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
," 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.
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.
[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!
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
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