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Microsoft Challenges Linux's Legacy Claims 618

Michael writes "Microsoft Corp.'s Linux and open-source lab on the Redmond campus has been running some interesting tests of late, one of which was looking at how well the latest Windows client software runs on legacy hardware in comparison to its Linux competitors. The tests, which found that Windows performed as well as Linux on legacy hardware when installed and run out-of-the-box, were done in part to give Microsoft the data it needed to effectively 'put to rest the myth that Linux can run on anything.'"
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Microsoft Challenges Linux's Legacy Claims

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  • Come back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psionicist ( 561330 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:39AM (#14419766)
    Come back when Windows can run on non-x86-hardware and toasters.
    • Re:Come back (Score:2, Informative)

      by sqlrob ( 173498 )
      I've got the DEC alpha disk hiding somewhere in my computer room, and the alpha (not turned on in years) downstairs.
      • Re:Come back (Score:3, Informative)

        while i have no doubt windows can support my old PICES of hardware, such as my archaic 56k modems, soundcards, etc... i highly doubt i will see winXP run on this 150mhz box as well as linux is.
        • Re:Come back (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sqlrob ( 173498 )
          No argument on that here.OP just wanted Windows running on non-x86 hardware, which it did back in the NT 4 days. And now again on PPC (sorta) with the XBox 360.

          Heck, some of the security problems are legacy because of the support of the other architectures. For god's sake, add another ring for drivers so they can't touch the kernel. It's supported on the x86.

    • Re:Come back (Score:5, Informative)

      by oc-beta ( 941915 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:06AM (#14419888)
      Right, I am wondering about the subjective nature of this article. I have found that linux runs great with the scarcest resources. Tell me where you can run a full PBX and IVR using a P-II 300 mhz? My Gentoo + Asterisk did just fine. Just my $.02, I am afraid that this is going to turn into another *nix vs. windows argument. I think that every OS has a place on the network. Just the thought that Windows 2003 was installed on a PII-300 makes my shudder. However, Linux is quite happy. (As well as your favorite BSD's)
    • Last time I checked, my copy of windows x64 runs like a dream on my "x64 hardware".
    • Re:Come back (Score:5, Informative)

      by crimson30 ( 172250 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:19AM (#14419939) Homepage
      From wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

      "Windows NT 3.1 ran on Intel IA-32 x86, DEC Alpha, and MIPS R4000 processors. Windows NT 3.51 added support for PowerPC processors. Intergraph Corporation ported Windows NT to its Clipper architecture and later SPARC, but neither version was sold to the public. Windows NT 4.0 was the last major release to support Alpha, MIPS, or PowerPC, though development of Windows 2000 for Alpha continued until 1999, when Compaq stopped support for Windows NT on that architecture."

      NT 4.0 ran well on my alphastation :|
    • by dogwelder99 ( 896835 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:28AM (#14419990)
      That's what I need... a toaster that needs fixing every few days, constantly pops up toast containing viruses and Spam, and keeps telling me how great it'll be when it starts working correctly, probably sometime in 2007.
    • Re:Come back (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScriptedReplay ( 908196 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:34AM (#14420013)
      Nevermind that. From TFA:
      "There has always been and there will always be a class of technical user that wants to do this level of modification to the operating system--and it's worth noting that, with the right amount of configuration, Windows CE can also run in much the same way on all sorts of small and old devices," Hilf said.

      Sooo ... we're comparing apples to apples, right ...

      Besides, for old hardware, where's Debian in their comparison? And what about some actual information, instead of generic 'about the same requirements' sweeping statements? Like how much of Win 2k3 Server do you have to disable to get it running as a simple fileserver on an old Pentium MMX? or at least whatever specs they tested, what software they installed ... oh, nevermind, this was just a PR stunt, what was I expecting. IHBT

      • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:09AM (#14420376)
        "Besides, for old hardware, where's Debian in their comparison? "

        Well, don't you think that comparison would be a tad unfair? I mean after all, doesn't Debian stable date from about 1997?

        (Ducking and running)
      • Re:Come back (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rspress ( 623984 )
        I had an old Pentium II machine I decided to put Win2000 server on as a learning machine for my MCSE class. While well above microsofts minimum requirements the OS ran like a dog on it. It was not too bad once booted but that boot time could take as long as 15mins to get to a usable level.

        I never ran linux on this old machine but I know it would be much fast as I could get the same level of service without a GUI. Once setup, I controlled the server from several computers so the need for a GUI in linux would
    • Re:Come back (Score:3, Informative)

      Come back when Windows can run on non-x86-hardware and toasters

      Does this mean we can come back now then?

      XBox 360 is windows based and running on a PowerPC variant. Also there are the smartphones and mobile devices, and even watches... (All running either embedded Windows or a Variant version of NT form of Windows as on the PocketPC devices).

      Oh and lets not forget that Windows NT4.0 was available on RISC, Alpha, PPC.

      And we could go on with Windows Embedded technologies that are also running Windows NT or a v
    • Re:Come back (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kalecomm ( 926735 ) <klindsey@kalecomm.com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:42AM (#14420283)
      Ha Ha Ha HaHa HA! Man! That's funny! Yeah. Compare a modern day distro of Linux to ancient versions of Windows. Which, by the way, are no longer supported or being patched. Ha Ha Ha! And then, make a big fuss about how you got M$ DimWoes version Godknowswhat to work on ancient hardware, but the newer distro of Linux doesn't! Oh yeah, this is real NEWS! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Haw!

      The real funny part of this is that I have Debian Linux 3.1 (2.6 kernel) running right now upstairs on a 233MHz AMD box with 128MB of memory as a server (no gui) and it runs OK. Not the speediest thing in the world, but OK. Acceptable. Try running XP on something like that, and you'll grow old or end up pulling what's left of your hair out!

      Besides, older versions of Linux would probably run rings around whatever version of DimWoes that M$ claims to outperform Linux. Yeah. Let's see Windblows 95 outperform RedHat 6.0. Yeah. Good luck with that!

      Best Regards,

  • So guys (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:40AM (#14419769)
    how about those knicks?
    • Re:So guys (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The tests, which found that Windows performed as well as Linux

      So it's not better, just more expensive.
      • Re:So guys (Score:5, Insightful)

        by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl@e x c ite.com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:17AM (#14420176) Journal

        From TFA:

        Also, more importantly, would the applications and software those users need be available and run on these machines? And would they not cost more than the hardware itself and thus blow the benefits of cheaper hardware out of the water? Asked about this, Hilf would only say that "this is precisely the challenge Microsoft is working with the industry to address."

        In other words: "Please ignore the fact that even if we win, we lose." And I'd really like to see some DATA, on this, rather then "Oh really, it did just as well! (Course we installed full-blown Linux setups, and likely minimal Win installations...)". What did they use? GNOME? KDE? Something in the vein of a blackbox or fluxbox? Or no GUI at all? The ability to choose heavy, light, or no GUI is one of Linux's main strengths in itself, and one Win currently cannot match.

  • Phone Exchanges (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HermanAB ( 661181 )
    So Windows can run on telephone exchanges, PBXs, Sun workstations, IBM mainframes, Cisco routers... w00t!
  • by Dominatus ( 796241 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:42AM (#14419778)
    Already people are commenting about how Linux can run on different processors than Windows. Not what they were testing.

    From TFA:

    ""Quite simply, I wanted to examine this factually, using real customer scenarios to test this hypothesis: can Linux run on older hardware than Windows? In many developing countries and public institutions, such as a local library, they typically don't have deep technical staff, so they need to use software without lots of modification and customization."
    • ""Quite simply, I wanted to examine this factually, using real customer scenarios to test this hypothesis: can Linux run on older hardware than Windows? In many developing countries and public institutions, such as a local library, they typically don't have deep technical staff, so they need to use software without lots of modification and customization."

      And yet, the summary used the 'run on anything' phrase, which is commonly known to mean running a version of Linunx on whatever bizarre thing you can im

    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:13AM (#14419919)
      Yes, I found it very interesting that they spent about the first half of the article rationalizing why they didn't actually test a distro of Linux that will actually run on anything, like the single floppy I boot my 486 laptop from, which subsequently runs the system from rather meager memory.The entire "test" is founded on misrepresenting the claim that "Linux will run on anything."

      I also always get a kick out of the "poor people are idiots who can't learn to run the system" argument as well. That'll really get them on your side and buying your products.

      Dear Bill,

      Let me give you a hint. Poor people have more time than money and expect to have to do things the self-sufficient hard way. Many of them even take pride in being able to do so.

      And the local library is full of things called "books" and people who know how to read them. Like, computer books. That's where I went to read Kernighan & Ritchie. They've got a full set of Knuth too. Not to mention that computer training is a standard part of library science these days.

      Nice try.


      • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:20AM (#14420184) Journal
        You see poor people who cannot afford the latest hardware (or the powerbill the latest hardware generataes) DO NOT have to tune linux down to run on obsolete hardware. All that is needed is ONE (1) geek to do it and put his efforts online. THAT is the secret of Linux/Opensource/The internet.

        Some crazy fin writes an OS and I get a cheap desktop that doesn't blue screen and actually performs a lot better then certain commercial OS'es and does not costs me a sackfull of money to get the latest bugfixes.

        The Internet has made a huge impact on the way the world works. No not because of internet shopping but in that communities can be build with a far larger catching area. It doesn't matter how obscure your interest are, with the global internet their are bound to be other weirdos out there who are intrested in the same things as you.

        As someone who actually had an interest in anime/manga before the internet (yeah I am old so what?) I am still at times amazed by the huge change the internet has made. Previously you had to really seek out a club that probably had only 1-2 members per province and would have real trouble getting their message out. With the internet I can google and find hundreds of sites specializing in every type of manga/anime.

        It would probably be quit hard to find enough people in your own town to build an OS. In fact linux shows this. Not that many other fins involved but because of the internet it doesn't matter. Weirdos allover can easily find each other.

        So a knoppix live cd made by persons from all over the globe can be easily found by anyone else on the planet. Same with firewall on a floppy distro's. Just check distrowatch to see how many tiny little 1 man distro's there are that nevertheless manage to reach a global audience.

        MS must really be getting desperate if now they are even trying to spread fud about the capacity for Linux to run on cheap hardware.

        Linux is made by people for people. It does not have to be succesfull, it does not have to be worth it. There are countless people out there who are happy to spend all their free time producing special versions of Linux and give away their work for free.

        This allows for Linux distro's to be easily available in the most obscure languages possible since all it requires is one(1) person with a passion and there is no need for a cost benefit study.

        Linux runs on X because. Not because anything just because. Windows CE only runs on X when someone decides it is worth their time and effort and money.

        Yes some companies have decided that they want to try making money from Linux. Good luck to them and they add valuable extra's to the effort but they are not Linux. They are a small subset of the global effort. Not a coordinated effort. Just hundreds of thousands of people who want software to do what they want and screw it being complex. That is part of the enjoyment. You don't think someone modding a GBA to run as a webserver has anyother motive then "Because"?

        Linux is people who grow their own food, Linux is people that take 20 years to build their own plane, Linux is people who climb up a mountain nobody cares about, Linux is all these efforts being able to benefit all the others. Or not. because it don't matter. If all the effort to put Linux on PPC never ever generates a single bit of usefull code it don't matter because Linux does not ever have to make a profit to survive.

        Even if Linux died, so what? Linux ain't Linux, Linux is an idea and BSD or god forbid Hurd could easily take over. because Linux is not new. It is in fact ancient. Linux is civilisation. Each generation building on the achievements of their elders and sharing their knowledge with the next generation.

        The idea that you keep new ideas locked up is not how mankind has progressed.

        I do not have to figure out how to pump water or filter it or store it or even figure out that I need it to survive. Others have done it before me and shared it with the world at large. I do not have to figure out h

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:43AM (#14419781)
    So yes, Windows95 will INSTALL on a 486SX-25 with 16 MB of RAM, but can you do anything? I think WinXP probably WONT even install on that. Is a P2-350 with 64MB of RAM a decent Win2003 box? Not on your life. Welcome to swapville.

    This is the dumbest, most shill-like "benchmark" I've read about in a while. Come back when they do webserver benchmarks on the legacy HW. How many of the tests will read "No results for Windows because the OS won't install on this platform" ?
    • IF you RTFA, they mention that while Linux may install on older hw, running it on a desktop will yield unacceptable levels of performance, and you can forget about running things like Open Office. They're not trying to say Windows is better on legacy hw, they're saying that, out of the box, Linux is just as bad as Windows.
      • That depends what distro you use. Red Hat Enterprise certainly isn't designed to run on a low-end computer out of the box, but Vector Linux is and I can guarantee you that Vector will outperform any Windows OS (incl. 95 and 98) on older hardware.

        The main difference is that with Windows what you get out of the box is largely what you will end up using. With Linux you can take a RHEL system running a fat desktop and put a light-weight desktop environment or window manager in place of Gnome and you've got your
        • by NutscrapeSucks ( 446616 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:58AM (#14420112)
          Keep in mind that this whole thing is aimed at organizations, rather than the mom's basement crowd.

          IT Manager: Can I extend the life of this old Win98 hardware with Linux?

          Answer: Absolutely! You just need to run some weird distro with no commercial support, use some wacky window manager, and live without anything like MS Office!

          IT Manager: Aaaaah. OK. (Slowly backs away and starts perusing $300 Dell Celerons).
          • So, what would be the difference exactly?

            I will tell you what. With Linux you become owner of your infrastructure. Once you have the dosh to move to commercially supported versions the migration is far less painful, not to mention that you always know that your data is accessible and protected agianst the whims of a coporate concern.
    • I remember seeing Win95 on a box with 8 MB of RAM. The owner had to borrow another 8 to install '95, but it did actually run. Of course, it would take several minutes to load Netscape Navigator 4... but it did run. 16 MB is better for performance. With 24 MB or more, running lightweight applications, it was decent. Funny, on the same machine, Linux runs about equally.
      • I remember someone brining in a 486 with 4MB of RAM that was running Win95 and wanted to have internet access set up on it. I installed IE4 without thinking about it and upon the necessary reboot, it blue screened. Apparently, Win95 will run on 4MB, but not when IE4 is installed..
  • Yes, but ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordKaT ( 619540 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:44AM (#14419788) Homepage Journal
    While I can run the "client software" on legacy hardware (whatever they define that as), I still can't run, with any decent performance, a fresh install of Windows XP Pro SP2 on my 386, whereas I can pop in my FreeSCO CD and use the machine as a router (or Slackware and use it as a terminal/IRC/MUD/Bugzilla/CVS/Whatever server).

    It's not what I can display on a monitor with my old hardware, it's what I can get that damn machine to do.
    • Exactly. What kind of idiot would take that old computer which (s)he has kept lying around, pay $ for a Windows license, then find some more pay-for-software to make it do some mundane task? When it could actually be done with Linux and it won't take an hour every time (s)he starts it up? Microsoft's point is lost on me here. I wouldn't install XWindows on a 386 10 years after the last 386 chip was made, and I certainly wouldn't install an OS that *forces* you to use a GUI.

      Not to mention the inevitable
  • by Thanatopsis ( 29786 ) <despain.brianNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:44AM (#14419789) Homepage
    The study merely proved that Microsoft's current operatings systems can run on the smae hardware. It didn't prove a single thing about the ability of linux to "run on anything." It was entirely limited in scope - they just installed straight out of the box linux distros and Microsoft's OS on old hardware. The myth they were actually trying to disprove is that Windows doesn't run on old hardware.
    • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:05AM (#14419880)

      The myth they were actually trying to disprove is that Windows doesn't run on old hardware.

      It isn't a myth: Windows doesn't run on a 486, it walks.

      • Windows doesn't run on a 486, it walks.

        Actually I CAN run Windows 95 on my 486 66Mhz, which has 16 MB RAM and a gig of space... but then again it's "overclocked" to 75 Mhz... and I can't run anything besides IE3, and word 95 (or whatever it's called)...

        I COULD run the latest Oo and firefox if I had a *nix distro though... That's where the difference is. I can have a FUNCTIONAL PC using obsolete (legacy) hardware using *nix, with the latest software running...

    • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:09AM (#14419900) Homepage Journal
      I think, to be honest, that all that was really shown is that popular modern Linux desktop distributions are targetted at modern hardware, and as a result don't run as well on older hardware. They ran Red Hat and Mandrake and Novell etc. 'out of the box' with no customisation to make it fit with the hardware - unsurprisingly the default install of such distros a targetted at modern systems and have hefty system requirements.

      Pick up a distribution that actually claims to target older hardware, or just generally fit in smaller places, like say Damn Small Linux [damnsmalllinux.org], Feather Linux [berlios.de] or Zenwalk [zenwalk.org] and I suspect you'll find much better performance and much lower system requirements all 'out of the box'. The counter-claim seems to be that Windows CE, with the right customisations, will run on older hardware too. Does anyone know if their is a release of CE set up for desktop use on older hardwre?

      • Exactly, and that's what makes the whole thing stupid.

        Microsoft doesn't know how to attack Linux, since it comes in so many shapes and sizes. So, they pick a specific point where they know the results will be favorable - or at least not negative in their direction.

        It's a dumb argument. The point of Linux is that you can do whatever you want with it, anyone can. And I can get a distribution (or make my own!) that will run happily on a 486 with limited memory, complete with a GUI and some software such as
  • Sans RJ45? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kihjin ( 866070 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:45AM (#14419792)
    The tests, which found that Windows performed as well as Linux on legacy hardware when installed and run out-of-the-box, were done in part to give Microsoft the data it needed to effectively "put to rest the myth that Linux can run on anything.

    In other words: None of these devices were actually connected to the Internet.
  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:49AM (#14419810) Homepage
    I believe Microsoft's article is reasonable, to a certain extent. They haven't been comparing apples with oranges, but instead are showing that computers running similar application suites behave similarly, whether running on Linux or NT.

    The problem with the article isn't that they aren't comparing apples with apples, but that they're ignoring the fact that the oranges exist. If you aren't running desktop apps Linux will run well on small amounts of RAM - even less than the 64MB they quote as the minimum limit - and that similar apps aren't as readily available under the Windows OS.

    They're also neglecting to mention that you'd need to spend hundreds to obtain a licensed copy of XP for your legacy hardware, as opposed to downloading a Linux CD image.
    • > I believe Microsoft's article is reasonable, to a certain extent. They haven't been comparing apples with oranges, but
      > instead are showing that computers running similar application suites behave similarly, whether running on Linux or NT.

      Exactly correct. With the bloated applications stacks typical on both platforms any OS advantage is lost on the desktop. Firefox is a pig. Openoffice.org is beyond that to fscking huge, and that is before the JVM loads.

      Plus they compared current 'enterprise' off
  • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:50AM (#14419816) Journal
    Microsoft thus decided to test this premise by installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Pro 9.2, Mandrake 10, Linspire 4.5, Xandros Desktop 3.0, Fedora Core 3, Slackware 10.1, Knoppix 3.7; Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 out-of-the-box on older hardware to see what happened.

    The real story here is how revealing this "Comparison" is about attitudes at Microsoft. They weren't interested in doing a valid test which might have been of some use in improving their product. All they were interested in doing was showing a competitor in a bad light, even if it meant blatantly rigging the test. This is an ostrich "head in the sand" trick.

    It's because they refuse to accept fair comparison and competition, and to improve as a result of that competition that they continue to expose users to constant security risks.
    • But...what did you expect? I'm sure MS actually does do fair tests in which Linux comes out on top, but of course they do them at midnight during the dark of the Moon in a secret underground lab, and they ritually slaughter the engineers afterward so they don't talk.

      Seriously, any sensible corporation tests their competitors' products, and keeps the results strictly to themselves. Why give the competition any help? On the other hand, when some random test or other has results that look good for you, how
    • They're just playing the same game as the Linux community, who claims that Linux extends the life of old hardware, all while touting applications like OpenOffice and Firefox.

      At least with Windows, there is a quite usable stack of desktop applications from 5-8 years ago, where that's not true with *nix.
  • Yeah, right (Score:3, Funny)

    by MarkRose ( 820682 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:50AM (#14419820) Homepage
    What about NetBSD? I'd like to see them install Windows CE on a mechanical pencil! Hah!
  • He claims that you have to be a linux developer to install linux which is crap. In fact, it's a lot easier to get linux running than say windows 2000 or 98 (since we're talking legacy here). I will agree that modern operating systems will run slowly on outdated hardware. But to say that a computer runs windows (version??) fast and "linux" slowly is saying nothing. Most modern distros I've tried do run slowly on older hardware (amd k6-2 500 with ample ram) However, windows xp would crawl on such a machi
  • by Entropy ( 6967 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:52AM (#14419828)
    From TFA: "The fact of the matter is that if you look at popular desktop Linux distributions from Red Hat or Novell's SUSE, they match or exceed the system requirements of Windows XP. For example, Novell Linux Desktop 9 requires a minimum of 128MB physical RAM, which is identical to the requirements of Windows XP. If you compare OpenOffice 2.0 to the system requirements of Microsoft Office and again they are identical," he said.

    I winced at the bolded section. 128 megs? Windows XP? Are they bloody serious? We don't want a computer that just boots up - we want productivity. And for productivity, XP needs more than 128 megs, unless by "productivity" you mean "wordpad" ..
    • I think the other question is: how long will the system work? My experience with Windows is that, even if everything works fine when you boot up, the system starts to drag and behave weirdly if you keep it running long enough, open and close applications, have multiple users log in and out, et cetera. I'm guessing the memory management isn't so hot.

      On the other hand, I've routinely run my Linux machines for 3-6 months without reboot, 'cause the memory management is sound.
      • I think you meant your experience with pre-2000 Windows.

        Windows 2k/XP/2K3 have been surprisingly crafty when it comes to maintaining system performance over a long period of time. Leaked memory is reclaimed, and the system does a "pseudo-defrag" whenever you're not using the computer (moving the apps and files you use the most to the center of the drive for faster access). User profiles are more cleanly kept than in the past, and honestly I only have to restart my PC every few months when I do my updates.
    • "unless by 'productivity' you mean 'wordpad'"

      Maybe they mean notepad.
    • Just to give you an idea, I'm a software developer and at the government agency where I used to work, I and a few other guys were tasked with setting up a disk image for computers that would be used for testing.

      The computers ran Windows XP Pro, and were getting a full install of Visual Studio, plus a test suite called DevPartner installed. I believe they were also going to be able to serve web pages, not as a full blown server but just locally for testing purposes.

      We found that the bare minimum we could use
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by carlislematthew ( 726846 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:52AM (#14419829)
    What the test fails to understand is that when you're installing Linux on 1997 hardware (which oddly, is not far off the original hardware I installed Linux on), you generally don't install Redhat Enterprise 4000 with all the whiz-bang options! In the case of Linux, you actually have a fucking choice. In those days, you could build a Linux SERVER on basic hardware simply because you had absolutely no need for a GUI and could manage the server quite well from the command line. Could you do the same with a Windows OS at the time? No!!!

    It took a long time for Windows to be able to run well on low cost hardware. Nowadays, everyone has 256 or 512MB even on budget systems, and so the requirements aren't much different because EVERYONE will run X.

    Basically, the test was stupid and missed the point of being able to run Linux on older hardware - by lowering the requirements through a choice of what you want to install (namely the GUI).

    • It would seem the problem is that MS STILL doesn't understand that a server is NOT a desktop machine with more RAM, more HD and a crappier monitor. I would like to see Windows survive as a DNS or mail server for a small office/workgroup on a P166 w/ 64MB RAM. Linux has no problems there, just don't run X and it'll be fine.

      Being installable just doesn't cut it. To be a valid test, they need to look at usefulness for various purposes. Of course, many would argue that Windows shouldn't be used for any purpos

  • Just as I suspected (Score:3, Informative)

    by NixLuver ( 693391 ) <stwhite@kc h e r e t i c . c om> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:55AM (#14419842) Homepage Journal
    When I read the blurb, I figured out what I would find in TFA. They're comparing XP to, say, SUSE 9.0 or RH 4.0 EL. Both optimized for current systems. Here's the difference; there are many distributions of linux targeted at older, slower machines, going all the way back to 286's. I would like to see performance comparisons between Windows and a linux distro targeted at smaller machines. See distrowatch; they list a couple that are *meant* for this application, so you don't have to be a kernel hacker or techincal expert to modify your linux distro for your hardware.

    *yawn*. Same old MS crap.
  • Bait and Switch / BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:55AM (#14419843)

    In the tests run in its lab, Microsoft found that most modern commercial Linux distributions could be installed successfully on systems with a Pentium processor, with 64MB of RAM and a minimum of 2GB of hard disk space.

    "Memory prevented the successful installation on a typical 1997 system, as 32MB of memory is not enough to install most Linux distributions or to run desktop applications with acceptable performance. A memory upgrade could prolong the life of such hardware, but the cost and effort of locating old memory and installing it onto all corporate clients significantly reduces the potential savings," Hilf said.

    Minimum requirements for office productivity performance on a Linux system were any Pentium II (PII) system with at least 64MB of RAM, he said, adding that playback of sound and video would typically require a PII 400 or better.

    The salient points are in the statment above. The claim that "most" linuix distros had limitations preventing them from accessing a 32mb system with "aceptable performance" is entirely unsurprising. I note that neither RedHat (to pick one) nor Windows XP would like such a system very much, especially for modern "desktop application performance" (read OpenOffice and MS Office). In that case it is really the apps that are the limiting factors.

    They never state what distros were tested (I assume Novell and RedHat when in doubt) nor how installation was done. Rather they pull a nice switching strategy. They test some unnamed distros and then state that windows CE is better than them on legacy hardware.

    That is much like saying Windows CE is better than Windows XP on legacy hardware or that MuLinux is better than RedHat on older hardware. In both cases the former was designed for such a task while the latter was not. In both cases the former have limitations that prevent them from running "Modern Desktop Apps", that is in fact the point.

    This is a simple "bait and switch" comparison, and if this is all the CTO uses when comparing all distros of linux to windows for some use; fire them.
  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:55AM (#14419845) Journal
    There's nothing substantative in the article. I didn't see benchmarks, I didn't see screenshots of the system in action. I saw he said/she said between some MS people and some guy from Novell.

    It's below a non-story.
  • Astroturf!

    Well not by the strict definition, but you get the point; Microsoft has this lab, you see. And in it they test systems from all over the gal^h^h^hworld. And in one of these test Microsoft products outpreformed their competitor's.

    Wow! That's news. We better get it on Slashdot right away. Oh, and be sure to include an URL encoded identifer so that the submitter can get his boobie prize.

    Just my opinion, but you better modify that URL before you click it. Especially if you aren't running in para

  • by Linegod ( 9952 ) <pasnak@NosPam.warpedsystems.sk.ca> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:55AM (#14419849) Homepage Journal
    I really want to get a lot of publicity for being able to misunderstand something, then hire some folks, buy some hardware, install some software, spend months generating data all based on my initially incorrect assumption of what I think I heard someone once say about something that I know if I really tried to unblock it, I would know right away that I was full of shit and just pandering to the marketing department, since they have all the money, and my weak ass strawman argument wouldn't hold up to even a casual look, but who cares - it makes a great bullet point.

    No seriously. I want it. And a end to run on sentences....
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @12:56AM (#14419852)
    I think when most people say Linux runs on anything, they don't mean Fedora Core, or any particular distro. Microsoft's tests are flawed because they assume we mean that Fedora Core 4, or Ubuntu with a nice full GUI desktop setup will run on anything. When I think about Linux running on anything I think about Linux running on my Linksys WRT54GS router, or Linux running on cell phones. We're talking the full linux kernel, with a stripped down environment. I doubt Windows XP (even without the GUI) would run on a cell phone. The XP-embedded kernel might, but not the normal kernel. Linux's strengths lie in it's modularity; the kernel can be stripped down and run in minimal environments, all using the exact same code base, with the same kernel APIs used everywhere.

    So it seems that Microsoft is deliberately confusing the issues here. A modern Gnome or KDE desktop on Linux no better or worse than Windows XP on 10 year old hardware with a full GUI desktop. But can Windows XP run on a 20-year-old 386 at all? Linux can. And while a Gnome desktop might now, X11 with a GUI of some kind certainly can. That's what we mean when we say linux can run on older hardware. Furthermore, much about Linux that enables compatibility stretching back 30 years doesn't really have anything to do with Linux itself either. For example, I can connect a Gnome desktop remotely to a 30-year old Unix mainframe and run X11 programs completely seamlessly. I could even fire up a 20-year old unix workstation running X11 and connect to a brand-new gnome desktop running on FC4 somewhere and expect it to work at least.

    Further, Linux seems to be able to adapt much quicker to new platforms than Microsoft. The 32-bit to 64-bit jump was made years ago with Linux, with no major kernel API changes. Compare this to Windows which has Win16, Win32, and now Win64, with major changes in between, requiring some interesting hacks to preserve backwards compatibility. Linux, thanks to its Unix heritage, has always thought about things like making x-bit clean (where x is 32, 64, or whatever) and dealing with things like endianness. Linux isn't perfect; if there are issues with moving between 32 and 64 bits, or moving between little and big endian, they are bugs that need to be fixed. Microsoft has never expended much effort to think about such issues, as near as I can tell, since they thrive on the Wintel monopoly. Getting Windows endian-clean, for example, just isn't a priority.
  • by putko ( 753330 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:02AM (#14419872) Homepage Journal
    There is a huge content-free lead-in to the article. Here is the meat.
    But first, my comment:

    Judge for yourself whether or not the minimal configuration is really the minimal one. I personally am inclined to think 2GB is way too big of a disk. If you just want a webserver, DNS box, firewall, etc. you don't need a bigger disk than 32MB, if you are using a BSD. I would guess it is the same or better with Linux. But Windows includes so much unnecessary stuff in the basic install, you need 2GB. This actually does matter -- if you need 32MB, that is a cheap flash disk. If you need 2GB, that's a lot.

    "In the tests run in its lab, Microsoft found that most modern commercial Linux distributions could be installed successfully on systems with a Pentium processor, with 64MB of RAM and a minimum of 2GB of hard disk space.

    "Memory prevented the successful installation on a typical 1997 system, as 32MB of memory is not enough to install most Linux distributions or to run desktop applications with acceptable performance. A memory upgrade could prolong the life of such hardware, but the cost and effort of locating old memory and installing it onto all corporate clients significantly reduces the potential savings," Hilf said.

    Minimum requirements for office productivity performance on a Linux system were any Pentium II (PII) system with at least 64MB of RAM, he said, adding that playback of sound and video would typically require a PII 400 or better.

    "This corresponds to an average PC issued between 1998 and 1999," Hilf said.

    If Linux was installed on an older system, such as an average PC of 1997, then the desktop performance falls below what is typically acceptable for a common user, he said."
  • by Tamsco ( 672082 )
    First and foremost I love studies that compare the system requirements on the label. This seems like an obvious ploy to convince developing countries to use Windows on hand-me-down hardware. This article is not going to convice anyone that even if XP can run on a Pentium 1 it is worth paying more in software licensing fees than they paid for the hardware.

    The only way Windows will convince people that Windows is good for legacy hardware will be if they either restart support for Windows 95 and Windows 98 o
  • by smash ( 1351 )
    (no, not going to bother wasting my time on the article that directly contradicts my own experiences over the past 10 years, often *running daily on shitty hardware*)

    They picked a distribution for older PCs right?

    Running kernel 2.0, and a fairly minimal X11, instead of KDE/Gnome? Right?

    Or perhaps they even picked a recent distribution and pared it down to get it to run well?

    Didn't think so.

    Out of box Windows vs out of box Linux both chew a fair bit of RAM these days. Difference is, with Linux yo

  • There was this pervasive belief that Linux could run on older PCs and that Windows could not, he said, adding that Microsoft thus decided to test this premise by installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Pro 9.2, Mandrake 10, Linspire 4.5, Xandros Desktop 3.0, Fedora Core 3, Slackware 10.1, Knoppix 3.7; Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 out-of-the-box on older hardware to see what happened.

    Suse 9.2 runs on my Dell P150 96Meg Ram just fine. Microsoft Windows doesn't even pick up on the NeoMagic video chipse
  • by linguae ( 763922 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:12AM (#14419913)

    One problem with Linux vs. Windows comparisons is that Linux is just a kernel, whereas Windows is a kernel + desktop environment + userland + web browser + more. Linux can run on legacy hardware; even the latest Linux kernel will run decently even on an old 386 with 8MB RAM, along with the latest versions of the GNU userland, X, a text editor like vim or emacs, and maybe even lynx. (Just don't think about doing anything more complex, such as use a graphical web browser, Java, GTK or QT application, fancy desktops, etc.) On the flipside, can Windows XP even install on an 386? You'll have to revert to DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 if you want a decently-performing Windows config with those specs. And who'd use that in 2006? (You'd have to pay me to use DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11, and give me copies of WordPerfect 5.1 and Lotus 1-2-3 2.4, as well ;).) Windows 95 can technically run on that machine, but you'll be in swap city....

    If you are a hardcore Unix user, you can be very comfortable with a 386 or 486 with 8-16MB RAM, as long as you love the command line (and are not even considering any intensive GUI applications). Heck, 386 and 486 users got it much better than Thompson and Ritchie did ;). However, once you start adding GUI toolkits, multimedia applications, quality web browsers like Firefox and Konqueror, full-blown desktops, office suites, VMs for all of these languages supported by the developers (like Java, Python, Ruby, Perl, ...), libraries for oodles of functions, transparent graphics, and all of those other features, Linux, just like any other OS, needs much more processor speed and much more memory. You'll need at least a 233MHz processor with a minimum of 256MB RAM in order to avoid much of Swap City, and you'll need 500MHz and at least 384MB RAM to completely avoid all of it (unless your work is truly computer-intensive). Windows XP works the same way.

    All that I'm saying with these comparisons is that many people quickly forget that all Linux is is a kernel. Linux, along with the GNU tools, can be ran from specifications as little as a 386SX with 4MB RAM to 96-node Beowulf clusters each featuring the fastest chips on the market, along with tens of gigabytes of RAM. Just don't come crying when your OpenOffice takes a year to compile on your 386, and a day to open ;).

  • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:13AM (#14419918) Journal
    People don't choose Linux over Windows because they want to run it on an old 486. Hell, you can buy a 600Mhz Pentium III that'll run any Linux distro on Earth for about 150 bucks on Ebay. Who cares about old hardware?

    People buy Linux because:

    1. It's much cheaper than Windows, with a much more liberal license which lets you do whatever you want without a huge, complex, draconian EULA;

    2. It comes with a full set of development tools out of the box, and for most people offers all the software they will EVER need, so you don't have to blow hundreds of bucks on additional software packages;

    3. Most of the additional tools people want can be had for free or very little money (like Java's SDK, which can be downloaded for nothing, or Oracle Express, which is also free).

    4. It has better default driver support than Windows, without having to go out to a vendor site and hope they still offer downloads; In fact, most hardware is detected right off the bat nowadays.

    5. YES, Linux is more secure than Windows, and offers better and more diverse tools for locking down your system. Also it tends to be more stable, and has much more gentle memory and disk requirements.

    6. This one's esoteric, but what the hell: I can use Reiser FS on Linux; Windows didn't offer a journaling ANYTHING up until their latest greatest (does that even offer journals???). Under Windows, if you lose power suddenly, the next time you power up you could have a garbled registry (reinstall time!). Under Linux with Reiser, when you reboot, the system politely tells you it's going to check the journal, and it fixes itself. This alone is a good reason to prefer Linux.

    Overall, Linux is better than Windows in almost every conceivable way. The only other operating systems that come close are Mac OS/X and the *BSDs.

    But I guess, if I was Bill Gates, I'd want to divert everyone's attention away from the "Linux is better" problem, too. Hey, kids! Look over here! Windows installed on a 486! Don't pay any attention to that nasty Novell guy over there, with his nasty Kontact information manager, and all his talk of "security" and "stability" -- you don't want those, they're not good for you! Come have some Outlook and IE!


  • I'm sorry... WHAT?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by thesnarky1 ( 846799 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @01:17AM (#14419930) Homepage
    "Memory prevented the successful installation on a typical 1997 system, as 32MB of memory is not enough to install most Linux distributions or to run desktop applications with acceptable performance. A memory upgrade could prolong the life of such hardware, but the cost and effort of locating old memory and installing it onto all corporate clients significantly reduces the potential savings," Hilf said.

    I don't know what they were installing, but not the distros I use. See... lesser known fact about *nix is that it comes in many flavors. If, say, you had an older, piece of junk, you can get just as new a version of Damn Small Linux as you could Fedora Core 4. One is 50 MB, on a cd, the other 6 GB on 4. The thing they're assuming here is that you have to have a GUI to be productive. I call shenanagins.

    I've done this same test with a box I 'liberated' from another source. (Was given to me, as it was too old to donate, believe it or not). 'Tis a first gen Pentium, with a whopping 32 MB RAM. I've got Fedora Core 4 on there just fine! It works as a web server, a file server, as well as a programming workstation, and email. I even browse the web on it fine! Oh, one small thing, it won't run X, de to size. (Ok, it will, ya just don't wanna... trust me). Guess what OS was on there previously? a very, VERY sluggish version of 2000. I don't know how they kept it running, but they did.

    I ask you, which is better on legacy hardware? The ability to choose what you need, so as to maximize what you have? Or the ability to run everything in the world, and see what breaks?

    To the people out there about to mod me flamebait: Yes, I read TFA, and no, I don't buy it. To judge to world of Linux on a few distros is foolish. Just as they test a bunch of versions of Windows, they need to do a range of Linux. Jump to the end of the article:

    While Novell's Ungashick agreed that, as a comparison of "out of the box" functionality and resource requirements of modern operating systems, what Microsoft claimed may well be true, he noted that on the desktop, Linux is far more modular and customizable than Windows, allowing it to run on a broader spectrum of hardware.

    Good, they acknolwdge what I just said. But again, how do you define out of the box? Is it whatever boots from the CD? Or a 'full install'? I really think this is one of the worst benchmarks I've seen (even the other "independant" studies Microsoft did over the summer) due to the vagueness of the problem (my 'legacy' is your 'dream machine') to the differences inherant in different operating systems.

    As an aside, my 'check' word here is "unguided". How fitting I think.

  • Uh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Khaed ( 544779 )
    I think we're overlooking the real news here: They got Windows to run!
  • One time, my hard drive crashed, and I had no cash. So, I used the Busybox [busybox.net] in Slackware to boot and build a virtual drive out of some RAM. I was able to use the dial up modem, and the Lynx text browser to get on-line again. This was a machine that only had 64MB, and I used about 16MB to make the virtual drive for the root mount. Sure, I had to read some technical details and do a few tests for a few hours, but I was able to adapt the resources to the situation at hand. My cost: a few hours of my time. Linux
  • by crmartin ( 98227 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:02AM (#14420125)
    I'm just going to say up front that this is not a comment with a conclusion.

    I've been in this silly business for damn near 40 years (augh); my first computer had 8K of memory (yes, 8K, not megs) but we successfully ran a whole small business accounting system on it. 100 lines per minute chain printer. TI doesn't make a calculator that small.

    I went to grad school in Computer Science in 1983; we ran a whole graduate department on a PDP 11/70. Less than a megabyte of RAM, maybe 250 MB of disk total. Less than one MIP. We got a VAX in 1985; suddenly we had a WHOLE MIP, and a shared terminal in each grad student office.

    I'm writing this on a G5 MAC. God alone knows how many MIPS --- thousands, certainly. I use it alone.

    Frankly, I'm not sure where all the cycles go.

  • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:46AM (#14420475) Homepage
    The director of the Microsoft linux lab comes right out and says the intention of the testing was to "put to rest the myth that Linux can run on anything.", so you already know that the test has no credibility since its objective was not to find out IF linux can run on anything as is generally assumed. The conclusion to the test came before the test or the results, sounds like standard Microsoft tactics.

    Anyhow, reading Hilf's responses in the interview it appears that the tests showed that linux does run on anything based on their test results. He admited that "The tests, which found that Windows performed as well as Linux on legacy hardware" and therefore linux did run on the legacy hardware as installed "out-of-the-box". So the title to the article is wrong as Microsoft's own tests proved that linux would run on the legacy hardware.

    Now I suspect that what Hilf wanted to say was that BOTH the Windows and linux installations did not run adequately on the legacy hardware with "out-of-the-box" installs. But he doesn't want to admit it because he actually does realize why there is a wide spread assumption that linux runs well on legacy hardware, because it does.

    Note the response to the journalist's question about why there was a "linux runs on anything" assumption, "Hilf said the technical capability to modify Linux, to strip it down to run with a minimal set of services and software so that it could run on all sorts of hardware devices, had generated that larger assumption that any type of Linux distribution could run on all sorts of hardware devices".

    And here Hilf is at first correct and then only half correct. It is true that you can strip down linux to make it more efficient and capable on legacy hardware, and it is also true that the latest desktop distros take advantage of the latest hardware and therefore have similar requirements to Windows. But he fails to acknowlege two facts that I suspect he is aware of, 1) even the latest distros can be pared down so they can be efficeintly used on legacy hardware for applications which have reduced resource requirements, and 2) there are light weight linux distros out there which are capable of effectively running on legacy hardware.

    Case in point. I can, and have, taken a 533MHz system with a Via Eden processor, 128MB of RAM, dual ethernet cards, and one wireless network card and install the latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Fedora Core and have the latest kernel, selinux ACL, iptables, apache, bind, dhcpd, openvpn, and nfs and then proceed to efficiently use the box as a small business web server, file server, firewalled router, wireless access point, caching nameserver, and LAN dhcp server. And the first step is to simply click on only the software packages you need on the box when going through the graphical install.

    And the second case in point, as has been pointed out in several other posts I've read, a usable desktop can be made out of legacy hardware using something like knoppix, damn small linux, or any other distro that was designed to use limited resources.

    They are really grabbing at straws in their linux lab at Microsoft to try and prove their misconceptions about linux.


  • slackware (Score:3, Informative)

    by baomike ( 143457 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:57AM (#14420502)
    Did I miss it or was the slackware result not mentioned?
    From my experience slack is the easiest to put on an old box. Most current versions of Linux cann't seem to handle low res video during the install. I don't know about version 10.1 but 10 installs nicely on 200mhz pentium for use as a firewall.
  • by johansalk ( 818687 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @05:39AM (#14420766)
    I'll make the argument here the legacy machines don't matter. Cheapest new computers are now so cheap yet so powerful that the space and power requirements needed to run an old machine are just not worth it. Get a new machine, send yours to recycling. That said, last thing you need when you have an old clunker that's not worth keeping is to pay for a windows license for it. Microsoft must be on crack to make such irrelevant comparison, unless they intend to give free licenses. And even so, it requires an immense degree of cluelessness to prefer an old version of windows over a new version of a minimalist linux distro.
  • Credibility. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jotaeleemeese ( 303437 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @06:54AM (#14420945) Homepage Journal
    What is the credibility of MS's Linux Lab when benchmarking Linux vs Windows?

    In a scale of 1 to 10 I would say -1.

    Honestly guys, keep the results to yourselves, and all the best for you. To publish them is a no win situation. If you say Windows is better in any measure it will be pointed out, rightly, that you are an interested party. If you find that Linux is better, well, I would like to see the day you plublish that. Most likely that will be quietly ignored.

    So what is the frigging point exactly?
  • My own anecdote (Score:3, Informative)

    by caudron ( 466327 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @09:33AM (#14421254) Homepage
    Does Windows work as well on older hardware as Linux?

    To quote an old SCotUS Justice, "Common sense revolts at the idea."

    I am running several domains on an old Toshiba laptop with a 233 PII and 96MB RAM. Specifically, I am running the most recent version of Ubuntu Linux (Ubuntu Server Edition 5.10). It handles 4 web domains, 5 mailing lists, dns, and a horde of other responsibilties.

    My challenge to Microsoft? Do the same thing on the same hardware with their latest OS. I'm waiting.

    For anyone curious about what is set up and how, you can see my how-to page on the topic of installing these services in Ubuntu on the laptop. [digitalelite.com].

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.