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Hitting the Reset Key the Linux Way
Running a Hotel on Linux
May 19, 2000
Recently Nicholas Petreley was going on about how Windows veterans migrating to Linux have problems because they reboot things instinctively, and how reboots are not necessarily a good thing. I thought about what he was saying and I realized that a lot of people have trouble adjusting to new things, and that anything like that is likely to be stressful, what with pouring over manuals, reading man pages and trying to get things working in the fast paced IT world of today.
Well, I agree, for the most part. But rebooting is not all that bad. Sometimes the process table can become so full that getting the most minor task accomplished seemingly takes forever. Things begin to slow to a crawl, the task switching becomes more and more painful, and a reboot is simply the best thing you can do. We're not talking killing off a few processes--we're talking complete and disorderly shutdown.
Which is why, this past Monday, my wife Lisa stepped into the room, pried the phone out of my right hand, pulled my laptop out of my other hand, and drug my butt kicking and screaming off to Put-In-Bay, Ohio, where I was sure to down a bottle or two of wine. After that, I would emerge fresh as a Linux box after an init 6, albeit the world would be short a few bottles of the good stuff.
I'm glad she did it, because I was getting seriously stressed out, and it takes some extremely hard work for her to put me into a more balanced state.
Note, I didn't say "on balance" or use the term "balanced" or even hint slightly at "lopsided"--my world of late is one of the seriously over-the-edge-geek. We're talking spouting php3 manual excerpts and mySQL joined queries in my sleep--that kind of thing.
She used the Web to choose the hotel, where the rooms had hot tubs and a view of Lake Erie. Lisa is the kind of person that doesn't go near a body of water without forcing me to stop the car, so she can at least put her feet in it. In other words, she relaxes from time to time, and that's a Good Thing (TM). So, the Marblehead Inn in Marblehead Ohio, a scant few miles from Put-In-Bay and right on Lake Erie, was where we landed.
I know what she was thinking too. She thought to herself, "Here's a place at least, where this guy can relax and forget about Linux and work for a while." Little did she realize that I would get a hardware review out of the deal. You see it turns out that unknown to her, and to my incredible delight--the Marblehead Inn runs Linux.
Lisa tends to sleep in during the mornings, while I'm an early riser. The next morning after the major portion of the wine consumption was over I went foraging for some coffee and possibly some donuts to wash it down.
I spent part of the early morning talking with the hotel general manager, Rick Dinan--a really cool guy who was extremely polite. Rick and I exchanged Windows horror stories and the usual observations about Microsoft in general. From what I could tell, he'd never even heard of Linux at all. So it was quite to my pleasant surprise to find out that he had heard of Caldera, and that they were indeed running it behind the front desk.
Rick shared with me that the Linux-based system had not been his first choice, but overall it worked fine, and the overall cost of the system, software, and operating system was a third of the cost of the system he had envisioned. It turned out that a good portion of hotels across the United States were running it too, and at that point I remembered seeing a newswire story about the subject. It's hard to be advocating Linux to somebody who's been using it, doesn't even know it, and near as you could tell, was completely satisfied.
Unfortunately, there were more important things to do than Linux advocacy, as we had to catch a boat over to Middle Bass Island and the Lonz winery. Lonz is really not a winery anymore--it's just a huge, castle-like building, as the wine making was over long since.
But the view is incredible, and we usually have a good time if we can get there at a reasonable hour, and not on a weekend. It turns out that the boats only run three times a day during the off-season, and I had to go. I'm sure Rick had better things to do anyway. Besides, I'm sure some of the guests needed that coffee more than me.
As we drove off for more reset-action, I realized that since the Marblehead Inn ran Linux, it would only be fitting to do a hardware review. One of my friends, Scott Courtney, had just done a very fine piece on the IBM S/390 mainframe running Linux, I've seen Jim Gettys demonstrate it on something that looked like a pack of matches--why not a hotel? And how does it run, anyway?
I was sure that querying minds wanted to know (or maybe it's a case of too much wine, or just a case of wine in general--you decide). So I sat down and did my evaluation from memory.