Finally. Amazon Web Services has released a new feature called Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) resource map, which simplifies the VPC creation experience in the AWS sonsole. This feature displays existing VPC resources and their routing visually on a single page, allowing users to quickly understand the architectural layout of the VPC.
The new VPC creation experience streamlines the process of creating and connecting VPC resources with just one click, even across multiple Availability Zones (AZs). The VPC resource map also allows users to quickly understand the architectural layout of the VPC, including the number of subnets, which subnets are associated with the public route table, and which route tables have routes to the NAT Gateway. Additionally, users can customize a Name tag per resource in the preview and easily change the default CIDR value and subnet mask. The Amazon VPC resource map is now available in all AWS Regions where Amazon VPC is available.
After years of procrastination, I finally did it. I am now using Linux not just on the server side, but as my primary OS, and I can’t be happier.
I have been a Linux user for most of my professional life, but my usage has been limited to the server side of things. Like most people, my working OS has been Windows from day one. There have been attempts to integrated the *nix way of doing things over the years: cygwin, git bash, WSL, running Linux in a VM under Windows. However, the user experience is clunky and there are always issues to work around.
It happens that the time has come to replace my primary working machine – currently a 5 year old notebook running Windows 10. I am a long time fan of the Intel NUC and thought it’s a good opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone – setup a Linux desktop distro on the Intel NUC to try out the experience.
I managed to buy a 2nd hand Intel NUC (NUC8i3BEH), complete with 500GB SSD and 8GB RAM. It is not high-end or even mid-end by today’s standards, but I figured it should be good enough for testing.
The immediate problem is deciding which Linux desktop distro to install. And there are a lot of options out there. Since I’m familiar with Ubuntu I decided to limit my options to Ubuntu-based ones. I’m not a fan of the default Ubuntu experience with Unity. After much evaluation I decided on Linux Mint, as it is Windows-like, has LTS support, and does not use snap.
Downloading and install Linux Mint is straightforward. I chose the Cinnamon edition, as I wanted the default and up-to-date experience with Mint. On hindsight, I might have done better with Xfce, as it is uses less resources. More importantly, I discovered later that Cinnamon does not have the ability to restore applications (session restoration) after reboot, which Xfce does. It is not a showstopper, but would be a nice to have.
The default appearance and behaviour of Linux Mint is familiar enough that most Windows users would have no problem using it. However, I personally dislike the Mint start icon, and wanted to have a more Windows-like experience (the irony). Here’s what I did:
Change the start button
Change the trashbin icon
Configure a more Explorer look-and-feel
Change application icons (Thunderbird, Firefox)
Change padding around icons in the taskbar
Change shortcut for screen lock, workspace switch
Here is the initial result:
I am really surprised that everything feels so snappy. And this is on a low-end i3 processor from 5 generations ago. Going from cold boot to login screen takes 4 seconds. Booting a freshly installed Windows 10 in QEMU takes about 10 seconds. Firefox, Thunderbird, VS code all feels like they have been given a new lease of life. CPU and memory usage is low, compared to Windows 10 with the same number of applications opened. Bluetooth setup took a bit of getting used to, but after it is done everything just works.
Linux Mint comes batteries included, so as to speak. Some may not like it as it does have quite a number of applications that you may not use. But there are surprises like hypnotix which allows me to watch Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC for free, among others. It also comes installed with LibreOffice, which some may not like. Fortunately uninstalling software in Linux is normally a breeze. Mint comes with Software Manager, which makes finding, installing and uninstalling software very easy.
As with any new OS, there are lots of tinkering after the initial setup. Some other things I set up include:
Flatseal – extremely useful to manage flatpak permissions.
zram – extends swap with compressed RAM. Honestly I haven’t seen real benefits, but that’s probably due to the low memory usage at the moment.
Samba – QEMU comes with Samba, so it’s just a matter of configuring it to share my folders with other Windows clients.
Tailscale – Tailscale provides a way for all my devices to behave as though they are on the same network, even when they are not (eg. when I bring my notebook to office). It also works for phones. Read my other review.
Remmina – Remmina is a remote viewer client that supports RDP and VNC and it works better than the default Remote Viewer client in Linux Mint.
Barrier – virtual mouse/keyboard that works across Windows and Linux desktop.
Syncthing – to synchronize files across multiple clients, for situations where the device might be used in an offline environment.
PlayOnLinux – provides a persistent environment to run Windows applications in Linux via Wine.
x11vnc – Linux doesn’t come with Remote Desktop built-in. One popular option is to use one of the VNC servers. x11vnc is a non-commercial solution and is as simple as it gets.
Many others like Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, git, vscode, vim-gtk etc.
The Good Side
After using Linux Mint daily for 2 weeks, I have fully embraced it and notice I am not using my Windows notebook that much. Some benefits I noted so far:
Fantastic developer experience
docker, symlink etc just works
QEMU is amazingly fast, compared to VirtualBox
no more second class citizen using things like git bash, WSL
Gnome terminal replaces command prompt, git bash and PuTTy (no more PuTTy key conversion)
no unexpected Windows update happening at the most inopportune time
no funny search indexer or software reporter running in the background causing CPU spikes
no disappearing disk space due to WinSxS
no more rebooting multiple times after installing applications
no more extra folders/files like System Information, $RECYCLE.BIN and Thumbs.db littered everywhere
almost anything can be customized to your liking. You might have to find the right docs though
you don’t think twice about installing software ‘cos you can always uninstall them cleanly afterwards
It is not all a bed of roses however. There are some gotcha moments too, some which are unexpected:
Installing software can be confusing for beginners, ‘cos there are so many ways to do it. You can do it either via a package manager like flatpak, snap, apt/deb, or portable style like AppImage, or adhoc-ly via tarball, curl/bash or compiling from source. It can also be hard to figure out where the config files are (/etc, .local, .config, dconf, within flatpak, etc.)
Flatpak packages do not have access to the host file system by default. So if you drag a file from the desktop to your Flatpak app it might not work. This is a common gotcha that will catch Flatpak newbies off guard. Thankfully, you can easily manage permissions using Flatseal.
The size of software packages installed can vary wildly depending on packaging type. In one rather extreme example, for the same package, it can take either 1.1MB or 2.3GB(!). More than 2000x difference!
Obviously the biggest drawback of a Linux desktop is the inability to run native Windows programs. Well, Wine does a pretty admirable job, but it cannot cover the huge surface area of the Windows API and ecosystem. Running stuff in a VM is sometimes not ideal. I end up falling back to my Windows notebook for the following software:
Microsoft Office (yes I know you may be able to run Office 2016 32-bit using Wine, but I don’t really want to go that route)
Teams Microsoft actually has a Linux version of Teams. Good job!
There are some unresolved problems at the time of writing:
VPN gets disconnected after my NIC link goes down and up. I have yet to find a good way to restart VPN automatically in network manager.
XMind does not open a document that is double-clicked in Files. It just launches the application without opening the document.
There is an ever-so-slight initial delay when moving the mouse from rest. Not sure if it’s a bluetooth, driver, or window manager issue. Not a showstopper, but can be annoying.
Systray integration in Linux is surprisingly weak. The official Thunderbird doesn’t have systray integration, which means you can’t tell when there’s a new mail or how many unread mails there are. There are unofficial solutions like BirdTray but it doesn’t seem to work with the latest Thunderbird versions.
Given the list of issues I’ll still take Linux over Windows any day. The amount of control – and peace of mind! – you get is irreplaceable. Not to mention good performance, low CPU/memory footprint, amazing developer experience, and stability you get (bye to BSOD). For those who are sitting on the fence, my advice is this: don’t wait! There might be a bit of learning curve, but it is well worth it.
By default, IAM users will not be allowed to access the Billing dashboard. This is true even if the user has AdministratorAccess permission. If you use AWS as a non-root/owner account user, but require access to billing and payment, here’s how you can do it.
When you have GuardDuty Malware Protection enabled, a malware scan is initiated when GuardDuty detects that one of your EC2 instances or container workloads running on EC2 is doing something suspicious.
A comparison of Apache vs Nginx and what they are suitable for.
Apache and Nginx are the two most common open source web servers in the world. Together, they are responsible for serving over 50% of traffic on the internet. Both solutions are capable of handling diverse workloads and working with other software to
A very good summary of the advancement of virtualization technologies used in AWS EC2. The newest instance type offered is simply AWS Bare Metal, which provides all the hardware access with little performance overhead, while still retaining the benefits of cloud – elasticity etc.
AWS EC2 Virtualization 2017: explaining the different virtualization types, from emulation and binary substitution, paravirtualization and Xen, PV, HVM, and PVHVM modes, and the new Nitro hypervisor
One of Amazon AWS service – specifically S3 – goes down (and recovers eventually) but many sites are affected. It’s not as bad as the Dyn DDoS attack but it’s a reminder how many companies now rely on Amazon to power their services.
Amazon’s S3 web-based storage service is experiencing widespread issues, leading to service that’s either partially or fully broken on websites, apps and..