A Reasonable Challenge

My response to Mr. Williams' "evaluation" of Linux ["Is Linux ready for the enterprise?," October 1999, p. 92] was one of the few published in the December 1999 issue of ADT. I am concerned about being portrayed as an unreasonable defender of Linux who lashed out at Mr. Williams ["Can Linux survive its unreasonable defenders?," December 1999, p. 6].

This ‘unreasonable defender' is both an HP-UX and NT administrator with many years of experience in the Unix and Windows realms. While editorials in general can be slanted, when someone describes an experience with a product with the intent to praise or criticize it, I expect to be able to agree or disagree with the view presented. I also want to be reasonably certain that the person who offered praise or criticism is knowledgeable and credible. The difficulties experienced by Mr. Williams were not unusual. Anyone installing an operating system can run into problems. Had Mr. Williams not included information that led me to conclude that he has no business installing OSes, I would not have felt compelled to respond to his article.

Is it not reasonable to challenge how a person prepares to evaluate a product when that person makes statements that will lead others to conclude that an otherwise stable product is less than stable? How am I supposed to engage in a debate about Linux in IT organizations if I find the other party's credibility questionable?

We expect OS installation programs to handle everything for us. This should not be the end goal for an OS installation program. As a system administrator, I have to know my hardware and how the OS works with it, or I can't do my job effectively. Mr. Williams' expectations, while not completely unreasonable, should have been complemented by a more thorough knowledge of the hardware he was working with. Instead, he was his own worst enemy.

Bob Hemedinger

Comments Undeserved

I was quite disappointed by John Williams' column "Is Linux ready for the enterprise?" [October 1999, p. 92]. Mr. Williams had a difficult time installing Linux because he had faulty hardware and tried to configure a sound card while setting a machine to use as a server. How many servers have sound cards?

Having installed many different OSes, I have found the current versions of Linux to be the easiest to install. The extensive documentation, combined with the use of virtual terminals, gives the installer far more information about what is happening during the install than most other OSes.

I also found it interesting that Mr. Williams did not take his problems to Usenet. Linux has a reputation for having good peer support through the Internet newsgroups. When I had a particular problem during an install of Caldera's OpenLinux 2.2, I received the correct solution to my problem no less than seven hours after posting to comp.os.linux.caldera. Caldera's tech support took over two weeks to respond to the same problem.

I find Mr. Williams' remarks incredulous because he points out how Windows NT is much easier to install. It is not easier to install. Rather, Windows NT is usually what comes pre-installed on a server.

Linux shines at applying fixes. With RedHat Linux, you only need to download all the fixes into the same directory and use a single rpm command to apply all of the patches. Only in exceptional circumstances does one need to reboot Linux after a patch. With Windows NT, installation is a continuous cycle of installing and rebooting.

Linux is not without its problems. Linux does have many areas where it needs to be improved (it lacks a journalizing file system, and Linux on Intel has some memory and file system size restrictions). I just feel that Mr. Williams is being disingenuous when he finds fault with Linux for being difficult because he installed it on a machine with faulty hardware.

Lee Malatesta
Norwood, Ohio