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Linux links of the week

OpenDesk.com comes on-line. OpenDesk.com burst onto the scene with quite a bit of hype. Imagine our surprise when we found substance behind the pre-announcements. For free, they offer you secured access to your own workspace, on which you can create documents, send mail, update your calendar, keep a contact management database and more, all accessible from anywhere on the Internet as long as you have access to a browser. In addition, you can join other people's workspaces or allow them to join yours.

So what's the catch? Nothing. Well, the workspace has an area below with space for an ad banner that you can't make go away. In general, though, OpenDesk.com plans on making its money off of consulting work and add-on services, so the workspace they provided is truly free. And it is all based on open source software: Apache, mod_perl, perl, mysql, Linux and SmartWorker, a web application development platform. Worth checking out.

Section Editor: Jon Corbet

October 28, 1999



Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@lwn.net. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 17:21:30 +0530
From: Anand Srivastava <anand@aplion.stpn.soft.net>
To: aokrongly@galacticmarketing.com
CC: letters@lwn.net, r2online@winntmag.com
Subject: Thank You Microsoft

Hi Anthony,

I think the problem here is that you have no idea whatsoever of Unix.
The frustration would be similar if you were to give a CD to a person
who had not ever seen a computer. Or may be used only the terminal based
applications of the VMS type OSs. There is a huge generational gap.
There are some differences between Linux and NT, those should be
understood before going into Linux. I believe you should have got a
Linux pre-installed box. I also expect that you were trying to install
dual boot system.

Linux has its root in Unix. Unix is a very cleanly designed OS. It is
extremely modular, and the design is simple. This is the reason why it
persists so long when all the other OSs have died and have been
replaced. The simple design and modularity and experience over the last
30 years has made it a very stable and efficient OS. Linux is mostly a
complete rewrite of Unix so has inherited the simplicity and modularity
in design. It has got the learning that was done over the last 30 years.
It has also tried to move away from the topics that have been found to
be better implementable in different ways. The efficiency and stability
of Linux also derives from the immense manpower that it can muster. But
thats the very basic OS. Linux is the King when it comes to automation
through scripts, because it has inherited the 30 years SysAdmin culture.

Linux seriously lacks in User Interfaces. This has happened due to the
fact that for the past twenty years, Unix has been developed by the
consortium of Unix Vendors. Unix had been in a very high margin segment.
Where it matters how stable and scalable an OS is. But it gets very
little points on the UI. These vendors had never been interested in the
desktop or the commodity market which is driven by very small margins.
So making a usable UI was very far from their minds. Due to this reason
there were no developments in these fields. But this problem is being
rectified, and efforts are being done by various people and Companies
because they see volume in the desktop market. The companies are
Gateway(Amiga) and Corel, and also other Linux vendors, who have a
vested interest in seeing Linux grow popular.

I agree that Linux's UI is still not very good (or rather they are not
very consistent). But there are reasons for that. Linux's UI effort has
been just three years, while Windows has been there for the Last 15
years. But still Linux's UI is improving as a much faster rate and I
would expect that it would overtake Windows UI in another two years. I
guess you don't have much more time to learn linux before getting
outdated ;-). But if you want to see what things are in store go to
http://www.enlightenment.org , http://www.gnome.org , http://www.kde.org
, http://www.gnustep.org . These are the sites that are spearheading the
development of the Linux GUI.

You could be pardoned for thinking that having four GUIs would not give
a consistent outlook. But this is the GNU (new :-)) way of working. You
start with thoroughly incompatible designs then the market decides which
feature of each is good then you incorporate good things of each merge
them and make a new one or make all of the compatible so that they start
looking consistent in each others domains. If somebody refuses to merge,
it gets thrown out.

Now lets look at NT. You think that its new technology, but when you dig
deep into it you will see aspects of VMS, because thats what the
original designers where familiar with. But that doesn't make it bad.
Its good that the experience was taken to build a new thing. Then there
is the aspect of MicroKernel. MicroKernels are known to be very modular,
but pay the price of that modularity with efficiency. The only OS that
tries to avoid this penalty by some genuine (and very complex) ideas is
HURD. All the others just collocate the servers with the microkernel.
This brings you back to square one. The robustness is gone. Because the
User space OS modules are actually running in the kernel space. NT goes
further than that it allows the drivers into the kernel space. Here I am
just talking of NT as the kernel not as a GUI. As a GUI I said that its
good having a full 15 years of Experience. But NT as a kernel is not
good enough, its extremely new, and has made too many bad compromises, I
believe collocating the graphics subsystem was another bad move. Too
much of the code runs in the kernel space. The whole point of
microkernel architecture was to reduce the amount of code that runs in
the kernel space, so that it would be more stable. NT is still a very
new technology and will take a lot more time to mature, and the way it
is expanding its code base, it may take forever.

NT still has a big lead in Applications, but thats because it has been
the monopoly for the past 10years. That will change in the next couple
of years. Actually as far as software engineers are considered they
would be much more comfortable with Linux. At least for me and most
engineers in my company, NT doesn't become usable unless we install
Cygnus utilities which provide Unix utilities on NT. The one thing I
hate about NT is that it tries to shield me from any problems that might
arise. I had a problem with my disk which I only found out when I
installed Linux on it. NT would not show that it was failing to write to
the disk sometimes. It puts up artificial barriers, because the
designers never thought that those things could be done. Lately it has
been trying to learn from Unix, and you can see all sorts of scriptable
text only programs. But the whole philosophy is restrictive.

By far the biggest lead of NT is in the area of GUI based rapid
application development environments. Linux has got very few and very
basic ones because there had been no graphical environments on Linux,
but I suppose that won't take more than a couple of years when software
companies start porting them onto Linux. Free ones will only be
available some three years later, that too I am little skeptic, but
maybe something like mozilla (I love emacs, but I think it will be too
slow if it did all that) might come to encompass everything.

I hope this will put things into context.

Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 21:11:15 -0200 (EDT)
From: Augusto Campos <brain@matrix.com.br>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: reviews - technical books

dear LWN people:

I have just uploaded some linux book reviews. Reviewed titles include:
"Apache - The definitive guide", "MySQL & mSQL", "Tcl/Tk in a Nutshell",
"Learning Python" and "HTML - The definitive guide" - all from O'Reilly,
which kindly sent us the books.

Linux in Brazil published the reviews in portuguese only, but you can
always rely on Babelfish to translate it (kind of) to other languages.

All these books are important for anyone trying to do serious jobs with
linux & the web, and the lack of foreign alternatives make O'Reilly's
books some kind of international best sellers.

Ah, the URL! Start at http://www.linux.trix.net/livros_adg.htm and keep
clicking on to the other books

Thank you for your time and attention
Augusto Campos

Augusto Cesar Campos - brain@matrix.com.br, augusto@tre-sc.gov.br
A fe' remove montanhas, mas eu prefiro dinamite.



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