OS Blog: Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

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Nor is the company willing to predict when it will start generating cash from its Linux lawsuits. However, officials did say SCO expects to spend $3 million to $5 million per quarter on legal expenses, and it's got enough cash on hand to fund its efforts "for several years to come."

Meanwhile, SCO's new CFO Bert Young acknowledged that Linux "continues to negatively impact" SCO's traditional Unix business.

Wall Street didn't seem too impressed with today's results. SCO stock was down more than 10% by late afternoon, to $4.85, and popular financial site Motley Fool's headline was: SCO Keeps Sinking.

"It's tough to imagine, but this quarter's numbers are even worse than last quarter's stinkers," concluded Motley Fool's Seth Jayson. "Here's the sad truth: SCO is working hard to erase whatever viability it had as a software provider. It is now little more than a shell -- a lawsuit with a fancy name."

Surprisingly, I haven't seen much mention of SCO's $2 million charge for "the impairment of goodwill and intangible assets" -- in other words, the company determined that the dollar value it placed on things like its corporate brand was too high.

June 8

Just in case there were a few open-source fans that SCO hasn't managed to rile up, the company that's claiming IP rights to Linux now says Sun can't open-source Solaris under a GPL, according to Computerworld Australia.

Mind you, Sun hasn't even said for sure that it wants to use GPL for its planned open-source version of Solaris. But SCO clearly wants to slam the door shut early, and thus continue to assert its intellectual property claims across a wide swath of -ix/-ux operating systems.

The GPL, or General Public License, is a popular framework under which developers release software that's free for others to use, share and modify. Many observers believe that Sun would more likely use its Java model, which gives the company more control over software development. Open-source purists argue that's not "real" open source, since the software can't freely morph in the directions its users want.

Which brings up the question: How annoyed would Sun really be by SCO's comments? If Sun wanted to use its Java Community Source license model anyway, SCO might end up taking most of the heat from open-source advocates.

It's unclear whether commercial users will care that much, though, beyond those interested in the philosophical issues. "They will care that the software works and that they can get support from Sun," consultant Perry Donham at Collaborate Consulting told Computerworld.

June 7

I was out of town when the news broke that after months of public pondering, Sun is indeed planning to open-source its flagship Solaris operating system, but it's been interesting to catch up.

So far, plans seem a bit vague and not very immediate ("We're in the 'thinking about it' stage," spokesman Russ Castronovo told the IDG News Service). The Open Source Initiative's Eric Raymond makes a good point when he says Sun needs to release something pretty soon, or it may be too late to catch Linux.

Companies now considering a move to an open-source platform are probably looking at Linux. They can't really add Solaris to that equation until they know what an open-source version of Sun's OS would look like. Will it be the complete operating system, or a stripped-down version? What are the support options? Meanwhile, how many companies will want to shell out big bucks for commercial Solaris until they find out what the alternative licensing will be?

Not surprisingly, there's a lot of suspicion among open-source enthusiasts, since Linux is a major Solaris competitor. Some complain that if Sun uses a license similar to its Java Community Source plan, that's not "real" open-source since Sun keeps control over the software. Others wonder aloud on Slashdot.org, "Doesn't anyone else find it strange that we have a Microsoft and Sun deal and now Sun starts touting, 'You should not be using Linux, as some day we are going to be making Solaris open source.' Yeah sure but are we certain that 'some day' will arrive?"

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Just as medicine carries different pricetags in different countries, it appears Microsoft is ready to price its products more attractively in, say, Southeast Asia than its more developed markets.

"This is a new market with very different needs, from an economic perspective, from a social perspective, from a technical perspective," Barry Goff, group product manager for Windows Client group, told Associated Press.

"Microsoft executives suggest that pricing policies for government-promoted PC sales pioneered last year in Thailand and used again in Malaysia this year presage a new marketing approach for emerging markets," AP says.

May 28

Longhorn client is due in 2006, but Longhorn server's not expected til '07. But Windows Server 2003 R2 should be ready next year.... iIf it all is starting to give you a headache, Directions on Microsoft has posted a nice, easy-to-view chart of the latest Windows roadmap. They've also got a fairly lengthy explainer, Microsoft Windows Roadmap Includes New Server Release, that goes into details about what each software update is expected to include.

Of course, Computerworld's own Microsoft beat reporter, Carol Sliwa, has been carefully following the roadmap twists and turns. "Plans call for a major release of Windows Server roughly every four years and an incremental update two to two and a half years after each major release," she wrote earlier this month.

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"Linux siphoned market share from Unix in the relational database management system (RDBMS) market, a niche that grew 158 percent from $116 million in new license revenue in 2002 to nearly $300 million in 2003," Internet.com reports on a Gartner market analysis. Oracle has 57% of the Unix-based database market and 69% of the Linux-based market, Gartner said.

Also see our article, Gartner: IBM tops database market, but Oracle leads in Linux.

In other Gartner statistical news, "revenue of Linux-based server hardware rose 57.3 percent over the first quarter, while commercial Unix server revenue fell 2.3 percent," according to Web Host Industry Review.

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Antivirus firm Symantec Corp. is considering switching at least some of its corporate desktops over to Linux, CEO John Thompson said at an analysts' conference this week, according to Bloomberg News. The company plans to study the possibility after releasing a version of its antivirus software for Linux.

May 24

"Microsoft will deliver products around Visual Studio next year designed to tie the roles of developers and IT administrators more closely together to make the writing, deploying and maintaining of applications a more efficient and secure process," ENT magazine reports from Microsoft's TechEd conference this week.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System, code-named "Whidbey," is "an update to provide developers with hooks into SQL Server 2005," ENT says.

"It's for group developement, modelling, test, etc.," says Paul Andrew, listed as "staff" on the Microsoft-moderated TechEd blogging site. "Real enterprise developer stuff. . . . We saw unit testing tools in the Visual Studio .NET environment and integrated code coverage tools. You can prevent a code checkin until all code has had unit testing run over it. There were integrated static analysis tools for finding potential security faults. Integrated performance testing tools."

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"Computer Associates has contributed a significant piece of widgetry it calls K-Gem to the Linux kernel that should put Linux in the running for B1 security clearance by 'hardening' it," Maureen O'Gara writes on Linuxworld.com. The Kernel General Event Module will "standardize the event notification process," she explains, which means numerous developers don't have to devise their own methods.

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"Latif" points out another interesting reason why some users' Windows machines aren't up to date. No, it's not simply clueless home users, or even administrators concerned about patches creating new problems along with solving old ones. For users with older systems who need or want to re-install their operating systems from scratch, "Windows encourages users to reinstall it every once in a while, and when they do, Windows Update actively prevents users from updating their systems," according to a post on techuser.

That's because if you're a few patches/service packs behind, it can be both difficult and time-consuming to use Windows Update to bring an old OS up to speed. And while a system has an old, unpatched OS reinstalled and connects to the Internet to download a service pack, there's plenty of time for the latest generation of aggressive worms to strike.

The author has a point. I got a new home PC the week Blaster came out; in less time than it took our spanking-new system to connect to the Internet and update our antivirus and firewall software, the machine got infected.

May 17

Microsoft is accepting applications from organizations that want to beta its Live Communications Server 2005, a "next-generation enterprise instant messaging and presence-awareness server" previously code-named Vienna." It includes encryption and authentication, as well as integration with Office. Interested companies "should contact their Microsoft account manager or sales representative for instructions on how to nominate their organization," according to a Microsoft announcement.

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XP SP2 could make a dent in the spyware problem, according to an article on Wired.com.

"Expected to be released this summer, the Windows XP Service Pack 2 update will contain no fewer than five new security features designed to ward off the unauthorized installation of software via the Internet," the story notes.

While unlikely to do away with the insidious surreptitiously installed tracking and ad-popping code, "I do think it'll have an effect on spyware," NTBugtraq list editor Russ Cooper told Wired.

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Want to give Linux a try but don't have a spare system (or time) to play around with installation? No problem -- just run the OS from a CD, advises Alexandra Krasne in PC World's GeekTech column. She says you can run the Knoppix distribution off a CD.

May 12

IBM's Workplace bundle of application software "could actually prove to be the biggest threat to Microsoft's hammerlock on PC software since IBM was pushing its own competing operating system, OS/2, from 1987 through 1996," technology editor Alex Salkever writes in a Business Week Online commentary.

In a broad jump of logic, Salkever then speculates this "might open up a wave of competition to the core Windows operating system itself." Well, maybe not. I suspect there are other reasons corporations have Windows on the desktop besides Office (retraining inertia, for one).

Still, Workplace's server-based approach for productivity software, requiring a relatively spare amount of software on clients and the bulk of code (and administration necessity) on the server, could certainly garner interest of IT pros who manage thousands of desktops.

IBM isn't trying to develop an anti-Microsoft strategy, IBM's Steve Mills told Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau (see story).

Salkever admits "it has never worked before" -- previous attempts to centralize office productivity apps haven't made a dent in Microsoft Office popularity. Nevertheless, he believes current market forces may finally be right for this one to succeed.

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Early SCO investor Royal Bank of Canada is "cashing out," in the words of Internetnews.com, turning some of its preferred-class stock into common stock and selling the rest to Baystar Capital. SCO made the announcement last week.

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Service Pack 2 will not install on copies of Windows XP with "known pirated" product ID codes, BetaNews confirmed with Microsoft.

May 6

"Although Microsoft has made security a top priority for the past couple years, its top executives didn't devote much time to the topic at the annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference," Associated Press notes in its coverage of this year's WinHec. "Instead, they focused on the whiz-bang gadgets of the future."

However, a Microsoft official did tell the IDG News Service that the company is revisiting its Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) security plan because developers don't want to rewrite their code to take advantage of the technology (see story).

"We're revisiting the way that the architecture needs to be built in order to accommodate the feedback that we have gotten and provide the broader value that we want the technology to provide," said product manager Mario Juarez.

Otherwise, along with lots of presentations on gadgets for homes and cars, Microsoft officials did make some enterprise-related announcements:

  • The company plans to deliver versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 for 64-Bit Extended Systems in the fourth quarter this year (see story)

  • Development on Longhorn server and client versions has been "synchronized," although that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be released at the same time (see story).
  • Windows XP Service Pack is indeed slated for a late summer release and will focus on security issues, Vice President Jim Allchin confirmed, according to Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. "XP SP2 will beget three major new client releases, XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 (codenamed Lonestar), XP Media Center Edition 2005 (codenamed Symphony), and XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-bit Extended Systems, the latter of which targets AMD-64 and upcoming Intel-based x86-64 systems. Microsoft will also ship Windows CE 5.0 and new versions of the Smartphone and Pocket PC operating systems in 2004, Allchin said."
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