Letters to the editor: "On the road to operating system glasnost"

On the road to operating system glasnost; In Microsoft partnership, Nortel marries up; Wireless mesh or WiMAX: Which MAN technology is best?; App launching and yet more Web OSs

So many OSs, so little time

I read Winn Schwartau’s column, "On the road to operating system glasnost" couldn't resist replying. I have no strong emotional ties to any OS. Currently I run Mac OS X, Mac 9.x, RedHat and Ubuntu Linux, HPUX, Solaris, Windows (2000 and ME), and even OS/2.

Why so many operating systems? I believe an OS is a tool and I should use the best tool for the job. OS/2 is my e-mail archive system. No known viruses means no fear of accidental infection by e-mail. It also runs fast on old hardware (no urgency to upgrade). And e-mail is an old and stable protocol (again, no urgency to upgrade).

RedHat is my IDS. No particular reason other than Windows makes a horrible IDS. (Don't infect your firewall!) I have Ubuntu on three systems right now, mainly because I'm writing a book on Ubuntu and because it is a solid Linux desktop environment. Also, I really like the update/support model.

Windows 2000 is where I am writing my book because OpenOffice is not ready for prime time. (It's close, but not solid enough for me and not compatible with the publisher's templates.) This system has never been patched and has never been infected. Then again, I also never surf the Web from this system and I don't use it for e-mail. (And I turned off all Windows network services.)

Windows XP is my significant other’s box. It sometimes gets infected, but she uses it for writing. Her next box will be a Mac -- for all the reasons Schwartau stated. I have Word/Office for OS X and it is solid and usable. The only times it is not compatible are when I am using macros under Excel.

My laptop -- which I use every evening in front of the TV and take with me on every trip -- runs Mac OS X. I used to use a Windows system, but I didn't like the virus threat on trips. Now, there is no risk. And Office for OS X gives me real Word and PowerPoint so I can write and give presentations. (I have a second laptop running Ubuntu.) One thing Schwartau didn't mention was using a virtual machine rather than a second partition. I have Qemu installed on my Linux and Mac systems. Using Qemu, I can run Windows in a virtual machine. (Yes, I can run real Windows in a window on a Mac!)

Need to run real Windows software? Not a problem. I usually only need to do this for running some Windows-only debuggers or NetMeeting. (While Linux has many audio tools that work with NetMeeting, nothing can share the desktop or video with other NetMeeting users.)

Worried about a virus? Before running Qemu, I copy the virtual machine image. Mine is a 1 Gig file for Windows 2000. When I'm done with the virtual machine, I copy it back. If there was a virus, it's gone now. This is so much faster than trying to recover or reinstall.

Want anonymity too? Socksify the Qemu program and run everything through a proxy. I can relay all traffic through TOR for real anonymity. (Or... as anonymous as TOR is.)

In his column Schwartau made a significant issue about money and licensing. I view it this way: Time is money. I can either spend the money once on a secure-enough platform, or I can continually spend money trying to protect, patch, and de-worm a less secure platform. It's cheaper to pay once. (Even with Linux there is a fee for time and effort, but most people don't consider it since the operating system is free.)

My next system? Mac OS X. And after that? Depends. If enough people move to OS X, then I'm sure it will start having viruses, too. In the wild, there is safety in numbers. On the Internet, there is strength in obscurity. And remember... I still run OS/2.

Neal Krawetz

Senior Researcher

Hacker Factor Solutions

Fort Collins, Colo.

Nortel responds

In his column, “In Microsoft partnership, Nortel marries up”, Nick Lippis writes: “Nortel will end the life of most of its enterprise IP telephony products over the next three to four years as it aligns with Microsoft’s unified communications strategy.” This statement does not provide an accurate view of Nortel’s evolution plans for its enterprise portfolio or the Nortel-Microsoft Innovative Communications Alliance.

Nortel has no current plans to end of life of its current family of call servers or messaging portfolio. Enterprise solutions are a strategic asset in the Nortel portfolio, and we will continue to offer the high-quality products and support customers expect and depend on for their critical and day-to-day operations.

We believe that, over time, business telephony will be delivered as software on open platforms within an advanced, unified communication system. Nortel’s Communication Server 1000 evolves with customers’ needs, delivering integrated, software-based features and applications while still supporting current telephony and networking needs.

Customers will continue to have a choice of IP telephony solutions and multimedia applications that best meet their needs. We will work with Microsoft to deliver integrated solutions that take advantage of many of Nortel’s current applications, such as SIP-enabled contact centers.

Ruchi Prasad

General manager, Innovative Communications Alliance


Richardson, Texas

Lippis replies: I stand by my originally submitted column, which states that “in essence” (a phrase that was inadvertently removed during editing) Nortel will end the life of most of its enterprise IP telephony products over the next three to four years as it aligns with Microsoft’s unified communications strategy. For more detail on my opinion in this matter, please click here. I remain bullish on ICA, but that does not diminish the fact that Nortel has a significant product transition task ahead of it.

Going with mesh

Regarding “Wireless mesh or WiMAX: Which MAN technology is best?”: Good article. My company is installing its first mesh network in a few months. We need coverage in and outside of the warehouse, and mesh technology offers us the cheapest and easiest solution. We have chosen the Symbol WS5100 controller with 802.11a access ports for the backhaul.

Gino Gori

Senior technical analyst


Eden Prairie, Minn.

Open and shut

Regarding Mark Gibbs’ Gearhead column, “App launching and yet more Web OSs”: RocketDock sounds like a fun product for techies. But almost all of the "Windows is slow," "Windows is inconsistent," "Windows locks up" support calls I get can be traced to a single factor: some users never close a document or program when they're done with it. I have a few folks I support who never even close an e-mail -- I come by their desks late in the day and there are 20 or more messages open.

Let's not encourage that behavior. Leaving them with no practical way to manage a large number of windows is perhaps the only way to force a change in habits. I know that if Windows handled memory paging better this wouldn't be a problem, but the world is what it is.

David Schaffer


There Must Be A Better Way

Sherman, Conn.


Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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