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What's the difference between Windows and Linux?
(IDG) -- I strapped on the press pass and steeled myself to enter the camp of the enemy. I was a LinuxWorld editor under orders to reconnoiter the Windows 2000 Conference and Expo in San Francisco, and I was afraid. All around me salespeople and presenters flashed smiles lit by their confidence that Windows 2000 was where it's at.
Even Patrick Stewart (aka "Locutus of Borg") had been signed on as event host to help Bill Gates introduce his new OS.
It was a very different show than the LinuxWorld Expo had been. Not only did it lack anything like a community feel, but it also wasn't well attended. People wearing yellow vendor badges appeared to be in the firm majority for the first two days, though attendance picked up on the last day as conference-goers flocked to hear the Gates keynote.
But even if few attendees were there to appreciate it, the presenting companies had obviously spared no expense on their booths. Microsoft's set-up was the grandest, with a huge theater dedicated to displaying new wares, and a pavilion with rows and rows of computers (most of which were unoccupied) where attendees could try out Redmond's software. The EDS booth took honorable mention with its near life-sized racecar and Christmas tree of starting lights.
But I was there to ask vendors what they were doing in the Linux space. Feeling that my chances of success were pretty slim, I made a startling discovery the first time I smiled and said, "Hi, I'm with LinuxWorld": they're just as afraid of you as you are of them.
At the first booth I visited -- "KPMG Consulting-Microsoft: End-to-End Enterprisewide Solution Providers" -- the presenter nervously said something about the company's enterprise networking group "probably" working with Linux.
"I actually use Red Hat at home," he said quietly. "But don't tell anyone." KPMG's NetAid hunger site operates on Red Hat as well, he told me, his hand shaking as he held out literature about it.
The presenter at Aelita Software -- experts on migration to Windows 2000 -- fetched a marketing higher-up as soon as he heard the word Linux. A smile spread professionally on the marketer's face as she heard my affiliation. No, Aelita didn't help with migrations from Windows to Linux.
"But Linux is making a pretty big push," the company reps told me. They said they might do Linux migration in the future but added that there were no plans to that effect just yet.
Obviously, some vendors there did support Linux: IBM, Compaq, and Dell chief among them. Among the smaller companies there was Rational -- a purveyor of communication and project-tracking software for development teams -- and VMware.
The presenter at VMware said "a noticeable number" of people had asked him about running Linux side by side with Windows. He said he had met people with a Unix background who liked Linux but needed to run Windows applications, and some who had heard the recent hype about Linux and wanted to try it in a safe environment.
He said that VMware was taking a survey of attendees, asking how many who used Windows NT also used Linux; the company had performed a similar survey at the LinuxWorld Expo a few weeks before. The results would be available in a week or two, he said.
I was even able to find one open source product at the show: BindView's Zombie Zapper (ZZ), software designed to foil distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Though no one at the booth knew much about it, the Website of Razor (BindView's security team) said ZZ foils DoS attacks by spoofing the command a hacker uses to activate zombies, sending them the sleep command instead.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair
Amusing as it was poking fun at Windows vendors, it was clear that they felt their own sense of momentum with the Windows 2000 release, and plenty of money and energy were in evidence at the show.
Still, who has ever heard of Teotihuacan? Known by the Aztecs as the city of the gods, Teotihuacan was once a major trade center and the largest city in the Americas; but it had collapsed into windswept ruins centuries before the Spanish invasion of Mexico.
The moral? No one can yet predict what future archaeologists may find in Redmond.
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