LAB NOTES

Red hot. The word on the tip of every
systems manager’s tongue these days is Linux. Whether it’s from Red Hat Software
Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., or from Caldera Inc. of Orem, Utah, or just the
freeware version from the Internet, Linux has come out of nowhere to challenge beliefs
about what an operating system should do and be.


Red Hat is basking in new respectability after investments from Intel Corp. and
Netscape Communications Corp. The investments better the financial picture for Red Hat,
but they also hint at the industry’s hunger for better OS platforms.


Part of the attraction is the fact that after Linus Torvalds invented Linux seven years
ago, he released the source code freely. Many developers and users feel more comfortable
with an OS in which they can see exactly what goes on under the hood.


The other reason Linux is so attractive is its scalability. Federal employees have
combined common desktop systems, each running a copy of the OS, to achieve
supercomputer-level processing power.


The OS itself is free. Companies such as Caldera and Red Hat make money by offering
conventional support structures and value-added features.


As Microsoft Corp. continues to throw everything but the kitchen sink into Windows NT
5.0, Linux concentrates on speed. Because it lacks unneeded complexity, it scales better
in many instances than NT.


To find out more about Linux and what it can do, start with the Web site at http://www.linux.org.


So fast it hertz. Intel has announced
plans to deliver by 2001 a computer processor whose speed will be measured in gigahertz.
Code-named Foster, the chip will have an internal speed of 1 gigahertz.


Foster will be part of the family of chips that will succeed the current crop of
Pentium II processors. Another processor, code-named Willamette, will replace desktop
Pentium II processors. Foster will fill the niche currently occupied by the Pentium II
Xeon. These chips will be 32-bit, unlike the long-awaited 64-bit Merced chip from Intel.


Foster and Willamette represent the future of desktop computing; Merced is destined
only for enterprise servers.


Know-how not included. Users awaiting
next year’s release of Windows NT 5.0 should prepare for a steep learning curve, if
the GCN Lab’s evaluation of the second beta versions of NT 5.0 Workstation and Server
are any indication.


Microsoft is trying to position NT Workstation 5.0 as the ultimate OS for office
desktop systems.


But our testing of Workstation Beta 2 revealed an OS completely unlike NT 4.0 in many
respects. Changes to the interface mean there’ll be lots of learning to do before NT
5.0 Workstation can go enterprisewide.


—Jason Byrne
Internet: jbyrne@gcn.com

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