OS Blog: Windows, Linux Highlights From Around the Web

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For the record, I oppose two-year-long political campaigns, I'm a registered independent and I haven't yet decided which presidential candidate I support (although I already know a few I don't want). That said, my inner Webhead can't help being fascinated by the Dean campaign, which has developed a radical new way of using the Internet in politics -- much more than slick design, effective fundraising and some interactive tools.

"I used to work for a little while for Progeny Linux Systems," campaign manager Joe Trippi told Stanford's Lawrence Lessig. "I always wondered, how could you take that same collaboration that occurs in Linux and open source and apply it here. What would happen if there were a way to do that and engage everybody in a presidential campaign?"

Can open-source campaigning do to Washington what open-source software is doing to Redmond?

"...[T]he political establishment has been blindsided by the Internet's growing sophistication as a political tool -- and therefore blindsided by the Dean campaign -- much as the music industry establishment was by file sharing," New York Times columnist Frank Rich writes in an extraordinarily insightful column, Napster Runs for President in '04 (click quick; Times stories move into the fee-to-read archives after a week). "Much as thousands of connected techies perfected the Linux operating system's code through open collaboration, so Dean online followers collaborate on organizing and perfecting the campaign, their ideas trickling up from the bottom rather than being superimposed from national headquarters."

The Dean candidacy is so different because traditional campaigns are "all about command and control," Matthew Kerbel, associate professor of political science and author of several books on campaigning and the media, explained via e-mail. Meanwhile, Dean "has half a million people speaking on his behalf. How are you supposed to stay on message with a system like that? The answer, of course, is that you may not always be on message, but what you get in return cannot be duplicated by the traditional approach: deep loyalty, a fundraising machine, an idea machine, and a real-time, around the clock focus group. Traditional candidates cannot match these resources. ...

"In cyberspace, going off message isn't a problem, either, because bloggers will take action in a second to 'correct' anything that's said about their candidate that they feel isn't true. In this respect, the online campaign is self-correcting."

It's still unclear whether "Deniacs" and their next-generation campaign will succeed; after all, there are lots of other things beside process that will decide November's outcome. However, Rich makes a compelling case that Dean is dramatically transforming the use of the Internet in politics, similar to what FDR did for radio and JFK did for TV. If the Web is important to your business, you should be paying attention to this campaign -- regardless of your political outlook.

Microsoft Developers Network has posted the second chapter in its guide for the upcoming next-generation OS, "Preparing for Longhorn," with more details about "SOA" (service-oriented architecture), services themselves and managed code.

A federal court administrative agency is moving from Solaris on Intel to Linux, Federal Computer Week reports. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has tapped PEC Solutions Inc. to help migrate applications such as case management and accounting.

Austin, Texas, municipal government may move some applications from Microsoft to Linux as a way to save money, according to the Associated Press. Acting CIO Pete Collins said a decision is still several months away, and that if Linux is brought in, some apps will still remain on Microsoft platforms. He oversees more than 5,000 desktop systems.

December 17

Unhappy with the rising cost of Microsoft software licenses, Britain's National Health Service is launching a trial of Sun's Java Desktop as part of a multibillion-dollar IT overhaul, according to the Observer.

"The plan could see Java Desktop software rolled out across the NHS's 1 million staff and 800,000 computers to replace Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office suite of programmes," the newspaper notes. If the trial proves successful, NHS IT director Richard Granger told the Observer, "we could save the NHS and the taxpayer many millions of pounds." Sun's Java Desktop System includes GNOME desktop, StarOffice suite, Mozilla browser, Evolution mail and calendar, Java 2 Standard Edition and Linux OS.

While an increasing number of municipal governments are dabbling in Linux," Linuxworld reported recently, "few cities are running the bulk of their IT operations on Linux." Among those that are: Bloomington, Ind., and Garden Grove, Calif. However, the Microsoft-free municipality is still a ways off; both of the cities profiled still run Windows on the desktop, even if many back-end servers are open source.

"Microsoft's soon-to-be-released service pack for Windows XP will come with a major security-centric overhaul to the company's flagship Internet Explorer browser, including a new add-on management and crash detection tool and several modifications to the browser's default security settings," Jupiter Media's Ryan Naraine writes on atnewyork.com. For more details on SP2 changes and their impact on Windows application developers, see Changes to Functionality in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Forbes asks a good question this week in its article on Linux enthusiasts: "How do people get so emotionally involved with a piece of office equipment?" The answer is unclear; but the article does describe some of the vehemence with which fans of the OS have been attacking SCO and its supporters. "Much of the rhetoric is ordinary cheerleading ... but sometimes it gets ugly."

December 2

Windows columnist Paul Thurrott has a bit of schadenfreude (i.e. finding pleasure in another's misfortune) after last month's attacks on Debian servers. Debian, a group that distributes a version of Linux, said that four of its servers were compromised last month (see story).

The flaw exploited in the attack (see story) actually first came to light in September, Thurrott says, yet it wasn't fixed until more than a week after the Debian incident. "Imagine if Microsoft waited that long between the publication of a security vulnerability and its delivery of a fix," Thurrott writes.

Red Hat should be able to gain market share from SuSE Linux following Novell's acquisition of SuSE, Aberdeen analyst Bill Claybrook predicts; Red Hat's got the right strategy by focusing on an enterprise server OS with releases every 12 to 18 months, not 2 or 3 times per year, he says. Other fallout from the purchase, Claybrook writes: "If Novell sticks by its word, then the acquisition should be good for both Novell and SuSE." However, he doesn't think porting NetWare software to Linux will boost their market share much, at least in the short term.

Trying to decide on a Linux distribution? Distrowatch.com has a handy rundown of some major versions, including pros and cons of each.

If you're planning to install some Solaris servers in your data center, Sun Microsystems has just published its Site Planning Guide for Entry-Level Servers, including info on power, cooling and space requirements.

When macros aren't enough, MSDN magazine explains how to use C++ and XML to create "smart" Word and Excel documents in Office 2003.

November 26

"Microsoft is gearing up to release a beta version of Windows XP Service Pack 2," BetaNews reports. "An e-mail sent out Thursday invited testers to install and evaluate the pre-release code when it becomes available within the next several weeks." Microsoft selects some of its beta testers from users registered at its Betaplace.com Web site.

Four government offices in Nova Scotia are testing the Linux-based Lindows desktop operating system, according to the Globe and Mail. The Regional Community Access Program centers are using Lindows on computers that offer public Internet access.

Linus Torvalds has released 2.6.0-test10, a 100k patch that fixes a bunch of different Linux issues. You can read Torvalds' e-mail explaining the release at kerneltrap.org.

SuSE Linux released Service Pack 3 for its Linux Enterprise Server 8, offering some features from the latest "SuSE-optimized" Linux kernel 2.4.21, including more SAN configuration, support for IBM's eServer BladeCenter JS20 and the ability to manage up to 2,000 hard disks (the prior limit was 600).

SuSE also said its version 9.0 is now available for free download.

CodeWeavers Inc. says its latest CrossOver Office version, 2.1, now supports Macromedia Dreamweaver MX and Flash MX, allowing those Web development apps to run on Linux.

ServerWatch is running a series of tutorials about Internet Information Services 6.0 running on Windows Server 2003. This week's installment focuses on the NTFS File System.

November 19

The Register notes a tidbit from SCO Group's recent filing with the SEC, in which it says it may lose customers because of its fight claiming patent-infringement against the Linux operating system. "We are informed that participants in the Linux industry have attempted to influence participants in the markets in which we sell our products to reduce or eliminate the amount of our products and services that they purchase," SCO told the SEC. "They have been somewhat successful in those efforts and similar efforts and success will likely continue. There is also a risk that the assertion of our intellectual property rights will be negatively viewed by participants in our marketplace and we may lose support from such participants. Any of the foregoing could adversely affect our position in the marketplace and our results of operations."

Concludes the Register: "SCO has already lost business from its loyal customer base. And it expects to lose more."

For those who want to get inside the inner workings of Linux -- the operating system, that is, not the legal battles -- Gerard Beekmans has released verion 5.0 of his online book, Linux From Scratch. It details how to install the OS direct from source code, without relying on someone else's distribution. Why go through all the trouble? "You have more control of your system," Beekmans argues in the book's opening. "You ... dictate every aspect of your system, such as the directory layout and bootscript setup. You also dictate where, why and how programs are installed." Even those who do want to rely on a commercial version for their enterprise might find it useful to go through the exercise once as a learning experience.

"The next release of Windows, code-named Longhorn, will fundamentally change the way that developers create applications for the first time since the introduction of Windows NT and the Win32 API," says consulting firm Directions on Microsoft. "The changes, demonstrated at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Nov. 2003, involve the deep integration of the .NET Framework into Windows, which Microsoft hopes will spawn a new generation of applications that will only be available on Longhorn, compelling users to upgrade."

The report goes on to outline various technical changes of interest to developers; but even if you're not creating Windows apps, this is useful information for IT shops, especially those whose organizations will need or want such Longhorn-only software.

For a Microsoft-sanctioned look at Longhorn's impact on application development -- including screen shots -- head to "A First Look at Writing and Deploying Apps in the Next Generation of Windows" from the January '04 issue of MSDN magazine.

November 11

I'm guessing Princeton University's manager of technology strategy will need a fire extinguisher to battle all the flames flooding into his in-box, after he compared the open-source movement to an e-mail scam.

"Few of us would rush to send Mrs. Ahmed the $5,000 she asks for in return for a promised $8.5 million," Howard Strauss writes in Syllabus magazine. "Many of us buy the following scams where perhaps the lack of all caps serves to disguise them. Why buy expensive software or spend millions to develop it yourself? You can get complex systems at absolutely NO COST!"

His point, in a nutshell, is that you get what you pay for; and you can't count on products that people are either doing in their spare time or doing because they don't have a real job.

Answers Paul Tatham with the Montreal Linux User Group: "If we are to believe what you say in your article, then Open Source software is written by, 'a smattering of teenagers too young to work at Redmond, hackers, virus creators, and a menagerie of others,' . . . Perhaps your omission of spammers, communists, and child molesters was an oversight. Not only is this ludicrous, it is an insult to some of the best developers in the world, some of whom, I might add, also develop proprietary software."

Sun has updated its free, online Solaris OE Guide for New System Administrators to include new info on topics such as cloning systems with internal FC-AL boot disks.

Microsoft is offering a free, 120-day trial version of its Systems Management Server 2003 for customers in the U.S. and Canada. SMS helps with application deployment, asset management, and security patches, the company says.

Red Hat will host a Webcast Dec. 9 for those interested in migrating from earlier versions of its Linux distribution to its enterprise Linux line. Registration is required. Red Hat recently announced it will end support of its "free" Red Hat Linux distribution next April (see story).

Several sites have noted the irony of Caldera co-founder Ransom Love joining the board of directors of Linux firm Progeny this week. Caldera acquired Santa Cruz Operation during Love's CEO tenure; the merged companies eventually became SCO, the entity that's suing IBM and threatening others over allegations that Linux infringes on a SCO patent.

November 5
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