Stephen Gran on 13 May 2005 04:15:45 -0000

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Re: [PLUG] Drexel MCS Society Debate

On Thu, May 12, 2005 at 11:37:39PM -0400, said:
> I've already started preparing. I'm a moderately capable public speaker
> (having earned the Advanced Toastmaster Bronze award) and I've even
> taught a debate class to a group of students in Delaware County about a
> year ago. My problem is that I have to speak on a WIDE range of topics -
> some of which I am not familiar. I need to study all of these issues in
> depth. That's why I'm posting this info here... I'd like to work this in
> an "Open Source" fashion and solicit contributions from you, the PLUG
> community.
> These are, as far as I know, the 9 topics we'll be covering:
>  1   Open Source vs. Proprietary 
>          [Not just Linux but Open Source development, software
>          like Apache, The Gimp, etc.]

This is generally speaking, the big winner.  This allows for community
involvement in bug fixing and so forth.  ClamAV (one of my pet projects)
is a perfect example of this - take a look at,1759,1813927,00.asp for an example of
the kind of turnaround you can get when your developers get world wide

>  2   Security [ohmygod - takes deep breath... explodes in laughter.] 

Does anything really need to be said here?  They have provided an OS
where the user generally runs as root.  They didn't expect problems with

>  3   Tying OS to hardware 
>         What they meant by this was how Linux can run on 
>         several different architectures, while Windows 
>         can primarily only run on x86, with the
>         exception of CE and some versions of NT. 
>         I get to speak for 3+1 minutes on this :-P

:)  Again, the benfits of many people working on a project together -
probably Linus and the small band of core folks would never have
bothered ot port linux to so many architectures, but somebody was
interested and added the ifdef's.  Same with the BSD's and all the the
other open Unices.

>  4   64 bit computing 
>         64-bit platform benefits and our/their approach. 
>        [I have NOT followed the growing 64 bit market so I'm 
>         nearly clueless on this.]

This partly is about efficiency and speed, and partly about security as
well.  One of the arguments against an all MS shop is that you have in
effect a monoculture crop, waiting for a virus to come along.  And while
this is true of software and operating systems, it's also true for
hardware.  The buffer overflows and so forth that work on 32 bit wintel
cpu's simply don't work (the same way, if at all) on 64 bit chipsets -
the register addresses are just different.

One of the other advatages of open source software is that the author
has very little idea when writing the software what platforms it will be
run on (unlike MS programmers).  The *nix community has been running the
same software on 64 bit systems as on 32 bit for probably decades now,
so the 'porting' effort to a new 64 bit cpu is minimal.  It was only a
few months between the beginning of work on the amd64 port, and a
basically stable tree.  This is likely not the case for MS, so they try
to talk up how successful they have been in getting software to run on
64 bit platforms.  At this point, you get to yawn and say 'that's new to

>  5   Emulation 
>         Interoperability and migration between platforms. 
>         [Wine?  Open document and file formats?  DRM? - the 
>         last 2 are hardly "emulation". I believe software 
>         patents are going to impact this area most heavily.]

I think linux really has MS beat in the emulation category, but neither
can emulate the other fully.  

>  6   Perception of end-user / User Interface 
>         [I take this to mean how a user who is familiar with one
>         could adapt to using the other.]

My feeling is that good gui is a good gui, at this point. They all about
work the same - swat something with a mouse, and it probably opens up.
You might mention things like the human interface
guidelines and things like that, that aim to set a high bar for user
interfaces (reasonable error messages, low clutter, 'intuitive design',
and those sorts of things).  I frankly find Windows XP almost unusable
from an administrative point of view, since they have gone to so much
effot to hide just about anything useful, but maybe that's just me.

>  7   Driver Availability and Compatible Software 
>         This would include the issue of games. 
>         [I don't use many computer games (well, okay, I own a
>         copy of Unreal Tournament for Windows but that's all, I 
>         swear!) so I'm especially in need of help here.]

Driver availability is not particularly an issue, at least as far as I
am aware.  I can't remember the last piece of hardware that just
wouldn't work under linux.  Even winmodems work these days.

Software compatibility, though, is trickier.  If you let MS set the
terms of the debate ('well, does linux have anything compatible with MS
gonzooey?') then of course linux has a compatibility problem.  Also
related to emulation, above.  If you can steer this to interoperability
(open standards and potocols) you'll do better, I would think.

>  8   Installation / Uninstallation 
>         This is in regards to both OS (including updates 
>         and patches) and software, the difficulty level of 
>         installation / uninstallation, and the user's experience. 
>        [I've had some real screwed up windows installs and some
>         REAL SMOOTH Linux installs]

At this point, I would assume they are about the same - a nice GUI
RedHat or something install is probably about as flashy as your average
MS install.  There are GUI tools for package management on both sides,
so I think this is largely a no-op as far as ease of use goes.

Plenty of arguments about having to wait for vendor updates, though :)

>  9   Portability 
>         The versions of your OS available for handheld PCs. 
>        [Again, I hear "Treo" and I think: "Father, Son, and Holy
>         Ghost".]

There are plenty here who run linux on handhelds, but I don't, so I
can't helpl you with this one.

> The format of the debate will be as follows:
>     lead 3 minutes
>     follow 3 minutes
>     lead 1 minute rebuttal
>     follow 1 minute rebuttal
> We'll take turns leading and following.
> What I ask is if you have any insight, links, or other suggestions about
> one or more of the topics please post it here. As a debater I need to
> know, in particular, the strengths and weaknesses in our position and
> the strengths and weaknesses in the Microsoft/closed source position. 
> I'll post my research as it develops over the next few days...

|  Stephen Gran                  | Man belongs wherever he wants to go.    |
|             | -- Wernher von Braun                    |
| |                                         |

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