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Rant Mode Equals One: What To Do When You Find Windows On Your Linux LAN

Oct 23, 2000, 14:35 (28 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

I have to admit that I broke out laughing recently reading an article in NetworkWorldFusion: "Linux: Renegade or ally". The article is this piece with Orwellian overtones and a sort of chic madness bend toward fear of your network LAN users when they, God Forbid, install something other than what the IT staff has blessed.

In other words, what is a poor Windows-loving IT person to do when they discover renegade Linux on the network. The piece is fraught with quotes from network Admins like:

"Destroy their servers and fire them."
Attributed to some poor intolerant soul by the name of Jeff Shapiro.

God, Jeff, lighten up already. We're talking about an operating system, not some sort of industrial espionage here. I'm picturing you as an Admins in a big corporation (Jeff's an Admin for a public school), and you want to fire somebody -- possibly a valuable, creative employee -- because they dared install something you don't understand or tolerate.

Maybe they should be burned at the stake too -- you forgot to mention that. No, I've got it! First, lets examine them for suspicious birth marks, or dunk them in water. You get the idea here. This article is really a piece of work.

So, being the kind of guy I am, I started thinking about my own experiences with people who are renegades. Often, the most creative people in an organization are the most intolerant of bad "standards" -- especially when they waste hours of their time. I started thinking of my own home network. I started laughing -- at myself. Why? Because I won't tolerate Windows on my home network.

And so I arrive here, at what I'm going to rant about this week, which is what to do when you find Windows running on your network. Of course, I had to interview some people too. It just wouldn't be fitting without some sound bytes from anal-retentive Linux network Admins, now would it?

Windows: Renegade or Ally

Here's some advice about what to do when Windows moves into your network uninvited.

You may not plan to deploy Windows on your network, but that doesn't mean that your company's users won't sneak it in. As the soul source of power for many Disco lights found in modern dance halls, its popularity is actually on the decline. Yet still many users cling to it, in much the same way an alcoholic insists that quitting is right around the corner.

But, what do you do when you find it? The use of unhealthy legacy software and hardware has been the bane of IT's existence. When PCs running Microsoft Windows were prevalent, Linux often made its inroads as a departmental file server because of the lack of stability that Microsoft brought to the picture.

People complained, but the stability helped ease the entry of the new operating system. Now, as it makes inroads into the desktop as a standard, the old guard users often insist on running legacy programs and sneaking in pirated copies of proprietary software -- often against the will of the priests that guard the Linux altar.

So, what's a God-fearing IT person to do when they discovers a PC running a non-Linux operating system?

The answer depends upon whom you ask. Some readers Linux Today interviewed were starkly intolerant; others were downright violent. In many cases, IT managers dismissed any flashback of Windows as just that -- a last ditch attempt by a misguided addict of a user, wishing for the reboot filled days of the past.

Many IT managers were thoughtlessly tolerant of this kind of behavior, but we here at Linux Today dug around the dregs of our readership, skimming for sound bytes that would startle Howard Stern.

When asked about his feelings on the subject, veteran developer Mike Cornall became nostalgic, "In the old days, a few good floggings would have been enough to convince the hold-out Windows users. But those were simpler times."

Others were not quite so relaxed in their attitude: "We keep 16 Megabyte 486's around for those users." Says Dean Pannell, Network Administrator and noted Linux clown. "We believe in the gentle touch here. It would say "I love you". I know that it would perturb my network briefly, but we'd find all the covert Windows boxes in a hurry. We'd invite them all to our latest cost-cutting move."

However, Pannell concedes that he recently worked out a compromise with a group of technically inept users in Transylvania who were running Windows on the company's LAN. "You know, it's a funny thing. We used to have a problem with them, but we don't anymore. We put in a new fully-distributed payroll system. It polls your computer before cutting a check. If it doesn't find you, you don't get paid. Took about 3 weeks for the last copy of Windows to disappear."

Others recommend taking a more moderate approach and assessing how Windows fits into the IT infrastructure before you decide to rip it out. Consider the merits of the Windows operating system, such as the fact that it costs several times as much, is about as stable as as a ping-pong ball in a tornado, and the pathetic Windows LAN management tools.

What's more, look at the bloated applications you're forced to buy and the ever increasing hardware costs placed upon your budget. If Windows is going to play a part in the network, you need to find a way to support it.

"I've resorted to selling drugs to support my company's usage of Microsoft Office." Said one sys Admin, who wouldn't go on record with his name. "The network license alone and the discount on the crack I needed to bolster me during the cost justification phase made it the only possible way."

Although not everyone is that innovative or radical in their funding and execution of a Windows policy such as this, Windows can sometimes play a tangential role in the IT infrastructure anyway.

Pannell recommends that you simply let the managers attempt to justify whatever will do the job. "If they can put together a good business case and get the approval of their manager, we always let them use Windows. We've never had that happen, though. Seems that any business case that calls for Windows gets 'em fired for incompetence."

Still, the stress of new technology such as Linux, displacing legacy Windows products seems to be affecting IT managers and users alike. Managers need to learn more tolerance and keep stress levels down.

Cornall seems to have accepted that things are different today, "My sensitivity instructor says I have to learn to embrace people's differences. Apparently I'm not even allowed to torture them with buggy versions of Minesweeper. So, if some shi--AAARGH . . . [inaudible] [V-chip] . . . silly person wants to run Winblo--OUCH . . . some other OS on his system, then I guess it's just his dam--YIKES . . . gosh darn right."

Ah, the kinder, gentler days are upon us.

Do you have a policy regarding the usage of Windows technology on your LAN? Don't let Dean and Mike feel left out here -- use the talkback forum below.

Paul Ferris is the Director of Technology for the Linux and Open Source Channel at internet.com, and has been covering Linux and Open Source news for over 2 years. He is an editor for Linux Today and a contributing author on Linux Planet.