to Windows and how the Window Manager (The piece of software that organizes the display of windows and dialogs on your computer) will work for this specific version of windows. Microsoft has the one and only decision in this, and there’s only a limited number of customizations we can do to the Window Manager (The Look & Feel of Windows), that Microsoft allows us to change, but those changes we have to do after installing windows.

For example, if I wanted my Microsoft Windows 9 to have WinAmp installed on it out of the box, I’ll have to request Microsoft to do this. They will probably say No, since Windows has that wonderful media player (That I never use). I also cannot ask them to change the color of menus from white to grey just because I like it better that way. Same story for drivers, I don’t use printers, I don’t need Windows to have HP generic printer driver because I have a canon driver but that’s so selfish.

Now comes Linux.. Linux is a kernel (the bridge between applications and actual data processing) and a bunch of free software packages. The flexibility of the OS allows me to choose anything I want and to customize it the way I want. As a programmer, I can fetch the code of any software that my Linux is using, modify it as I wish. Then rebuild it and replace the one installed on my computer.

I can add some new packages, remove others and modify packages as much as I wish. All that is left to do is create an installation disk (or ISO image) for my current OS and distribute is the way I wish (Of course there’s a bunch of licenses that I have to read first).

As software keeps updating to add new features or fix bugs, my OS will have to keep up with the packages I’ve modified or created to keep my OS up-to-date or otherwise it’ll be discontinued just like many other Linux distros. And if my OS was found great by some developers, they’ll help me with ideas, testing and code writing to keep up and add features to my own software.

This answers the question “How is a Linux Distro created” not “Why are there so many of them?”.

As I’ve explained, I’ll most likely base my distro on an existing one to ease the integration of software packages into my OS. I’ll also have to find a team that shares my vision and finds the OS I’m creating great in order to help me develop and maintain it. It’s not that easy to maintain and develop an OS.

There are few basic Linux distros that most other ditros are based on. e.g. “Slackware Linux”, “Redhat”. you check out this Linux Distros Timeline to see how many distros have ever been developed

Something to speed up Windows boot

This is my second post of the day about things you can do to speed up Windows boot time (or startup time). First let me start by expressing how important it is to never rely on most of the tools online that claim to speed up you computer. Most of those tools use registry cleaning, which is never a good idea. Unless you’re an expert and you’re so sure you can fix any problems they may cause manually.

Windows is actually equipped with many tools that can help speeding up your boot time:

Windows Defrag Utility:

Problem:

All computer systems depend on files, files are everywhere. Unfortunately Windows suck at managing those files. Most of your files are distributed into small segments, those segments might be placed at random locations in your hard-disk. So 1 file might be placed at 2 locations very far away from each other meaning more time to read the file.

Solution:

Windows comes with a defrag utility that can move fragments of a file into the same or a close location to other ones minimizing the time needed to access the file (read/write)

Duh!! We all know that!

Trick

But what many people don’t know is that you can use this utility to optimize the files required by Windows boot. Open the start menu, type in cmd, and if you have UAC enabled (in case you don’t know what UAC is, you have it enabled) right click on the cmd and select “Run As Administrator”

Now type in the following command: defrag C: /b
Wait for it till it’s done and you’ll notice you computer is running a bit faster the next time you start it up

Making use of your multi-core processor

Problem:

During Windows boot, the computer is only using a single processor (Or I might be wrong, feel free to let me know if I’m wrong)

Solution:

You can use the msconfig tool (Start ==> msconfig, right click and run as admin) :-

Go to the “Boot” tab as shown in my screenshot, click on the “Advanced options…” button. Check the “Number of processors” in the dialog that shows up and select how many cores do you want Windows to believe you have during its boot.

 

That’s it for tonight, I’ll come up with other things you can do in another post

Speed up Windows boot time

Every time I install windows on my computer I notice it’s booting up and starting up really fast, might be done in less than a minute actually.

Later, about a month or 2 (Or sometimes less) you have to notice the startup time is really increasing. When I was younger I used to reformat my hard-disk and re-install Windows. See, I was a geek with a lot of time in hand. Until recently I found and started using a software called Soluto.

Unlike many software that claim to speed up your boot time by deleting un-needed registry keys or deleting temporary and useless files. Soluto identifies your software and tracks the ones that run during windows boot and startup and calculates the time each process needs to finish it’s startup.

After it processes your software for the first time (after the first boot) using their ‘PC Genome’ database. They identify which processes shouldn’t be in the boot, and the ones that you might not need during windows startup, and the last type… stuff you should keep in the boot.

What you do after that is your own choice. Just open the Soluto window:-

 

Click on the “Chop Boot” button, or just point to it. They have some really nice animations. And you’ll get a window that looks like:-

You can see the 3 groups of software (another one will pop out later) and in my case the green group (The ones you really won’t be missing) is all removed.

And by removed you don’t have to uninstall, Soluto gives you the option to either ‘pause’ a process (meaning it won’t run in windows boot) or you can ‘delay’ a process (meaning it’ll run a minute or two after the boot is done).

Soluto is smart and has a great database so it’ll tell you many things you might want to know about a process before you make your decision. It’ll also tell you exactly how many seconds it’s taking this process to startup.

The only thing I hate about Soluto is having to uninstall (and loose my settings) and resintall on every update they have. Which kinda sucks.

They have many other features that either don’t work or not that useful (Like choosing extensions to disable to speedup your browser startup, or Crash handling that is not working so far).

But if you want my opinion, you really should have this thing installed on your computer.

Installing PHP on Windows 7

PHP is one of the most common web languages out there, Windows is the most used operating system in the world… So I’ll take a wild guess and say many PHP developers use Windows, thus have to install PHP on windows to do their work or test their websites before releasing them online.

Many developers use bundles like XAMPP Or WAMP to install an Apache server, MySql server and PHP. I personally use Microsoft’s ASP.Net for web development most of the time but sometimes I do things on PHP – which is still an awesome scripting language – so I tried to cut back on the resource consumption and get PHP to work on Windows IIS Server.

That was a bit difficult on Windows XP, there were too many things you had to do to get it working. But for Windows 7… Getting PHP to work on IIS will take a couple of minutes if you had a good internet connection. So getting to those steps:

  1. Download and install Microsoft Web Platform Installer.
  2. Start the web platform installer.
  3. While waiting for it to start click on the “Start” button and type “Turn windows features on or off” without the quotes of course.
  4. After the window opens go to the “Internet Information Services ==> World Wide Web Services ==> Application Development Features” And make sure CGI is checked, then click the OK button.
  5. Go back to the Web Platform Installer, and type PHP in the search box and hit the enter button.
  6. When the search results show up, click the “Add” button next to “PHP Manager for IIS”, and press the Install button.
  7. Follow the simple dialogs until you’re done, and voilà, you have PHP running on IIS now.

Let me know how it works out for you

Too much defrag

I’ve installed windows on my computer a couple of days ago, installed all my software and decided it was time to defrag the windows disk

I used Auslogics disk defrag and tried the “Defrag & Optimize” option. Looks like it did it job a little too well

Reigning Pwn2Own champion: "The main thing is not to install Flash!"

Here are the highlights from Miller’s interview:

He thinks Windows 7 will prove more secure than OS X Snow Leopard this year, in part because it doesn’t have Java and Flash enabled by default. Windows’ full ASLR (address space layout randomization) also gives it a security advantage.

When asked what he thought would make the safest OS and browser combo, he opted for Chrome or IE8 on Windows 7, with no Flash installed, although ‘there probably isn’t enough difference between the browsers to get worked up about.’

For my money, the juiciest quote from the interview was ‘The main thing is not to install Flash!

On the mobile side, Miller guessed that the iPhone 3GS would be more easily exploitable than the Motorola Droid, mainly because the iPhone’s been around longer, and has been subjected to more extensive security research.

You can check out Miller’s full answers (in English or Italian!) at OneITSecurity.