Letters to Redmond

Letters@Redmondmag.com: Jan. 2007

This month, readers weigh in on Vista, life as an IT consultant and the magic of the Unix "file" command.

Time Is Money
I just read [Greg Shields' "Making the Jump," November 2006] -- excellent work! Sometimes as a consultant you don't have any time left over for sleep!

I agree that the nomads make the most money. [It's important to] bill by the hour; we also sell blocks of time at a discount to regular customers and -- last but best -- we sell monthly service contracts that include remote support (preventive maintenance). You have to keep your eye on the billable hours or you won't be in business very long.
John Eberhardt
Germantown, Wis.

Vista: Too Much, Too Late?
[In regard to Mary Jo's column ("Vista: 5 Reasons to Deploy, 5 to Delay," November 2006)], the trend of Microsoft reducing compatibility between its operating systems will be its undoing. The cost and licensing nightmares of Windows have become more of a fiasco for administrators as anti-piracy becomes more of an added obstacle to deal with in daily operation.

We don't use XP as it wasn't worth a change from 2000. Vista won't be employed as it currently stands; it has too much fluff and many things will require disabling to provide the configurations we use. I'd suggest Microsoft lean toward a business operating system instead of bloated resource hogs like XP and Vista. I'd also suggest Microsoft look into enlisting security professionals from third parties to help them. The fact that XP Professional installs by default with a user account that's an admin for the system and that has no assigned password should tell you something. The defaults also show lack of security basics.

All of these [factors] would contribute to some users migrating to a Linux-based network. SuSE Linux comes to mind: With its GUI desktop (similar to Windows'), re-training would be minor for end users. Training administrators would be cheaper than deploying Microsoft operating systems.

All things considered, we've deployed some Linux boxes for file servers and Web presence. The internal network remains Windows 2000/2003 with no reason or plans to change.

On a positive note, Windows 2000/ 2003 work very well and third-party apps have both provided security and made management easier.
Greg Beer
Cary, N.C.

[After reading Doug Barney's Redmond Report Newsletter, "Vista's Low-Key Launch," Dec. 04, 2006], it amazes me that Microsoft didn't introduce consumer Vista first. I believe it made a major blunder here. It doesn't have to advertise the product -- all Microsoft needs to do is release it and the consumers will stand in line. Secondly, Redmond missed the Christmas season. Here's the real reason the company did this: It isn't ready either technically or manufacturing-wise. Look for Vista Service Pack 1 in January '07. What a way to run a company!
Mike McCullough
Mt. Carmel, Ill.

Unix Works Magic
I was reading Greg Shields' Windows Insider column in the October issue of Redmond, and found the File Storage Resource Manager (FSRM) tool to be pretty interesting. I particularly liked FSRM's ability to scan for duplicate files -- I've yet to find a tool that does this to my satisfaction, and it looks like FSRM might well fill that bill for my Windows machines. The part of the article about how Windows still relies on file-name extensions to identify file types got me thinking: I'm amazed that, to this day, Microsoft has yet to discover the beauty of all file types that the Unix "file" command has exploited for decades.

If Shields doesn't already know, the "file" command in Unix identifies file types based on their content, not their name or extension. It does this by checking for a "magic string" within the file. Nearly all file types contain a sort of signature: a sequence of bytes unique to that file type that can then be cross-referenced with a list of known signatures. For any given file type, this signature is usually at the start of the file -- just a few bytes is enough to positively identify the majority of file types out there, so it's not a big deal to implement, performance-wise.

If Microsoft used something like this ages ago in Windows, file-name extensions and the quirks that go with them would be a thing of the past, as they have been for most other operating systems since their respective inceptions.
Dave "Dragon" Michaels
Aurora, Colo.

About the Author

This page is compiled by the editors of Redmond magazine from your letters. Write to us at letters@redmondmag.com and if your letter is printed in the magazine, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free Redmond T-shirt.

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