Eric S. Raymond -- Latest FUD tactic may be backfiring
Apr 23, 1999, 07:18 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eric S. Raymond)
How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter
By Eric S. Raymond
Microsoft's latest FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) tactic may
A 21 April ITWeb story  reported results by a benchmarking
shop called Mindcraft that supposedly showed NT to be faster than
Linux at SMB and Web service. The story also claimed that technical
support for tuning the Linux system had been impossible to
Previous independent benchmarks (such as ) have found Linux
and other Unixes to be dramatically faster and more efficient than
NT, and independent observers (beginning with a celebrated
InfoWorld article in 1998 ) have lauded the Linux community's
responsiveness to support problems. Linux fans smelled a rat
somewhere (uttering responses typfied by ), and amidst the
ensuing storm of protest some interesting facts came to light,.
1. The benchmark had been paid for by Microsoft. The Mindcraft
press release failed to mention this fact.
2. Mindcraft did in fact get a useful answer  to its request
for help tuning the Linux system. But they did not answer the
request for more information, neither did they follow the tuning
suggestions given Also, they forged the reply email address to
conceal themselves -- the connection was made after the fact by a
Usenetter who noticed that the unusual machine configuration
described in the request exactly matched that of the test system in
the Mindcraft results.
3. Red Hat, the Linux distributor Mindcraft says it asked for
help, reports that it got one phone call from them on the
installation-help line, which isn't supposed to answer
post-installation questions about things like advanced server
tuning. Evidently Mindcraft's efforts to get help tuning the system
were feeble -- at best incompetent, at worst cynical gestures.
4. An entertainingly-written article  by the head of the
development team for Samba (one of the key pieces of Linux software
involved in the benchmark) described how Mindcraft could have done
a better job of tuning. The article revealed that one of
Mindcraft's Samba tweaks had the effect of slowing their Linux down
5. Another Usenet article  independently pointed out that
Mindcraft had deliberately chosen a logging format that imposed a
lot of overhead on Apache (the web sever used for the Linux
So far, so sordid -- a fairly standard tale of Microsoft paying
to get exactly the FUD it wants from a nominally independent third
party. But the story took a strange turn today (22 Apr) when
Microsoft spokesperson Ian Hatton effectively admitted  that the
test had been rigged! "A very highly-tuned NT server" Mr. Hatton
said "was pitted against a very poorly tuned Linux server".
He then attempted to spin the whole episode around by
complaining that Microsoft and its PR company had received
"malicious and obscene" email from Linux fans and slamming this
supposed "unprofessionalism". One wonders if Hatton believes it
would be "unprofessional" to address strong language to a burglar
caught in the act of nipping the family silver.
In any case, Microsoft's underhanded tactics seem (as with its
clumsy "astroturf" campaign against the DOJ lawsuit) likely to come
back to haunt it. The trade press had largely greeted the Mindcraft
results with yawns and skepticism even before Hatton's admission.
And it's hard to see how Microsoft will be able to credibly quote
anti-Linux benchmarks in the future after this fiasco.
 "Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 out performs Linux"
 "Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX"
 "1997 Product of the Year"
 "Mindcraft Reality Check"
 "Re: Need help with performance"
 "Trust no one: How Mindcraft could have made a better Linux
 "It's the old DNS logging trick, Re: Is NT really 3.7 times
faster than Linux ?"
 "Outrage at Microsoft's independent, yet sponsored NT