Mystery memos, free software deliver a way to pull Microsoft down

Packet Rat
R. Fink


The cyberrodent received an unexpected Halloween goodie last month from—of all
places—Microsoft Corp. He suspects the Redmondites had intended it more as a trick.


The Rat acquired the so-called Halloween Documents—two internal memos that
Microsoft leaked to the world—from the grubby paws of children dressed as Bill and
Monica, who came to the burrow door seeking favors.


The memos detailed the threat to Microsoft’s monopoly from open-source
software—especially the Linux operating system and the Apache freeware Web
server—and how Microsoft could counter them.


Naturally, the Rat never looks a gift horse in the mouth.


He saw the memos as just the thing he needed to forge ahead with his own agenda: Linux
world domination.


The whiskered one, as readers will remember, has already extolled the virtues of Linux.
Now he has official Microsoft documents to back him up. It’s almost as good as having
a Microsoft federal sales rep volunteer to do the presentations—revenge of the nerds,
for sure.


Microsoft has ample reason to be scared of Linux. If judged solely by check-off feature
lists, Linux would surpass Windows operating systems even before taking price into
consideration.


But until now, it seems, the price of Linux has been too low to be taken seriously by
users accustomed to getting no more than what they pay for.


The recent release of a free version of Sybase Inc.’s Adaptive Server Enterprise
database management system for the Linux OS, plus other mainstream announcements that
boost open-source software, finally gave the Rat enough leverage to twist a few arms in
his agency’s chain of command.


Determined to blast out any remaining pockets of resistance to freeware, he offered
examples of what NASA and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have achieved with Linux and
its derivatives—such as home-grown Linux supercomputers.


Of course, as those who know the wired one might suspect, it didn’t take him long
to swing into action.


All the cyberrodent had to do was change the logos on the network server map. After
all, he had been running Linux for some time on most of the department’s servers.


Even before Sybase started its server giveaway, the furry one had been using Linux
boxes as database servers for the open-source PostgreSQL database that comes with most
Linux distributions.


Corel Corp. is even giving away a personal version of WordPerfect 8 Personal Edition
for Linux for free on the Web. And other software vendors are starting to pay more
attention to the freeware OS, not just as a client but as a server.


If slashing budgets weren’t such a political issue, the Rat figures Linux could
save his agency a few million. Of course, the agency’s suits measure their status by
how much cash they can burn per fiscal year. The Rat feels confident he can find
something else to blow the leftover bucks on. New hardware, maybe. Or surplus cheese.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.
 

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