life, the universe, and everything
Posted: 2003-07-17 05:34
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

In his latest excuse for an update, Amit Jain (proprieter of Omlettesoft and spelling extraordinaire) has decided that Linux is the "lowest common denominator". A baseless statement, nay, an entirely incorrect statement, from one who has time and time again shown himself to be a Microsoft whore.

First, Linux can hardly be called a 'lowest common denominator'. Linux is a clone of the UNIX operating system that has been in existence since 1969. In the server space, where UNIX and Linux systems are most often used, it is Microsoft and the Windows operating system playing catch-up. In network environments, where many different operating systems are in use, it is Windows which is the lowest common denominator. Prior to Windows 2000, in fact, Windows lacked POSIX compliance in many areas which Linux excelled. Microsoft itself has listed the limitations on POSIX compliance in it's operating systems.

When it comes to interoperability, it is far easier to have 2 UNIX/Linux/MacOS X machines communicate with each other than to have either communicate with a Windows machine. UNIX/Linux/MacOS X have, included by default, the ability to share files and directories via the Network File System [NFS], which originated in 1984. To this date, there is no native support of NFS on Windows, nor is there any indication that there will be such support in the foreseeable future.

The issue of file systems is another in which Windows can again be considered the 'lowest common denominator'. MS-DOS and 16-bit versions of Windows (and early releases of Windows 95) included support only for FAT-12 and FAT-16 file systems. Later versions of Windows 95 and Windows 98 include FAT-32 support, and Windows NT, 2000, XP, and 2003 include the NT File System [NTFS]. A Windows system is only capable of accessing data on drives which are formatted with one of these file systems. A Linux system, on the other hand, can support a myriad of file systems, as seen in this list: ReiserFS, ADFS, Amiga FFS, the Apple Macintosh file system, BeFS, BFS, Ext2 and Ext3, FAT-12, FAT-16, and FAT-32 file systems, EFS, JFS, the Minix file system, FreeVxFS, stable read support and experimental write support of NTFS, the QNX4 file system, and the System V/Xenix/V7/Coherent file system. This is a total of 17 read/write file systems, and one read-only file system, that Linux supports. Compare this to the total of 4 file systems supported by Windows throughout it's entire history; only 2 of which are supported by the latest versions of Windows.

Another feature in which Linux again emerges on top is its support for pipes. True pipe support, of which a true functional equivalent cannot be found in Windows. Mere emulation of the simple pipe features can be found, but applications running on any *nix system can expect to have certain pipe features available; porting these programs to the Windows OS can require significant workarounds and hacks.

The layout of the file system is another area in which Windows has again emerged the lowest common denominator. UNIX, Linux, and MacOS X systems have a fairly standard organization for important files within the fs hierarchy. A basic set of commands can be assumed to be present, in fairly standard locations. Windows does not have these programs, nor does it even resemble the fs hierarchy of a *nix system.

Mr. Jain is clearly mistaken in assuming that merely because Windows is the majority desktop operating system in use, its status is automatically elevated above that of all others. No consideration is made to the server market, in which usage of Linux and Unix systems far surpasses that of Windows systems, nor is any consideration given to such basic factors as I have mentioned above. Market share is not an indication of superiority, a point which seems to have flown right over the head of Mr. Jain here, as indicated in the quote "By now, you think those crazy Linux folk would have figured out some way to be compatible w/ the rest of the civilized world, but no." When, in fact, it is Microsoft who is not compatible with the civilized world.

Furthermore, the choice by Mr. Jain to link the word 'Linux' to the Penny Arcade comic of June 30, 2003 is nothing more than an unwarranted, undeserved, and incorrect assessment of Linux users.

In his miscategorization of Linux, and of Linux users, Mr. Jain has committed several logical fallacies, which certainly detract from his attempt to discredit Linux, while instead making Mr. Jain appear nothing more than an astroturfer.


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