We are at an interesting crossroads in the computer
industry (IMHO) . Apple is about to unleash Tiger (ETA: one week from now),
and this operating system release could end up being the crucial
round of the titanic battle between Apple and Microsoft. The battle
which startsat the Operating System level reminds me of
the"Rumble In The
Jungle" (circa. 1974,
Apple in the role of Ali
(aka "The Greatest" who was the overwhelming underdog at time) and
Microsoft in the role of George
Foreman (who at the time was logically invincible).
The shakesperian tale of Macbeth also comes to mind as
depicted in the excerpt below:
".... Macbeth goes to visit the witches in their
cavern. There, they show him a sequence of demons and spirits who
present him with further prophecies: he must beware of Macduff, a
Scottish nobleman who opposed Macbeth's accession to the throne; he
is incapable of being harmed by any man born of woman; and he will
be safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. "
Having used all the major operating systems on a
serious basis for a number of years in a variety
ofmodes;user, developer, and administrator. I have
always felt that a RISC based UNIX operating system (of BSD
genealogical branch extraction), if somehow combined with a user
interface that is superior to Windows,would
ultimatelyunravel the Windows Desktop Monopoly.
Thatoperating system exists today in the form of Mac OS X
(its lastest Tiger release simply kicks the differential
up a notch).
Back to the Macbeth correlation:
"Birnam Woods coming to Dunsinane" is the
metaphoric equivalent of desktop users and first time computer
users being forced (by the scourge of virus and spyware) to
revaluate Windows as the only choice for productive desktop
computing. What would you recommend to "Aunt Milly" when she tells
you she wants to get on the Internet? Especially if "Aunt Milly"
isn't living with you?
"Man not born of a woman" is no different to
saying: UNIX with a superior user interface to Windows!
I don't think you need me to tell who play the
characters of Macbeth and Macduff in this drama :-)
The Windows security vulnerabilities quagmire
juice on this phrase is currently 6,620 pages)has
basically created an inflection of monumental proportions adversely
affecting Windows and creating great visibility and evaluation
building opportunities for Mac OS X ("once usersexperience
aMac they don't come back to Windows!").
Paul Murphy of cio-today.comhas also written
a great articlesheds light on theoften overlooked
hardware aspect to the security problem for WindowsHere is a
Software and Hardware
At present, attacks on Microsoft's
Windows products are generally drawn from a different population of
possible attacks than those on
Unix variants such as BSD, Linux and Solaris. From a
practical perspective, the key difference is that attacks on Wintel
tend to have two parts: A software vulnerability is exploited to
give a remote attacker access to the x86 hardware and that access
is then used to gain control of the machine.
In contrast, attacks on Unix
generally require some form of initial legal access to the machine
and focus on finding software ways to upgrade priveleges
Consider, for example,
CAN-2004-1134 in the NIST vulnerabilities database:
Summary: Buffer overflow in the
Microsoft W3Who ISAPI (w3who.dll) allows remote attackers to cause
a denial of service and possibly execute arbitrary code via a long
The vulnerability exists in
Microsoft's code, but the exploit depends on the rigid stack-order
execution and limited page protection inherent in the x86
architecture. If Windows ran on Risc, that vulnerability would
still exist, but it would be a non-issue because the exploit
opportunity would be more theoretical than practical.
Linux and open-source applications
are thought to have far fewer software vulnerabilities than
Microsoft's products, but Linux on Intel (Nasdaq:
news) is susceptible to the same kind of attacks as those now
predominantly affecting Wintel users. For real long-term security
improvements, therefore, the right answer is to look at Linux, or
any other Unix, on non x86 hardware.
One such option is provided by
news) BSD-based products on the PowerPC-derived G4 and G5 CPUs.
Linus Torvalds, for example, apparently now runs Linux
on a Mac G5 and there are several Linux distributions for this
hardware -- all of which are immune to the typical x86-oriented
This may even been the nullifier of that age old
argument about porting Mac OS X to the x86 in order to broaden its
Mac OS X is certainly a breath of fresh air for anyone
who needs to simply get stuffdone with theirdesktops