June 28th, 2009
December 1st, 2008
Over the past six months or so we've been working really hard on ELRepo.org - a community Enterprise Linux Repository for hardware drivers.
One of the main strengths of Enterprise Linux is it's stability and long term support. However, this can also lead to a lack of hardware support where the upstream vendor is sometimes slow to backport the latest advancements. Linux in general has made tremendous progress in the last few years in terms of hardware support, to the point where virtually every device conceivable is now supported in the mainline kernel. However, given the nature of an Enterprise release, such advancements can sometimes be slow to filter down the line and this is an area previously lacking any real coordinated effort. If smaller organisations and end users are also to benefit from Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and it's rebuilds (CentOS, Scientific Linux), then it's important we ensure that these products support the latest modern hardware without destablizing their kernel.
One of the great features of the Linux kernel is it's modular nature. This makes it possible to backport virtually any driver as a kernel module (kmod) into the current kernel. For example, if your network card or sound chipset or webcam isn't supported, you can simply load an updated driver into your current kernel thus retaining the stability of your Enterprise product. ELRepo has built an enviable collection of drivers for Enterprise Linux including filesystem, graphics, hardware monitoring, network, sound and webcam drivers. Some are backported directly from upstream projects (e.g, ALSA, Video4Linux), whilst others are backported from the mainline kernel (e.g, coretemp, it87) or direct from the vendor (e.g, Intel and Realtek nic drivers). All are packaged as kABI-tracking kmods so they don't need to be rebuilt against each new kernel.
ELRepo is designed to be compatible with Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and it's rebuilds (CentOS, Scientific Linux) and not to conflict with other 3rd party repositories (e.g, RPMForge).
March 7th, 2008
Finding a webcam that will work under Linux has always been a bit of a lottery. Sure, things are slowly improving, and drivers for many webcams are finally starting to appear in the mainline kernel, but on an Enterprise-class distro such as CentOS like we use at Pendre, support for webcams isn't top of the priority list - afterall CentOS is primarily a server OS and not that many servers actually need a webcam.
So after doing plenty of research, I finally settled on a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. This is a high-end webcam with integrated microphone boasting HD resolution from it's 2 Megapixel sensor, and a high quality Carl Zeiss lens with autofocus. The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 can be found for around £45 ($80-100US).
The QuickCam Pro 9000 uses the UVC driver which has recently been introduced into the mainline kernel. Unfortunately this has yet to be backported into CentOS 5, so I built the driver from source. This was relatively easy - just grab the latest tarball from linuxtv.org, extract, build and install (make && make install). Once built, the driver can be inserted into the kernel by running modprobe uvcvideo.
I tested the camera out using Skype and although the higher resolutions available with this webcam under Windows are not available to Linux users, the camera produces a very crisp clear picture and is clearly superior to that produced by most entry-level and midrange webcams. Sound is equally impressive from the built in microphone. Overall, highly recommended and you really do get what you pay for.
February 21st, 2008
A couple of weeks back we promised that we would publish an article on spam telling you everything you need to know to take back control of your inbox.
"More and more frequently I get asked by clients what they can do about the amount of spam they are receiving. To know the answer, we need to understand a little about what spam is, why we get it and things we can do to minimise or irradicate it."
"Here at Pendre we have developed a custom spam filtering system on our email servers that blocks, on average, 99.6% of spam before it ever reaches you. This is the ideal situation as you no longer have to waste time and bandwidth downloading the spam or spend time checking for messages that have been incorrectly marked as spam. And if you are concerned about false positives, i.e. us falsely blocking messages that you do want to receive, you can add senders email addresses (or domains) to our whitelists so they will never be spam filtered and will guarantee delivery every time. So if your current email provider isn't providing a satisfactory solution, feel free talk to us about moving your email onto our servers and benefit from our highly efficient spam filtering."
Well, we've kept our promise. Read the full article here.
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