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Ease of Use vs. Sweat Equity 235

Kelly McNeill pointed us over to a new article: "Browsing through ZDNet's feedback a while back, I lighted on the now standard debate on the merits of Linux and related Operating Systems versus those of Microsoft Windows NT. One thing eventually got me thinking. In every posting that claimed success with using NT, the factor that was claimed as guaranteeing success, was never NT's 'superior' technology, which has been Microsoft's line all along, but instead the time spent in doing things right. In other words, the reason why some companies could claim success with their deployment of NT was good old elbow-grease/sweat equity. "
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Ease of Use vs. Sweat Equity

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  • Hey!

    GREAT example of what people can do quickly with NT.
  • by rde ( 17364 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @03:40AM (#1507743)
    I'm the sysadmin in a cybercafé, and consequently I regularly have to explain the use of the computers to people who've never used a computer before in their lives. This explanation can even be as basic as 'watch the arrow on the screen. when you move the mouse up...'

    All the public machine use W9x (people need games and MS Word), and all the servers are Linux. I'm looking at putting a few Linux machines out for the masses to use becuase if you've never used a computer before Windows isn't easy to learn The web integration in 98 just makes things worse.

    To be fair, Linux is almost as difficult. But for the absolute neophyte, I'd rather spend time showing them how to use Linux than have to go back time and again to explain what happens when the screen goes all blue.
  • by Wiggins ( 3161 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @03:40AM (#1507744) Homepage
    From what we have found just removing the necessity to use a mouse to run any application, from database management tools, to FTP clients is enough to slow us down such that we are faster under linux. Not to mention that we can code a web app in perl with mysql way faster than VBScript and SQL, that may be because we are more used to it, but somehow I doubt that. Not to mention the fact that we are more used to it, because it was easier to learn 3 years ago (and was around for cheap) than to pick up related MS technology. As to the "battle" between M$ and Linux, I think that high bandwidth is the only weapon that will effectively make Linux succeed. As high bandwidth becomes very widely accessible (no pun intended) people will want to run their own ftp servers, mail servers, web servers, dns, etc. This will increase the call for stable, reliable services at home that run constantly. ANd combined with this need is the low cost necessity. Why pay $5000 for hardware and software (IIS, SQL, NT, etc.) when you can get it all free for Linux, chalk up a $1000 server system and get ready to roll.......We need high bandwidth! (not to mention I wnat to be able to download an mp3 in less than 45 minutes at home :-)
  • This reminds me of the early days, with the debate about Mac vs. PC. Sure, a Mac was easy to use, but it was harder to get at the guts of the computer/operating system.

    Sound familiar?

    Mike Eckardt []
  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <> on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @03:42AM (#1507746) Homepage
    In other words, UNIX scares people because it's supposedly hard to use.
    • On the up side, that scares away the ludicrously incompetent
    • Also on the up side, the expectation of difficulty/complexity means that people expect there to be some difficulty in figuring things out.

      When the situation (e.g. - independent of the OS in place) happens to be difficult/complex, this then doesn't phaze anybody, as they were prepared for there to be some difficulty.

    In contrast, those that expect hugs and kisses and simplicity because they're deploying NT run into opposite problems:
    • Because it's supposed to be "easy to use," any idiot ought to be able to administer NT, and unfortunately, that sometimes gets taken literally, resulting in the disaster of an idiot trying to run a complex system.
    • Because NT is supposed to be "easy to use," true complexities in the system deployment may get glossed over, thus providing roadblocks later on.

    As for the author's efforts at writing science fiction, it sounds like a case where you hope many of his neighbours are MSFT-critters, so that if his characters come for a meal, few will feel worried about it...

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @03:42AM (#1507747) Homepage Journal
    I agree. Any OS can be -made- to do what you want, with enough time and effort. The question is not what you can do (which, according to Turing, was anything you liked that was computable), but how practical it is, and how much effort is involved.
  • Of course, the background says that he's a Linux user, and "once tried to install a beta of Windows NT 3.51, but encountered a BSOD." Thus, his opinion is about as biased as any opinion voiced here.

    Be that as it may, it was very clever for him to point out that Microsoft counts "X number of licenses purchased, ergo X number of licenses used" as a source of inflated Microsoft claims.

    I don't think that this article will change any PHB's opinions vis-a-vis Linux vs Microsoft, but it is heartening to see such articles written that contain substance and not as much diatribe.

    "All in all, I give it two thumbs up."
    "All in all, I give Microsoft one finger up."
  • ...getting tired of infinite discussions about Linux vs. NT?

    They remind me of the ancient Amiga vs. Atari ST we used to have as kids.

    Unfortunately this is surely going to spawn another "religious" debate about Microsoft vs. Linus.

    So: "Get ready to rumble"

    If encryption is outlawed, only

  • I worked for a steel company several years ago and they were going to switch from DEC VAX VMS to Windows NT for some of their process control systems. First of all, they had to buy a special package so that NT would meet the real time requirements needed for their particular application. When put in use, the machine was extremely unstable. They payed to have the system "stabilized" and professionally installed because of stability issues. So the company that sold the software package for the process control app came in and set it up. Basically, they gave the steel company a "reboot" schedule and left after completely reinstalling the OS/extension and software. I asked one of the engineers why he was switching over to NT and why he chose NT since it seemed so unreliable. His answer was that the systems it was being used on mechanically failed a lot so having a reliable process control system really didn't matter. However, for the vital stuff at the steel company, they continued to use VAX. VAX was a more expensive solution, but most of the systems their had uptimes in years and not days like their NT counterparts. What scares me is that at COMDEX, they had all kinds of process control/embedded system stuff. Microsoft has got to be kidding.
  • by sufi ( 39527 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @03:48AM (#1507751) Homepage
    It seems to me that there are 2 kinds of company, and 2 types of IT depts.

    Managers make the decisions about hardware/software and other business decisions and very often they are not in the 'know' about the arguments between opensource and closed source. They see a product that does 80% of what they want, and they will buy it because they *know* it will do what it says on the tin. They expect no more.

    This is a standard thing, unless managers relinquish at least some of the responsibility to those in the 'know', then it's the way it stays.

    To a non technical manager, paying $50,000 for a system that will do exactly what it says for minimal hassle then it's very tempting. Much more of a sure fire thing than spending half that on something which has the potential, but needs developing.

    NT does to a greater or lesser extent do exactly what it says, as do the products that run on it. No they aren't great, and you can't always adapt them at all *because* they are proprietary, but most people (read managers) will settle for this.

    That's why NT is here to stay.

  • by nhowie ( 38409 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @03:50AM (#1507752) Homepage
    The term ease of use is something of a misnomer when applied to WinNT, what it should be is ease of learning. WinNT has a much lower learning curve than that of Unix, but once you reach a certain level of proficiency in both, you will actually find that many tasks are far easier under a unix system.

    The problem is, of course, remembering the right incantations and understanding what they actually do, rather than clicking a few buttons, selecting some radio-buttons and then rebooting.

    What it comes down to really, is what you class as 'ease of use'. I find Unix much more natural to use than NT, but I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to computers -- if it doesn't hurt you aren't doing it right ;)
  • Ack - hitting return posted the comment

    Anyway, as I was saying...

    Small companies want/like to keep things 'known'. They want to be sure that their systems aren't going to fail and that they can develop things with relatively low investment in time and resources.

    Yes, we all know the arguments about TCO and Opensource and all that, but at the end of the day it's the quick and easy (and yes sometimes dirty) fixes that work best, and they have their place.

    It's the same at the company I work for, we are a linux house, we write our own stuff in mod_perl. Yet we put up a dual Piii500 server running NT4Server and purchased at quite a cost a piece of e-commerce software to run our e-commerce outfit precisely because it was quick (this is a matter of perceptions) and relatively easy. It was a managers choice, and perhaps in the long run the wrong choice, but it happened none the less.
  • In other words, the reason why some companies could claim success with their deployment of NT was good old elbow-grease/sweat equity.

    Sounds to me as if people were saying, "We bought this big, fancy luxury car -- NT. We've spent so much money on it at the local garage, just getting it to the point where we can actually drive the thing, that now that we can drive it, we going to drive it until the end of time!

    In more corporate terms: "We in the I/T department have invested so much time and money in NT that if we just dumped it for Linux, we would look like idiots. After all, who would pour so much money into a product when a better (and free!) alternative exists? So, we're going to drive NT until the end of time!"


  • A) If NT was all it's cracked up to be, that is delivered a business EXPEDIENCY to set up servers and workstations quickly and flexibly - I'd love it. If we could just buy the licenses and go thru a simple setup and it actually worked it'd be a dream come true. And some of it does, setting up printers and disks is usually quite painless.

    B) BUT, if I have to spend hours grepping thru MSFT 'TechNet', smoozing with other McSE's trying to find out which registry edit needs to be done to get some tricky config running and workaround for this bug and that glitch and some other 'issue' then FAGHITABOUTIT. I'd rather spend the time to learn the gory details of some open industry standard system any day than what BG's favorite color or domain/directory scheme of the month is.

    Bottom line - if it works (and so far it's usually embarrasing) I'd recommend it. If it takes learning something I'd rather use *nix.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    OK people, when are going to learn that it is not the operating system that crashes, it is the applications. I guarentee that Linux would be far LESS stable than NT if it had the same number of aplications avaiable and installed! This is because Linux has almost no standards on how a GUI should operate or how a driver model should work! Like governemnt, MS is a necisary evil.
  • by mikera ( 98932 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @04:01AM (#1507758) Homepage Journal
    I quite agree with the conclusion that successful NT implementations rely on elbow grease. I've done a few in my time.

    And I've seen the way that management at big companies work. Once thay've decided on a "project" they pour resources into it like there's no tomorrow. You know, hire a few more NT sysadmins for good measure. Deploy random product X to a thousand machines because it's the flavour of the month.

    Linux needs to get into the position where the same amount of resources get thrown at it. This is a big task, and it needs a concerted effort on the part of the open source community. Most corporations have a "better the devil you know" mentality, so some serious PR work needs to be done.

    My number one hint:

    Get a consortium of Linux consultants to put together a "showcase" 100% Linux enterprise system. Linux servers, email, e-commerce, intranet, security and desktops. Put up a top quality website showing how it was all done, the hardware chosen, the software used and the configuration steps taken.

    This will give Linux some serious credibility. As a bonus, the partners in the venture will make a mint by helping out with implementations for companies that want a similar system. And it will show the commercial viability of supporting Linux to everyone else.
  • by CormacJ ( 64984 )
    I've not had good success with NT. One server install is about 3 months behind schedule because of strange software configuration problems. Our other NT server is a nightmare to keep running.

    The guys working on this are Microsoft certified.

    The Unix and VMS installs I've done have gone without too much of a hitch. Hardware and software is easy to configure and install. Most things are picked up automatically, and if a bit of hardware is not quite up to spec it still runs.

    We've had problems with NT because the new memory wasn't something NT knew about and it didn't like it and refused to use it - in Win 95 and Linux it worked fine. Same thing with a tape unit - I had to do a firmware upgrade on a tape unit before NT could be forced to use the damned thing.

    NT is waaaay too choosy about the hardware it uses. its too choosy about the service packs it needs.

    No other system I know causes as much sweat as NT.
  • If the argument is that Windows is easier to use, then why does it take so much time (Sweat Equity) to get it done? I feel it takes just as much time to get the job done on both platforms, and in the end UNIX just turns out to be more reliable. My recent experience below:

    My house mate and myself have our rooms networked (the builders put 12 wires to each phone jack!) and all was good. About a month ago, we got DSL installed in the apartment. Now, we used to share a phone line for our dialup access (we had two different ISPs), and sharing a single 56K modem can be painful, so we never did connection sharing. With the DSL, however, we needed an internet connection sharing (masquerading) solution. So, I pulled out a dusty old 486DX2/50 (16MB) and started to experiment with connection sharing.

    Unfortunately, one of the two NICs in the machine (a 3C507) never quite worked well under Linux in this box, so I figured I'd go buy another NE2000. In the meantime, however, my house mate (a Win98 user) decided that we should throw Win98 with internet connection sharing on the machine to get it going for now. Blasphemy, but I was interested anyway.

    I spent all afternoon with that darn box trying to get Win98 to work on it. Granted a lot of problems were due to the old hardware (Win98 required a minimum of 66MHz := chip swap, Old SoundBlaster CD-ROM := driver hunt), but in the end the GUI didn't make things any easier, just prettier. I didn't need to configure chains or anything, but it still was tricky.

    A week or so ago, I finally got another NE2000 and installed it in the box along with Linux. Since I haven't done MASQ before, I had to do some reading, but I got it done in the end. Works just fine now.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I had just as much work involved in getting a Windows box to do the masquerading job as I did with Linux. Granted once you've learned everything it's a breeze, but administrators are always learning how to do things. Yes, Win98 is a nice GUI and UNIX is command line, but it takes just as much to know that you open this control panel and click on this and check that to get a job done as it does to know that you edit rc.local and call ipchains.

    Now what I'd really like to point out is the fact that I'm MUCH happier with the job that Linux is doing than Win98 was. The connection is faster, the machine has more resources available, and on top of all that, I can access the box from the outside world (I used VNC for Win98, BTW). While I had to reboot the Win98 box at least once every few days, the Linux box has been running without a hitch since I installed it.

    It takes time for either Windows or UNIX. The end result, however, is that UNIX is just plain better; and that is from experience.


  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @04:05AM (#1507763)
    Authors background:
    ------------------------------------------------ --------------------------------
    Wesley Parish is a Linux user, and also plays around with Minix. He once tried to install a beta of Windows NT 3.51, but encountered a BSOD. He is still working on his anthropological SF novel, and has decided he would never invite his characters around for a meal, as they would eat the neighbors' dogs. Not such a bad idea, but if his neighbors came over to complain, his characters would eat his neighbors...

    Translation: Wesley Parish is a college student studying computer science. He has never run the operating system he is criticising, nor has he even made the effort to obtain a retail copy of that software so that he might validate his journalistic credibility.

    Please people, I realize this article is somewhat more rambling and pointless than most, but isn't it a little inappropriate to give a public forum to someone who self-confessedly doesn't know what he's talking about?

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @04:05AM (#1507764) Homepage Journal
    I think the article makes some very interesting points. However, one thing I have found that is uniform with people who claim success with NT is an aggressively restrictive attitude towards what users are allowed to do.

    Arguably, this must be true of any successful widely deployed solution. Since most people don't have the disposition or training to be an effective system admin, then they should be locked out of certain administrative functions. On the other hand, the standard policies of IT departments seems to be almost draconically restrictive -- for example no user installed applications (of course these days they should probably count any file with a ".doc" extension as as a user installed application).

    This seems almost like a 19th century attitude towards workers -- like central planning or Taylor's discredited "Scientific Management" theories. Speaking as a former MIS director, I feel that users should on one hand not be required or in many cases allowed to perform many administrative functions, but on the other hand they should be free to customize their toolsets. It makes no sense to call somebody as "knowledge worker" and then dictate how they will do their work. A modicum of chaos is a healthy aspect of any complex adaptive system (e.g. an enterprise).

    An ideal OS would provide a customizable mix of control and freedom. But both the control and freedom need to be targeted at freeing users to be as effective as possible. Maybe its just my personal disposition, but users of a system should feel free rather than restricted. What I question is whether an NT deployment can be both manageable and provide this sense of user empowerment.

  • Recently I took a position as an analyst in a NT Server group... (a server admin by another title). I figured I could pick things up pretty quickly... My experience is pretty well rounded, including some previous NT experience. And Linux has been a hobby for a while now. After all, if I can pick up Linux, NT should be no sweat, right?


    It seems they start on opposite ends of the spectrum. Linux is stable by default, and you've got to pretty well screw it up to make it unstable. NT starts unstable, and you've got to add hotfixes and tweaks and service packs to make it stable. Then it's nice and stable... until you install another application.

    Now, every day little tasks might actually be easier in NT than Linux... but troubleshooting is so much easier (and less necessary) in Linux than NT. Linux usually gives me a clue what the problem is. NT often gives a generic error, and leaves no trace of what the problem actually is.
    Despite being a relative newbie to Linux, Linux has never left me scratching my head, completely clueless the way NT frequently does. Sometimes it seem like NT ought to have a "I just didn't feel like it" error.

    NT is easier to use like an automatic transmission is easier to use than a manual.
    Sure, you may not have to do as much, but you've
    got less control, less flexibility, and you're never REALLY sure what's going on in there...

  • Sounds like your people didn't know Unix.

    Stated in the article, there are different reasons to set up a network. Where *nix will be better in one case and NT could be better in another.

    I don't know what problems you had with Unix, but I never had any problem setting up networks for file servers, web servers, print servers, etc. In fact it takes but a day to do most. But what software you run does matter. The things I do can be accomplished mostly with Perl. I also write my own applications and have a suit of apps to choose from. It would probably take a lot longer for me to do the same on NT. That is because of experience or lack of. If you don't have good Unix admins, then it would be harder to do something with Unix. But same goes for NT.

    You also can purchase several e-commerce appliations for Unix, you don't HAVE to always get the apps with the company you bought the OS from. There are better ways ;)

    Steven Rostedt
  • Easy of use definiteley is a relative term. I would say that ease of use is largely a factor of what you're used to. I learned UNIX first and find it (for most things) very straight forward to use. It took me a while to get used to Windows, but I feel that the Windows GUI has many annoying features that seriously make me question it's ease of use (for example: who ever came up with the notion that an active window should automatically be placed on top of the desktop, thus covering up everything else. That 'feature' just drives me nuts ...)

    Also, when something breaks and all you can do is click 'OK' and 'Cancel', the so-called ease of use starts to feel like a curse from hell. Microsoft has been very good at touting their ease of use, but this is only half the truth. I equate their ease of use with 'limiting my options'; something I'm not interested in when using a computer ...

    I think the best feature of the whole MS platform is the integration they provide: you can pretty much select any object and paste it into another application. That's pretty cool. Unfortunateley most other MS things I see, are like toys. Very nice looking but lacking in depth and flexibility ...

  • On the other hand, if you decide to take up the renaissance lute, the difficulty of getting information on the instrument, the slim chance of finding people to play with, and the difficulties of getting an instrument, mean that you have probably considered the options much more carefully, and your chances of succeeding are correspondingly higher.

    By an amazing coincidence, I started playing the Renaissance lute in July. (For real.) And I'm already just about as good at it as I am on the guitar, in spite of many years of half-hearted fiddling with the latter.

    It's a lovely instrument; you should give it a try if you have the slightest inclination in that direction. Mine was made by Lawrence K. Brown, Luthier, and is very similar to the one shown on his home page [].

    Oh, yeah. The numerous strings are pretty intimidating when you first pick it up, but all it takes is a bit of practice. (Kinda like learning the ins and outs of your favorite OS, if you want a segue back to the original topic.)

    It's October 6th. Where's W2K? Over the horizon again, eh?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm looking at putting a few Linux machines out for the masses to use becuase if you've never used a computer before Windows isn't easy to learn

    Agreed. I just sent a Linux system to my sister, and she didn't even ask why it was running Linux! She wants to browse the web, and play some games - and for that she thinks "the computer" is cool.

    I benifit from being able to tend to the thing from half a country away - no fuss, no muss!

  • Pay more, for the lack of blue.

    Also my NT clients don't go blue, they just get slower and slower and slower, then they lock.

    Ok my clients need to run for days as well as the servers. This is why most of my critical apps are written on Unix (Unix servers with Linux clients).

    Steven Rostedt
  • Don't forget, that was back in the days (I assume you're talking the early/mid-80's, right?) when personal computers were just coming into vogue, and there was still a DIY, hobbyist mentality about computers.
    Ah, I remember the days of hacking away at my little Vic-20 in BASIC. Those were the days!
    But, these days, I need to get work done, and have more need for a nice GUI and consistent interface (ie, my Mac) than I do to access the 'guts' of the OS.
    Don't forget, today's home users are more interested in just buying a machine, installing some games/'net stuff/office xx, and using the machine, rather than learning what everything does and how it works.
    There's room for both types of users. Anyone who says different is a technosnob.
    (aside: I will agree with ANYONE who says that the "Joe Average" users should really get a clue about what they're buying, Mac, PeeCee, *NIX, whatever. Hell, I had to take a computer history lesson/quiz back in Grade 5 before they let me on the Apple ][. Educate!!)

  • I find UN*X actually easier to use. Command line is unmatched in flexibility, as we know. A thing you can do with a keyboard shortcut (takes a fraction of a second) takes few seconds with a mouse. Shellscripts? NT is pitiful at scripts. How about changing registry (on NT) - do you call that 'easy'? Piping? There's no piping in NT (ok ok, the call it COM/DCOM and sell it).

    Easy things are extremely easy in GUI and difficult things are impossible. If there's no OK button for that, you can't do that in NT.

    When babies start to explore the world, it's big and bright picture books we supply them with. When they need to express more complicated concepts, they use LANGUAGE. NOT pictures. Pictures are not meant for that. (Can you see the analogy?)

    "Me too" :-)

  • I've allways had the impression that windows is in fact difficult. Things are either stupid or a hack. The documentation is bad when at all present.

    Unix is configurable, has well defined layers, tons of documentation and if you have linux, you can look at the code. It might be more dificult to learn, but once you have learned it you can do more in less time and more easily.

    Somehow the idea got widespread that computers should be easy to use, and it is possible that this myth is going to swamp NT. After all, what do you mean ''system administration for dummies'', ''c++ for dummies''? if you are a dummy keep off.

    I don't think computers are easy to use. I like unix because it is honest on that point. On the long run you do not do a favor to serious users if you conceal the difficulties and pretend they are not there.

    rm *
  • by Anonymous Coward
    > The Unix and VMS installs I've done have gone without too much of a hitch. ... No other system I know causes as much sweat as NT.

    A place where I once worked bought a VAX 6xxx way back when. The DEC engineer set up the hardware and went home for the evening and I, being of the impatient persuasion, installed VMS 5.0 that evening, having never seen it before, from a reel of tape, and using only someone's verbal instructions about how to get it started (which instructions turned out to be incorrect, but close enough to get me started.)

    Installing an OS is a BFD -- if it is made by someone who cares about quality. All the clickies in the world won't make buggy software easy.
  • Usually I don't reply to AC flamebait, consider yourself lucky to get the exception of the rule.

    I like Linux because it's stable, i can easily configure it instead of running into "Damn that's not possible!" situations all the time. I do have a fulltime well paying job, a wonderful girlfriend and a great sex life. I don't think that they're related to my use of linux though.

    Thank you very much for sharing some details of your life, it was most interesting.
  • Although the article at first appeared well written, I am perplexed at the true thesis of his argument.

    It seems something like this:

    People expect Unix to be difficult, therefore they are more apt to work harder at it and be pleased with their results.

    In contrast, people expect Windows NT to be easy and when it gets complicated they are more frustrated and discard the operating system.

    The real truth is that Windows NT continues increase its market share despite:

    1. Increased attention to Linux in the press
    2. The underlying superiority and flexibility of Linux over NT.

    The author of the article writes "So it would appear that Windows NT is a victim of Microsoft's considerable marketing muscle, along with OS/2, etc." Maybe I'm slow but I don't get the point. Windows NT, despite its faults is still thriving. OS/2 despite its strengths is yesterdays news.

    I'm not advocating Window NT. I use Linux.

    The author of the Excellent Article comment made some great points but I'd like to add a new twist. He said that Linux weeded out incompetent system administrators. True. But recognize there is a shortage of qualified and competent IT professionals. Many reasonably competent Windows NT sysadmins simply can't administer a Linux/Unix box. I'm not saying they're not trained, I'm saying they are so used to the window-based hand holding that mucking in the text based configuration files of Linux would blow some sort of fuse. With the shortages of good computer professionals, maybe its a good thing that those with lesser skills can still make a good living as an MCSE. At least for now ...

  • About two years ago, I was (unfortunatly) responsible for setting up and maintaining a NT Web Server... We ran into an assload of problems with Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine on the system, when calling it from the web server. The web server would run fine, but the JVM would fail to load every single time. I ended up reinstalling the box about half a dozen times, but to no success... I then started experimenting with the order I was installing things... It turned out that I had to install the (Microsoft written) video drivers next to last, and then install Option Pack 4 again to keep things from breaking! The correct install process went something like:
    1. Install NT.
    2. Finish hardware setup, except for video.
    3. Install SP3.
    4. Install IE5.
    5. Install Option Pack 4
    6. Install video drivers.
    7. Re-install Option Pack 4.
    I probably lost about 3 weeks of work on the damn box, but now it's as stable any NT box I've ever seen - it hasn't gone down in about 14 months. Note - I really do hate NT, but it can be a relatively good platform if you work out all the 8,000 kinks in getting it set up & deployed.

    Scott Severtson
    Applications Developer
  • This argument has gone round and round on these message boards for as long as I can remember being here. What's the point? But for the sake of argument...

    MAC is to NT as NT is to Linux.

    Mac users say to NT users that Mac is "easy to use". NT users say to Mac users, "Yeah, until it breaks, then try and fix it".

    NT users say to Linux users that NT is "easy to use". Linux users say to NT users, "Yeah, until it BSOD's, then try and fix it"...

  • Einstein never actually road on a beam of light, but his "thought experiments" lead to valuable insights into the nature of light.

    Whether or not Wesley's theories are "true" or not, they seem worthy of discussion.
  • NT is easier to use like an automatic transmission is easier to use than a manual.
    Sure, you may not have to do as much, but you've
    got less control, less flexibility, and you're never REALLY sure what's going on in there...

    That should be on the outside of the Back Office box.

    I just set up an FTP site under NT. I read the help files, did exactly what they said, tried to implement a little of my own security, read the help files again, again did exactly what they said and...


    I still need to work on the site and I need to read more, but the bottom line was -- use the defaults, don't try to change anything, just do as we say and everything will work.

    I have an FTP site set up now, but it's not the way I want it, it's the M$ way. And I don't know WHY! *sob* I thought I was doing everything right.

  • DAMN, I'm out of moderator points....
    Could some one moderate this up as "Funny"?

    At least I hope Mr. Coward is aware that (Li)/(UN)ix is designed to make it very hard for a process to take down the operating system. And that the entire GUI infrastructure can crash, but every thing else will run... (Granted it _looks_ like a crash but the OS just keeps going and going and going...)

    My favortie is the last two lines....
    Like windows has a standard GUI.... or drivers that don't take the system down. [Don't try to argue that one, because I've had it happen with win95a and some funky video card.]

    Mr. Coward I salute you! You are always so funny.

  • It doesn't necessarily mean hes a college student.

    But I find the statement irrelevant. Working in the PC field now for 10 years (admittedly 4 in college), I find the author is pretty much correct.

    There's plenty of anecdotal and direct evidence that NT is, in reality, hard to use and fully understand. Documentation is sparse and scattered (there's no NDP out there to help), MSFT doesn't like admitting to bugs, and bug fixes more often than not introduce new bugs. While BSOD is ready to be put into Webster's, when one says "kernel panic" the first thought to everyone's mind is "he burnt the popcorn again".

    UNIX (Linux) was hard to learn. There was little documentation. There were few users. It was only used by engineers. The tide has turned. There is documentation, and lots of it. Millions of people are using UNIX at home and at work as part of their normal day, and by people who have a wide range of computer skills. All we need is to find those undocumented Win32 APIs and we'll have a system that anyone can install and use. And have enough resources to do it right.
  • Actually, it's interesting you mention this - because I work for a metal heat-treater/finisher who was in a similar situation, some years back.

    We had workstations on DOS with DEC Pathworks and VAX's on the back end. It may not have been very pretty, but it worked reliably.

    Then, in the name of "innovation" and "improvement" - we shelled out big $'s to migrate everything to NT 3.51 server and workstation. The custom application that tracks our customers, sales, and order info was rewritten as a GUI under NT that passes the data back to an Oracle database.

    Ever since then, well - we've had pretty-looking screens and made everyone learn how to use a mouse, but it's never been as reliable or fast as it used to be. We finally had things reasonably stable by service pack 5 for NT 3.51 - but when NT 4 came along and we did that upgrade, things went downhill again.

    All of the Pentium 100Mhz workstations with 32 megs. of RAM suddenly became obsolete, because while they worked reasonably well as NT 3.51 workstations, NT 4.0 proved too much for them.

    From all of this, you'd think that they'd learn, but no.... When it came time to upgrade the Oracle database (last really "stable" thing we had around here), they moved it to a DEC Alpha running (gasp) NT. Funny how the database needs to be rebooted about once every couple weeks now. I don't remember that happening before.... hmm.

  • Does it bother anyone else that Kelly McNeill's e-mail to Slashdot, which says "I lighted" is identical to the opening of the piece to which she refers, which is written by someone else?

    Or that Kelly McNeill's e-mail address is Or that this amounts to nothing but a Shameless Plug (TM) for OSOpinion?

    -- Brian

  • by G27 Radio ( 78394 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @04:28AM (#1507790)
    Please people, I realize this article is somewhat more rambling and pointless than most, but isn't it a little inappropriate to give a public forum to someone who self-confessedly doesn't know what he's talking about?

    Perhaps you're correct that the author doesn't deserve this public forum. OTOH, I really think the topic deserves some discussion.

    I know Linux is better than NT because I've used them both for so long. But, though the technical reasons that Linux is better are still obvious, how hard or easy it is to use compared to NT just isn't clear to me anymore. I've spent so much time working on both which perhaps makes me too close to the issue to see it cleary, if that makes any sense.

    For me they both have good and bad parts of the installation and configuration process. I find them both equally easy to set up (overall--it can go either way depending on the 'wierdness' of the hardware.) It's just much easier to set up something reliable and efficient using Linux no matter how I look at it.


  • Install NT.
    Finish hardware setup, except for video.
    Install SP3.
    Install IE5.
    Install Option Pack 4
    Install video drivers.
    Re-install Option Pack 4.

    You forgot all the reboots. Including the reboot when you installed the video driver and the reboot after you configured the video and the reboot after you installed the NIC driver and the reboot after you configured the bindings and the TCP/IP properties and the reboot after you sneezed on the keyboard and the reboot after the OS felt like it.
  • Then use NT clients. The screen doesn't go blue.

    Oh, was that a screen saver on that Compaq running NT 4, whenever I tried to surf (with Internet Exploder) and listen to CD's (with MS Media Player)?

    I was impressed that the CD kept playing, even after the BSOD.

  • No, but if the shell (explorer) crashes, that's just as bad. Used to happen a lot with SP4, still sometimes happens with SP5, in my limited experience.

  • Honestly, I can't think of a case where NT would be more effective, but I'm willing to concede that it is possible that such a case exists.

    Certainly, it's much easier to think of cases where it would be advantageous to use another UNIX variant. BSD has a better tcp/ip stack, so anything involving very heavy network loads, and/or very fast (gigabit) network access, any BSD derivative is going to have a marked edge.

    For highly parallel arrays, Solaris is superior to Linux. Linux is good, but it's SMP still needs work. Also, for very large disk arrays, or very large memory architectures, "heavy-duty" Unix variants do have an edge over Linux.

    In multimedia, BeOS and RiscOS beat Linux hands-down. RiscOS is, IMHO, the best non-free/non-Unix OS out there, and I'm trying to talk Acorn into releasing the source for early versions of it, as Open Source.

    Certainly, then, it's the right tool for the right job, and Linux (for all that it's a swiss army knife of OS') isn't totally universal. (Well, not yet.)

  • When my NT goes blue, the MP3 player starts skipping (playing the last 1/2 second repeatedly).
  • No! When I run NT and get the blue screen of death, that's the *operating system* that crashed. I can't kill the problem application and continue. The entire OS is dead and it requires a reboot.

    Microsoft loves to blame it all on the application developers - but no matter how poorly they write their app, the OS should not allow the app to clobber the entire system. In Java, everything runs in a "sandbox" so it can't run away and kill the whole system. Why can't NT seem to get this right?

    Furthermore, I don't think most of us are trying to claim that Linux would be just as stable as it is today if people ran the same number of apps on it that are out there for NT. The real issue, though, is the frequency of crashes when you run the *same* apps on both platforms. Oracle database ran great on our old OpenVMS VAX, yet on a DEC Alpha running NT, it bombs regularly.

    If I put up an ftp server in Linux, it just sits there and runs.... Same for an Apache web server. You do the same tasks on an NT box (say, with IIS for web and their built-in ftp server), and good luck keeping it going more than a month or two, tops.

  • It's not that NT is easy to learn, it's that most people have already used the windows interface on the desktop. Also, standardizing on the same platform for both the desktop and the server really does lessen training costs, which is a significant factor for most places.

    Slashdot readers tend to miss this because most of us learn a most of what we know on our own. But if you've ever worked in a big corporate help desk, you know that isn't true for most. Most people do their 9-to-5, and expect the company to provide training on new platforms.

    Notice something important: NT is the market leader in the server market only when the server is tightly coupled with the desktop, for example File, print and login services for Windows desktop machines. When it's not (like for DB servers, or Web servers), NT never dominates the market.

    Standardizing on a single platform is the big win for NT, and underlies most of their marketing statements about deployment and maintenance cost.
    The important lesson here is just how important desktop apps are for Linux. Standardizing on a single platform is a major desire for a lot of companies.

  • My office NT workstation turns a brilliant shade of nothing other than BLUE. More often, though, it just gets more and more sluggish if it's up more than 2 days.
  • Oh god, don't say that! DEC Pathworks was the most horrible networked file system, especially with an underpowered VAX on the back end. It would represent files in 64k blocks, and eat them and not give back the space... Needless to say, our sysadmins never figured it out, so it was more likely their incompetence that made it so horrible. Now they're using a Windows "solution", and I hope they suffer for it. :)
    pb Reply or e-mail rather than vaguely moderate [].
  • Since I have begun my Linux qwest I have developed a respect for Windows driver support. We all know that driver support is important but I mean damn!!! I really never gave much fore thought to video drivers and sound drivers except when it came time to pop in that disk that came with the card or when W9x would prompt you for the drivers.

    Personally I like Linux, I like it alot but it is no piece of cake to install for a novice. Honestly, how many of you ran the Xconfigurator 10 to 15 times on your first Linux distro install, trying to tweak the vid display just right so that you could even get into X-Windows. ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME!!!!!!!

    Unfortuanately Linux isn't ready for every PC on the market. So, tailor your PC to meet Linux hardware specs then jump in and start configuring it. If you are a recovering W9x user remember don't get fustrated. Just remember how it was when you first began to learn the Microsoft OS.


    "Linux is a completely different ball game, but don't be affraid to learn the rules and join the fun."

  • The term ease of use is something of a misnomer when applied to WinNT, what it should be is ease of learning. WinNT has a much lower learning curve than that of Unix, but once you reach a certain level of proficiency in both, you will actually find that many tasks are far easier under a unix system

    Yep, I would agree with that, but there is one big BUT: this statement is true for system administering, not for normal user applications. Remember, the great majority of people do not deal directly with the operating system -- they deal with applications. The character of user's interaction with the computer is determined mostly by what his word processor/spreadsheet/file manager/mail program look like -- not by what's under the hood. And in that respect Linux (as all Unixes) is lacking. X Window has its advantages, but it's user interface is not standardized. For example, let's say you have a new unknown to you application. What would a middle mouse click do? Maybe paste, maybe pop up a menu, maybe close the window -- there is no way of knowing. I am not even going to get into the (slowly improving) lack of "normal" applications for Linux.

    To summarize, if you are a (decent) sysadmin, handling a Linux system is much better than handling NT. But if you are a standard (l)user, Linux offers no advantages. If you spend all your time in Word with auto-save set to every five minutes -- what can Linux offer you?

  • Addendum: Microsoft always makes much of the fact that many people download Linux to give it a go, but not all of them wind up using it. Microsoft definitely doesn't talk about the equal and opposite action, of people buying licenses to use NT, becoming dissatisfied with it, and discarding it for Linux, or FreeBSD, or some other Microsoft competitor.
    Frankly, I don't believe that this happens with any regularity. It happened to us once: a machine who's NT-IIS installation became corrupt provoked a "reformat the hard drive and re-install NT" response from MS tech support. We responded by fdisking and installing Linux, instead.

    However, we'd already been using Linux in production for some time, so it wasn't exactly a leap of faith. Besides which, that box had come with NT installed on it: the "Windows tax," so it wasn't like we set out to buy NT and then scrapped it.

    I suspect that most people who have problems with NT will hire tech support/consultants, fire their IT department, or (in the case of hardware incompatibilities) go with a new OEM. But they're not likely to go with Linux.


  • I just sent a Linux system to my sister, and she didn't even ask why it was running Linux! She wants to browse the web, and play some games - and for that she thinks "the computer" is cool.

    Uh-oh. If playing game is going to be one of the major uses of the machines, Linux starts to suck very badly...

  • When my NT goes blue, the MP3 player starts skipping (playing the last 1/2 second repeatedly).

    That's not a bug, that's the rap turntable feature.

  • The reason companies claim success no matter what the OS is due to the competancy of their networking and systems staff. If your Network is being run by a bunch of MSCE boot camp trainees then you will probably not have much success with what ever route you go.

    Your role out of an OS needs to come from an experienced individual. The last thing you want is to turn your lively hood over to a bunch of glorified end users.

    Don't bicker over the OS it doesn't matter that much. Run what suits your companies needs, only run it with pride and exoerience. Do not run it like you are blindly stumbling around in the dark.
  • Did you actually read the article? Yeah, the author may be a college student, he may have never successfully installed NT 3.51, but does that mean that he's never used the OS? I think you are the one who's jumping to conclusions, not the author. He doesn't slam NT. He says that the people who approach NT as a respectable piece of software, without bloated preconceptions of ease-of-use, are able to successfully install and administer it. What's wrong with that? I'm an NT admin, and I know very intimately the merits of a quality OS install. I am also a fan of Linux and BSD, as well as open source. Obviously, the author isn't a Microsoft fan, but you appear to have immediately assumed he hates NT, and have taken to personal attacks (i.e., the college student many /. readers out there are college students? a healthy portion, i'd think). I realize that here on /. there is an incredible amount of defensiveness about operating systems. But please, read the article before you start questioning the author's journalistic credibility...
  • "No user installed applications" is critical for a number of reasons:

    • Security - People d/load stuff, install it, who knows what might happen? If you are to have any chance of keeping out nasties like BO you really need tight controls on executables.
    • Legality - What happens if some user installs pirated sortware on a work machine? The company is liable, and that looks bad. In my particular industry public perception is everything. If we were to get in the papers because an employee had a HD full of bootleg software it could cost us big time.
    • Maintainability - Ever tried working on a helpdesk? I have, which is why I don't anymore ;-) One thing guaranteed to ruin your day is a user ringing up..."My machine broke" - "what were you doing at the time?" - "nothing really; I just installed this kewl screen saver with like little cute sheep and....". You get the idea. Now sure you could argue that user installed apps shouldn't have the power to cause problems, but in the real world (both *ix and NT) most standard user accounts have enough rights to do damage to their accounts if not the whole machine.

    Of course restrictions like this cause a problem - our policy is that if a user needs package X, and their manager is happy to say that they need it for a business reason, we'll get it and install it straight away. And standard things like mp3 players, browsers, plugins, etc are all standard on the user build, so most people don't need (or even want) additional apps.

  • FWIW, I think he's right. That's the same thing I did, and given some experience, an unbiased user (possibly only an old school one, though) should come to the same conclusion. There are a few other factors coming into play that I believe were beyond the scope of that article, however.

    1) Jobs that require people to use Windows NT for whatever task. This stops people from trying out anything else. Period. (unless they know better, and their boss doesn't mind / know)

    2) Pre-existing bias. Specifically: absolute hatred of tweaking text files. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but how often do you read an article that pans Linux solely because the "techs" felt stupid not knowing what to edit in /etc, and end up mumbling about "arcane text files" and "Windows 3.1", showing both their ignorance and their preference. Contrast this with the same techs talking about how much better their Windows machine runs after they've "tweaked a few registry settings".

    Apparently, a binary registry with a lousy GUI interface is more appealing to a Windows "tech" than is a simple text file. Why? What spawns such masochism? Maybe they just like the apparent power of messing with the internals of their system, which they shouldn't normally be doing in the first place... Or maybe they don't realize that they're just editing yet another .DAT file. :)

    3) Microsoft is running scared. I wouldn't normally put this in, but I've been watching for a while, and that's the only conclusion I can make. I think they'll try to never port Office to Linux and try to stick to the crappiest and least time-consuming methods for when they need to port Unix applications (MainWin). This way, they can give Unix a bad name, and say it's not ready for the desktop, and that's why they only port their real apps to the Mac, and look at how bad Internet Explorer runs on Unix anyhow why would you want to use it... However, Linux is changing that. As people increasingly see it as a desktop alternative, they also see how whacked out the Microsoft PR Machine is lately.

    Especially as Microsoft pays "independent" companies into finding deceiving results for them, and then sneak these results into the press. (Mindcraft - sure, the benchmarks were real, but try them with one NIC, or especially with Gigabit ethernet; The Gartner Group - outright deception on the part of Microsoft, and don't piss off the people writing the reports the bosses read. :) )

    Don't get me wrong, Microsoft has always been cautious, but I've never seen them try to screw themselves into the ground the way Apple has until now. (Compare Copland or Taligent to Windows 95/98/2000; Closed hardware, no clones vs. irrational refusal to port application software to new OSes) And that scares me. I don't like Microsoft very much, and I don't know if they could redeem themselves now, but I have to thank them for introducing me to a commandline that was more functional than my C64's was. They couldn't keep that up, though, and they couldn't write a decent GUI Windowing System, (I liked GEOS on my C64 much better than Windows 3.1, and I didn't even like it all that much...)

    However, I loved the author's characterizations of Microsoft, because they were humorous and right on the mark. All I can say is: "What has that customer got in his pocketsess? Give me..." (just picture salespeople, corrupted by the ring, hunched over...)

    So, yes, some Windows users are stuck in the Windows world, and haven't seen the light. I, personally, never liked Windows, and when I found out about SunOS and later Linux, I never looked back. I grew up on DOS, basically, and Unix is so much better that... well, I can't tell you how wonderful it is to find an OS with a command line that has all the functionality I ever wanted and more... NT tried to hack that back in, but it's got lousy DOS compatibility baggage, and would make for really annoying, slow batch files.
    pb Reply or e-mail rather than vaguely moderate [].
  • To me this seems like a bit of "The Big Lie" of propietary software in general (and NT in particular). "We know what you need to do, and our software does it". If that was true, I would be willing to pay the price (and even get locked into something propietary once in a while).

    However, my consistent experience with propietary software is that, in fact, it doesn't really meet your needs, once your needs have any complexity. At that point, you start trying to adapt it, but you're crippled both because you don't have access to the source, and, more fundamentally, because the authors of the software never intended anyone to extend it.

  • Sometimes I have to wonder why the OS wars turn into such an emotional debate. Just what is it exactly with this issue that causes people to get "all riled up" (I'm not talking about the Linux zealots and the MS shills who blindly repeat their favorite MS marketing mantra.) I'm wondering about the people who are very grounded and rational, yet who will get into these heated debates which just seem to end up repeating the same old stuff with nothing ever really getting resolved. Benchmarks get quoted, twisted, and sliced and diced. Anecdotes get quoted, documented and debated. But to what end? Has anyone ever changed their opinion after sifting through all of this stuff? Do we ever accomplish anything?

    It's almost like we tend to see our choice of our favorite OS as an extension of ourselves, therefore we take up arms and are ready to do battle at any moment. But why? Where does this come from?

    Ah well... perhaps I'm feeling a bit to introspective today and I really should get to work. Opps... I just noticed my NT machine has been up for 3 hours... time to reboot it to freshen up the memory a bit :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Ease of use" is a standard phrase, that can be aplied by any person who wants to prove a point. If it`s aplied to a geek like most Slashdot users, then Linux is probably easier to use, because we underatnd it, and know how to use it effectivly. The OS does not get in your way & frustrate you when you try to do something. When the same argument is applied to the average computer user, who doesn't know what the internals of his or her OS, then Win is easier to use. All those wizards, integrated desktop etc. mean that the user doesn`t have to do anything very complicated to get a useable system working. (Yes, the latest Linux distro`s can also provide a "no brainer" solution to setting up a Linux system, but this isn't the point - read on).

    Many users do not understand the idea of "root" users, file permissions or fstabs. They don't want to know why the must enter a root password every time they wish to dialup the Internet with kppp. They don`t want to configure their desktops with E themes, or choose between Gnome or KDE.

    As it stands Linux is a great OS as a server OS, or a desktop OS for those that understand it. But trying to leverage Linux onto the current Joe User Win market is not going happen any time soon. Linux is just too damn powerful.

    Think trying to crack an egg with a sledgehammer ;)
  • At my last job I had to admin 3 NT web servers w/IIS4. Two of them served just static content. Even after a clean reinstall of the entire OS and web server, the web server would crash for no apparent reason. A standardized GUI sure helped me in this situation!
  • I was impressed that the CD kept playing, even after the BSOD.

    That's because almost all CD-ROM drives have standalone audio CD player hardware in them. It's not like MP3, where the host CPU has to be alive to get a sound -- the CD player does all the work.

  • Those typical little sisters are hardly supposed to play Quake, Doom or such.

    Mine e.g. prefers to play such games as Tetris, Minesweeper and the like! Such games can easily be had on any Unix.

  • Could you tell that to this computer (running NTWS 4.0 SP5) which just a few hours ago decided that it should tell me that it got a STOP in NTOSKRNL.EXE because some IRQ-list had a wrong count or somesuch?

    *Adjusts screen colors* Oh, right, now the blue has gone away. I guess that's what you meant.

  • by xxyyxxzz ( 87887 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @05:14AM (#1507821)

    Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to find any unbiased voices at /. anymore. With the whole WinNT vs Linux thing, all the posters here have presented anecdotal evidence as to why NT is so much worse than Linux. Very few people come to NT's defense, not because no one suports NT (they sell enough licenses) but because any NT users who might have been here have left.

    You see, filled only with pro-Linux zealots, /. becomes little more than a group of the same people patting each other on the back. Very little is accomplished in saying "NT sucks, here's why" without having anyone here to defend it. Yet time after time, when someone jumps to NT - or any non-open source competing product for that matter - invariably they are pounced upon by fellow /.'ers.

    It feels like its not really worth airing opposing opinions on this forum anymore. In this mob rule, one's dissenting voice gets lost in the incessant bickering that accomplishes very little. For those of you who have said that NT or whatever is difficult to use, ask yourself ... no, really ask yourself ... where the computer industry is heading and why.

    I work for a small state agency where we have three people working in IT. Two people handle the network, servers, and workstations, and I handle the web servers. I manage content, program, handle security, and do a myriad of other tasks to keep my four servers up and running. Two of the web servers run WinNT, the third runs Luinx, as does the Database server. "But why would you run NT, when Linux is clearly superior?" I'll tell you. The linux box has been in this agency since about 95 or so. Its running whatever version of Slackware was out at that time. Its been patched along the way (I hope...), but was the baby of an employee who no longer works here. He didn't leave documentation. One of the two NT servers was also here when I got here and was also the toy of another employee. Which one was easier to take over? I hate to say it, but the NT server was, because it was easier to assess what was installed and what needed to be done with it. The Linux box is sitting there, waiting until I have a solid week or so to go through and see what needs to be done.

    NT addrssses a very important issue with the people at my job. Because the IT staff is very small, and the network admin is a NetWare freak while the desktop person knows hardware much better than software, the systems have to easily transfer from one person to the next. I'd be doing a disservice in moving from an NT webserver because the next person they hire will need to quickly assess what they have/what they have to do. Or, because of budget cuts, they don't hire someone, they're going to have to train someone on the basics of how to handle a web server. I can't do that with a Linux box as well as with an NT solution.

    Then why a Linux DB? First, it was cheap. Second, the interface for the DB resides on the Linux box. Third, I reason that if the person might as well learn simple linux stuff if they're going to administer a database.

  • I have wondered about this Internet connection sharing stuff in Win98SE. Has anyone seen a review or comparison to IP Masq anywhere? Do they have some means for poking holes, redirecting ports to behind the firewall, etc? I don't expect it to have all the functionality ipchains has, but I am curious as to what it does do.

    Many games work flawlessly on the Internet through my Linux masq box. But some do need tweaking and port forwarding rules to be set up. And I don't think MS would forsake those games and not have any sort of rule system in the Internet sharing deal.
  • This is normal, because the CD drive is doing all the work. All a CD playing program does is to read the CD for track info, then tell the drive to start playing track 1. Unless you're pressing a control (next track, back, forward etc) then the CD just continues playing until it reaches the end.

  • Install NT.
    Finish hardware setup, except for video.
    Install SP3.
    Install IE5.
    Install Option Pack 4
    Install video drivers.
    Re-install Option Pack 4.

    You forgot all the reboots. Including the reboot when you installed the video driver and the reboot after you configured the video and the reboot after you installed the NIC driver and the reboot after you configured the bindings and the TCP/IP properties and the reboot after you sneezed on the keyboard and the reboot after the OS felt like it.

    I think you forgot a step. You should re-install the Service Pack after all that. Preferably SP4 or 5 at that . . .

  • What utter BS! Call me an idealist but, IMHO, there's no such thing as a necessary evil. You either accept the evil or you turn away.

    BTW, I have more applications installed on my Linux box at home than most people's PCs have here at work. The only time I've had problems is when I decide to delve into parts of the kernel or device drivers (neither of which is a specialty of mine) and do something experimental. I don't blame Linux for that; it was my mistake.

    And I strongly disagree that it's ``not the operating system that crashes''. If I'm going into the NT tool to add a user and it locks the machine, then it's the OS that crashed, pal. I've yet to have any flavor of UNIX seize when editing /etc/passwd. I guess adding users to NT is something you should schedule downtime for since NT might lock up on you while you're performing such a simple task.

    There is no such thing (at least I've not encountered one) as an unconditionally stable operating system. You can always do something to make even the most rock-solid of them tip over. My major beef with NT is that it claims that it's stable but, heck, just getting the damned thing installed can make it blue screen. It shouldn't take an MSCE to install the operating system. I never had to take a vendor course or be certified to install any of the DEC operating systems I used to use. All it took was reading the manual (you really haven't installed a real operating system until you've done a SYSGEN of RSX on a fully loaded PDP-11/70 :-). Hell, my first VMS install was done after reading a few magazine columns about the process. Just what the heck are they teaching in these certification classes, anyway?

  • I'm not advocating NT, but I ran across a situation where NT was the only solution. I searched the world over for a *nix substitute but found zilch.

    The situation: Our administration wanted virus protection on our mail server to scan every message. Because of a poorly written but very popular application our Exchange server crashed, and consequently we removed this nasty program from our server. This same product has a version that can be placed on a proxy server. So guess what... we (not me) implemented an MS Proxy server just so we could scan out-going and in-coming e-mail. Our main firewall/proxy is not MS so we don't have to worry about all of those holes but it sure would be nice not to have another machine to maintain.

    If you know of a product that would fit this need and runs on *nix platform please reply.

  • The problems will start when she discovers that her computer can't run "this really nice new game" a friend gave her...
  • My Linux box keeps bluescreening on me whenever I let it sit for a few minutes...

    Oh, wait - that's my screensaver :).
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @05:34AM (#1507833) Homepage
    Most of the Linux users out there would rather die than use a GUI to get a job done. They'd much rather perform hand calculations and do everything with a small set of utilities. Whether or not the level of graphical automation has anything to do with the quality of the output is up to speculation. Despite the existance of the Linux command line for the last 9 years industries which only existed in the last 2 years have defaulted to consistantly producing TV shows on graphical interfaces running Win NT.
  • This is exactly waht Apple Computer used when Windows95 came out and that nothing else on the Apple side (neither Hardware Neither their OSes) was On the edge.
    Apple is back with superior Hardware IMO,and software seems to come along .....
    these days they don't communicate on the ease of use anymore .....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @05:36AM (#1507835)
    Either that or they are blind to deficiencies in their setup that will only appear as the setup gets hammered a bit more.

    A problem I'm seeing more and more of as linux and nt become more widely used in our environment is that since most users' first experience with both of these OS's was on a home machine, they become extremely lazy in their sysadmin practices.

    A sysadmin or developer who may be fairly clueful and careful normally, suddenly becomes a install-happy fool on a redhat or nt box. While previously they would have no problem spending a couple hours reading docs on new package, now suddenly they have no problem just running through the install wizard or installing the rpm, and calling it done.

    While this isn't *too* bad on the linux side, because in the back of their mind they know they're being lazy, its devasting on the nt side because for many users, this is the only way of administering an NT box they've ever known. And since it seems to work for them at first only using the wizards, they keep doing it. And they get more comfortable with it, and keep doing it... even if it does catch up with them, and they trash the machine out of ignorance, they just chalk it up to NT's instability, because that's all they read about on slashdot. =)

    This sounds ludicrous, perhaps, but how many production NT boxes out there do you still see %systemroot% still with everyone:f? Or how many nt admins give you a blank look when you ask what options permissions they assigned to that new service they just installed? Quite a few, I'm afraid.

    NT definitely needs time to mature -- the fact the ms threw away nearly *all* the nt4 mgmt tools shows that even they realize this. But just as important, the sysadmin community needs time to mature with respect to NT and grow more clueful admins. Interns-turned-nt-admins, or unix guys who have a quake machine at home and bought a learn-nt-in-7-minutes book will probably be able to get an nt box installed and most of the services a company may need up and running, but when things go wrong, about all they'll be good for is to fetch the os media and reinstall, complaining about microsoft's evilness the whole time.

    There is no replacement for a clueful sysadmin, on any platform. No matter what the little bullet points on the vendors web site say. The fact that NT has alot of vms-ness underneath really should drive this home -- if an admin can't tell an sid from a guid, or gives a blank look when you mention \??, then it's only a matter of time before they get knocked on their butt by this "simple-to-use" os.

    Clueful admins aren't grown overnight, and they they don't pop straight out of msce's courses or trade schools, so I don't mean to criticize anyone who's struggling on this platform. But it's very easy platform to gain a false sense of confidence in your knowledge of it.

    In my opinion, this is it's most fatal flaw, and this is an excellent article to point it out. Hopefully with microsoft improving the docs and adding obviosuly complex things like active directory to NT more admins will realize how deep they are in over their head and seek out deeper understanding of whats going.

    Anyways, that's my rant for the morning. Time to go home and sleep.

    -- Scott
  • I have to agree that for most applications using the keyboard is faster than using the mouse once you've gotten past a certain learning curve. However, most Windows Apps allow you to use the keyboard too, although it's often harder to find out what the appropriate keystrokes are.

    For a lot of users they perform a lot of tasks occasionally, and for those tasks it's usually faster for them to learn a Windows-like interface. I work with UNIX much less than NT, and I always find it hard to look around and find the right text file to modify to do something in UNIX, but I can usually figure out how to do something in NT, unless I have to directly modify the NT registry. I'd rather search through text files in UNIX (which might even have comments in them if I'm lucky) than screw around in NT's registry.

    I still think it's easier for the non-geek to learn to do things in Windows than on *NIX systems, but I also don't have any experience with Linux, and the Window managers I keep hearing are making it much more user friendly.
  • Forgive me, but do you really mean the Win98 machines suffer the 'Blue Screen of Death' under Linux?

    I was unclear. If you're teaching someone how to use the computer you're going to have to answer a lot of questions. If you've a choice of OSs, you have to ask yourself which set of questions you prefer to answer: to you can listen to them asking why they can't play Tiberian Sun or use Microsoft Word, or you can explain why blue screens keep popping up and learn how to explain 'invalid page fault' in fifteen non-technical words.

    So in answer to your question: no I don't.
  • Nice idea, but understand that an "Enterprise system" is less about "email, e-commerce, intranet" than accounting, finance, etc ...
  • I would like to restate, "Documentation is sparse and scattered...". This is my number one gripe with MS Software. They deliberately keep you in the dark on many issues so you will by all of the M$ Press publications (which are mostly crap anyway). READMEs and man pages are not always the most pretty but they are useful and they are DISTRIBUTED WITH THE APPLICATION!

  • I don't usually post at my given (Score: 2) rating, but I liked this response so much that I'm trying to get attention!

    Steven Rostedt
  • The problem for Windows NT is that it is being sold to unwary organisations as an Enterprise level Server solution, M$ touts it as this so I suppose if the buyer only goes on advertising rather than decent research then the onus really is on them anyway (after all, it's caveat emptor - let the buyer beware!)

    NT is most definitely not what M$ says it is, it will never be a viable alternative to any UNIX (or even Linux) for large scale server implementation. It only barely makes the cut as a workstation O/S!

    The biggest problem is stability, NT servers fall over with monotonous regularity, and uptimes rarely exceed even a week. Even on a desktop machine it hardly makes it through a day without at least one reboot.

    In all honesty most sysadmins would prefer the more simplistic Win9x variants to the overly convoluted and uninspired Win NT on their workstations, the help desk calls alone would be cut in half.

    What makes me sad is that because the purchasing departments of many organisations are being influenced by the slick salesmanship and pricing tricks of M$, they are ignoring the experienced advice of their sysadmins and IT staff and moving over to NT anyway. People in the IT world are starting to accept unnecessary and regular server crashes and reboots, tremendous network lag, and NT's famous "it shouldn't do that!" capers as the norm, when at this level nothing less than rock stable servers should be tolerated.

    Until organisations start to listen to and effectively use and trust their own IT professionals, after all, isn't that why they pay them??? then idiots in the purchasing departments who know nothing about IT will keep rolling out crap like NT, Terminal Server, M$ SQL Server et al, and we all have to suffer.
  • by bozone ( 113268 ) on Wednesday November 24, 1999 @05:51AM (#1507842)
    I usually stay away from the *nix & holy war but this article is of particular interest due to my observations around the project I am working on. I've been builing a test lab for a large northeast company that offers both the Solaris & NT platforms for web hosting. This lab was to be a replica of the production environment down to the routers / switches used. In building this lab, I had to work with the Unix & NT Web Hosting engineers. During this time, I received awesome exposure to Solaris and Linux (which I was using for the development platform). My learning curve was vertical (I come from a NetWare and NT background). Needless to say, I was stoked at the learning opportunity. Now to my point. Initially, the Solaris builds were tough. I'm a CLI and script guy so the UI wasn't the problem. It was the lack of readily availabe and accurate documentation that was painfull. I can't count the number of contradictory HOWTO's and FAQs that I ran into. However, after working with some of the Unix sysadmins who "knew" their stuff, I "knew" what I needed to look for. I scripted the builds and everything took off from there. When I worked with the NT engineers, it was equally frustrating. The NT build was done through a series of WinInstall packages and PERL scripts. I had to modify the NT build in the lab due to trust dependant security. When I asked for the dependancies, most of the engineers (MCSEs)didn't know what the scripts they were running did! I finally found someone who "knew" (non MCSE)the plumbing of the builds and I was off and running. A platforms ease of use is relative to how much the sysadmin "knows" about it. From my limited experience, *nix requires you to get to "know" it before it is up and running (this is a good thing!). Unfortunatelty, NT allows you to get it up and running without you "knowing" what is going on (NOT a good thing!). If the NT sysadmin "knows" his stuff, it can be a decent and stable platform - as can NetWare and the *nixes etc ... Any worthy sysadmin should know that easy isn't always better - although you shouldn't have to spit blood for everything either!
  • The sudden surge in the internet and especially the web almost drove Microsoft into obsolence. Obviously they did everything to prevent open protocols like SMTP,POP3,http,HTML from becoming successful. They recovered, however, part of the control lost, by distributing IE for free and pushing Netscape out of business. On the server side, however, they have had to concede quite a lot of business to Unix and Linux.

    This is, however, not the last time that a new technology will suddenly surge and take over. As we are stretching the applicability of the current internet protocols to its limit and while we are slowly realizing that we will need something new and different to enable e-commerce massively, out there somewhere the next Tim Berners-Lee is writing the next hot thing that will take the world by storm. The next hot thing will not come from Microsoft, IBM, Sun, or any other vendor with an established customer base that they can continue milking. Hot things are more of a threat than an opportunity to these companies. But nonetheless, the next hot thing may eat well into Microsoft's desktop domination well before they have had the opportunity to re-organize and counterattack.

    Bill Gates says himself "we are continuously only 2 years away from failure". And I think he's definitely right. But then it also testifies to the fact that he's a damn good player at these games.
  • I assume you looked at Squid []. I may be totally wrong about this here, but here goes (Disclaimer:I have no experience doing this myself. This is my experience seeing other people doing this.)

    I have a friend who is an admin who runs squid to do this very thing (sort of). Here's the deal: he runs squid on a box in front of the mail box. Since squid is a cache proxy, you can (and do) look at everything that passes through it. The mail is directed to the squid box. A few lines of perl look for attachments on the mail. If yes: delete/run as guest/send back/whatever; if no: put in the queue. The mailbox (the one that all of the users get their mail from) runs fetchmail. It wakes up periodically, looks in the queue, and pulls over any new mail. IIRC, you can set it up to deposit the mail on an NT box (if needed) so you can run Norton (or whatever). In this way, the mail is disinfected, the users run Win9X, you run *nix, and everyone is happy.

    If you like, you can also use perl to pre-sort and filter the incoming mail: .doc attachments go here, .exe attachments go | /dev/null, etc. Hope this helps...

    Jedi Hacker (Apprentice) and Code Poet
  • A lot of the brain damage you see in Windows is due to the brain dead third party application developers. This is most noticable going from Windows to OS/2, since a lot of OS/2 apps are plain Windows ports. You can always tell the ports because they make a lot of assumptions that don't hold up in preemptively multi-tasking systems.

    Windows programmers tend to assume that their app is the only one running on the system. This is a direct throw-back to plain DOS days when that was the case. Even in 3.1 and 3.11 you could generally get away with assuming that yours was the only app running (Many more than that and the system would crash.) For that reason, they will very often pop up full screen windows without regard to whatever else you may be doing on the system. OS/2 had some neat options such as "start minimized" that you could select to keep such programs in the background until you were ready for them.

    Windows programmers tend to overuse modal and system modal dialogs. Actually, modal and (especially) system modal dialogs are the work of the devil and should never be used. I could not name one application that was written natively in X11 that uses them. I might tolerate a modal dialog in X, but if an app ever popped up a system modal dialog in X, I'd rm it that very instant.

    Windows programmers will commit an assortment of other atrocities as well (Again, to be fair, many UNIX programmers will, too) for the full list see, which seems to have become a Slashdot favorite since it was carried here a while back.

    To summarize, Windows would be a whole lot more usable if someone would take the bad programmers out back and shoot them.

  • What's worse are the buttons that pop up and give you some message with one choice -- OK. What if it's not OK? I've seen several of these and gone "Damn! No, that's SO not OK!" and had no choice but to click OK! Oooh, that pisses me off!

    The GUI has its benefits and its drawbacks. I used to have an OS/2 rexx program that would change all the icons on your desktop to the same image. Run that and then click "Arrange" and watch someone try to work with the system. It ain't pretty. If you have a layout that works for you, that's great, but the amount of mental gear shifting it takes to go to another system can lead to difficulties. One big problem with OS/2 was that its desktop could be corrupted very easily, forcing the user back to the basic layout. In some cases it could take weeks for the user to get comfortable with the system again.

  • The windows install isn't a piece of cake on every system either. It's just that the vendor is usually the one spending the time doing it. Want to have some fun sometime, try installing Windows 95 and then Linux on the same hard drive. Then try to install the Windows 98 upgrade over your 95 install. It's good for hours of fun. I've even run into systems where it was an hours-long chore just to install MS DOS (I have, in the historical past, installed various systems for a living.)

    I was most impressed with the RedHat 6.1 install. It detected all my hardware including my video card and monitor (Though my hand tuned XF86 modelines yield a better refresh rate) and seems to do a very good job of detecting and dealing with changes to the kernel and hardware.

  • I'd love to see them put Linux with E and a special theme rolled especially for the purpose on Dana Scully's laptop.

    That would just about rock, especially if the network made the theme available to the public. Think "Good Advertising."

  • ...well, that's what all this seems to be saying.
  • Believe me, I've been there, and I've had all the security, legality and maintainability headaches you could ever want.

    Security -- people downloading stuff: yep, absolutely it can be a problem. But you know what? You really can't stop them from doing that if the software is compact, self contained and doesn't need access to the system directory or the registry. And very determined people can always find a way -- there isn't an NT admin alive that could keep me out of a machine I have physical access to. Fortunately by nature I'm a cooperative chap,but others with similar or greater abilities aren't. Sometimes ineffectually enforced rules invite the very behavior they're supposed to prevent.

    Legality: you need a policy that everyone understands and which is enforced. Everyone knows the ground rules, and there are disciplinary consequences. Usually putting offenders at the back of the upgrade queue is sufficient, but more drastic action could be taken.

    Maintainability: Yep. That stupid screen saver could be a problem. But, if it makes somebody's job a little more fun, its worth at least a little hassle. I once made an executive secretary's day by showing her how to turn off the beep on her computer -- her PHB thought every time the computer beeped she was making a mistake. I always felt that optimizing the subjective experience of the user was an important goal.

    Freeing the user is hard work. They will make mistakes. They'll be a pain in the a**. My problem with most IT departments is that they overreact at the prospect of users making more work for them -- if you're doing your job, it'll be hard work one way or the other.

    By the way it sounds like you ended up with a pretty similar policy to the one I had. It means that you have to work extra hard so the user never ever feels like his request is being processed by an impossibly slow bureacracy. I think supplying things like the MP3 player is a nice touch.

    Getting back to the topic at hand -- I agree there is no OS panacea, but NT does seem to be unreasonably fragile with respect to your choice of software to run on it. Bad software crashes (sometimes good software too). Bad OSs crash when bad software crashes (sometimes good ones too). The way I prefer to think of this is not that professional standards require maximal user restriction, but that NT simply makes more administrative work to create a IT service that is friendly and responsive.

  • I hardly think "most" Linux uses would rather use a command line than a GUI as a religious issue. I use lots of GUI tools, and would gladly use more if they were available, robust, and full-featured without being swiss army chainsaws.

    For example, WinZip was always the coolest program to me... I could open Zip files, extract select files, drop all those into a directory easily... it just plain made it easier for me.

    I don't, however, use a GUI file browser in general. Why? Well, it's easier for me to have a couple Xterms open, do the CD commands (I can type a path quicker than clicking through dialogs to get there), and issue arbitrary commands to manipulate the files (GUIs find it hard to offer this richness of possible manipulations, and are better at a small set of defineable tasks, like "Copy", "Edit", "Delete").

    So, it all depends. Each approach has its benefits.
  • Please post your configuration details. This is something that could be made into a turnkey for
    coffeebars, etc.
  • Sweat Equity refers to an ownership stake (equity) in a company that is "purchased" by virtue of the work you put in the product (sweat).

    It involves hard work, but it is not at all synonymous with "elbow grease." This is yet another indication that this guy is blowing smoke.

  • Where I work, the most skilled technical resources are always dedicated to UNIX. We have experienced Windows sysadmins, too, but (in my view) the average Windows sysadmin is a skilled user, while the average UNIX sysadmin is a skilled programmer.

    So, my staff can take a cryptic, unfriendly, (buggy?) UNIX software package and write scripts, wrappers, and web-based front ends to make it work like a dream in the enterprise.

    On the windows side, things are different. Run installshield. Configure all the options. Test. If the software doesn't work exactly as required, then submit bug or feature request and wait for next version. Spin. repeat.

    Unix users are used to customizing things to get exactly what they want. They accept cryptic, difficult installs of commercial unix software because they can customize it and make it do exactly what they want and it works.

    Imagine windows software that required hand-editing of the registry or using edit to open config files and batch files. Image buying a windows program that had no GUI! Users would go nuts and slam the software into the ground as backwards, unfriendly, counter-intuitive, impossible-to-install, etc...

    unix users just RTFM, install, configure, and run it. (and then start re-writing the scripts and customizing the solution).

    And all management would hear is that the unix software upgrade/install was working great and went as planned and now we have this great web-based view of the data (hacked in perl by $SYSADMIN) ... or ... $WINDOWS_PACKAGE didn't have the promised functionality so we can't get it to work right, but it should be in the next beta version which we're getting next month.

    Which of the above statements would you rather report to your manager?

    MORAL: There's no substiture for experienced IT staff.
  • UNIX (Linux) was hard to learn. There was little documentation. There were few users. It was only used by engineers.
    Each of those statements, commonly repeated, has little more than an echo of truth.
    1. UNIX (Linux) was hard to learn.

      Hard to learn compared with what? Compared with tying my shoe? Certainly. Compared with learning how to build a car? Hardly. Compared with learning what you have to learn to graduate from high school? Far, far from it. Hard compared to the vocational training needed in other jobs? The depends on the job. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    2. There was little documentation.

      My goodness, whatever can you be talking about? Are you unaware of how revolution the Unix approach to documentation actually was? The BSD 4.4 documentation set, co-published by Usenix and O'Reilly, remains remarkably close to what we received in Version 7 [], although admittedly better than what we got in First Edition []. I'm not talking about just manpages, either, essential though those are, but also the whole set of critical supplementary documents, all available on-line It's true that what some despectively refer to as "Winix" seems too often to have forgotten this lesson, but it was clearly present and revolutionary.

    3. There were few users.

      Again, there seems to be a difference of perspective here. Sure, maybe in the early 70s there weren't many, but by the early 80s, there were countless thousands upon thousands upon thousands of users. I remember putting 3,000 students per semester onto Unix systems, just as my university. There were scores of others across the world doing the same thing, but with higher numbers.

    4. It was only used by engineers.

      Not at all. It was used by huge numbers students, mathemeticians, programmers, scientists, and everybody else, even secretaries. At one point in time, the secretaries at very large institutions used vi to draft troff documents for all internal paperwork. They weren't idiots, but this is hardly rocket science.

    This stuff I'm replying to should be labelled "mythology". No matter how often Microsoft tells you this story, it remains more lie than truth.
  • you CANNOT tightent up a win anything box so that noone can mess with it and vandalize it. you can do this with Linux/X

    I can lock up a DOS/Win 3.1 box tighter than a drum. Lock out the F5/F8 keys using SWITCHES in CONFIG.SYS (I think - check MS-DOS help for CONFIG.SYS commands - it's in there). Put WIN in AUTOEXEC.BAT. In SYSTEM.INI, set SHELL=the custom app that the user sees. You're not running Program Mangler, which is what most people thought of as Windows, but you are running Windows. Win 95 is slightly harder but also very doable (ie I've done it but can't remember what exact steps to take off the top of my head).

    This, of course, does not address issues of stability or anything like that. I think you're right overall; I just had to take issue with that one statement.
  • by jabbo ( 860 )
    I know few people that don't use X in Linux/Unix. I build GUI tools in Glade (a GUI-based GUI-building tool) and use a graphical source level debugger. I make extensive use of the memory-hogging perty features of XEmacs. I find that plenty of techs switch to this hybrid of using GUI wrappers for command line tools (eg. DDD has a gdb/pdb/pydb window at the bottom, XEmacs is still Emacs, and X lets me open more xterms) when they realize it is more efficient.

    I am of the opinion that your comment was meant only to incite immature tempers
  • Very well put. this place is popular because it's a Microsoft witch hunt. It's fun to see people get so fired up about things.

    i don't think much is getting accomplished. sure they're lots of good points. but you'll all forget them by the next time a MS vs. Linux article comes up.

    two points that make me laugh:

    1) search /. for Microsoft, m$, etc.. in ANY artical. you'll find it. people talking about talking rats from outer space. Someone's got something to say about how the evil M$ will buy out whatever, and steal this and that. and make it inferior

    2) /. LOVES IE. they hate "windoze", hate anything to do with microsoft. they support the DOJ fucking microsoft about the Netscape thing. yet they all seem to LOVE IE. freakin hypocrites

    hehe, i logged into my roommates linux box at home today and chatted with him using 'talk'. sure it works. but reminds me a whole lot of 1970's. seems like we would have something better then that by now.

    oh that's right, we have "Netmeeting", but that would be "evil"


    "shutup ya freaks"

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.