January Operating Systems Highlights From Around the Web

Microsoft has re-issued its Windows XP Server Message Block fix so it installs properly on systems with XP Service Pack 1, Windows & .Net magazine reports. The fix patches a Group Policy vulnerability and solves some errors that cropped up on Service Pack 1 installations. There's additional info and a download link on Microsoft's Web site.

Also posted recently on the Microsoft Web site -- a technical paper explaining real-time communications protocols like SIP and SIMPLE, and how XP supports them.

In our Tales of the Unexpected Department, one of the Open Source Product Excellence Award winners at LinuxWorld last week: Microsoft! Some would argue that the company's Services for Unix 3.0 isn't really open source, VNU.net notes, but LinuxWorld judges obviously disagree. SGI's Altix 3000 won Best of Show (see the full list on the LinuxWorld Web site).

It's not often that Microsoft caves on an intellectual property issue, but apparently the software behemoth has backed off a plan to trademark "Palladium" for its secure computing initiative after another company also applied to use the term. Microsoft didn't want to look like a bully, an executive told WinInfo. Wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that, as WinInfo's Paul Thurrott put it, "Palladium is one of Microsoft's most misunderstood technologies and, as a result, the name had become somewhat tarnished."

The National Weather Service plans to move its office and research centers to Linux over the next few years, according to NewsForge. CIO Barry West expects "up to a 3-to-1 savings ratio."

IBM's released its free Linux Software Evaluation Kit for 2003, featuring a slew of middleware and tools (trial versions), LWN reports. You can sign up for a free copy on IBM's Web site.

Looking for Linux information online? Google has a separate search area just for things Linux, at www.google.com/linux. There's a similar section for the Mac (www.google.com/mac).

Linux Journal says it's releasing free, open-source documentation on how to use Linux desktop tools in the office. "Linux in the Workplace" is slated for release Feb. 15 -- the anniversary of Windows Refund Day (when those who purchased desktop computers with Windows who didn't want to use that OS were encouraged to seek a refund for the software).

January 22

The latest update to Sun's OS, Solaris 9 12/02, features "a couple of big extras for capability and performance," OS News reports. The update includes an integrated application server (SunONE) and a revamped UFS file system, OS News says. (They also observe that despite the "12/02" release date, this was actually only generally available more recently). As we noted last month, Sun is also including a six-month trial version of BEA System's WebLogic Server 7.0 with this Solaris 9 upgrade (see story).

There's more info on this Solaris release on Sun's Web site.

"The long-awaited port of HP's OpenVMS to Intel's Itanium is set for full release next year, as are plans to move Tru64 Unix features into HP-UX," according to The Register. That news came in HP's announcement of new AlphaServers this week. We note that "HP's previously announced plans to eventually standardize all of its servers on Intel Itanium processors may temper some of the enthusiasm the announcement would otherwise have generated" (see Computerworld story).

"Yes, You Can Make Users Change Their Password," promises this article in Windows & .NET magazine. It might more accurately be titled Yes, You Can Hand Over The Job of Resetting Passwords Outside the IT Department, but that can still be a worthwhile goal, according to David Chernicoff. He says that IT support people often have to reset passwords if users forget them or ignore warnings that they had to change them within a certain number of days. Active Directory lets IT managers "delegate simple tasks such as resetting passwords" to managers in various departments, he writes, thus freeing IT support for more technically demanding jobs.

Another voice weighs in this week on what's better for your desktop: Linux or Windows XP. Paul Andrews, co-author of "Gates" and author of "How the Web Was Won," for the Seattle Times, did the face-off shortly after his "keyboard 'save' function in Word just went away one day." And he admits his bias from the outset: He already knows Windows, and it's going to be an effort to learn a new OS.

Conclusion: "For desktop productivity, Linux has reached the point where it's capable of everyday work," Andrews writes. "On the consumer side, it has a ways to go. . . . "Still, in most ways Linux has crossed the 'good-enough' threshold." He also found that his two-month brush with Linux gave him "a greater appreciation for a third platform: the Apple Macintosh." You can read the full piece on the Seattle Times Web site.

Linux may be open-source, but some folks are getting proprietary about the OS -- geographically, that is. Local Linux Version Outshines Big Boys, trumpets The New Zealand Herald. The details are a bit less scintillating. "Yoper, from an Auckland Linux consultancy of the same name, became number one on Linux download monitoring site DistroWatch.com over the weekend, two weeks before the commercial release of the product," the story says. That means the Yoper page had more hits on DistroWatch for a couple of days than more well-known distributions -- possibly because it's among the newest, and people alredy know about Red Hat, Mandrake and Gentoo (top three for 2002). I'll keep my observations about the likelihood of Yoper supplanting Red Hat -- not to mention reporting statistics responsibly -- to myself....

Dept. of The More Things Change The More They Don't: New York Times LinuxWorld preview this week: "The evidence is now overwhelming that Linux, once a symbol of software's counterculture, has become a mainstream technology."

Associated Press coverage of LinuxWorld, Aug. 14, 2000: "The Linux computer operating system once had few friends besides the stereotypical technology geek whose idea of fun was spending hours rewriting software code. But ... Linux has suddenly become part of the in crowd -- and an increasing threat to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows monopoly."

OK. We get it. Can the general press covering LinuxWorld this week please tell us something else?

Wired's got a nice contrarian take on the proprietary vs. open source LinuxWorld theme: Open source has been around for at least as long as proprietary code. "The big companies, with their tightly guarded software empires, are the recent developments, not the open sharing of code," security consultant Robert Ferrell tells Wired's Michelle Delio. "A lot of people think open source is some revolutionary new concept, but the truth is that OS (open source) is the way we've always done things on the Internet."

January 15

Microsoft will turn over Windows XP and 2000 source code to a number of federal agencies in an effort to strengthen its position in the U.S. government software market, the Financial Times of London reports. "The decision to reveal the code is a surprise," the Financial Times notes, considering the company's strong position during antitrust hearings in defense of keeping the code proprietary. However, the paper also notes that Microsoft has already given the code to NATO and the Russian government.

Believe the hype over hyper-threading, concludes Duc Vianney, a Ph.D at IBM's Linux Kernel Performance Group. Testing showed the technology could speed up multithreaded applications by 30% in Linux kernel 2.4.19 and up to 51% on 2.5.32. You can see the full article about Intel's hyper-threading technology, which allows creation of two "logical" processors within one actual physical CPU, on the IBM DeveloperWorks site.

NorhTec president Michael C. Barnes takes an extraordinarily detailed look at operating systems from Windows XP to several versions of Linux, in order to "identify the best desktop to support a variety of functions -- personal, professional and entertainment." This is quite a lengthy overview, including screenshots and comments on available applications; but if you're interested in the topic and have the time, do take a peak at this desktoplinux.com piece.

An Australian computing consortium bought two Linux supercomputers from SGI worth about $8 million, Australian IT reports. The Queensland Parallel Supercomputing Foundation expects the systems to be up and running next month. The new Altix 3000 Itanium 2 systems were announced earlier this month (see story).

Upcoming: LinuxWorld 2003 kicks off next week at New York's Javits Convention Center, featuring free Linux certification tests, as well as corporate-oriented programs like an "enterprise solutions center" and "Linux financial summit." LinuxWorld is sponsored by IDG World Expo, a Computerworld sister company.

Problems with DHCP servers being down or inaccessible can be "easily addressed on the client side in Windows XP," advises David Chernicoff at Windows and .Net magazine. While a lot of problems can cause a DHCP server to seemingly disappear, he notes, "XP offers a client-side feature that lets you keep your clients running even if they can't find a DHCP server." (DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, a protocol for automating the configuration of computers that use TCP/IP. See dhcp.org for more info).

January 8


"Have a Linux machine and a few terabytes of data to store?" asks Linux magazine. "Perhaps it's time to consider a journaling file system." Linux has four options, according to this article by Steve Best, which will help you "learn how journaling file systems work, how easy it is to adopt one, and discover just how large a petabyte really is."

Newsforge has a detailed review of Mandrake 9.0 Linux. Tina Gasperson concludes it "has matured into a tool that anyone could make use of - those familiar with Linux and in need of the advanced capabilities of a 'real' distribution, and those who have never used Linux and are coming fresh from a Windows environment."

If you're just starting out with Linux and noodling around with it for possible future use in your organization, one of the first pieces of software you might want add is a database. MySQL is a popular open-source option, and PHP Beginner recently posted simple instructions on how to do the install and setup. There's much more detailed documentation on the MySQL site itself. But if you're using MySQL, you may want to look into a slick Web-based user interface called PHPMyAdmin, which was the SourceForge project of the month for December. However, you may also want to take a look at recent MySQL vulnerabilities (not to worry; the solution is upgrading to a newer version, as well as checking older software that might be linked to libmysql ).

A New York accounting firm recently implemented SQL-Ledger accounting software, Ruben I. Safir, president of the New York Linux Scene (NYLXS), reports for the Linux Journal -- the latest in a slew of GNU/Linux open source software now in use at the site.

Jeff Dike has an in-depth technical tour of User-mode Linux, which he describes at "the port of Linux that runs inside Linux," or a virtual Linux machine on a real-world Linux system. Along with being of geek interest, Dike says this open-source project "lends itself to a surprisingly wide variety of applications."


Microsoft has released a beta version of "Titanium," now formally known as Exchange 2003, the "next version in the Exchange messaging and collaboration server line," according to the company (see story). PC World has a quick rundown of the software, which can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site.

A poster at Neowin notes that this beta also includes Windows .Net Server 2003 and Office 11 beta code, noting that "some Office 11 beta testers have had their feathers ruffled by this move," since now the latest Office suite is available to anyone. (One response characterized those complainers as whining).

Human error caused a five-hour Messenger instant messaging service outage, Associated Press reports. New routers for a service upgrade were improperly configured, a Microsoft spokesman said.

USA Today's Edward Baig takes a look at "the first example of a promising, though imperfect, breed of battery-powered wireless gizmos available as of today from Microsoft." His conclusion: "Once you've mastered the art of double-tapping with the stylus, using Smart Display is as simple (or complex) as using your own PC." The ViewSonic AirPanel V110 device he tested can run XP Professional.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon