The Linux / Windows Argument

I know that this argument is way past its sell-by date, but I’m picking it off the shelf anyway and dusting it off. This is my platform after all. If I can’t say it here, I might as well go home and sleep. Now there’s an idea, but I digress …

I’ve just spent a couple of weeks doing battle with a qmail installation on Red Hat Linux. I originally wanted to install Debian Linux, but the damn download was too slow and the installation instructions defied even the logic of those instructions that come with cheap Japanese electrical items which tell you how to insert tab A into slut B.

So, Red Hat it was going to be. I had previously installed Red Hat 8.0 and qmail 1.03 before going overseas. The box was eventually thrust into a dusty corner in the server room, unplugged from everything. I uncovered it last week and assumed I could just plug it back into the world and change one config file. I was wrong.

Upon getting the whole thing plugged into the network, I turned it on and tried to log in. After seven unsuccessful attempts, I realised I had forgotten the root password. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why I would choose something any more obscure than my present ten character Japanese instruction manual, but I had, and it was lost to the mists of time.

So, I had a choice: I could reinstall version 8.0 or download Debian. The latter didn’t work either, as I pointed out above. So I whipped out my Red Hat CDs and did the installation.

After an hour or so, I had Red Hat and qmail up and running. It was running well. It was not broken. The only complaint which seemed minor is that I couldn’t get the Red Hat updates running properly. They would get halfway through and then fail. It was minor that could be fixed later. So, for all intents and purposes, my installation was a success. I could telnet into the box, I could VNC to it, everything. SSH was working. So then I decided, aha, time for the anti-spam stuff. Let me go and implement something that is experimental at the best of times on an operating system that I know very little about, and so I did.

Two days later, I now have formatted the machine and installed Red Hat 9.0, with qmail 1.03. When we last checked up on Randolph, he had managed to delete the root username by accident, using the GUI tool in X-Windows. Bravo! That means, in hammer terms, a large demolishing ball on the end of a chain on the end of a crane.

In any event, I think we can live with the spam for a while, until I get used to this Linux thing. Which brings me back to the Linux / Windows argument. Yes, I will not deny that Linux is very technically sound. It’s full of technology. In fact, to install qmail I had to print out an 80-plus page HOWTO document, which wasn’t even written by the software’s author, because his help files are too damn technical. Last time I installed Microsoft Exchange, it took 20 minutes and all I had to fill in is how much money we’ll be donating to the Bill Gates Trust Account, as well as minor settings like how much spam we’d be relaying.

The moral of the story is that both platforms have their negative sides which need to be taken into account before going for their positives. I put the qmail server in so that we could cut down on the abuse our Exchange server is getting. The firewall I installed in February runs on a Linux platform. I wouldn’t want to run Exchange at all if it wasn’t for the fact that I inherited the system and everyone is used to it. But when it comes to users, I don’t want to support a Linux desktop when Windows is just so much easier.