Building demo centers
For some weeks now, a few of my collegues are working on an "All-in-one Demo Center".
This is a special installation of all our solutions combined on one system, to be able to show anybody instantly any of our different products if he is interested and to have a complete reference system running inhouse, which you can put almost everywhere.
The operating system is an installation of Suse Enterprise Linux 9(?), the database backend is running Oracle and the webinterface runs on top of Apache.
To distribute this solution on other machines, ISOs are created with Mondo Linux, which then can be inserted in almost any other computer, booted and puts the ISOs data on the computers harddisk. Existing data is lost with that solution.
I was granted to try to make anoter All-In-One center, which boots completely from CD on any computer but without harming the existing data on the disk. Running completely in a ramdisk without even touching the disks in any way.
I'm basing my installation on a stripped down distribution of Knoppix, which already runs completely from CD. It uses a compressed image as data-source, so it can hold some GB of data on a single CD.
Initially this seemed to work quite well, the database files (>2GB) compressed down to about 100 MB and the oracle binaries also shrinked a bit.
But soon I ran into problems because oracle could not start up in a complete read-only mode. It needed write-access to its database files, lockfiles and so on which was impossible to do on CD.
So I decided to temporarily mount existing drives and put the needed writable files as well as a swapfile (oracle needs plenty of RAM) there only during the time of demonstration and remove it completely on shutdown again.
Seemed cool idea, worked theoretically and found gread acceptance.
Practically I had the next problem: the notebooks of our marketing people, where this should run on, have only NTFS partitions and Linux currently has only reasonable readonly-support for NTFS.
Luckily I found the Captive project, which grants RW-access to NTFS by including the original WinXP driver into linux.
My work is to integrate all the pieces and give it a foolproof interface so that even the least experienced marketing person can use it to demonstrate our solutions anywhere.
Currently, I'm almost finished with preparing the environment for oracle. This means auto-detection of all partitions, their free space and file-system, let the user choose the destination, copy the datafiles, correctly split up and soft-link together again read-only and read-write files and finally start up oracle in such a patched together combination ;)
Somewhere by next week I should be finished with oracle and also have integrated the administration interface.
That means, if no other problems appear.