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Ubuntu 13.10 takes aim at Microsoft, Apple, Google

Tom Henderson, ExtremeLabs, Inc. | Jan. 7, 2014
Canonical is making a serious run at the cloud, client, server and smartphone markets.

The LXC setup contains templates that can be used, although some are experimental. We chose to boot a simple application (a WordStar-like text editor) into an AppArmor shell. SELinux barriers and constructs are also supported. We set up an LXC bridge, provisioned it, then stuffed the application inside the container. It takes about 10 lines of code from initial start until the app is deployed, all of which can be built into a script with arguments to provision many containers simultaneously, much as the popular Puppet instance controller product provisions OS instances through a communications bus. Everything can be setup to boot at once, by dependency choice, and/or at restart time. File system mounting is easily supported, and one needs to be careful that file locks don't thwart multiple app instance access.

Although not reviewed here, we tried Canonical's optional Landscape service, which can be hosted internally or by Canonical. It reports conditions of covered Ubuntu instances. It can inform an administrator if instances need updates, has failed in a number of ways, when administrative approval is needed, when certain types of jobs are completed, and when upgrades are available and applied.

It's a bit primitive compared to other third-party packages, and those that are largely OS-specific, like Microsoft System Center. It's possible to watch administrative jobs like cloud populating, as well as dreary desktop instance monitoring.  

Cross Platform
"The Desktop, The Server, and The Smartphone" sounds like the title to a bad poem, but it's possible to do with Ubuntu 13.10, although the number of smartphones supported today appears to be just two. We had a leftover Nexus 4 from another experiment, and went through the provisioning steps to upgrade it to Ubuntu, via Ubuntu's developer site.

Currently, the smartphone/phablet program is available only to developers and OEMs. We therefore put on our developer hats and gave it a try. The Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 are the only phones supported, and only a shell and core apps are available. We used a T-Mobile SIM to make a call. The call worked. The steps in between using an Android 4.2+ phone and running Ubuntu are many.

The phone has to be reflashed, via a USB cable connection. Then, our Nexus had to be unlocked, via the factory OEM unlocking method, all described on the Ubuntu website. Once back into Android Jelly Bean 4.1, we downloaded the image needed, which is a one-way step. This is the step that requires the most patience, as it takes much longer than we expected. We were ready to restart the process when magically, the phone restarted and came up. We made a call, and yes, went to Facebook. It's well-documented, and heavily full of caveats.


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