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Linux's Microsoft stink to come up smelling of roses

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Three months to go before the silly season but it surely is Linux time again.Seasoned readers will remember various attempts by this column to get to grips with this Unix-like alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating system. Just in passing, Mac OS X is also a Unix-like operating system.There are more than 50 variants on Unix - among whose various proprietary forms are Xenix, HP/UX, AIX, Solaris and IRIX.They tend to cost a lot of dosh. Linux is free.

It is developed by a myriad of programming nutters who do it for the fun of coding applications that work specifically with the core Linux operating program, which was designed, as you probably can't avoid knowing, by Linus Torvalds. Unlike every other success story in modern computing, he does not seem to be a billionaire. So you think: hippy, pony tails, wild eyes and lots of pleasurable substance abuse. I couldn't possibly comment, although Torvalds seems to have remained the nice, clean-cut Scandinavian lad he was when he started on Linux as a student project. (OK, I don't have space for Richard Stallman and the GNU project, so please don't write in. ) Linux and the way it is distributed breaks all the conventions of classical capitalist marketing.None of this identifying and satisfying customer need - it is developed because individuals think it would be interesting to have a shot at extending the Linux envelope or filling in the holes. Think of them as enterprising deli counter staff and Linux as a cross between Brie and Gorgonzola.

Naturally, Microsoft hates the very smell of it and words like 'un-American'have been shouted from the safety of the US commercial backwoods. It needs to be said that Linux is almost there, that it will be up there with Windows, ahem, 'real soon now'. So with the release a week ago of Mandrake Linux version 10, this column is starting on a fresh attempt to get the operating system going on the second hard disk of a double-booting Windows machine. I'll report back soon.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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