Integration Answers: Part One

Which version of Linux is best for you? Should you really try integrating with Windows NT 4? You asked, and Emmett answers.

In June, I tossed out an e-mail address (integration@insightbb.com) and asked you to send me your integration questions, issues and concerns. The three most popular topics that were submitted are addressed here, and more will be addressed next month. Please continue to send your integration queries to integration@insightbb.com and I'll tackle them tackled in future entries.

Working With Macs
A surprising number of queries regarding integration with Macs came in, and -- judging from the traffic -- there's a fair amount of work going on in that field right now. Because Mac OS X is, arguably, a derivative of *nix, integration should be much easier than with previous versions.

Many of those who wrote in weren't actually integrating at the moment; they were simply debating the possibility of integration and wondering if, in the future, Mac will still be supported and largely virus-free.

When it comes to support, there are no signs that the operating system is in any danger of going away; in fact, it's currently being written to by a large number of entities. Consider the office applications: OpenOffice.org is working on native packages for OS X (see the FAQ here). A similar project, NeoOffice -- a free GPL derivative of OpenOffice that also incorporates native Mac features -- is creating a full-featured office suite.

Another item to consider in support of the OS is that KDE is devoting a great deal of effort to Mac development. KDE/Mac is a collection of applications that will run natively (instead of through the X11 server layer).

For those administrators who've reached the point where they want to pursue integration, the best online resource on the topic can be found at http://www.macwindows.com. You'll find all of your answers there -- or, at the very least, someone willing to help you.

Try Before You Buy
The second most popular set of queries came from people who wanted help identifying which version of Linux to choose for individual implementations.

One of the best things Linux has going for it right now is the Live CD option, which most of the major vendors (Red Hat, Ubuntu, SuSE, etc.) offer. You can download an image from a vendor, burn it to a CD (or flash drive, if you want to save changes), then boot from that to get a feel for the OS. It's not the best method of getting into the kernel -- you'd actually want to buy it before you did that -- but it's akin to taking a car for a test drive before making the purchase.

If you're undecided about which Linux to use, I recommend downloading Live CDs from vendors and playing around with them for a couple of days. Familiarize yourself with the interfaces and the idiosyncrasies of each one. (Here's a tip: Avoiding LCD monitors during the test phase makes things a whole lot easier.)

After you've done that, check blogs, journals and news sites for anyone trying to implement an OS in a way that's similar to what you're doing. Use their input to help you decide the version of Linux you're most comfortable with.

Integrating With Windows NT
I received a number of unanticipated e-mails about integrating with Windows NT 4.0. While this is possible -- and you can find a number of sites dating back a few years about this issue -- I don't recommend it. Windows NT 4.0 marked a big change from 3.51 and was a fantastic Microsoft operating system...10 years ago!

Windows 2000 was a revolution against NT in many ways -- almost all of them good (think security, capabilities and so on). And Windows Server 2003 was a revolution against it, with 2008/Longhorn not far off.

I say all of this because I want to show that no one should be worrying about running Windows NT 4.0 at this time, let alone integrating it. If you still have it, get rid of it.

About the Author

Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on Linux, Unix and certification, including the Security+ Study Guide, Fourth Edition. He can be reached at eadulaney@comcast.net.

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