Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Compare Linux to Unix, not Windows

I just received the April 17 issue of GCN and was pleasantly surprised to see a Test Drive of a Dell Latitude CPx running Red Hat Linux from Red Hat Inc. of Durham, N.C. I was less enthused after I read the article.

Apparently your reviewer is not familiar with Linux, at least not to the level necessary to tweak it for notebook PCs. It is, in my opinion, inappropriate to directly compare Linux with Microsoft Windows. Instead, running Linux on a notebook should be compared to running SunSoft Solaris or UnixWare from Santa Cruz Operation Inc. of Santa Cruz, Calif., on a notebook. I think your reviewer will find those operating systems much less friendly to notebooks than Linux.

Those of us who use Linux on notebooks, at least in my experience here at the National Institutes of Health, tend to be from the Unix world rather than the Windows world and find Linux on a notebook a very productive environment.

Here are the issues in your article I think deserve some clarification:

''In the third paragraph, the review said, 'Latitude users accustomed to the usual Microsoft Windows functions will discover that nothing happens, for example, when they highlight a file with the mouse and punch the delete button.'

This depends on the graphical toolkit used to produce the application and the way the application developer has set the behavior. It has little to do with the Linux operating system or the Latitude hardware.'If you were using Corel WordPerfect for Linux, for example, the highlight and delete features would perform just as your reviewer would expect them to based on his Windows experience.

These features vary widely from application to application. But almost all applications under Linux allow customization of the keyboard and key accelerators.

''The audio issues your reviewer mentions are valid problems but not the responsibility of Dell Computer Corp. The manufacturer of the sound hardware in the Latitude series has only recently begun to cooperate with Linux developers to improve sound support. Many of the other sound issues will likely be solved with new drivers.

''The review stated that Linux has no battery monitor. There are a number of different battery monitors available for Linux. For battery monitors to be useful, it is necessary to recompile the kernel so that the battery monitor recognizes power management and reporting features under Linux.

Some links to useful notebook utilities for Linux are www.scs.unr.edu/~scottf/glaptop and teak.wiscnet.net/xapmload.

''The reviewer complained that the network card included with the Latitude did not work. Once again, this may require installing the correct network driver and recompiling, making sure that the appropriate driver and PC Card support is included in the kernel. Obviously this is something that Dell should have taken care of before shipping.

The issues I've mentioned, for the most part, are solvable. You are completely correct in suggesting that Dell needs to do a much better job supporting Linux on its hardware if it is going to ship the machine with Linux installed.

I've found it easier to do the Linux installation myself because I know about these issues and know how to deal with most of them. Dell is negligent in shipping the product without power management and battery monitoring, a working network card and an adequate sound system. These should be rectified if Dell is going to jump on the Linux bandwagon.

Allow me to suggest some sites your readers should consult to find information about running Linux on notebooks, particularly Dell notebooks: www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/paul/laptops/dellcpt.shtml and'www.cs.utexas.edu/users/kharker/linux-laptop.

Christopher G. Wilson

Intramural research and training fellow

National Institutes of Health

Bethesda, Md.

GCN welcomes letters to the editor. Letters should be typed double-spaced and must include name, address, telephone number and signature of the author. Send to: Letters to the Editor, Government Computer News, Suite 300, 8601 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md. 20910.


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