editorial: Stupid Linux Tricks

I ought to have my head examined. I know that writing this column is going to elicit heaps of hate mail from the rabid dogs of the Linux lunatic fringe, but still I can’t stop myself from doing it. I liken this to the scene in “Risky Business” when Tom Cruise’s parents say, “Use your best judgment, Joel. We trust you.” Of course by the end of the movie the house is full of hookers and the Porsche is in Lake Michigan!

What the heck, I never have had good judgment when it comes to this sort of thing, so I may as well go for it. Any IS Manager that uses Linux to host mission critical applications ought to go directly to the nearest mental hospital and check themselves in. On your way in, say hello to me. I’ll be the one mumbling, “Please make the letters stop” or something to that effect.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying this just to tick off the Linux crowd. I have used Linux. I have installed Linux. A remote twisted part of my brain even likes Linux. But even the twisted part of my brain would never use Linux to host a mission critical application. Not even a Web server.

If the AS/400 were on the Linux community’s radar screen, they would hate it. The epitome of a closed proprietary OS, the AS/400, like Windows NT, does not allow you to mess with the OS internals. If you want to write an application that needs some sort of support from OS/400 or the SLIC that isn’t already there, talk to IBM. Maybe they’ll put it in the next release. Maybe they won’t. It’s up to IBM. This of course bothers the Linux community since they think that OS source code, much like Willy the killer whale, should be free.

The Linux community has taken up the banner of open source as the reason why you should use Linux. Their argument is that without the source code to an OS, you are beholden to the vendor for OS changes that will make your applications work. I believe that open source is exactly the reason why you shouldn’t use Linux. My argument is: With the source code to Linux available to anyone who can download it from the Net, it is more vulnerable to hacker attacks, and this should scare the heck out of any IS manager running mission critical applications. Security is the least of your worries. I haven’t even touched on how hard it will be to keep track of which applications require which version of Linux. You know how hard it is to figure out which PTFs you need, and those are centrally controlled by IBM. Imagine what happens when anyone can make a change to the OS. I can hear my “friends” in the Linux community saying, “Chris, Linus Torvalds will make sure all the changes to the OS get folded into Linux.” Sure, he will, and the NRA will make sure only upstanding model citizens have guns.

Clearly the Linux community will just think that I am a stupid journalist who just doesn’t get it. In some ways they may be right. I just don’t get it. In a world where there are already too many operating systems, why do we need one more? The answer is: we don’t. I have news for the Linux community. Life is not fair. The most technically competent product doesn’t always win, the smart guy doesn’t always get the girl, and the good guys don’t always win. This is life, and all the ranting and raving in the world is not going to change it.

A chief example of this is the movement in the Linux community to demand refunds for the unused copy of Windows that is shipped with nearly all personal computers. They proclaimed February15th as Windows Refund Day, and published the “Windows Refund Newsletter” to show people how to get a refund from Microsoft. On the 15th they went to Microsoft offices all over the country with their disks and End User Licensing Agreement in hand and demanded their refunds.

When I bought my computer, HP included a bunch of software that I never use. Where is my refund for all of this software? Furthermore, I am a non-smoker and never use the ash tray in my BMW. I am pretty sure that BMW would laugh me all the way back across the Atlantic if I showed up in Bavaria demanding my $39.95 and asking them to remove my ash tray.

I would like to proclaim June 15th as Generic Refund Day. Please feel free to visit all of your favorite corporations to demand refunds for the extraneous stuff they give you that you don’t use. I will also be starting a Generic Refund newsletter ($15.00 + S&H; Sorry, no refunds!) to tell people how they can get refunds for all those useless things they get when they buy other things.

In closing, I think the Linux community should grow up. No amount of whining and complaining is going to change the realities of life, so I will just stick with the AS/400 and be happy. Maybe I’ll see some of you at Generic Refund Day when I demand I refund from Dell for that damn useless Z key I never use. Oops, I guess that refund is history now!