Letters to Redmond

Readers Respond July 2005

Readers discuss 64-bit, desktop Linux and our new security columnist, Joern Wettern.

The Spaghetti Incident?
What is the over-worn saying about the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" being a combination of "danger" and "opportunity"? Scott Bekker's commentary on "Why Longhorn Still Matters" [Redmond Report, April 2005] seems to focus entirely on the "opportunity" side of Microsoft's looming mega-upgrade.

I hear a lot of "ifs" to the likes of, "If no new killer 64-bit applications … suck up all those valuable new system resources." But don't forget that's after: (a) the customer has been forced to purchase the latest-and-greatest new PC hardware, (b) the system is now forced to run the resource-hogging new GUI (remember NT 4.0 moving the video into kernel mode?) and (c) the inevitable slowness added by a billion new security checks—we can't ignore that "pillar" of Longhorn. After all, it's Microsoft's "highest priority"! Sadly for most of us techies, we probably won't get a chance to see the faster hardware ever run a program that's not straining its resources, because our companies won't pay for the hardware, software and operating system upgrades until they're desperately needed anyway.

And yet the x64 rewrite of XP and Server 2003 is available today, for those who've got the hardware. Sure, it isn't a total rewrite of the OS code—but as the last Microsoft code leak proved and dozens of Microsoft blogs reaffirm daily, no code the company releases today is free of the spaghetti strings of incomprehensible bug fixes keyed out by up-all-night caffeine-fueled programmers who quit the moment their stock vested years ago.

I hardly imagine that performance improvements rank highly on any Microsoftie's list—except for marketing, of course—when it's clearly at odds with the laziness and inefficiencies that ever-faster hardware and abstracted, high-level programming allow and with the resource-hogging No.1 security goal.
—Eric Wallace
Portland, Maine

NLD Advantage
"Desktop Linux: Ready for Prime Time?" [June 2005] is a good roundup of what we at work discovered too. Seems we all prefer SuSE due to its simplicity compared to the others, plus YaST, the greatest tool ever. Recently, a couple of us tried the Novell Linux Desktop (NLD) knowing full well it was SuSE underneath. I would say it is every bit as good as SuSE by itself but the NLD has a few advantages. Namely the Windows networking as its mentioned, but also as a remote desktop client that fired right up and allowed us to manage our Windows farm and Evolution, the open source equivalent of Outlook. I configured the Exchange connector and five minutes later had full Outlook-like control. If you can tolerate the big red N, I would recommend NLD over SuSE (plus NLD includes YaST as well). My only qualm is: Why did Novell have to move around some menu items?! I hated having to find where they were moved to. Keep us updated on Linux desktops from time to time!
—Jason Stanke
Indianapolis, Ind.

In-Depth Security
Excellent "Picking the Right Firewall" article by Joern Wettern in this month's issue [May 2005]. I found his article very informative and thorough. In a time when we are constantly bombarded with security products that promise to secure our networks, it is nice knowing what's important and what to look for when it comes time to picking the right firewall. 

I truly look forward to more in-depth security articles from Mr. Wettern.
—Robert Alonso
Weston, Fl.

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