Microsoft FUD - Legacy Systems

Fear, uncertainty and doubt, or FUD for short, is one of the tactics used in the software industry to discredit a competing technology. Microsoft has been accused a lot of times of using FUD campaigns against its competitors.

In the last decade the Linux Operating System has become an ever increasing threat to the Microsoft Windows Operating System. For the casual computer user, the Windows Operating System is the only system available and they don’t realize that alternative systems exist. A big problem for Microsoft is the fact that Linux is distributed as an Open Source Operating System. Most of the programs distributed with Linux is licensed under the GPL license, which encourages sharing and community contributions.

Recently, a report on eWeek suggested that Microsoft Windows runs better on legacy hardware then the equivalent Linux system. However, this was another FUD campaign by Bill Hilf, director of Microsoft's Linux and open-source lab.

Legacy systems are older generation systems, and in these tests seem to be Pentium 2 based systems with average system specifications of the time. At least one clever person by the name of Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote a much more informative piece for the Linux-Watch site. He pointed out several important flaws in the test.

The most important problem in the original Microsoft oriented article on eWeek is the fact that you can choose which Linux Distribution you would like to use, depending on your requirements. This freedom to choose, without affecting your initial Operating System acquisition costs, is one of the bigger selling points for Linux to the Enterprise.

Maybe it is time that businesses and home users alike take another look at alternatives such as the Linux Operating System. Especially if you do have older hardware, but want to run the latest software, Linux could be an alternative. One thing is for sure: old hardware will run modern application much slower then the older versions of the same software on the same hardware. The reason is simple: programmers continue to take advantage of the extra capacity in modern computers to further extend the functionality and features of their software. If you as the user are prepared to sacrifice speed for functionality on your older hardware, you have several options available.

There is also another very nasty surprise in Linux for the organizations that have a couple of these older computers lying around: clustering combined with terminal services. Since Linux is a community based “series” of projects, projects like LTSP (and more specifically K12LTSP) and OpenMosix can be combined to create a computer lab with older legacy systems running at today’s processing capacities. This is achieved by OpenMosix using the total resources available (how many computers you have combined together) and LTSP allowing all the systems to run of a central server.

In this scenario, you only spend a lot of money on one system – the LTSP server. OpenMosix will extend the capacity (Processing power and memory or RAM) by putting all the resources of the legacy “dumb” terminals in a pool. Combined, these two technologies offer much more then what Microsoft Windows could offer.

Finally, a word of warning: Linux is a Unix based Operating Environment which means that long time Microsoft Windows users might find the change a little bit challenging. A lot of concepts are different. On Linux, for example, there is no concept of a Registry. By default, your window environment has several 'Virtual Desktops'. This however does not mean that people should be discouraged to try Linux. There is a Linux distribution called Knoppix, which runs of the CD without having to be installed on your computer. This is a great way to have a look at what Linux has to offer. What is also great is the fact that one person can download the Knoppix CD, and make a lot of copies for friends and family.

Hopefully people will start to realize that there are alternatives to Microsoft Windows and that a little experimentation every now and again will not hurt.

This story was also posted on the Reporter.co.za site.

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