LeRoy Cressy on 16 May 2005 16:58:36 -0000

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Re: [PLUG] Drexel MCS Society Debate

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Stephen Gran wrote:
> On Thu, May 12, 2005 at 11:37:39PM -0400, eric@lucii.org 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
>>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
> http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1813927,00.asp for an example of
> the kind of turnaround you can get when your developers get world wide
> input.
>> 2   Security [ohmygod - takes deep breath... explodes in laughter.] 

Windows does not support symlinks so you have some serious problems if
you want to protect your system from programs that are frequently caused
by cookies you cannot do something like ln -s /dev/null cookies.text
which produces cookies.txt -> /dev/null

I've seen windows machines that had numerous programs in the cookies
file which were actually spyware monitoring where the user went.

> 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
> that?

Windows actually warns against setting up a restricted user stating that
some program will fail to run.

There is very little concept of user configuration on Windows machines.
 If a user changes the configuration of a program, the configuration has
been changed for everyone by default.  For the most part windows does
not support by default a home directory.  The basic windows setup puts
all user documents in c:\"my documents" directory.  If you want to add a
user on a Windows system, there is some work involved to make the user
have a home directory.

>> 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
> you?'
>> 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 FreeDesktop.org 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.

Windows does not have a Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FSHS) that makes
it extremely difficult to work with using a shell.  There are many
utilities buried in windows such as the networking ones like ifconfig
and route that the windows people hide from the administrator.

Linux follows the FSHS for the most part and if you are familiar with
any specific version, you can figure out any other UNIX based system
such as OS X, BSD, and Solaris.  Windows does not have such standards
with every program installing wherever it wants to.

>> 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...
> HTH,
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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