April Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

OS News stacks up Red Hat Linux 9 against SuSE 8.2 Professional Edition as a desktop OS, concluding "Red Hat 9 is not a bad choice, but you can get a better user experience with SuSE 8.2." The article by engineer Aki Kolehmainen features a chart rating various attributes such as hardware support, stability and applications.

Windows admins should check out Microsoft's new guides for securing Windows Server 2003, as well as "reannouncing" an existing guide for Windows 2000. You can find links to the guides in Computerworld's own story.

There's also a free electronic book by Jason Coombs, "IIS Security and Programming Countermeasures," available for download at forensics.org. The book "shows how to harden IIS and its hosted Web applications and services against attacks," Coombs told WinInfo.

A new version of Longhorn, Microsoft's Windows client in the works, was leaked onto the Internet. "Longhorn M5 features incremental enhancements over Milestone 4, which leaked out in early March," BetaNews reports. "Microsoft has finally given Longhorn its own boot logo, and has added a new notification screen while logging in. The "Bliss" wallpaper has been updated slightly, along with the Longhorn's Plex visual style. The BetaNews article includes links to screenshots.

IBM's DeveloperWorks site this month offers developers some tips on tuning application performance on Linux, including advice such as "When evaluating alternative products or algorithms, benchmark not just their apparent throughput but also their memory impact." There's also a pretty extensive list of Web resources.

April 22

There's lots more Windows Server 2003 info cropping up on the Web before Thursday's official product launch, including some useful nuts-and-bolts administration and security info. For instance:

  • "With Windows 2003 Server, Microsoft is reducing Windows Server's reliance on GUI-based administration and is giving more prominence to command-line and script-based administration," Directions on Microsoft reports. They've got a pretty good overview of 2003 Server administration, including some charts and a look at a "Typical WMIC (Windows Management Instrumentation Command Line) Session."
  • VNU.net cautions that even while basic security is improved in its latest OS, "Microsoft's security-by-default strategy and new advanced features will demand tough policy decisions." For example, Windows File and Print Sharing run by default -- should they be disabled? And, minimum password length is initially set to zero, which administrators will clearly want to change.
  • Windows and .Net magazine has a pretty large special report on Server 2003. Despite the opening fireworks photo that gives an impression of breathless excitement about Microsoft's greatest product ever, in fact there's plenty of technical details about the new OS (in addition to an article explaining why users, of course, should upgrade).

For those planning to stay on Windows 2000 for awhile, 2000Trainers.com has a new how-to on Using Windows 2000 VBScript Fundamentals for Windows Scripting.

At least some folks at Microsoft are unhappy at the prospect of developers running MS tools on non-MS operating systems. Milwaukee developer Whil Hentzen was going to demonstrate running Visual FoxPro on Linux at a user group meeting -- until Ken Levy, marketing manager for the product, warned him that he'd be violating his end user licensing agreement doing so, The Register reports.

NewsForge gives a thumbs up to SuSE's latest enterprise offering designed for AMD's new 64-bit chip. "After a satisfying round of testing, I found SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8.0 for Opteron to be exactly what one might hope for: something that looks and feels like an x86 product, only with 64-bit capability and great speed," writes consultant Russell Pavlicek.

NewsForge also has a nice roundup of analyst reports on Linux, including word from Aberdeen that "Sun delivers a superior long-term cost-of-ownership value proposition to Intel/Dell/Linux" -- and even costs less at the outset.

Specifically, Aberdeen's white paper (you need to register to read the paper) compares Sun's V480 SPARC/Solaris running Oracle 9i RAC with Dell's PowerEdge 6650 Xeon MP-based server running Linux and Oracle 9i RAC.

"Startlingly, the Sun Fire V480 configuration costs 45% less than Dell/Intel/Linux in the low-end configuration and 8% less in the high-end configuration," Aberdeen says. "Despite the reputation of Dell, Intel, and Linux as low-priced in comparison with other server, chip, and operating-system suppliers, it is clear that in reality, Sun outprices them for a comparable midrange system."

April 15

The official launch of Windows Server 2003 isn't until April 24, but there's already a slew of information about the OS cropping up on the Web.

The new OS runs "appreciably faster than its predecessor," VNU.net reports based on tests done at IT Week Labs.

"File serving is an average 20% faster with WS 2003 than with Windows 2000 Advanced Server, and the product's integrated IIS 6.0 Web server shows an 11% improvement over previous versions, as well as better security," the VNU article notes.

Conclusion? WS 2003 users "will see better performance and security. ... However, administrators may face compatibility problems."

For a pretty detailed chart comparing different versions of the soon-to-be-released Server 2003, head to Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. There, you'll see various features side-by-side for the Web, Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter, Enterprise 64-bit and Datacenter 64-bit editions.

Windows Server 2003 will include support for the Pentium 4's hyper-threading capabilities -- a move that will finally fully exploit that chip feature, according to a Butler Group analysis. Hyper-threading allows a processor to act as if it were two separate chips, running two different sets of instructions at once. "While multi-tasking achieved by software alone has been a feature of Windows since version 3.1, the HT hardware support provides significant enhancements," the Butler report concludes.

Server 2003 will also support Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS), Internet.com says. RADIUS is a popular protocol among Internet service providers for managing users and access levels.

Meanwhile, more Web servers are running Windows Server 2003 than Sun's Solaris 9 -- even though Server '03 hasn't even formally launched yet. That's according to a Netcraft survey reported in a number of media outlets worldwide, including the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia. Sun seems to be taking a low-key approach to pushing Web upgrades from Solaris 8 to 9, as even Sun.com was still on Solaris 8, Netcraft noted. Microsoft.com, meanwhile, began running Server 2003 last July.

SCO has released a version of its server software for the Itanium. "SCO Linux Server 4.0 for the Itanium Processor Family is well suited for running demanding enterprise-level business applications, and emphasizes stability, security and worldwide support," the company said in a statement.

Sun Microsystems is the big loser to date as Linux gains in popularity. So says The Economist in its thoughtful look at the open-source OS titled Friend or Foe.

"The clearest winner is IBM, closely followed by Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Dell, each of which has done well selling Linux servers," the article says. And Larry Ellison's claim (see story) that Linux will wipe Microsoft off the face of the earth? "As always, Mr. Ellison's prediction should be taken with a handful of salt. But it contains a germ of truth."

April 9

Red Hat Linux 9 has been officially released and available for download. If you're interested in more data before deciding whether to buy, there's an extremely detailed technical review of the release at Guru Labs. "Red Hat Linux 9 is a solid showcase of the latest Linux and Open Source technologies," Lab president Dax Kelson concludes. "I've run each of the three betas leading up to the full release and have been very happy. We will be upgrading all machines here at Guru Labs in the not too distant future."

The Landmark Theatre chain has chosen a digital movie system running XP and Windows Media 9 Series multimedia software, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. The systems are supposed to offer quality at least as good as standard 35mm projection at lower cost for filmmakers, who can distribute their work digitally to theaters around the U.S.

Gartner takes a look at how Linux is changing Microsoft's approach to the market. "Linux and open-source software are unlike any competition that Microsoft has ever faced," notes author David Smith. He predicts the company will "leverage innovation and trustworthiness," as well as "tight technical integration between its operating systems, middleware and applications;" but will not actually support Linux, at least in the next three years.

Britain's central government has installed what VU.net is calling its first major open-source software project. The Department for Work and Pensions' Purchase and Pay project, run by the U.K.'s Office of Government Commerce (OGC), offers electronic purchasing and runs on Linux.

Microsoft scored a win with The Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) to provide desktop applications to more than 72,000 employees at 33 campuses. The deal was "hailed as the software giant's largest ever single deal with universities worldwide," CRN in Australia says.

If you're used to Windows, installing and running Linux still isn't simple for -ix newbies, according to an 11-page report by Tsu Dho Nimh for Linuxworld about his experiences trying to load 'n launch various distributions of the OS. Details include what worked and what didn't in each of the versions he installed.

Geek.com's got an interesting discussion going on who's your favorite Linux vendor. Many forum posters say they still build their Linux boxes from parts, but some others cite mainstream vendors such as IBM, Dell, Compaq and VARIO.

And of course, don't miss Computerworld's cover story this week, on how some patches and mods contributed to the open-source community are coming from bastions of capitalism like Merrill Lynch.

March 28

"Linux adoption will explode in every data center [next year], challenging CIOs to keep proliferation under control," according to a new Forrester Research Inc. report. "Unix [on proprietary hardware] will be stone-cold dead by 2007."

However, the trend isn't only replacing one -ix for another; "both Windows and Unix installations are at risk," the report notes.

In a Forrester survey of 50 $1 billion-plus companies, 26% said they were replacing Wintel systems with Linux, 22% were moving some apps from Sun/Solaris, 14% IBM/AIX and 12% HP/HP-UX.

However, there are risks to unmanaged Linux deployments popping up all over the enterprise, cautions the report, entitled The Linux Tipping Point. Solutions? Devise standard procurement and operating processes, plot a migration road map and only work with a small group of suppliers.

Don't expect companies to move to Linux because of its technical prowess, writes "Euromole" (who "works for a multinational with tens of thousands of desktop systems worldwide") in Can Linux break through to the commercial office desktop?

"The speed at which large commercial enterprises move to Linux - or in fact, if they move to Linux at all - will be predicated on the business case that is involved with any such move, more so than any technical reasons," Euromole writes in the U.K.-based Inquirer.

Not a particularly new conclusion, but the article does go through a detailed discussion of desktop Linux specifics, such as stability, security and cost ("It might seem odd that cost is a factor when Linux is free but it would be a strange computer system that runs no application software and has no costs associated with any aspect of support.")

Advice for internal support? "The most practical approach to this appears to be to acquire a core team of highly skilled Linux people and to retrain existing support people who are already familiar with the business and how it operates." As for external support, Euromole doesn't think highly of it now but says it's improving. (Those interviewed by Forrester seemed to agree).

More developers are deserting Windows for Linux than have turned away from Unix, Computerworld and Linuxworld columnist Nicholas Petreley says. "Of the developers surveyed, more than 50% who now develop primarily for Linux used to develop primarily for Windows. Only 30% used to develop for some other Unix or Unix derivative," he writes.

Petreley answers questions about the survey at popular geek site Slashdot.

The German city of Schwaebisch Hall says it's replaced Windows with Linux in all government desktops, Associated Press reports. Officials said the move will "save money, improve security and break their dependence on just one supplier."

And, the Oregon House of Representatives committee will hold hearings soon on a bill requiring state government to "consider" open-source when purchasing software, according to the Oregonian. Not surprisingly, a lobbyist for the software industry scoffed at the measure, noting that a law is hardly required since state purchasers can already choose among all available industry options.

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