The guys at the Mono Project have released their Mono Tools for Visual Studio. This must be one of the most anticipated projects of the year for me yet!

According to the official project page:

Mono Tools for Visual Studio is a commercial add-in for Microsoft™ Visual Studio™ that enables developers to write .NET applications for non-Windows platforms within their preferred development environment. It allows developers to build, debug and deploy .NET applications on Linux, while continuing to leverage the extensive ecosystem of code, libraries, and tools available for .NET.

While there’s a fair bit of marketing speak in there (I tune out pretty much whenever I hear the words “leverage” and “ecosystem”), the benefits are actually quite simple.

You can now remotely deploy and debug .NET applications on Mono directly from within Visual Studio!

I can’t begin to tell you how much help this is going to be in working on BlogEngine.NET on Linux. Unfortunately this capability isn’t open-source or free, but as a Visual Studio developer you’re probably going to be used to paying for features. Starting at $99 I guess it’s not too hefty a price to pay if you’re serious about using C# on Mono and Linux.

Here’s some of the awesome things you can do with it right now:

  • Directly deploy a .NET application to a remote Linux machine.
  • Debug and step through your code in Visual Studio as you run on a Linux box.
  • Built in portability checker for existing .NET applications.
  • Package your application as an .rpm for installation on distributions that support RPM’s (not Ubuntu unfortunately).

For more information, I’d suggest you go visit Miguel de Icaza’s blog, and also the official product page at the Mono project.

I’ll be following up this post shortly with a guide to getting it all to work on Ubuntu.

I’ve finally put together a bash script to automatically download, compile and install Mono on Ubuntu. At the time of writing, it installs Mono 2.4.2.3. Should this be outdated by the time you read this, you can simply modify the install script to download the latest files.

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I’ve been getting increasingly interested in alternative databases of late. With alternative I mean non-relational databases of course.

There are a number of document / key value stores in development at the moment. They include projects like HBase, CouchDB, MongoDB and much more.

What has really grabbed my attention at the moment is Tokyo Cabinet. It’s a fascinating datastore that promises excellent performance along with great data security features like master-master replication.

This post isn’t about the features of Tokyo Cabinet, it’s about getting it installed so you can start playing with it yourself. The Igvita blog has a great write-up about why Tokyo Cabinet is relevant, so head over to Tokyo Cabinet: Beyond Key-Value Store for the juicy details. Once you’re impressed, head back here to install it and start playing!

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The Mono team has just released Mono 2.4.2.1. This release is of particular significance because it contains support for ASP.NET MVC. That’s great news for me as I am now thoroughly addicted to MVC.

Mono 2.4.2.1 will install using the instructions in my existing tutorial, but I did have some trouble compiling the new release on my own server.

In particular, I had a SIGSEGV error while compiling Mono. I got around that by updating my system. So  make sure that update your system before compilation using “apt-get upgrade”.

Secondly, I ran out of memory while compiling again. It seems that as the mono documentation gets bigger, the memory required for compilation just gets more and more. I managed to compile with 450MB of free memory this time.

So head on over to my tutorial on Installing Mono on Ubuntu and give it a go yourself.

If you're a Windows user and you've been messing around in the Linux world like I have, you've probably tried a number of virtualization solutions. The most popular of these being Virtual PC from Microsoft or one of VMWare's products.

But have you ever wished you could have the virtualization features of VMWare Server with the ease and simplicity of Virtual PC? It turns out now you can, and if you're still using either VMWare or Microsoft's offerings, you've been missing out.

There's another little known player in the virtualization market that you need to take notice of: VirtualBox from Sun.

VirtualBox is a dual proprietary and open-source product. This means that they provide an open source version with everything you need, but also provide a commercial version with some extras (so they can make a bit of money from the product). The commercial version also happens to be free for personal use, so there's nothing stopping you from using it either.

The first thing you'll notice when downloading and installing Virtual Box is that (like Virtual PC) it's pretty slim on the download at 60MB. It installs in a jiffy and you'll be up and running in no time. The next think you'll notice may not be important to you, but it is to me: it actually looks like a commercial Windows application and is very intuitive to use (especially if you've used either Virtual PC or VMWare before).

Unlike Virtual PC, VirtualBox is under active development. This translates into the fact that they support almost all popular operating systems out of the box, including official support for Windows 7 (which hasn't even been released yet). Ubuntu also installs without any glitches, unlike on Virtual PC which requires a bunch of hacks. I guess it helps that they're not pushing a particular operating system. VirtualBox supports 32bit and 64bit guest operating systems and comes with virtual machine additions that work seamlessly for Linux, Windows, Solaris and OS/2 guests. There's even 3D acceleration support for Linux guests in the latest release.

Everyone that uses virtualization is going to be concerned with performance, and I'm happy to report that VirtualBox kicks butt in that regard. My own tests have shown much snappier performance than what I've gotten used to, but if you don't want to take my word for it, have a look at Michal Strehovsky's blog. He's done a performance comparison utilizing a number of benchmarks, and VirtualBox comes out on top in every category.

I've kept the best for last though. VirtualBox loads and runs both VMWare .vmdk and Virtual PC .vhd images with no conversion required. Any reason you've had not to try it should have quickly evaporated with that news.

So to summarize, you're pretty much getting VMWare features with the convenience of Virtual PC. Throw in better performance than its competing free products and you have a winner in my book.

VirtualBox has completely won me over and I think it may just do the same for you. Go give it a try.

Synaptic and Nautilus running on VistaIf you're a Windows user and you've been meaning to mess around with Linux (particularly Ubuntu), you're now very much in luck.

Claudio César Sánchez Tejeda has put together a CoLinux package of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron called Portable Ubuntu.

CoLinux allows you to run a Linux operating system that cooperates with your existing Windows installation. This means that you don't have to dual-boot or fire up a Virtual Machine in order to experiment with Linux anymore. You can run Linux almost the same way you would run any other Windows application. And to sweeten the deal, any Linux app you run in this environment will integrate into your Windows desktop, thus allowing you to overlap Linux apps with Windows apps. It even incorporates seamless copy and paste.

CoLinux clearly beats the pants of virtualization and finally makes it extremely easy to test the waters with Linux as a Windows user.

This is all possible because of the modified CoLinux kernel which cooperatively schedules resources with the Windows NT kernel, rather than having the computer resources delegated by the host computer. The desktop integration is possible because of Xming, a Windows implementation of the Linux X Window server.

Installing Portable Ubuntu

Installation is straightforward. Simply download the Portable Ubuntu archive from SourceForge here, extract it to a folder and run the run_portable_ubuntu.bat file. Portable Ubuntu will even run from a Flash drive on any Windows machine you stick it in.

After a couple of seconds or so you'll get a splash screen while the Ubuntu operating system boots up in the background. Once that is done you'll have the Ubuntu taskbar at the top of your screen from which you can launch and install Ubuntu applications. It only works on 32bit systems though, if you're on a 64bit Vista or XP system you're out of luck. What is also awesome about this is that you don't even need to configure an internet connection, it will piggy back of your Windows machine's connection.

If you're planning on installing software and messing with your Ubuntu system you'll need the root password: 123456

Installing Mono

Mono will install successfully using my existing instructions here, but only if you increase the drive space!

When just installed your Ubuntu drive space will be limited to about 400 MB. This obviously isn't enough to install a lot of software in, so if you plan to install Mono you'll want to extend the drive image size. I've put together a little tutorial on how to do this here.

Once that's sorted and you've gotten Mono installed, have a look at getting BlogEngine.NET installed from the instructions here.

And who knows, when you see it all work painlessly for yourself you might be hosting your next blog on an inexpensive Linux VPS before you know it :)

 

We've just released the final version of BlogEngine.NET 1.5 to the public. You can read more about the changes and improvements at Mads Kristensen's blog.

With this release we've worked hard to ensure that the application works out of the box on Linux using Mono. There is no compilation to be done and no configuration settings to tweak. It just works.

For those wishing to try this out, I've created a little tutorial called Installing BlogEngine.NET on Mono/Linux. As you will see there is hardly anything to it, it's just that easy.

So go on, give it a try and let us know how it pans out for you!

If you've installed an FTP daemon on your Ubuntu server, you'll have probably set it up so that users are rooted to their own FTP directory on the server. But what if you'd like an FTP user to have access to other directories on the server? A symbolic link sounds like it would work, but I'm afraid it won't. You'll have to mount the folder you're interested in to the user's FTP folder.

Assume that we've got a user called "russell" and you've set up your FTP so that he has his own FTP folder at /var/ftp/russell/. Also assume that you want to give him access to the /var/www/ folder so that he can update the web sites on your server.

We're going to mount a folder into a subdirectory in his FTP directory, so create a suitable directory for that:


$ cd /var/ftp/russell$ mkdir www

Now we mount the /var/www directory into /var/ftp/russell/www/:


$ mount --bind /var/www /var/ftp/russell/www

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If you're hosted at TekTonic like I am on a Ubuntu 8.04 VPS, you may have noticed that your /var/log/auth.log file is empty.

According to the support forums, this is due to a VPS template issue regarding Parallels. Login attempts are actually being logged, just not in the right place due to a missing slash in the /etc/syslog.conf file.

To fix the problem, edit the syslog.conf file:


$ nano /etc/syslog.conf

You'll notice a number of places where the log file location is missing a slash between log and the filename. This causes a path like /var/log/auth.log to become /var/logauth.log.

See below:


auth,authpriv.*          -/var/logauth.log*.*;auth,authpriv.none          -/var/log/syslog#cron.*                  -/var/logcron.logdaemon.*                        -/var/log/daemon.logkern.*                          -/var/log/kern.loglpr.*                           -/var/log/lpr.logmail.*                          -/var/log/mail.loguser.*                          -/var/log/user.log

To fix, simply insert a slash (/) after the log part of the path in each entry that starts with /var/log but does not have a slash after /var/log part.

So an entry that looked like -/var/logauth.log becomes -/var/log/auth.log

There should be more stuffed entries lower down into the file, you may as well fix them too.

After saving the changes, restart the logging daemon with the following command:


$ /etc/init.d/sysklogd restart

To test that it has worked, type the following at the shell prompt:


$ tail -f /var/log/auth.log

Then open another SSL session and attempt a login. You should see the login attempt being logged in your already open session.

The Novell guys have pushed out another release of Mono, and I've just updated my VPS.

I'm glad to report that everything works great with BlogEngine.NET on Ubuntu. I've updated my instructions for installing Mono on Ubuntu to include the latest release.

If you haven't given Mono a go yet, what are you waiting for?


I am a software developer / architect currently interested in combining .NET technologies with open-source operating systems. 

I am a member of the open-source BlogEngine.NET development team and focus mainly on ensuring Mono compatibility for the project.

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