December Operating System Highlights From Around the Web

Linux

"The government of India has started taking precise, wide-reaching steps to usher in a Linux wave in India," the Economic Times of India reports -- major news considering that country's large and growing software industry. The country's IT ministry met this week "to evolve a level playing field for Linux vis-a-vis proprietary software (read Microsoft)," writes Prasenjit Bhattacharya. "There was consensus in the meeting that Linux was a secure, robust and cost-effective system."

Meanwhile, Linux advocate Robin Miller describes sharing the stage with two Microsoft executives at an Open Source Workshop in Jordan. "Speakers were warned not to directly knock Microsoft; that there had been complaints about negativity toward this fine conference sponsor," Miller relates. "This led to a lot of rather silly verbal dancing in both Arabic and English -- at least on the part of the Open Source advocates, because the Microsoft people certainly had no problem going on the attack." But a Jordan Times account of the conference had a somewhat different view, noting that there was plenty of Windows bashing going on.

"While, from the podium, experts were unceremoniously putting down Microsoft, Microsoft's name was lurking from a large banner on the background and from the workshop's information material in front of each participant," the newspaper's Web site relates, going on to wonder: "Why would Microsoft, on one hand, threaten to sue the German government for encouraging OSS in its white papers, and, on the other hand, sponsor an OSS workshop in Jordan?" The conclusion was two-fold: Microsoft can't afford to be absent from a major IT event, and the company wants to make sure its side of the open-source debate is heard.

Interestingly, despite fears among open-source advocates that the U.S. government may try to quash their movement abroad, in an effort to protect the largest practitioner of a lucrative proprietary software industry, the U.S. Agency for International Development was among the sponsors of that conference in Jordan.

The Associated Press has a look at Microsoft's latest strategies in its battle against Linux, noting that the software giant "is shifting the battleground from schoolyard insults or techie-speak to corporate notions of business value." For now, many of Linux's victories in the enterprise are coming against Unix systems from Sun and HP, AP concludes, but in a few years Linux growth may come at Windows' expense.

That was the case at Zumiez, an Everett, Wash.-based retailer that "had been using the Unix operating system to power its cash registers, but the cost - about $1,000 at each of its 100 locations - was more than what the company wanted to pay," the Seattle Times reports. "In lieu of Microsoft, which makes the industry's dominant operating system, the store's technicians turned to Linux, which was free. They installed the system by themselves and added internal e-mail, Web access and spreadsheets - which they didn't have before."

Upcoming: LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, January 21-24 at the Javits Center in New York, including keynotes on "Playing Well With Others" (AMD), "100 Million Reasons Why Architecture Matters" (Red Hat) and "Linux: Coming of Age" (Dell); as well as the "Golden Penguin Bowl" geek trivia game. The conference is organized by IDG World Expo, a Computerworld sister company.

Windows

Interested in Windows .NET Server 2003? Microsoft has already posted documentation for the software, due for official release in the spring, if you want to take a look. The online docs are aimed at helping customers evaluate early versions of the software.

If you've got some downtime this holiday week and want to beef up your desktop software, check out James A. Eshelman's Favorite Freeware, including links to a "spyware" finder, more robust Notepad replacements and TweakUI ("the best of all the power toys"). Eshelman, a technical support professional, also has a number of how-to articles as well as links to a number of support-related Web sites.

December 18

WinInformant.com looks ahead to '03 and Microsoft's expected major software and tool releases next year. "The company will unleash an unprecedented collection of desktop and server software and services," writes Paul Thurrott, including .NET releases, Exchange 2003 Server and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (for 64-bit architecture). A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, but it does look to be a busy year at Redmond. For the detailed list, see the article.

Meanwhile, VNUnet reports that users are unhappy with the latest Microsoft security updates, complaining "Microsoft's latest patches open them up to even greater vulnerability," according to a news story posted yesterday. "Much of the ill will surrounds the recent release of a cumulative patch for Internet Explorer, which also contains a fix for a newly discovered critical vulnerability." Some users reported that some systems running Windows 98 and IE 5.5 didn't reboot properly after the patch was installed.

Microsoft responded to VNUnet that the company did not know of any major problems with the patch.

Microsoft apps on Linux continued.... Business 2.0 weighs in on the Meta Group prediction earlier this month that Microsoft will port some of its software to run in the Linux environment. "Though the 'Microsoft to run Linux' headlines are shocking, the report's conclusions make a lot of sense," the article concludes. "Indeed, a more shocking headline would be 'Microsoft not to run Linux.'"

IBM continues to both court and inform Linux users, with a section of its Web site devoted to News in brief from IBM's Linux Technology Center. Latest updates include new releases of Heartbeat from IBM's High Availability Linux Project, aimed at addressing "a major security problem," and a new version of its ACP Modem (MWave), a software-based modem for Linux.

IBM notes somewhat unhappily that EVMS -- the open source Enterprise Volume Management System project -- won't be included in the Linux 2.5 kernel. Developers working on the project said their plan now "is to provide the same, single,

coherent method for performing all volume management tasks," according to an announcement from the EVMS project. "This change will be almost transparent for most users. The same features, plugins, and capabilities will be supported. There will, of course, be some minor changes." For more info on EVMS, see Introduction to EVMS on IBM's developerWorks site.

Red Hat posted its first-ever profit last quarter, news that will hearten Linux advocates arguing that it is possible to create a viable business model around open-source software. See story.

Cafecomputer.com posted Yet Another Linux FAQ last weekend aimed at those seeking to answer some basic questions about Linux (Where can I find more resources? What should I know before beginning my install?). While one can legitimately question why the world needs another Linux Q&A, this one is fairly readable and user-friendly, if a little too vague at times (i.e. the section on Linux books includes the helpful suggestion of "Get at least a couple of books. I highly recommend Linux in a Nutshell. The other book should probably be about the distribution you are going to use.")

Sun has some fun with a popular new movie out that sports the name of its flagship OS. See Top Ten reasons why Solaris, the movie, is named after Sun's Operating Environment. My favorite: "Solaris the movie is a story of love, redemption and second chances ... sort of like Solaris on x86." (Background: Sun was going to end its support of Solaris on Intel architecture, but relented after user criticism [see story]).

Favorite pun this week: variants seen on several sites, including the Linux User Group Austria, of all places, whose Web site is "powered by Linux -- the choice of a gnu generation."

December 11

Linux

It's worth finding out more about find, the Linux utility that "does so much more than just locate files," writes Jerry Peek in Linux Magazine. While not particularly well documented, he says, "find is actually simple to use, elegant, and a great Linux power tool."

Microsoft will bow to market demand and offer server and Web services software for Linux by late 2004, Meta Group analysts predict. "Either courting controversy or speaking the unspeakable," is how the U.K.-based Inquirer covered the report. "I'm unaware of any efforts at this time to move any products onto Linux," Peter Houston, senior director at Microsoft's server group, told Reuters. The Register called Microsoft's response an "un-denial," concluding: "Redmond's official 'denial' leaves the option wide open."

For those who are experimenting learning Linux at home, comes this article from Viper's Lair on how to set up a Linux router/firewall.

A new Aberdeen Group report on IBM's Linux strategy concludes, "While IBM's Linux on all platforms is an admirable strategy, today users cannot just choose the IBM platform on which to run Linux applications. And it is not clear this will ever be the case because of the unevenness of the availability of Linux across the eServer platforms." You've got to pay $495 for the full report, but if you want to see a snippet more of what's in it, head to Aberdeen's Web site.

In other analyst report news, Butler Group issued a report concluding: "By 2009, the high-end proprietary UNIX offerings from HP, Sun and IBM will lose significant market share to both Linux and .Net." Personally, I find it hard to take seven-year technology forecasts very seriously -- who knows what might be invented in, say, 2007 that could throw the forecast trajectory askew? But it is an interesting statement about current trends, in any case.

Anyone wondering about the status of the latest (stable) Linux kernel release can now view progress in graphical (chart) format. For specific features and changes, check the latest text update.

Windows

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer offers a round-up of leaks and speculations on Longhorn, the next major Microsoft OS product now in development. Longhorn will likely create a new file system to replace FAT (file allocation table) and NT's NTFS, as well as "present a single, unified way of interacting with programs," according to P-I reporter Dan Richman.

Microsoft has released several guides for enterprise Windows users, including patch management using Systems Management Server (SMS) and Service Monitoring and Control Using Microsoft Operations Manager. You can see the Computerworld story on this, or head to Microsoft's Web site to download the various guides.

The debate continues on that Microsoft-sponsored IDC study claiming Windows has a lower total cost of ownership than Linux -- based largely on higher staffing cost estimates. Gartner vice president Andy Butler disputed the conclusion, telling VNUnet, "I would not see why it would cost 30 percent more to employ a Linux specialist." Network/security consultant (and Computerworld reader) Matthew Carpenter also weighed in, asking: "How can you compare 5-year TCO when Windows 2000 has only been around for two years and most of the tools that make Linux easy and friendly to administer have only really appeared in the past three years?" (see story).

Columnist Michael S. Malone, while not commenting on the study directly, does include the Microsoft vs. Linux question in his Duels to Come: Who Will Win the New Business Battles? Other tech tussles predicted in the column: Intel vs. AMD (I was surprised at his pick there), HP vs. Sun and Microsoft vs. AOL.

Do you remember reports about a spam hole in Windows XP -- one that allows senders of annoying junk mail to take advantage of a Windows messaging service to pop their message up on your screen, even if you're not surfing the Web? If you're curious how that works, University of North Carolina-Charlotte's Niner Online has a little explainer, including directions on how to send one of those messages to your own system, as well as how to plug the hole. The service was originally designed for internal use, so admins could send users on a network time-critical messages.

If you want to spruce up your Windows desktop for the holidays, Microsoft has released three free Winter Fun Packs including some seasonal screen savers.

December 4

Linux

Speakers at this week's Enterprise Linux Forum offered a slew of useful Web resources for those wanting to learn more about deploying the OS at their companies. One of the most intriguing: a September report outlining total cost of ownership for Linux Web servers vs. Solaris and Windows.

This Robert Frances Group survey includes data from just 14 mid- and large-sized organizations, so you might want to take the stats with a grain of salt; but there's a lot of interesting info compiled from those who answered -- including a conclusion that Linux TCO over two years is just 13% the cost of Solaris and less than half that of Windows. You can get the eight-page report e-mailed to you after requesting it from the Robert Frances Group Web site.

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