I feel I have to applaud your efforts over your NT versus Linux benchmark (PC Week, 6 July).
In your test, Linux was compared to NT as a serious alternative to Microsoft's operating system, while only 12 months ago people would be scoffing at such an idea.
So Linux is slower than NT? Surely with such damning results, companies would be mad to even consider Linux over NT.
But what if you consider a comparison between the two, based not on speed but on cost and stability, which would come out on top? Imagine two identical servers, one with NT and one with Linux. The Linux box (hosting any server-based service you can think of) costs you the price of the server, and an employee to configure/maintain it.
However, the NT box costs you the price of the server, the operating system (not cheap), user licences, additional server software (Exchange, IIS, SQL and so on) and a member of staff to maintain it - and that's just for starters.
In fact, a lot of companies upgrading their servers would very likely use their old server to install Linux on, transferring their NT licence to their new server - that means they get a fully functional extra server for no extra cost.
And speed isn't that important in real-world applications. You're not going to recieve 4,166 requests per second (a result of one of the benchmark tests) unless you're running a search engine/portal site, or a very large e-commerce site. The sort of site, in fact, that very few people would consider hosting on NT, prefering Unix or even (gasp) Linux - these being operating systems you can rely on not to crash too often.
I must point out to any Linux advocates out there worried about the press Linux is getting from these benchmark results that such tests are good things. They highlight the fact that large companies are actively considering Linux over NT, and point to all the areas for Linux developers to concentrate on.
Indeed, as the benchmark article pointed out, dedicated programmers out there are already working on the aspects of the Linux kernel that limited its performance.
I imagine a new streamlined, speedier and free version of Linux will be out around the time that Microsoft launches its latest bloated, resource-hungry OS, Windows 2000.
Office 2000 exchange rates
I received an e-mail from Microsoft offering me "as a registered Office user" an opportunity to download a beta version of Office 2000 - for only $19.95 (£12.60).
Muttering curses about how it can charge for beta software, I followed the link, filled in a long form, clicked "Submit" and got an error message that the offer was only for the US and Canada.
I sent a rather warm e-mail message back asking whether it had considered using a database to sort its clients before sending mailings, only to get an answer that there was a UK offer and giving me the URL. I followed this one to find that the price in the UK was £195.
I sent another message in reply asking whether anyone over there had done any calculations to see what His Billness was worth in sterling using their exchange rate. Sadly, it seems that Excel does not scale up to this level of calculation since no one from Microsoft has yet replied.
The loser is the user
The past few weeks have seen a veritable flood of reports of security breaches and we have been regaled by the anti-virus companies to upgrade (or install) virus-checking software. Am I alone in thinking that the only loser in this scenario is the user?
One company produces software products with a poor or non-existent security architecture, which leaves other companies to sell temporary fixes to the ensuing security problems. In the end these fixes are palliatives, as the real way out of this is to rectify the original architecture.
Is this likely to happen? In the short term the answer is probably no, especially as the latest Microsoft Office product has an associated development platform which allows executable code to be embedded in documents. Whether the development platform includes a macro virus wizard is a moot point.
In the long term the answer is to move away from the software monoculture (biologically always susceptible to diseases) that we have on the desktop.
Only when users can choose software because it is better rather than because everybody else has it will matters improve.
Dr Colin Walls
Barclays Technology Services
Getting off-line with Freeserve
As a Freeserve customer, I installed Internet Explorer 5 with no difficulty from a disk on the front of a magazine and Freeserve continued to work afterwards with no problems until I tried to close it down.
I then found that "Exit" had disappeared from the drop-down menu under "File". Using "Close" instead certainly closed it, but a glance at my external modem showed that the line connection was still live.
If I'd had an internal modem it might have stayed connected all night.
I could see Freeserve's million pound deficit disappearing in no time and BT's profits increasing likewise, but what could be done about it?
Freeserve recommended a six-click solution involving use of the dial-up networking icon on my desktop to disconnect, but it was easy to forget to do this. It also recommended re-installing IE5, which had no effect.
The best answer is to go to the Control Panel/Internet Options/Connections window, highlight "Freeserve" and then click on Settings. Inside the Dial-up settings box, click on "advanced" and put a tick in the box marked "Disconnect when connection may no longer be needed." Click on "OK" and close down all the other windows on the screen.
Now, when Freeserve is closed down, a dialogue box appears on the screen asking whether I also wish to terminate the connection. At last.
Dr Richard Turner
Each week, PC Week keeps me abreast of the latest news, developments, changes, progress and all that is happening in the IT industry. But, each week it also adds a little to my disappointment when I am unable to find just one square inch of space allocated to assist chaps like me.
I'm looking for a job in IT, but the problem is my lack of experience.
Experience, experience and experience! That is a major demand for almost every job that is advertised. I am close to the completion of my postgraduate degree - MSc Information Technology.
During the last few months, I have offered voluntary (unpaid) work as little as only an hour a day with a number of companies in order to get some hands on experience. However, the reply has been negative for a number of reasons. I can understand their position as most of the companies have fewer resources and staff and they cannot afford to waste their time. But, there has to be someone out there who can do something for people like me. Who are they? Where are they?
I believe publications like PC Week can spare an inch or two every week, communicate our message across, provide us with the useful contacts and act like a medium between us and the unknown. That "inch" may well be the most sought out inch new IT graduates will be looking for. At the moment, there is one common question we share with uncertainty, "Are we heading into the unknown?"
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