OS Blog: Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

Windows Genuine Advantage is coming. In its battle against software counterfeiting and piracy, Microsoft will require users to prove they've got a valid installation of Windows before receiving software updates. If a copy of Windows hasn't yet been properly activated, users will be asked for their product key code.

The program is currently opt-in in the U.S., but will be mandatory later this year, the company announced in January (see story). It is also mandatory for certain international uses (see story).

"In the second half of 2005, visitors to the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update will be required to participate in WGA in order to access content," David Lazar, Microsoft's director of Genuine Windows, told BetaNews in a detailed interview.

One of the knocks on desktop Linux has been in the mobile world, where users still complain there isn't robust driver support for wireless options. According to Tom's Hardware, HP Europe has been working with distributors of Ubuntu Linux "to offer its customers an operating system that is tailored to work 100 percent with the hardware - including wired and wireless network, Bluetooth IrDA and IEEE1394 - of selected notebooks. Supported devices are the notebook models nx6110, nc6120, nc6220, nc6230, and nc6000." However it doesn't appear that the program is expanding to the U.S. anytime soon.

May 10

Wow, talk about getting personal.

SCO CEO Darl McBride has reportedly challenged the identity of the woman who runs the popular anti-SCO blog Groklaw, claiming author Pamela Jones isn't who she says she is (a paralegal turned journalist).

OS newsletter author Maureen O'Gara, considered part of the pro-Windows camp by many Linux fans, seemed to back McBride's suspicions. "How come such an influence peddler is so mysterious?" she asks in a piece for Linux Business News.

That's a rather odd query from someone in the authoring business, given the centuries-long tradition of influential figures writing anonymously, from "Publius" (the pen name of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison for the Federalist Papers) to "Atrios" (a popular liberal blogger whose identity was unknown for awhile) and Primary Colors' "Anonymous" (Joe Klein turned out to be the author of that "fictional account" of a Bill Clinton-like presidential campaign). It's even stranger today, considering how easy it is for someone to mask their public identity when posting online someplace like Blogspot. For that matter, how many people know who "CmdrTaco" is at the popular geek site Slashdot?

I suppose it's fair to wonder how any blogger can spend what looks like a huge amount of time and effort covering these cases if she also needs to earn a living. Because what makes Groklaw stand out isn't its rants against SCO's claims of Linux IP ownership -- lots of people do that -- but its depth of coverage surrounding SCO's various lawsuits. But maybe she's efficient. Maybe she doesn't sleep much. Maybe she has a trust fund.

It's a pretty large leap to insinuate that perhaps Groklaw is a front for IBM's lawyers, as O'Gara coyly dances around (by noting the question was asked "by a reporter" if there was a connection). But what's most irritating about this, if O'Gara is accurately portraying McBride's comments, is that the SCO CEO said his company has been investigating the identity of the Groklaw's creator and that the situation is "much different than advertised" and "all is not as it appears."

Darl, if you've found out something interesting and relevant about Groklaw's creator, TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW. To simply raise suspicions based on alleged "evidence" that you won't actually reveal seems quite a bit more objectionable than bloggers posting commentary that you feel is misleading, whoever they are. Actually, some might say it sounds a bit like the SCO suit against IBM.

May 4

Microsoft "Technical Evangelist" Robert Scoble has put the call out for 20 "super users" to give detailed feedback on Longhorn while it's in development. The group has been dubbed "Team 99," named for the "the road you drive from my house to get up to the Longhorn bar," he explains. "So, Team 99 is the team that'll take us to Longhorn's launch."

Scoble is seeking nominations to the exclusive group, seeking people who are well-known and trusted in the developer community. One interesting requirement: "All members must be bloggers," although all will have to sign non-disclosure agreements on what they hear at their team meetings.

If you've got a nomination, you can tell HIM on this Microsoft Developers Network thread. Our sister company the IDG News Service has posted a story on the effort.

May 3

Start-up QCD Microsystems Inc. says it's developed a way to use Windows graphical admin tools to oversee Linux systems. QCD's InterStructures lets sysadmins use Windows MMC to administer Samba, DHCP, Apache HTTP, Linux services and Web proxies, according to the company Web site.

QCD execs told the Westchester County Business Journal that they've got two major customers so far, including one on the Fortune 500, although QCD won't say yet who they are.

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For a company that's got just a sliver of the enterprise hardware market, there sure is a lot of interest in Apple's new Tiger OS! Michael Gartenberg's column lauding OS X Tiger has been our top-read story of the day Friday and Monday.

Even LonghornBlogs.com had a laudatory post from Ryan Dawson, blogging from an Apple store. "Spotlight is quick and it even searches help and control panel features," he wrote. "Tiger still rocks."

However, Mike Langberg at the San Jose Mercury News advises users to wait about six weeks, saying that like any new OS, Tiger is "prone to bugs"; better to let others discover them for you.

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Sun says a million licenses were issued for its Solaris 10 operating system in its first two months of release.

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Miscellany: Addison-Wesley has launched a new line of tech books, the "Spring Into" series, which the publisher describes as "short, concise, fast-paced tutorials written explicitly for professionals who need to quickly master new technologies." First up: Spring Into PHP 5.

I like the concept -- sort of a "...For Dummies" series aimed at IT pros. But the execution could use some better focus. For a book that promises to help pros with other Web experience "get real PHP skills on your resume," it starts off on an embarrassingly newbie note. "Congratulations, you've created your first PHP script! Not bad," the first chapter trills after instructing you to type phpinfo(); between two tags.

Spring Into PHP 5 does graduate fairly quickly to more advanced concepts such as object-oriented PHP and working with databases (hint: you'll probably want to skip the "What Are Databases?" intro). If you're interested in PHP, there's some decent information in here; although as advertised, a lot of subjects are covered in a little space, meaning each concept doesn't get much explanation. ...

Some friends just finished "turn off your TV week" with their six-year-old, and I smiled indulgently at their sacrifice -- it wouldn't matter much to me, since I long ago traded almost all my TV-watching time for hours in front of my home computer. Now, though, I just got word of an organization promoting PC Turnoff Week for Aug. 1-7. Yikes! I'm trying to decide if I could manage that all week at home. Could you?

April 26

Lots of media coverage of this week's WinHEC conference is focusing on previously touted Longhorn features such as improved security and data visualization, as evidenced by write-ups in mainstream media from the Associated Press to the BBC.

However, Bill Gates also outlined other OS topics in his keynote, such as "a new document format, code-named Metro, to print and share documents, ... [which] appears to rival Adobe Systems Inc.'s PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF) technologies," according to the IDG News Service. Metro, based on XML and available for royalty-free licensing, will be incorporated into the next version of Windows, Gates said.

Tabletpctalk.com has a rundown of some of the "mobile technologies and innovative form factors" showcased during the Gates keynote.

April 25

Operating system advances and tablet computing are likely to take the spotlight at Microsoft's WinHEC Hardware Engineering Conference, which kicks off today.

"The newest and next versions of Windows--XP Professional x64 Edition and Longhorn will share center stage," PC World predicts.

The conference Web site says that Chairman Bill Gates will "provide a view into the foundation that is being laid for the next release of Windows."

Gates is also expected to "show prototypes and products that build on the Tablet PC concept," says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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The South African Revenue Service will migrate its SAP system onto Linux, Computing South Africa reports on our U.K. sister site Techworld. The agency plans to move to Novell/SuSE Linux running on Dell hardware.

The service is also mulling migrating its desktops to open-source, but is at least half a year away from a decision, CIO Ken Jarvis said.

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Business Week writer Steve Hamm has posted quite an interesting and detailed blog item dissecting the recent Yankee Group study that claims a majority of users rate Windows "quality and performance" as "equal to or better than Linux."

Hamm points out some serious problems with the study's methodology, such as:

  • Results from large enterprises are combined with small and medium businesses. "This struck me as odd, since enterprises use Linux heavily, and SMBs barely touch the stuff," Hamm notes. "It seems to me that the average of the two isn't very meaningful."
  • Respondents had deployed Windows Server 2003, which Hamm believes may have skewed results in Windows' favor (under the theory that those who chose not to use that software might be less pro-Microsoft than those who did).
  • Survey results from self-selecting participants of Web-based questionnaires are of questionable scientific validity. Survey author Laura DiDio, an analyst who has drawn the ire of many in the open-source community for perceived pro-Microsoft bias (disclaimer: DiDio once worked at Computerworld), told Hamm that in fact a third-party company sought responses from business users, and it wasn't self-selecting; but Hamm says no one at Yankee Group will tell him who that "third party" was.

And so on. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'm getting sick of all these Windows vs. Linux "studies"; and clearly, I'm not alone. Hamm notes that such operating system comparisons are actually quite complex. And despite all the surveys (many of which are sponsored by an interested party on one side or the other), "useful facts are hard to come by."

Finally, there's the issue of the Yankee Group in general, which was lambasted in the past for generating research results for hire, according to Hamm. A Yankee Group vice president told him that they stopped doing so a year ago.

But they're not the only ones, as Computerworld pointed out back in 2003 (see story).

April 19

Lenn Pryor, "Director, Platform Evangelism" at Microsoft, is leaving the software company to join hot Internet telephony firm Skype, Pryor announced recently on his blog.

"I just couldn't go on being an evangelist for a gospel that I don't believe I can sing," Pryor wrote. "I am returning to focus on what I enjoy most, building amazing things that make people happy, change lives, and make money."

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The Vatican's official Web site has apparently "made changes to its hosting infrastructure, switching from a Hewlett Packard Tru64 Unix operating system to Sun's Solaris 9," according to Netcraft. "The site performed better in the wake of the switch, and was widely available during a webcast of the Pope's funeral, but [was] struggling" at the start of a new conclave to election the next pope.

April 15

The Boston Marathon is a big deal around these parts. Run on Patriots Day each April, to mark the anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, it typically sees hundreds of thousands of spectators line the Hopkinton-to-Boston route to cheer on the runners -- not just the elite world-class athletes, but the many hobbyist runners who want to test their mettle in the history-drenched event.

The marathon course goes right through Framingham, Mass., the town where Computerworld is headquartered. We're only about 6 miles into the 26-mile race, so I can pop down during lunchtime to watch some of the runners go through, then return to work and monitor the rest of the race on radio or TV.

What's been particularly cool for geek spectators the last few years is that friends, family and fans can also monitor runners online -- and not just the leaders. More than half of the 20,000 registered runners will be participating in a program that lets them be tracked at several electronic checkpoints through the course.

The runners attach RFID chips to their shoes (or wheelchairs), which transmit information to sensor mats along the course. Each runner can designate up to six alert addressess -- e-mail or mobile device -- to receive information on when they've passed the 10-kilometer mark, halfway, 30K and the finish line. Anyone else can visit www.bostonmarathon.org and get tracking information on participating runners.

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