Three Tools I'd Love to See in Linux

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 22, 2010

As an open source enthusiast, there are thousands of great tools available to me. However, some things in Linux are harder than they need to be. The world of open source has come a long way, but keeping an eye on what is going on outside of the open source arena can show that there are still areas where we need to improve. Here are three tools from IBM and Apple that I would love to see incorporated into the next great Linux distribution.

AIX has two tools that, as a Linux enthusiast, I’m envious of: makesysb, and cfgmgr. The first tool, makesysb, can clone a running system onto a bootable DVD. It’s very similar to other cloning tools like G4L and Clonezilla, but it’s built into the operating system, and doesn’t require a reboot. It’s great for system migration, and for keeping a backup around for disaster recovery. We try to keep makesysb images on DVD for all of our systems quarterly.

The second tool, cfgmgr, proved its worth today. I got a call from the DBA requesting more space for a large migration. I checked the volume manager, and saw that we were going to have to get another LUN added. On Linux, this means rebooting. LVM can work wonders for disk space management, but if the operating system can’t see the LUN, it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen some documentation regarding rescanning the SCSI bus, but I’ve also talked directly to Red Hat who says that it’s not supported. On AIX, running cfgmgr tells the operating system to check for any new hardware changes and make new hardware available for use. Presenting a new LUN, running cfgmgr, and then adding the new LUN to the volume group and expanding the filesystems took less than five minutes. No reboot needed. This may not necessarily be a function of cfgmgr as much as it is the AIX operating system, but it works great. Adding disk space is a common task, and a reliable tool like cfgmgr to aid with the task is something the community would benefit greatly from. If anyone can point me towards a safe and reliable way to do this on Red Hat, please drop me a link in the comments.

AIX has its roots deep in BSD Unix. IBM has put several years into developing it specifically to run on their P series hardware, much in the way that Apple has developed OS X to run on Macs. The third tool that I’d love to see ported into Linux is Spotlight from Mac OS X. Spotlight automatically indexes all files on the hard drive, and makes them immediately available. Linux has additional tools for this like Beagle and Tracker, but Spotlight is built into the OS X kernel. The first time OS X is booted, Spotlight does an index of all the files it can find. From that point on, every time a file is written to disk it is also flagged for Spotlight to index it. Files are available for search immediately.

It’s been great to see Linux grow as fast as it has over the years, and even better to see it rise to dominance in the data center. As the operating system grows and matures, I hope that innovation from outside of the community can continue to seep in and keep making Linux the best choice for any hardware platform.