On Computers

Rabbit's Rant

Jack 'daWabbit' Imsdahl, jack@oncomputers.info

5 October 2003

The Red Hat 9 Experiment

Well, my Red Hat 9 installation on the Compaq Proliant is humming along nicely. I can see why Deepak so often describes these machines as being as reliable as refrigerators. It's kind of a tank when used as a workstation because the limited video memory is such a handicap, but as a file server, I've never had anything like it and am pleased as can be. I'll soon be adding hard drives in a RAID setup and really basing our LAN around it. Hopefully, Iíll come on a second CPU for it, too.

I still like my Debian GNU/Linux better, but I have shelved plans to take off Red Hat 9 and replace it with Debian. RPM, the Red Hat Package Manager, is so much improved that I'm going to stick with this distribution for the foreseeable future. I've not had a failure in over 50 package installations, which is so much better than RPM used to do that I'm not at all sure it's worth the work to convert to Debian. 

Kurt Bihler described RH9 to me as sort of like the XP of Linux because the installations are so enlarged with extra packages (programs) and I think he's right. (I should note here that a full installation of Debian would be larger yet, because it contains even more packages. The plethora of OSS/FS packages encourages this practice, which many Linux distributions use to distinguish themselves from one another.) Still, with hard disk storage as cheap as it is these days, it is almost not worth the work to whittle an installation down too rigorously, except for stopping running services which are not needed or which pose a security risk. 

Open Office v1.1

Open Office v1.1 is out. This version includes some new functionality and several bug fixes. Iím already using it under Windows and downloading it for Linux as I write this. This office suite is a fine alternative to MS Office, in my opinion, and will please many of you. I recommend you give it a try. If it meets your needs, it will save you a lot of money. Integration with MS Office files is exceptional, in my experience, meaning the main objection to using an alternative suite is overcome. You can even specify the Microsoft .doc format as the default in the word processor for compatibilityís sake.

Check out the binaries, source and the documentation at http://www.openoffice.org

Software Warranties?

In the past few days, an interesting lawsuit has been filed in California which seeks class action status. This suit might be a tempest in a teapot or it might herald huge changes in the way software is marketed. Itís far too early to tell and, besides, Iím no lawyer to comment on the merits of these things. 

Anyone who has actually read the license agreement that needs accepting before a software installation can proceed will easily see it reserves all rights for the publisher of the work and none at all for the purchaser, while at the same time disclaiming all liabilities. In fact, it is widely considered impossible to successfully sue a software publisher because of those agreements, which are carefully crafted to preclude just that. 

The proposed lead plaintiff was the victim of an identity theft and the suit contends Microsoft is to blame by virtue of security vulnerabilities in the companyís products. The action seeks to prove that by the existence of these vulnerabilities, Microsoft is in violation of Californiaís laws governing protection of confidential consumer data. Should this be proven to the satisfaction of the court, Microsoft could be liable for compensation and (potentially) huge penalties. 

This will be an interesting one to watch. The possible ramifications are staggering and could conceivably be expanded by the courts or legislatures to affect Open Source and freeware as well as proprietary products. Weíll just have to see. 

Thatís it for this week.

Jack

© 2003 Jack Imsdahl

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