Like Death and Taxes

As much as we like to malign Windows and enjoy schadenfreude whenever Microsoft falters, the (unpleasant) truth is that Gates’ software golem isn’t going out of business any time soon.

As much as we like to malign Windows and enjoy schadenfreude whenever Microsoft falters, the (unpleasant) truth is that Gates’ software golem isn’t going out of business any time soon. Although Microsoft is getting squeezed — at one end, small devices increasingly favor royalty-free Linux and, at the other end, Windows Server has stiff competition from Linux, Solaris, and zOS — Windows’ stranglehold on the desktop guarantees it near-ubiquity for the foreseeable future. Even if you use a Linux desktop or worship your Linux server, chances are that your CEO runs Windows XP (or maybe Windows 98).

So another (unpleasant) truth is that many of you support Windows as part of a larger network. If you’re a programmer — even an open source programmer — you’re probably writing code to support both systems, perhaps in a single code base. If you’re a system administrator, you’re probably tying Windows and Linux desktops and servers together all the time. And if you’re a CIO, you’re probably deploying Linux and Windows tactically to meet a myriad of business requirements, including keeping the CEO happy.

Death.Taxes. Windows.

Given how often Windows and Linux are used together, this issue of Linux Magazine focuses on integrating the two systems, with a little something for everyone.

If you’re a developer, check out Chris Hertel’s feature on jCIFS, and Apache guru Ryan Bloom’s insightful tutorial on writing portable code with the Apache Portable Runtime. For those of you trapped in an arctic machine room, Rod Smith shows how to run winbind, and Jeremy Garcia demonstrates rdesktop. And for those of you in the corner office, legal correspondent Nick Wells reviews Microsoft’s latest “un-product,” its software indemnification program. Of course, this issue also has loads of Perl, shell, cluster, and utility magic to keep you busy. And if you ever wondered why buffer overflows are so dangerous, read Jon Erickson’s overview of how they’re exploited.

Speaking of un-products, the next major release of Windows, code-named “Longhorn,” is currently scheduled for 2006. So far, I don’t see anything novel about Longhorn, or as Steve Jobs likes to say, anything “insanely great.” Most of Longhorn’s consumable features already exist in open source software or in Apple’s Mac OS X, and while most Windows users will be happy if Longhorn just gets security right, building something so ho hum is really a shame. In fact, I think it’s deplorable.

But the world is catching on that Redmond has no monopoly on software innovation. Home and business users, many fed up with the vulnerability and brittleness of Windows, are no longer beholden to products such as Word, Outlook Express, and Internet Explorer. Also, witness the success of Firefox. Driven by glowing reviews in the mainstream press, Firefox was downloaded more than ten million times in the first month following its release.

I don’t think Longhorn is a reflection of how dull computing has become. It might be a reflection of Microsoft’s decade-long complacency. Or perhaps it’s simply an indication that one company can no longer be an island — nor can it force others to be stranded there.

Lucky for us, penguins are strong swimmers.

Martin Streicher is the Editor-in-Chief of Linux Magazine. You can reach him at class="emailaddress">mstreicher@linux-mag.com.

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