March 20, 2001, 1:17 PM —
Here I am writing about the infamous Windows operating system for the third week in a row in LinuxWorld.com. Life is funny that way. Fortunately, I don't hate Windows as much as I used to, so Windows fans can take comfort in the fact that I'm not as motivated to complain about it as I used to be. On the other hand, I suspect the reason I don't hate Windows as much is because now I only use it to play games. If Windows has so easily become irrelevant in my life, then it won't be long before it becomes irrelevant to many others.
Anyway, here's what I've had to say about Windows lately. Two weeks ago, I called for Microsoft to open the source code to Windows so that we could be certain it didn't have any secret backdoors. Most of the people I've heard from on the topic agree. One person insisted that people could be embedding backdoors into Linux as well. I agree -- it is certainly possible. But here's the crucial difference between Windows and Linux: if someone puts a backdoor into Linux, someone will eventually find it. Once it is found, I can eliminate it, rebuild the kernel, and get back up and running safely within minutes. With Windows, verifying the existence of the backdoor is nearly impossible. And even if you could, eliminating it yourself would be equally difficult because you don't have the source code to rebuild the kernel.
Last week I talked about a very cool product called Win4Lin (see Resources for a link) that allows you to run Windows 95 or Windows 98 under Linux so that you can run Linux but still use company-standard applications such as Microsoft Office or Outlook. The best thing about Win4Lin is that it seems to cause virtually no performance degradation to Windows or Linux. If anything, Windows seems to run faster than it does natively, although I have no idea how that would be possible.
XFree86 problems no more
Incidentally, I was able to solve my XFree86 3.3.6 problems with Win4Lin very easily. The problem was that application windows within Windows 98 left trails when you moved them. Apparently, that problem is specific to my GeForce 256 card and XFree86 3.3.6 running at 32-bit color. All I had to do was switch to 16-bit color, and the problem was resolved. I prefer XFree86 4.0.1 anyway, but if you're stuck with 3.3.6 for some reason, you may want to switch to 16-bit color when you use Win4Lin even if you're not having graphics problems. You'll find that your whole system speeds up considerably if you do.
The good, the bad, and the ugly