OS Blog: Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

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Bloor says that similar legislation mandating open-source software use is pending in Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, France, Italy and Peru. More than a dozen others have expressed a "preference" for open-source.

A Groklaw posting notes that it's probably not coincidence that "Bill Gates has asked to meet with the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, at the World Economic Forum next week in Switzerland. Brazil is another country where the entire nation is threatening to switch to GNU/Linux."

January 10

Zend Technologies Inc. today announced Zend Platform 1.1, aimed at making the PHP programming language more reliable and useful for enterprise IT. Zend Platform includes an ability to centrally manage multiple PHP servers, as well as more efficient integration with Java applications. Zend Platform is available by annual subscription -- a first for the PHP tool vendor -- of $995 for one processor and $1,495 for two or more processors.

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Sun Microsystems has revoked the FreeBSD Foundation's license allowing it to include Java support with its version of Unix, BetaNews reports. A Sun Community Source License allows distribution of the Java runtime environment with other software. FreeBSD officials believe Sun is renegotiating terms for many of those licenses.

January 5

Who's going to benefit most from increasing Linux adoptions? "We expect to see Novell and Red Hat to stand out, Citrix to grow steadily, and SCO Group and Sun Microsystems to stagnate or falter," predicts Dion Cornett, an analyst who follows open-source issues for Decatur Jones Equity Partners.

He believes Sun's "future is that of a services/technology integration company where it should be able to maintain a premium" in stock price vs. other such firms. So, Cornett's pessimistic outlook on Sun appears to be in the short term, not overall, because of possible disappointment in Solaris10 and x86-based server adoption ("all while its core SPARC/Unix business continues to deteriorate").

However, Cornett is most bearish on SCO, thanks to "continued deteriorating financials, and the likely failure of a new product release to stem the tide," as well as the risk of unfavorable court actions.

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Neowin had a look at the next version of Windows Mobile, Magneto, including some screen shots, concluding that it promises a number of improvements over earlier versions, such as a user interface with "improved finger accessibility," more robust synchronization with Outlook and more support for photos. However, Neowin has since pulled down the details at Microsoft's request.

December 15

Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate is now available for download. It includes a security configuration wizard to "disable unused services easily and quickly, block unnecessary ports, modify registry values, and configure audit settings;" more secure default settings; and increased Outlook protections, Microsoft says. This is beta software, and only suggested for a test environment.

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An Australian IT services firm has concluded that Linux has a lower total cost of ownership than Windows, based on a model of 250 users over three years. Cybersource Pty. Ltd. just happens to sell services for Linux and Unix networks, but says that since it's "known as a Linux systems provider, it took care to stack the deck in favour of Microsoft in several ways, such as factoring out the cost of malware attacks and tripling the cost of external consultants for Linux installations," according to Techworld (a sister site in the U.K.)

Claimed results: Linux saved 36% over Microsoft with existing hardware, and 26% with new hardware and infrastructure. Factors considered: "Workstations, servers, Internet connectivity, an e-business system, network cabling and hardware, standard software, and salaries for IT professionals to establish and support this infrastructure and technology. We've also added IT training for the staff along with expenditure items for ancillary IT systems and external consulting staff to assist in making it all work."

The study is available on Cybersource's Web site.

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O'Reilly has just published The Linux Cookbook by Carla Schroder, offering a collection of scripts, tools and tips for administering the open-source OS.

December 7

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows NT 4.0 at year's end, meaning "Premier, pay-per-incident, and security update support will no longer be available" for the retired operating system, according to Microsoft's Web site. However, those migrating to Windows Server 2003 "may request and obtain a custom support agreement to provide additional limited security support through 2006."

"The company expects to have Exchange Server 5.5 follow a similar phasing-out path starting in 2005," BetaNews reports.

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"As AMD and Intel prepare to ship new processors that combine multiple CPUs, or cores, into a single package, Microsoft has announced that it will continue to count processors rather than cores for per-processor licensing of its software products," Directions on Microsoft writes in a recent report. "The announcement that the transition to multicore processors will not increase licensing costs allows customers to begin planning the acquisition and deployment of dual-core systems now, but in the future, multicore performance improvements might force some changes."

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Solaris 10 has been tuned to improve performance, following customer complaints that Sun's flagship OS was so sluggish it should be called "Slowlaris," Sun's John Loiacono told Computer Business Review Online.

During development, engineers created more than 200 "microbenchmarks" to tune various features and test them against older releases. "The performance of the Solaris libraries, for instance, has been boosted by up to 400%, and some features have seen their performance increase by as much as a factor of 31," the articles notes. "On average, the 200 features Sun has benchmarked see a performance improvement of 20% to 50%. . . . "The performance increases that Sun customers will see by moving to Solaris 10 will vary."

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IBM is offering a free Software Evaluation Kit with DB2, Tivoli and WebSphere trial code for building on-demand applications and Web services for Linux. You can download the SEK from IBM's DeveloperWorks Web site.

November 16

New administrative management tool Windows Update Services is now in public beta, Bill Gates announced today at the IT Forum in Copenhagen. The tool lets managers decide what updates to deploy across their network.

You can download it free from Microsoft's Web site.

Gates also said that Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 and Virtual Server 2005 are now available worldwide. MOM 2005 includes event and performance management tools for Windows Server System; while Virtual Server provides software testing, development and migration capabilities.

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One nation with a large population of software engineers hasn't been involved much in the open-source movement: China. That's likely because developers there typically only have high-speed access in the office, while a lot of open-source work starts out at home, as a personal-time passion, Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik tells Business Week.

"When low-cost access to broadband Internet [becomes widespread], this will explode and create interesting innovation," Szulik says. "Europe and Russia already have thriving communities. What happens when those brilliant software developers can start communicating with their peers in Shanghai or Guangzhou?"

Red Hat last week announced the opening of an office in Beijing.

November 15

It finally happened. After what insiders say has been a decade of debate, Sun Microsystems is going after Linux head-on by giving away its once-pricey Solaris operating system. The idea is to make money on the Red Hat model by charging for service and support.

Is it already too late? Perhaps not. Sun's Solaris 10 is clearly sparking interest among enterprise users whose use of the proprietary Unix OS has been ebbing. Until now, interest in Sun's platform "was somewhat dwindling," FedEx technical director Don Fike told Computerworld (see story). Now, though, "we've seen Solaris 10 interest is extremely high -- a major shift here."

"We frankly had dropped the ball," John Loiacono, who runs Sun's software group, admitted to Reuters. As both software and hardware prices markedly declined, Sun clung to its higher prices proprietary model.

"Some of the [Solaris 10] operating system's key features were designed specifically to appeal to users switching from Linux to Solaris," VNUnet observes. "Among them is an application codenamed Project Janus that allows users to create a virtual container inside Solaris in which they can run Linux applications. This enables them to use Linux applications that are not supported for Solaris."

"There is just an extraordinary investment that we have made in ensuring that we bring an open-source Solaris to the marketplace, a truly vendor-neutral Solaris," Sun President Jonathan Schwartz told Computerworld (see story). And as an open-source product, it will also be indemnified by Sun, it will have the same indemnity accorded as a previous closed-source product from Sun.

However, the move clearly isn't without risk for the company. "Sun could easily lose its bet, dropping revenue and hastening Solaris' slide toward irrelevance," notes today's Los Angeles Times. "For it to work, Sun must 'execute flawlessly,' " Meta Group analyst Nick Gall told the Times. "That's often a code word for 'doubtful.' "

November 9

Novell today is slated to begin shipping a desktop version of its SuSE Linux distribution for $50 per system, in a bundle that includes the OpenOffice suite, Mozilla Firefox and various collaboration and management software (see story). The software is aimed at enterprise users.

"Novell Linux Desktop is not about the wholesale replacement of your Windows systems, but rather it's about identifying where and when an open source desktop can be a sensible, cost-effective alternative," CEO Jack Messman said in a statement.

There was, unsurprisingly, a fair amount of chatter on Slashdot following the news.

"Looks just like Suse or any other distro, except with a big "N" everywhere. Way to revolutionize Linux there Novell," said one unimpressed (and anonymous) poster.

"I think this is a much bigger step than what it is being given credit for at first glance," said another. "It looks like the default desktop environment is Gnome instead of KDE. I, for one, am extremely happy to see that."

November 9

Vice Chairman Chris Stone has left Novell "to pursue other opportunities," the company announced yesterday.

Novell stock dipped about 2%, to $7.05 per share, in morning trading today.

Research firm Decatur Jones, which follows the open-source movement for investors, believes Stone's departure is "a negative for both Novell and the industry," the firm said in an e-mail statement. "We believe that Mr. Stone was instrumental in pushing Novell toward a strategy of capturing value from open-source software, as opposed to other members of management [who] may be more inclined toward giving away Linux to fuel demand for Novell's other offerings, such as Identity Management and Directory Services."

Giving away one piece of software in order to sell others "is a flawed strategy," Decatur Jones argues, because it encourages the give-away or commoditization of other software "higher in the stack."

Yankee Group analyst (and one-time Computerworld reporter) Laura DiDio also saw Stone's exit as bad news. The move is "a potential blow to Novell" since Stone is "widely known and respected in the software industry," DiDio told thestreet.com. She believes the company may be in the midst of a more widespread shakeup.

Decatur Jones speculates that Stone was asked to leave, based on news of a $2 million severance package and 18 months of health care benefits. If so, and Stone is in the market for a new job, it's hard to imagine that another company interested in figuring out how to make money from open-source won't want to snap him up.

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"IDC expects Linux operating environments will continue to grow rapidly, propelling open source from its current seventh place to the fourth most-popular platform for software by the end of the [2003-2008] forecast period," the research firm reports (disclaimer: IDG is a sister company of Computerworld). IDC says that worldwide software revenue increased 5.1% to $178 billion last year, and hsould hit $189 billion this year. More than one-third of last year's sales came from the industry's five top companies: Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Computer Associates, the new report says.

November 2

It seems Wall Street is no longer bullish on SCO's prospects of garnering revenue from Linux (and Unix) licensees. SCO stock has dropped to $2.90 per share, down a whopping 85% from its 12-month high of $19.62.

Analyst Dion Cornett at Decatur Jones cites three reasons for the plunge: heavy selling by venture capital firm BayStar to cash in some of its investment that was recently converted to (sellable) stock, setbacks in SCO's case against IBM, and SCO's failure "to reach an agreement with its lawyers to cap soaring legal expenses."

Cornett notes that IBM produced "a parade of expert witnesses ... with first hand knowledge of the original AT&T [Unix] contracts, who provided testimony contrary to SCO's assertions" of its rights over the Unix operating system. In addition, he says, some investors are worried that SCO's legal counsel will be paid in stock after a cash cap of $31 million is reached.

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