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The Borg Ran Windows

Shawn Powers

Issue #221, September 2012

I was watching Star Trek the Next Generation the other day with my 13-year-old daughter, and I began to ponder what operating system the Borg used. Based on shape and available systems in the early 1990s, you might think the Borg ships ran NeXTstep. That big cube certainly reminded many of us of the NeXT cubes of the time, and the drones walked slow enough to explain the 25MHz processors. If you dwell on it it a little more, which of course I did, embedded Linux starts to make sense. The Borg's hardware was widely variant, was collected from many different planets (manufacturers), and it all needed to work together. Linux certainly fits the bill. All of that falls apart, however, when you consider how the Borg replicated themselves. They used little nanoprobes to “infect” people with their virus-like systems. If the Borg are that virus-ridden, they must be running Windows!

All joking aside, that's what we focus on this month—not the Borg, but embedded Linux. Reuven M. Lerner starts off the issue by embedding the R language into PostgreSQL. Statistical analysis is a complicated beast, and Joe Conway's PL/R functions make things a little easier. Reuven shows how. Dave Taylor follows up with Bash notational shortcuts. Statistically speaking (har har), using shortcuts in your scripts can save time, but it's often at the expense of clarity. Dave discusses how and when to use shortcuts.

Next, Kyle Rankin takes a little time-travel adventure to the days of Telnet. Of course for Kyle, the days of Telnet are yesterday and today. He explains how to use the old standby Telnet protocol for doing some pretty helpful things when troubleshooting anything from big-metal hardware to tiny embedded systems. He even teaches how to send an e-mail with Telnet, which is worth at least ten geek points. My Open-Source Classroom column follows Kyle with a primer on DNS. DNS is usually something you don't think about—until it quits working. This month, I walk through some neat uses for DNS and maybe teach you a few things along the way.

Nowadays, when people think of embedded systems, Android is one of the first things that comes to mind. Kevin Bush reviews the ZaTab from ZaReason, which is a fully open tablet computer running CyanogenMod. With this tablet, rooting isn't a bad word. Craig Maloney follows right up with another embedded system, namely Squeezebox. Logitech has created a completely open platform for streaming music around your house, and it uses Linux to do it. Craig shows off this cool system and teaches how to set up your own.

If your idea of embedded Linux looks a little more like wires, solder and printed circuit boards, Edward Comer knows just how you feel. This month, he goes in depth with Arduino. Whether you want to program the embedded code or etch your own circuit board with vinegar and salt, this article is for you. Edward walks through the whole process from planning to implementation, and he proves that a project like this is possible for anyone with the interest and dedication.

Richard Campbell finishes off the issue with an article on NVM. If you've ever considered your fancy new SSD to be too slow, you'll want to read his article. Nothing beats the speed of RAM, so what if RAM were a persistent storage device? Richard explores that idea and talks about the next big thing in the world of storage.

So, whether you want to program your own Borg cube full of Arduino drones or just want to stream some music into your shuttlecraft from the holodeck, this issue is for you. Like every month, however, we also have an issue chock full of things for every flavor of Linux enthusiast out there. We have tech tips, product reviews, kernel news and even a few things just for fun. We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Until next month, live long and prosper.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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