OS Blog: Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

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Intel "intends to include its compiler and debugger in the Open Source Eclipse development environment by year-end and its clustering tool by mid-2005," says analyst Dion Cornett with Decatur Jones in his weekly newsletter Open Source Wall Street. He believes that will allow developers to "write an application once and immediately have it available for both Windows and Linux," which could mean "a proliferation of new Linux-native applications starting next year."

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Retail services firm Datavantage recently moved from a Sun E450 platform running Oracle to a cluster of Intel-based HP ProLiant servers running Linux and Oracle's 9i Real Application Cluster database, our sister publication Network World reported recently. Development manager Ian Amit says that the old infrastructure cost about $1 million; the new cluster was set up for roughly $250,000.

The legacy system had too much downtime, Amit told Network World. "The data itself was becoming a nightmare because you literally cannot take the system down. For every little hiccup that the system had, that was downtime."

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The Howard County, Md., public library recently migrated its public-access desktop systems from Windows to Linux. The IT staff likes the new setup for its security, simplicity and ease of network administration, Brian Auger writes in the Library Journal.

No Linux expertise in house? "Offer opportunities to your IT staff to begin or enhance their Linux expertise by rebuilding older PCs to run Linux," he advises. "Let them build firewalls, bulletin boards, and intranets with Linux and other open source solutions. Encourage them to take courses."

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Desktop Linux may be the current open-source buzz, but O'Reilly recently released a book looking at the next potential wave, Linux Unwired. The book "provides a detailed introduction to all the wireless technologies supported by Linux and shows how to get all of them--including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, GPS, and infrared--working," the publisher says.

May 4

Red Hat is targeting the enterprise desktop (see story), in a package aimed at mainstream corporate users.

"Any software engineer worth his salt knows that security and stability are inversely related to the number of features in a piece of software," writes a poster on Slashdot, praising Red Hat for realizing many users just want to get their work done without a load of bells and whistles. "The lack of features is a selling point," said another.

Other posts noted that if Red Hat Desktop comes with top-quality corporate support, it could be quite attractive; but lack of good support, particularly when trying to install desktop apps running on Linux, could be an issue.

Of course, Slashdot visitors do tend to be somewhat predisposed toward open-source....

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Longhorn will allow developers more flexibility in writing code that doesn't require users to have administrative privileges in order to install and run it, writes Keith Brown on the Microsoft Developers Network. Using this "least-privilege" approach to code helps make systems more secure, he says in an article that goes into a good deal of technical depth on managing privileges for Longhorn apps.

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IBM software engineer Li Ge has compared Linux kernels 2.4 and 2.6 for Web serving tasks, concluding "the 2.6 kernel is much faster than 2.4 for serving Web pages, with no loss in reliability."

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Could Solaris go open-source? Sun is mulling a GPL version of its flagship OS, Sun President Jonathan Schwartz told the IDG News Service. However, Gartner analyst George Weiss said executives' flirting with open-source is likely to confuse customers who are trying to differentiate between Solaris and Linux.

April 27

Gentoo Linux chief architect Daniel Robbins has announced his resignation, and his departure "will undoubtedly be felt," says a notice posted on the Gentoo site. "Daniel was a key contributor to the Gentoo Linux project and his contributions will be missed by many."

Gentoo Technologies is in the process of becoming a not-for-profit organization, and the Gentoo distribution will be overseen by a board of trustees. There are currently about 200 developers working on the Gentoo distribution, the organization says.

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OSNews.com gives a thumbs up to Cobind Desktop 0.1. "For the first time in a long time, I saw what I felt was Linux done right," raves reviewer Adam Scheinberg. Cobind, he says, "offers a simple and sleek set of packages, focusing on delivering a single product well rather than a slew of options with mixed results."

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Sun Microsystems has published an "unofficial installation guide" for Solaris x86 Platform Edition on x86 hardware. The 24-page guide is available for free download in PDF format.

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Retired Microsoft millionaire Paul Moritz is now spearheading a start-up called PI Corp. that plans to develop personal information software for the Linux desktop, according to LinuxWorld. Development work has been outsourced to Aditi Tech in Bangalore, says The Times of India.

April 22

Once security patches are released, can attacks on those exploits -- seeking to target systems which haven't applied the fix -- be far behind? Usually not, which is why security experts are urging admins to install the most recent wave of critical Windows patches ASAP. The SANS Institute has already spotted exploits for some of the flaws Microsoft announced last week (see story).

However, patches can come with their own set of problems. "While the existence of working exploits for several of the flaws encourages users to immediately patch systems, many users have reported problems after installing the patches," ENT magazine reports. "Visitors to ENTmag.com have experienced slow performance, disabled disk drives, and broken applications, including Oracle 8.1.6. Many of the problems were fixed after uninstalling the patches."

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Sun has cut prices on volume Solaris OS installations on x86 architecture, the company announced. The new prices cover subscriptions of 100, 500 and 2,000 licenses.

Sun claims Solaris on x86 is now substantially less expensive than Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Its packages, including support, start at $50,000 for 100 seats and $800,000 for 2,000 seats; Sun notes that list price for Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES with support is $799 per system. (What Sun doesn't mention, of course, is that it's possible a customer buying 2,000 Red Hat seats would get a volume discount and not pay the total $1.6 million list price.)

"The announcement is certain to invite responses from the major Linux suppliers, namely Red Hat and SuSE, with whom Sun has been slugging it out for some time," writes Tony Lock with Bloor Research. "It may even provoke a response from Microsoft."

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The BBC is using Linux because of "reliability and the ability to change code, rather than cost,... according to Damion Yates, team leader of internet operations at BBC Technology," ComputerWeekly reports.

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Don't expect IBM to follow the Novell model and look for a Linux vendor to acquire. "We've chosen very explicitly not to be a Linux distributor," Steve Mills, head of IBM's Software Group, told Computerworld news editor Don Tennant. "We decided that the way the Linux community was evolving, that IBM being a distributor was not required for Linux to be successful, and it probably wouldn't be helpful for IBM to be a distributor. Those are very tough business models. Red Hat has a lot of market cap -- they don't have a lot of business results. It's very challenging to try to build a company around what's essentially a free product."

IBM has released a free software evaluation kit for Linux coders building on-demand applications and Web services. The SEK DB2 Universal Database, WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Studio Site Developer, Lotus Domino, and Tivoli Access Manager "trial code for Linux," the company says. You can order it from IBM's DeveloperWorks site.

April 20

If you were among the first to download Microsoft's XP Service Pack 2 Release Candidate 1, you may want to make sure you get an updated version. BetaNews reports that Microsoft "has taken the unusual step of patching up known issues in the midst of beta testing. Two of the issues concern the Windows Firewall, while the other clears up a problem with dropped virtual private networking (VPN) connections on Linksys gateway devices." You can download the latest SP2 from Microsoft's Web site.

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For details on how an implementation of the Linux 2.6 kernel looks in production software, Mad Penguin has a lengthy review of SuSE 9.1 Professional -- complete with screen shots. "A powerful tool that is easy to setup and configure," concludes reviewer Adam Doxtater. There's a separate review of SuSE 9.1 Personal, still in Release Candidate stage.

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Decatur Jones analyst Dion Cornett questions whether Sun Microsystems is committed to open-source. "Based on management comments, we believe [Sun] remains overly focused on SPARC and Solaris and may not move as quickly towards software and Open Source in particular, as the appointment of Jonathan Schwartz to President and COO may have suggested," he wrote in his Open Source Wall Street newsletter, which was posted on GrokLaw. Instead, Cornett thinks Sun wants Solaris to challenge Linux on x86 architecture -- something he calls "a challenging task." Still, he gave credit to Sun's numerous contributions to open-source projects such as OpenOffice and Apache.

April 19

Is Wall Street souring on SCO? One of its recent major venture-capital investors wants out of its deal, according to an IDG News Service report (see story). BayStar Capital made the news a few weeks ago when it was revealed that Microsoft paved the way for BayStar's $20 million in SCO (see story). That raised eyebrows since SCO has been launching legal attacks against Linux vendors and users, claiming intellectual-property violations, while Linux just happens to be an increasingly important competitor to Microsoft operating systems.

It's unclear why BayStar wants out, other than a claim that SCO violated terms of an agreement between the two companies.

April 13

"A new operating system war is brewing on desktop PCs, and it's not Windows vs. Mac, or even Windows vs. Linux," writes Ken Spencer Brown in today's Investor's Business Daily. "This time, it's Linux vs. Linux."

That may sound somewhat silly considering Microsoft's got more than 90% of the desktop market. But Brown makes a case that some big names are moving into the Linux desktop arena, and the fact that it's drawing multiple mainstream vendors says something.

For example, "HP, which says it now sells 100,000 Linux-powered PCs per quarter, expects [its deal with] Novell deal to boost that figure, though it won't give estimates," he notes.

April 12

Thanks to Computerworld forum poster Paul Hubert for pointing out this piece in the Globe and Mail about the benefits Calgary city government has reaped by switching to Linux.

The Canadian city "updated its hardware (which was not even worth discussing at the prices of Unix devices a year ago), dramatically reduced its continuing maintenance costs, and -- an unexpected benefit -- achieved massive improvements in the time it takes to run routine applications," writes Globe and Mail columnist David Ticoll.

The article includes lots of details about tests run before making the switch, as well as advice to enterprises considering migration. Definitely worth a read.

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Two Japanese programmers and a 21-year-old Israeli computer science student have created a project they say makes it easier for Linux and Windows to work on the same system, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports.

Cooperative Linux, or CoLinux for short, is "the first working free and open-source method for optimally running Linux on Microsoft Windows natively," according to the project's Web site. The software "is a port of the Linux kernel that allows it to run cooperatively alongside another operating system on a single machine. For instance, it allows one to freely run Linux on Windows 2000/XP, without using a commercial PC virtualization software such as VMware, in a way which is much more optimal than using any general purpose PC virtualization software."

"Shahar Shemesh, a member of the Israeli open source forum, explains the advantage of the application for large organizations is that it allows them to make large savings by running systems on the same machine, which until now required separate computers," Ha'aretz says.

April 9

Linux should be ruled out for U.S. military applications because developers around the world are invited to contribute code to the OS, Dan O'Dowd, CEO of Green Hills Software Inc., told the Net-Centric Operations Industry Forum in McLean, Va., this week.

Not coincidentally, Green Hills sells its own real-time operating systems, targeted at makers of embedded systems; and Linux is definitely gaining ground in the embedded market.

Still, O'Down raises an interesting point. Developers in Russia and China are working on the Linux project, and there'd certainly be a firestorm if the Defense Department directly hired IT contractors in those countries. On the other hand, O'Dowd's criticisms that embedded Linux companies have development centers in Moscow and Beijing ring a bit hollow considering blue-chip non-Linux companies like Oracle, IBM and Sun do development work in those countries or use outsourcing firms there. Russia's Luxoft, for example, boasts that it "serves the world's leading companies, such as Boeing [a major defense contractor], IBM, Dell and Citibank."

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