Sunday, January 08, 2006

Microsoft Challenges Linux Legacy Claims

eWeek, via reports in a story that Microsoft tested different modern distributions of Linux and Windows against older hardware. The reason, they said, was to dispel myths that only Linux can run well on older hardware.

They tested Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Pro 9.2, Mandrake 10, Linspire 4.5, Xandros Desktop 3.0, Fedora Core 3, Slackware 10.1, Knoppix 3.7, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. All were installed out-of-the-box on older hardware to see what happened.

How underpowered was the box?
Microsoft found that most modern commercial Linux distributions could be installed successfully on systems with a Pentium processor, with 64MB of RAM and a minimum of 2GB of hard disk space.

Minimum requirements for office productivity performance on a Linux system were any Pentium II (PII) system with at least 64MB of RAM, he said, adding that playback of sound and video would typically require a PII 400 or better.

This is all well and good. But out here in the developing countries, where the developed nations routinely dump their e-waste in favor of tax write-offs, these are hardly the configurations that we work with.

Why not really stretch the envelope and try running Linux on a 486 with 16MB of RAM? I know I have. I didn't run any of the distributions mentioned above, because I couldn't. But then again, the totality of Linux is not covered by those distributions alone.

Agreed, it's not cost-effective based on power alone, but when you don't have a choice, you don't have a choice. Besides, it's a nonsensical argument to try to save an old hardware using Microsoft software. There's something wrong with the equation when your software costs are easily greater than your hardware costs.

Now, I'd like to see Microsoft try diskless LTSP-type configuration using Windows clients. And for the next challenge, I'd like to see them boot a complete OS off a CD or a USB flash drive on a computer with no hard disk.

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