Us From Linux
As a Microsoft developer
(I am not an employee, nor am I a "certified" developer), I am glad someone
finally spoke out with regard to this very topic ["Can Linux survive its unreasonable
defenders?," December 1999, p. 6]. If I hear that Linux is the answer to the
meaning of life and the "messiah" that is going to deliver us from Microsoft
one more time, I think I'll be sick.
I am by no means an avid
Microsoft supporter. In fact, I consistently find limitations in their tools
and OSes. Furthermore, Microsoft (and Mr. Torvalds for that matter) has only
provided us with the tools to do our jobs. I don't care if it's a winner-take-all
industry or if it gets "shared" and I have numerous choices. It's only a job
and these Linux jihad-types need to let it go.
Nothing is perfect, and
Linux in many ways fits this mold as well ... everything can be improved. I
have heard it all over the years; I believe the last operating system that was
hyped as the "end all, take over the world OS" was something called OS/2. And
while it may have had some advantages, it wasn't what it was hyped up to be.
I didn't have enough fingers and toes to count the times our OS/2 network was
down on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.
So far, Microsoft has provided
me with all the tools and database technologies to do my job, as well as a fairly
stable OS environment to run them in. I see no reason to switch. While Microsoft
might not serve every purpose as well as other tools or OSes, they serve my
purpose, and that is all I care about. If they die someday, then I will learn
the next tool and continue to make a living — it's that simple.
It's a shame that the much-revered
"open" source code people are so closed to criticism and comments. Personally,
I think it's just sour grapes. Microsoft will listen quietly if you call to
mention a bug in one of its products, and will even sometimes solve it for you.
It's an imperfect industry full of imperfect products. If the people that so
rudely blasted Mr. Williams would take the time to offer some much needed support
for Linux, they would, as you said, be doing much more to further their cause.
The Best of Intentions
Regrettably, the article
by John Williams ["Is Linux ready for the enterprise?," October 1999, p. 92]
was not one that I read, but upon seeing Mr. Bucken's editorial ["Can Linux
survive its unreasonable defenders?," December 1999, p. 6], I did read the letters
to the editor. They brought an old saying to mind: "People living in glass houses
should not throw stones."
I've been around computers
and databases for the last 15 years, and any software install can be botched
by the most trained and best-intentioned individuals. Just because one person
had a hard time is not an opportunity for the rest of us to gloat.
On the Linux front, I've
installed it at home along with a trial copy of Oracle 8 for Linux. The Linux
I used was RedHat 5.2 and, in the end, I ended up installing it three times
before I got it right. To Red Hat's credit I always got a functional system
when I was done. Getting it right mandated a little RTFM on my part, which resulted
in the second and third installs ... when I finally did get it right.
Are there still items that
need fixing? Sure, but so does HP, Microsoft and so on. There still is no good
substitute for a thorough understanding of the software, installation process
and requirements of the final product. In Mr. Williams' case, it would appear
from the letters to the editor that he did what any very competent IT person
would do, find a test box and experiment.
Good show. As for Mr. Williams'
detractors ... your day is coming!
Got a Problem? Read a
I enjoy Application Development
Trends and find it a useful and timely source for what's happening throughout
the industry. There are always articles and comments that apply either to my
work or my broader interests.
I read John D. Williams'
October 1999 column, "Is Linux ready for the enterprise?," [p. 92] with keen
interest as I was in the middle of a similar project. After reading Mr. Bucken's
editorial ["Can Linux survive its unreasonable defenders?," December 1999, p.
6] and the Letters column, I wanted to throw my two cents in.
I have five networked desktop
PCs at home. One has Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 loaded as a standalone server
(non-PDC) and the others have MS Windows 95. To this, I wanted to add a Linux
box so that I could explore the world of Linux and complete the final project
for my Masters in Computer Science — to integrate Windows NT and Linux on one
My first choice of commercial
Linux packages was, of course, RedHat. Big mistake! Nothing went smoothly and
nothing worked. If Mr. Williams thinks that Red Hat's customer service people
"replied in a very nasty tone" after only one inquiry for support, he should
have been in my position of having to get Linux up and running in a short period
of time. After several calls over a few days they became downright obnoxious!
We, Red Hat and myself, parted ways with Red Hat maintaining I was trying to
install Linux on unsupported hardware. Red Hat is definitely off my Christmas
list ... permanently.
While browsing the shelves
at a local computer store for an alternative, I came across a copy of Linux
Universe, 3rd Edition, by S. Strobel, R. Maurer and S. Middendorf [New York:
Springer, 1997]. The description of the Linux distribution included with the
book was impressive and contained everything I was looking for. I brought a
copy home and after reading the installation chapter, had as smooth an installation
as any I have experienced with the MS Windows OS and applications. In a very
short time, I was greeted with a login prompt, and, as they say, the rest is
The Linux box has been up
and running on my network now for several weeks and I have experienced no "hardware
incompatibility" problems as Red Hat maintained. The only bump I experienced
was getting Samba configured correctly, but that was the purpose of my project
— to learn to integrate NT and Linux. The Linux box acts as a WINS server for
my network, and I am able to share files and printers between all of the networked
PCs, regardless of OS. I have recompiled the kernel to trim it to my hardware,
and also downloaded and compiled the latest version of Samba. Both of these
tasks went off without a hitch. I would not hesitate to recommend the Linux
Universe distribution to anyone, experienced or novice.
John M. Farahay
I Was Just Thinking
As always, the recent issue
of ADT was an interesting and informative magazine that I thoroughly enjoyed.
However, the following comes to mind. The information in the sidebar "CMM: Five
levels of maturity," [January 2000, p. 36] matches what is in the textbooks;
logically, however, the labels on Steps 2 and 3 should be reversed. Level 2
should be defined but lacking the methods to make it repeatable, while Level
3 should be a refinement that allows one to repeat the methods of Level 2 by
managing them through self-discipline or maturity. I never could grasp how something
could be repeated before it was defined.
This may be semantics, but
it shows how the use of a single word or phrase can confuse those who have not
thoroughly studied the topic.
Similarly, Level 4 (Managed)
would be better understood as Measured so that it is not only repeatable but
also predictable. Level 5 would then use data from Level 4 to facilitate improvement
presumably through benchmarking, otherwise the processes would have been instantiated
differently to start with if one could deduce the best ones independently.
One question that I have
asked at CMM classes is whether achieving CMM Level 3, 4 or 5 improves software
quality and other organizational attributes, or whether those firms that are
successful happen to display characteristics of a CMM. An interesting follow-up
article might cover such issues.
The main article ["The changing
rules of CMM," January 2000, p. 35] made an excellent point about shifting away
from CMM as religion. One size fits nobody. Until there is one standard organization
structure and meta process, any CMM, QA, SEI or assorted methodology/process
will need to be tailored in order to gain the maximum benefit for the actual,
existing organization. It is regrettable that the DoD is requiring CMM as a
prerequisite for ACAT 1. They are essentially saying that the government does
not know how to measure results, so it will instead micromanage the methods.
I would also like to see
articles on CMMI and various systems engineering and related higher level initiatives,
such as EIA 731 and ISO 15288 and 12207. Real productivity gains cannot come
from an isolated emphasis on software or "quality" without considering the entire
enterprise as a meta system and ensuring that supported, relating, dependent
and concomitant processes all work together for the optimization of the entire
enterprise. Far too many people either ignore or are ignorant of the fundamental
law of systems and charge forth with faulty assumptions as to what will work
Microsoft has reportedly
rejected the idea of using CMM, saying that they are better. They are certainly
fast to market; the assessment of the quality of their products is left to readers
to decide for themselves.
While a widely accepted
viewpoint although not a standard, I must disagree with the definitions in "ASQ
is more than just testing tools," [January 2000, p. 55]. The article says a
process is higher level and more general than a methodology, which is lower
level and more detailed. A framework is a generic architecture I would liken
to an Ada package, and has nothing to do with methodologies and processes unless
such are included in it as would be done for a very high-level or organizational
view. Having suffered through some 40 methodologies, I can attest that they
were usually imposed using a religious silver bullet fervor not unlike some
of the newer processes.
Finally, the article "Containers:
A sign components are growing up," [January 2000, p. 41] cleared up in an hour
what a two-day class left me puzzling over.