Pessimism or Realism?

This month David considers antitrust legislation and the possibly bleak future of Linux.

Well, those of you who thought the days of the robber barons were over haven't been paying attention—looks like Microsoft has gone from the software industry into politics. They steamrolled and bullied, and when that didn't work they bought out their competition. And they just found out it works like a charm in political circles too, increasing their $150,000/year in political contributions to over $6.1 million (and buying a lot of influence with that money). I hate to say it folks, but hundreds of millions of our tax dollars have been wasted in antitrust legislation just to subsidize even stronger Microsoft control of the software industry.

But Microsoft leaves no stone unturned. They “give away” software to schools. The price tag is if you want Microsoft for free, you can't run/teach any other operating systems—looks like our children will be saying the pledge of allegiance to Microsoft. And it's not just happening in the US, it's happening everywhere Microsoft sticks its foot in the door. I am certain these deals have been struck with Canadian schools, Australian schools, even South African schools. Microsoft is bound and determined that in five years or less, the only operating system in the world will be theirs. After the incredibly expensive and embarrassing fiasco called an antitrust trial, their stranglehold on the industry will be stronger in the coming years than anyone's nightmares imagined. Our children will learn Microsoft programs and operating systems exclusively. OEMs will revert to offering only Microsoft because that's all folks will order. Because when you get one order for a Linux system and over 10,000 orders for Microsoft, it doesn't pay to preload anything else (and unless a court orders OEMs to offer systems with no OS, they will come preloaded).

I also foresee many more useless lawsuits. So I declare the winners of the US antitrust case against Microsoft to be first, the lawyers and second, Microsoft. The losers are everyone else (unless you happen to be a Microsoft stockholder). In another ten years Linux will be just another memory. Pessimistic? No, realistic. Our courts and elected officials have failed in their duties. And until yet another antitrust lawsuit is won against Microsoft (it will be the third time), things will only get worse. But perhaps the third time (if it ever happens) will be the charm, and innovation and freedom of choice can return to the software industry. I'm not holding my breath. Good guys too often finish last.

Axel www.lintux.cx/axel.html

This utility claims to be a download accelerator. I don't want to get into the debate about accelerating downloads, but the program can run single or multithreaded (opening X number of connections to a server). Whether the downloads are faster or not, and in which mode, is for you to decide. What I know is that this utility is very small compared to some others. Requires: libpthread, glibc.

axelq electron.its.tudelft.nl/~hemmin98/axelq.html

The Axel utility mentioned above has no queue to permit you to store URLs for later download. This adjunct allows you to do that and run Axel at a later date against a list of URLs. If you want to run Axel, then you'll also want this utility. Requires: /bin/sh.

integrit integrit.sourceforge.net

This particular application compares itself to the likes of Tripwire and AIDE. As another tool in monitoring your system, it works well enough. It is simple to use and can be set up to check your system against changes to key files or directories. Requires: (integrit is built statically, so requires no runtime libs).

nmbscan gbarbier.free.fr/prj/dev/#nmbscan

If your network has a mix of Windows and Linux/UNIX, you can use this to take a quick look at the local network. It is a simple shell script that makes use of the network tools on your system to identify Windows hosts, Samba servers and provide as much information as possible regarding the Windows side of your network. Requires: /bin/sh, smbclient, nmblookup, arp, host, ping.

myPhile www.rni.net/~geoffm

This is an extremely simple, yet versatile front end to just about any MySQL database to which you care to connect. Newly installed, it creates a small database address book. It is easily modified for your own purposes and is usable by a small company with few changes and almost no training. It's worth a look if you need a quick and simple address book for the masses. Requires: web server with PHP, web browser.

Jmol www.openscience.org/jmol

If you're a college student with chemistry courses that require you to model molecules, this program is great. I remember having to do such modeling (not a few years ago) with a tinker-toy set that looked like jacks with plastic straws. But this program will let you do everything short of touch the model. It comes with many samples, or you can look for the compound you need on the Web. This program supports a lot of different format files for chemical compounds. Requires: Java.

GRPN lashwhip.com/grpn.html

This month's choice from three years ago was frustrating. Keystone was sold to WhitePajamas and abandoned, and most other choices showed little, if any, improvements. While not a favorite of mine from the past, as some others have been, I choose GRPN. Probably not a lot of us remember Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) anymore, but it was used in many calculators, and if I remember correctly, almost all scientific calculators. If you like RPN, then this calculator is for you. It handles general math functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, and trigonometric functions. Requires: libgtk, libgdk, libmodule, libglib, libdl, libXext, libX11, libm, glibc. Until next month.

David A. Bandel (david@pananix.com) is a Linux/UNIX consultant currently living in the Republic of Panama. He is coauthor of Que Special Edition: Using Caldera OpenLinux.

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