How to talk to Microsoft about Linux

How to talk to Microsoft about Linux

Summary: Visiting one of Microsoft's open-source seminars during the next few weeks? Here's a print-out-and-keep guide to questions you might care to ask...


Microsoft has opened up a new front against Linux with a series of events around Britain in which UK companies are invited to take part in what the company calls 'an open and honest technology discussion' about open-source software.

ZDNet UK met with senior Microsoft executives at the first of the '20:20 Seminar Series' and would encourage IT managers and directors to get along to one of the remaining three events (which are being held in Edinburgh, Manchester and Newport - full details below).

To encourage an open and honest debate, we've compiled a list of questions that emerged from the first meeting. If you can't make it to one of the 20:20 events, perhaps you could put them to the next Microsoft salesman you speak to.

1: Total cost of ownership
Microsoft is vulnerable to the claim that deploying Linux must be cheaper than Windows because it charges a licence fee for Windows while open-source software is, well, free. It now points to research conducted by IDC in 2002 that found that systems running on open-source software can cost more than Windows in terms of service and management costs over the lifetime of their deployment. You might ask:

When Microsoft says that choosing open-source software is "by no means a certain way of lowering whole lifetime costs", does that claim include projections for the damage that will be caused by vulnerabilities and security holes in Windows that haven't yet been discovered?

2: Support and maintenance
Microsoft is also keen to point out that there are more than 450,000 Microsoft Certified Software Engineers worldwide, which it says means a better support network than is possible with Linux. If you think there's a lack of support in the open-source community, you might ask:

Can Microsoft cite an example of a Linux project that was delayed because of a shortage of staff?

3: Interoperability
Microsoft says that Windows is a great choice for desktops because it supports an 'ecosystem' of desktop applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and fits well with Microsoft's server software. However, many open-source applications also work perfectly well as replacements to Microsoft's own apps. Some experts say that deploying these programs can be a good first step in a long-term migration to Linux. You might ask:

Why shouldn't I replace Microsoft Office with Open Office, or Internet Explorer with Mozilla? Won't this work as an excellent first step towards full-scale open source deployment, given Microsoft's commitment to openness and interoperability?

4: Deal cost
Journalists who attended last week's 20:20 Seminar Series Event were presented with a long list of 'customer success stories' -- examples of companies who have recently chosen to deploy Microsoft software.

One of these was the London Borough of Newham, which has upgraded its desktop and server infrastructure. After a long consultation process, Newham eventually decided that Microsoft offered better value than open source.

Microsoft is trumpeting this win, claiming that Newham may make double the productivity savings than if it had chosen Linux instead.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • I am sorry to have to be the one to break your bubble about Linux being more secure than Windows.... But when you mentioned this:

    "How many of the viruses that have hit the Internet this year have taken advantage of vulnerabilities in Linux? "

    You should very well know that not even 1 percent of the worlds PC's run any type of Linux operating system, as compared to Microsoft's Windows, which runs on more than 90% of PCs around the world.

    The reason Microsoft has more security threats is because with more than 500 million people using Microsoft Windows, it is the major target for virus developers and hackers because of the obvious reason, more impact.

    Why would anyone care (except for hackers who are dedicated to have something hacked) to make a virus for Linux when they can make an impact that would be 90 times bigger, on an operating system such as Windows?

    By the way, considering the fact that Microsoft Windows is closed-source, if Linux were to go mainstream, as you clearly recommend, anyone who can issue a couple programming commands would be able to find flaws in the open-source Linux software. So, in reality, if Linux had 90% of the operating system market we would be having hundreds "critical" updates being released by our vendors and community support. That's if all of that is possible to manage.

    Hackers and virus makers manage to find a way to discover exploits on a closed-source system, just imagine if they had the source code to Windows. Because in this case, they have the source code to Linux.

    Thank you.
  • Well, sorry to burst your own bubble, but I'm afraid you're incorrect on this one.
    What you are saying is just one of many misconceptions that exist about Linux.
    Actually, even if Linux would own 90 % of the desktop market, viruses would still not pose a huge threat, as they do now to Windows.
    I have to be honest, I'm not an expert at this, but I'll tell you what I know.

    One reason why viruses couldn't do such a great damage to Linux, is because they wouldn't be able to access the "root", or at least not just like that.
    The root controls the entire computer, if you have access to the root, you can destroy all of the information on the hard drive easily.
    However, Linux users (or at least if they're smart) don't access the root, except to install programs.
    This way, a virus can only damage 1 single user account.
    And even then... Linux viruses wouldn't be able to spread fast and would not do harm to much computers.
    A virus on Linux can only do damage to the computer if you actually give the program a command to let it run.
    In windows, a virus can just start out of itself, but it can't in Linux.

    The fact that Linux doesn't own much of the desktop market (but I do think it's at least 2%), does play a role, but not that much.

    One more thing to think about: did you know Linux DOES have a large share in the SERVER market?
    So why don't we hear about Linux server viruses being released all the time?

    Because there's no use in making them, they won't do damage.

    Mathias De Mar
  • That isn't true. Windows isn't secure and it has taken all these years for it to admit it has a security problem in the first place. Windows gets hacked more often because it's easier to hack. People using dial-up connections can't even update their systems properly and that is Microsoft's fault, they have always known about this. The patch system for Windows today requires over 35 megs of downloads on a new XP machine out of the box. Some of these updates make using the PC troublesome. The only reason Linux is gaining popularity is because Windows isn't the product as advertised. 99% can use Linux and Open Office and never need Windows.
  • Oh, and something I forgot to mention: the fact that the Linux code is open-source, is actually an advantage.
    When a bug is found... It's fixed immediately.

    When a bug is found in Microsoft, it takes months or years before the problem is addressed.
  • i'm sorry Mike, but you need to learn and use Linux to start talking about, i use Windows and i had lots of messages like you win a trip and shit like that while i work on internet explorer or a nice windows with a message wich says save your work because microsoft windows is going to restart in ## seconds %windri%\%systemdir%\application.exe do not close correctly.

    Tools to remove sasser blaster or same threats dont work at all the times...
  • Linux is the kind of operating system that has such legendary stability, that when code is discovered that can actually crash the machine, ie lock up - (Blue Screen Of Death to win32 users), it makes headline news.

    The general response from the linux community will be a source code patch in a 2Kb download (fairly quick on a dial-up) sometimes within hours.

    On another note, I think Microsoft are helping the 'Snowball' effect of Linux with these seminars. It's free advertising for the Linux Companies. The computer people who are looking at getting the latest OS for their networks will want to see how much Microsoft is prepared to admit about the advantages of using Linux.
    It is up to Microsoft to be HONEST about the FACTS for their own credibility when discussing Linux.
  • "You should very well know that not even 1 percent of the worlds PC's run any type of Linux operating system, as compared to Microsoft's Windows, which runs on more than 90% of PCs around the world."

    This line of reasoning is flawed at best. Apache runs on ~70% of all Internet hosting servers yet there have only been a handful of remote compromises in its history. Further, Linux runs on most of these servers so there is an ample supply of Linux machines to target on the Internet. If your argument was valid, we should see that Apache (esp. Apache on Linux) would be ravaged by worms and trojans but it isn't. Quite the opposite, actually as IIS continues to be the web server target of choice. (Just to clarify: I'm not talking about defacements here but exploitable conditions that lead to system compromise.)

    Also, almost 80% of the world's DNS servers run BIND or some other open source program. If market share is the determining factor for targeting by virus/worms, shouldn't the Internet be down for long periods of time since the "bad guys" have the source for these critical Internet infrastructure machines? (

    Anyway, just how many computers would you consider an acceptable number? There are many millions of computers connected to the Internet and even at a paltry 5% share, there is still more than enough computers to wreak havoc on the Internet. (which, by the way, is probably closer to a real number for Linux computers in use as a desktop OS. It's a whole other issue on how market share is determined to which the propagation of Linux does not lend well for counting.).

    The reason these computers are not attacked large scale is the difficulty in their exploitation. Most of these machines are setup to where none of the Internet facing services have any "rights" on the host computer. Even if exploited, there would still need to be a secondary attack to provide any real access to the host machine (such as a local privilege escalation attack). MS's OS's, until recently, had no way to separate the the "root" privileges from the service. So if you exploit the service, you gain system compromising capabilities. Because most of the conditions on Windows were trivial and easy to exploit, Windows became the preferred target.

    "So, in reality, if Linux had 90% of the operating system market we would be having hundreds "critical" updates being released by our vendors and community support."

    It's important to separate "Linux the OS" from "Linux the kernel" and compare apples to apples here. If you think there would be hundreds of critical updates on just the Linux kernel, you would be mistaken (there haven't been hundreds of updates in the 12 year history of the kernel). Now, if you are speaking about "Linux the OS," that would be equateable to Microsoft and the security advisories of the companies with the next 5000 most popular applications. When Red Hat (or any Linux vendor) issues an advisory, 95% of the time, it is an application included in the distribution and not the Linux kernel itself. So, if you added up all the advisories issued from MS and Intuit and Adobe and Macromedia.... Well, you should be catching my drift here...

    "Hackers and virus makers manage to find a way to discover exploits on a closed-source system, just imagine if they had the source code to Windows. Because in this case, they have the source code to Linux."

    Well, some crackers and virus writers do have some of the source to Windows (,guid,d82a41c8-14ba-4b7c-b6a2-876cbcf0d460.aspx). Further, MS's own management says that it can't release source code because there are vulnerabilities so serious, it would compromise the security of the OS ( At least with Linux, the source is out there and yet somehow, it's not been exploited anywhere close to the numbers of Windows.

    No OS is perfectly secure.
  • All these arguments about security and which OS is better at what are all very well and quite informative.

    However, the fact remains that the primary reason I would switch to Linux (given the time - there's one downfall of any switch) is not because I prefer Linux, but because I prefer *not* to use Microsoft.

    Now this is purely a personal decision - not one founded on economics. But I frankly don't much care for the antics of monopolistic companies like Microsoft.

    Right now, Linux or Mac OS are the only viable alternatives to me and I'd rather not change my hardware again, so Linux it would be. I would actually rather return to RISC OS, but it is too much of a niche OS for my liking these days.
  • There is much ignorance about the issue of Linux and security.

    The case scenario pointed here about 70% of web-servers running Apache but only a few sucessful worms just states how the "but if more people ran Linux..." is very flawed.

    On top of that Apache is a server.

    Linux Client machines (non-servers) just won't be able to catch and spread viruses - let alone worms. Compare that with a Windows machine (not running as a server) is so vulnerable even connecting to the Internet is sufficient to catch something nasty.

    Having said all that - I do not recommend Linux for fools. Keep your Windows, your Office and Outlook. It''s interesting watching these masochists losing precious data, and having their documents corrupted (or worse having their PC easily hacked) when using Windows. People abhor using their brains.
  • Actually, its the arrogant attitude of superiority given off by the Henry G.'s of the world that turns me off to Linux. That and the entire Viral GPL / near-religious politcal zealotry of its adherents and their crusade against business in general.

    If you are using a CURRENT and patched version of windows and your Windows desktop / server crashed as often as some linux users claim,you are either A) a liar with an agenda, B) Incommpetent at installation / configuration / hardware compatibility, C) Have incompetent IT departments doing setups or D) haven't touched windows since Win98 (not SE) and are pushing dated info.

    I've not see this constant crash phenomenon the field since 98 (original, not SE) / ME / NT3.5-4.0...and yes, the crashes all the time charges were 100% accurate when applied to Win95 / Win98 / ME NT3.5 / NT4.0. With XP Corp / W2K (desktop and server) and W2K3, linuxites are blowing smoke up our collective asses when they point to frequent crashes...they just do not happen to reasonably skilled IT personnel that take the time to learn how to install, configure and administer properly.

    Do I like Microsoft's Do I like Microsoft's business But it is an OS, not a political statement. Would I inflict a geek OS on my end Would I try a new OS at some point....yes, as long as it is FULLY GUI based and not tied to a political statement like the GPL and is supported by a real business.
  • This article is interestingly biased towards Linux Zealots....:)

    Like many many people out in the REAL IT world we use Microsoft desktops...sure there are patches for it all the time....but if you set it up correctly you can get around that....well a little anyway..using SUS.

    I like Anons. ANYONE in my company (35,000 + users) Linux desktops & they would simply laugh at looks terrible...has little or no business software (yes yes we know about openoffice) sucks...fact!

    In its current revs ( OMG - how many different version of the same thing are there? - way too many) it will never gain a big share from MS....

    ...and back to the Zealot on the root not being touched....once your code is open source...people can poke around & will find ways to get round & hack.....

    It seems that price & security are the main reasons for going to Linux... ..Price..yeah.....Security...I don't buy it.......If someone finds a bug in MS it's on the news.....on Linux it quietly finds it's way into the next core....

    there will always be vulnerabilities, in Linux or MS...

    enough ranting...I need to go find some run done in, find, download, er compile, er support? nuff said.

    ....perhaps in the future when a lot of work with the GUI has been done & linux runs MS software :) and you don't have to recompile every goddam thing you download.....maybe then I'll switch :-P

    ...and to reply to those that say NT/2K server etc crashes all the time ....LOL...go back to school & learn how to be a better admin.
  • haha this is getting funny.

    Whoever posted this and didn
  • This is a crazy article, so obviously biased that it isn't really worth the web space. What we need from news organisations is something objective and independant, not this sort of frenzied nonsense.
  • I agree with John Allen. This article was poorly grounded and written as if it was to be posted in one of the Linux advocacy news groups.

    This is not the standard of journalism I have come to expect from ZDNet. Please don't let it happen again.

    I use a mixture of Linux and Windows at home, I use each for what it/supporting software does best.

    Apart from the occassional crash, Windows XP has been reliable, just a couple of games have pushed the video drivers too hard and cause it to blue screen or instantaneously reboot.

    Likewise, my Linux boxes sit in the corner and chug away, and apart from the odd Kernel patch, don't need rebooting.

    I would say Windows XP crashes more often than SuSE Linux or IPCop (firewall), but there again, I could probably count the Windows crashes per month on the fingers of one hand. IPCop has been running for 5 months since the last reboot, and that was because I went away for a month and switched it off!

    l use both Windows and Linux daily. I have switched to Kontact for my e-mail, not only doesn't it support VBScript, it displays HTML e-mails as source code, with a button to render the HTML if you want - although if somebody can't say it in plain text, then I probably don't want to hear it ;-)

    For the guy who said the Linux GUI looks horrible, he is right, the default skin on SuSE now looks a lot like XP, which looks like a kids Lego box. I changed my XP back to the "classic" and use one of the alternate skins on SuSE.
  • Sigh...

    It's a straightforward article really. Ask real-life though questions when confronted with FUD. It's as simple as that.

    This Microsoft Roadshow is nothing more then FUD. So why do some (perhaps with commercial motivations?) try to counter-act with more FUD?

    Answer: they don't know any better and hope that their FUD will fool you to spend even more budget dollars on their "great" advise.

    What has that done for you in the last past 10 years? Ever increasing budget demands, more overhead, more problems, more comprimises and less security.

    Their answer? Spend more, restrict more, comprimise more and swallow a lot. Granted, most have already become used to that.

    However, if you can't see it's time for something else by now then you're obviously in the wrong job...

    Then again, anyone who doesn't know any better would disagree with the above. Question is, would you want to employ one of those? And do you think your competition will?

    I especially like the usual FUD response: "if you know what you're doing then Windows is safe". Yeah, at what price, time frame, effort, (business) risk, etc.? Usually followed by the remark: "Windows is easy, just click, run and ready". Yeah, just as easy as how to secure it, right? Not!

    Or, "it's Microsoft's IP and market demand will solve all". Yeah, as if no choice will lead to choice somehow. Simply ask your CEO what kind of power he wishes the company would have if he could make anything happen and then how he would like to be on the receiving end of that once it would be the case. Most likely is that you won't get a honest answer.

    Any fool can succesfully toast your Windows environment. Hackers and your trusted administrators and employees alike. Plenty of click, run and ready tools around to achieve just that. And yes, this includes using various products as they're supposed to be used.

    Sure, Windows environments can be made safe. But do you know how? Do you have the budget for it? Do you have the stomach for it? Would you like to work at such a place? Can you maintain that level of security for several years without having to rewrite prognosed budget expectations? Will your competitors do the same?

    In you answer "no" or "maybe" to anyone of these questions then it's time to look around. There's always more then one way to solve a problem. One only needs to be creative and innovative enough. Question is, are you for the amount of salary (or fee) you're receiving?
  • To Anonymous USA, the network administrator.

    We are talking about computer networks.

    You obviously do not administer a windows network, that is one that has power connected to it.

    Anonymous people, have something to hide.
    eg Microsoft employees
  • Don't forget to ask about the cost of CAL
    (client access licenses)! They really add up!
    You need one for each client who access
    a file or email server, and who knows what else...
  • Not to mention, on the interoperability front

    Can Microsoft cite a single example where a Linux vendor placed spurious error messages into their product to provide the illusion of a problem with 3rd-party products?
  • I like the idea that one linux club came up with. They made a couple thousand copys of linux distro's and stood outside the MS sideshow and gave them to people as they entered. Even if all you could afford was a couple hundred cd's... whynot.<br>

    As far as the security is concerned... I really like MS products, I made my living teaching people to use Office products. But, I am glad I am not MS and having to deal with such crap as the OS's of theirs. I don't hate them, I pity the poor (oops wrong word) fools. They will either fix all the holes in their bucket or they will eventually fall to linux or some dependable OS. There has to be something better, as for me I use both linux and MS (2/95 machines 4/xp 1/linux server 1/linux desktop), so I hope they eventually get their act together. I refuse to fight over someone else's problematic OS. Anyway the tickets to this show are real cheap..<br>

    bye now
  • Since we seem to be having a Linux Vs Windows debate...
    The standard Linux GUIs are awful, even the ones made up to look like a windows desktop are nasty to look at. And thats just what they look like. Actually using a program to change settings in Linux can take forever if you dont know what you're looking for. It might be fine for the professionals and those who have used Linux for a long time (lets face it you can always drop back to the command line), but Linux will never gain a large share of the desktop market whilst it is this badly laid out. Windows on the other hand looks fine (not great), and is generally very easy to use (if it was always very easy to use then I wouldnt ever have to use RegEdit or TweekXP).
    And I dont care what any of you say, Windows XP is stable... My desktop was rebooted a total of 10 times in the last year and a half. A few of those occasions were from installing drivers and software (annoying that I had to reboot, but they werent crashes), and the rest I will admit were probably Windows having a stroppy moment after I've been using it to do a thousand things at once.
    I used to have Linux installed as well... It was a pain in the proverbial, since drivers for half of my hardware werent available or were buggy (my screen for instance used to go blocky, my modem didnt work at all, and it was never worth the effort of switching my printer on). I'd like to think that I tried my hardest to get everything to work, and being a CompSci student who needs to know about Linux and Unix, I put all of my skills into experimenting with settings and software to fix the numerous problems I was having. Needless to say I couldnt do it, and therefore I'm back on Windows, where everything works and I dont have to make compromises...
    My point is, that Windows is more user friendly, and therefore will have the larger market share in the desktop world until the Linux GUI is redesigned from scratch and hopefully not cocked up this time. In the meantim, Linux and all other open-source stuff is easier to patch, slightly more stable, and has a large support community through the internet so can continue it's dominance in the server market until Microsoft start coding their O/S better.
    Until then, as a home user I will be continuing to use Windows XP, which I find to be fantasticly stable, easy to use and a nice to look at.