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May 2006 - Vol. 6, Issue No. 80

By Scot Finnie


  • Internet Explorer 7 Has No Soul
  • Firefox 1.5 Issues Wrap-Up
  • Looking for the Right Antivirus, Part II
  • Thanks to Computerworld Well Wishers
  • Living with a Mac and Virtualizing Windows
  • Linux Explorer: The Truth About Linux and Viruses
  • Link of the Month: Robert. X Cringely's Series on Apple
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    Internet Explorer 7 Has No Soul
    It's one thing to list out the features of a new product. It's quite another to actually live with it, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

    The fact that I first installed Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP, Beta 2, on April 20 means I haven't even had two weeks with the browser yet. Not enough time with a product of this importance and complexity, in my opinion, to form a final conclusion. And yet, if there's nothing I've learned about reviewing software and hardware over the last 20 years, it's that if I don't become intrigued when first trying out a product's new features, before I've come across all its warts, I'm unlikely to be an actual user when all is said and done.

    I'm definitely not excited. The sum of IE7's parts isn't greater than the whole. There's no there in there. It lacks soul. Although the Internet Explorer development team has done a commendable job of grafting Microsoft renditions of some worthy Firefox and Opera features onto IE6, as well as heavily revamping security, the forthcoming version of IE doesn't break significant new ground.

    Is it better than Internet Explorer 6? Yes. Yes. And yes. I can't think of even a small way that Microsoft has taken its browser package in the wrong direction. What's more, were I to go over IE7 feature by feature, I would point out — as I've done with earlier pre-release builds of IE7 — several nicely crafted features and well designed functionalities. On the other hand, better than IE6 isn't saying much.

    For previous commentary on IE7's new features, begin with this piece, Internet Explorer 7 Features Revealed.

    For more information about the few changes Microsoft has announced with the release of Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2, please see this Computerworld story, Microsoft offers free tech support with Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2.

    If you're eager to try IE7 Beta 2 for yourself, my advice is not to install it on your everyday machine. It does uninstall, though. Please remove any previous version of IE7 before you install this one. You can find out more about, and download IE7 Beta 2, on Microsoft's Internet Explorer page.

    Evaluating the Bits
    The very first day I installed IE7 I got into the classic endless loop that the XP Service Pack 2 version of IE6 was famous for. I was attempting to use the main control panel supplied by one of my Web hosts. Internet Explorer 7 kept blocking an applet page from opening. The yellow info bar opened across the top of the browser window, asking whether I wanted to block or allow the window or script from running. I'm not even sure what kind of process the Web-host control panel runs. When, in the info bar, I allowed the page to launch, the page process had terminated because of IE7's interruption. When I refreshed the page to run the process again, bang — IE7 blocked it again. Endless loop. Albeit, this doesn't happen often. But even one time is far too many.

    IE7, like IE6 before it, will ask you over and over again to OK ActiveX controls or scripted features on Web pages. Even if you visit the same page every day for a year, you'll still be brought up short and asked to approve a Web-based process. It doesn't let you disable many of its security "features" by specific Web page.

    Back to my Web host control panel example, I didn't know exactly what kind of script or code was trying to launch. All I knew was that I'd been launching it no problem in Firefox for months. So that left me guessing at security levels and settings I should "turn down" in IE's Security settings tab. After two or three attempts, I gave up and reverted to Firefox. Did I bother to crank back up IE7's security settings? If not, the browser is probably more vulnerable. Thus defeating the whole point. This was the exactly reason why I dumped IE6. I got fed up with security functionality whose user experience was, in a word, ridiculous.

    On the plus side, IE7 loads Web pages quickly. At least Firefox's equal in my informal tests (each browser loaded some pages faster than the other). Perhaps IE's best advantage over Firefox is how quickly it launches. IE7 loads literally several times faster than Firefox. Mozilla supporters may say that's because Microsoft loads a good part of IE's code into Windows. I was no big fan of Microsoft's past insistence that IE could not be separated from the Windows code. But about that being an unfair advantage, my thought is: So what? I just want a browser that starts up quickly. Mozilla can do better on that score.

    But nothing's really changed about the differences between Internet Explorer and Firefox since the release of Firefox 1.0. In my initial Firefox review, Firefox 1.0: The New World Wide Web Champ, I wrote:

    More than anything else, this is the smartest aspect of what Mozilla has done with Firefox: It's a realistic browser, a worthy successor to the Navigator line. It's a browser that inspires an emotional response. You don't have to learn to like it with your left brain; you just like it.

    That's precisely what I don't feel about Internet Explorer. I find myself comparing features and deciding that yes, this or that IE7 feature is marginally better. And Microsoft's slick revamp of the Favorites panel has the feature overlaying the browser window instead of pushing it to the right. (Plus there's an option to make it work as it did, pushing the window right.) The browser's RSS Feed features have a bit more utility than Firefox's. But then Microsoft goes and does something stupid and turns off the classic File, Edit, View ... menus by default. And the excellent configurable toolbar system from previous versions of IE (which has been heavily copied by a variety of other software makers), has been hobbled. These days, Microsoft's user-interface design clearly seems the result of internal corporate directives instead of planned around best of breed ideas. There was a time when Microsoft listened. Now it's just patently sure of all its decisions. There appears to be little institutional memory about what strategies got them where they are.

    I admire Internet Explorer 7, but I don't think I could ever learn to love it. It's like the minivan of Web browsers. It's a model of great engineering, but it's just not cool.


    Firefox 1.5 Issues Wrap-Up
    As long as we're doing major Web browsers, I owe you an update on Firefox 1.5.

    Beginning last December, I wrote a series of articles that appeared in the newsletter and on the magazine websites of my previous employer. Prior to this issue the most recent piece, Confirmation of Firefox 1.5 Woes, is from the January newsletter, and it links back to the earlier stories.

    Firefox continues to be the application that's the single largest memory and virtual memory hog on all my PCs. Despite that shortcoming, I haven't experienced any of the side effects detailed in my earlier articles starting when Firefox 1.5 was first released. Well, there's one I've continued to see: Firefox takes absolutely forever to launch when initiated from hyperlinks in third-party apps, such as email and instant messaging clients. That problem pre-dates Firefox 1.5 though (as did the high memory usage).

    But while Firefox 1.5 has been pretty clear sailing for me, not a day goes by when I don't get at least one email from a frustrated Firefox user who has some mix of the problems I've described in past, including exceptionally high use of physical and virtual memory, CPU usage to climbing to 100 percent, program hesitations and freeze ups, browser stops launching without operating system reboot or terminating the firefox.exe process in Task Manager, specific Web pages that don't load, and program crashes.

    I'm not getting as many messages as I once did, but they're still trickling in. Scot's Newsletter reader Murray Dundas is just the latest. Murray wrote:

    "I'm a big fan of yours and eagerly look forward to each edition of the newsletter. Not long ago you mentioned a memory hole problem in Firefox. I experience the problem on a daily basis and it's been driving me nuts. I can see RAM usage via Task Manager going up and up and up until even virtual memory gets swamped. As soon as Firefox 1.5 came out, the memory problems began. If I use IE6 instead of Firefox, I have no memory problems. I've searched the help forums without luck. Does Mozilla think it's fixed this problem?" --Murray Dundas

    What Murray is describing is a memory leak, and it sounds more serious on his machine than on some others. I don't see an ever-escalating use of memory, but some other people have. Because a small number of people are struggling with this, I'm going to pass along a tip that at least 10 Scot's Newsletter readers have reported worked for them, although I'm quite sure it won't work for everyone.

    A Cache Fix That's Worked for Some
    Start by checking how much memory Firefox is using. There are many ways to do this, but under Windows there's only one easy way that everyone has access to. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del once. In Windows XP, that opens the Task Manager. Click the Processes tab, and check the numbers on the firefox.exe line under the headings "Mem Usage" and "VM Size." Click the Mem Usage header twice to sort the rows by memory usage, highest to lowest. Is Firefox at the top? Is it a six-digit number? If so, Firefox is consuming a lot more memory than it should. Watch these numbers over time as you run Firefox to see whether they grow significantly.

    Double-check your browser cache settings to make sure they're functional. You can also adjust the browser cache to match the amount of memory on your system. Follow these steps:

    Firefox has a special settings screen called about:config. To access it, open a new tab and type "about:config" (without quotation marks) into the URL bar. Press Enter.

    You'll see a long list of text entries. Each line is a different setting, like lines in an .INI file or System Registry entries. You're looking for this line:


    There's a type-ahead feature, so just start typing.

    Once you get there, check to make sure its "Value" setting reads "true," then follow these steps:

    1. Right-click any blank area in the about:config window and choose New > Integer from the pop-up menu.

    2. The New Integer Value box will open. Copy and paste this setting name into the open dialog box:


    3. In the Enter Integer Value box that opens, enter -1 to preserve Firefox's default operational mode.

    4. To customize the setting to your computer's physical memory, consult this MozillaZine page. For RAM sizes between 512BM and 1GB, start with 15000. For RAM sizes between 128MB and 512M, try 5000. Note: If you have less than 128MB of RAM, that's probably the cause of your Firefox issues.

    Heavy Firefox users should strongly consider upgrading their RAM to at least 1GB.

    Last Word
    It's clear to me that there are pandemic memory problems in Firefox, and also that Mozilla has not responded adequately to them. But this is still my browser of choice. I can't wait for 2.0 (even if it will lack the Places site-search functionality, which Mozilla recently decided not to implement in Firefox 2.0). Frankly, I never bought into Places, whose concept was to let you run a search that will check your bookmarks and browser history — the idea being to help you find a site you've know you've visited in the recent past. But if you know the site well enough to search for it by keyword, just Google it. No? There are other features Firefox is more in need of. Heck, I'd just like a Bookmarks manager that doesn't make drag-and-drop moves of bookmarks, bookmark folders, and separators nearly a spectator sport. There are many things that are a bit twitchy in Firefox. Improve and extend. Whole new modules whose advantage aren't slam dunk obvious probably aren't the right approach for what is still a very young application. With huge potential. And it's still fun to use.

    P.S. — Those of you who've made use of the Best Firefox Extensions and Customizing Tips page that I've maintained since shortly after Firefox debuted, I recently updated it significantly with new extensions. Take a look.


    Looking for the Right Antivirus Program, Part II
    Since my decision late last summer to give up on Symantec's Norton Antivirus, which I used for over 10 years, I've been on a quest to find a replacement antivirus product to both recommend and use on all the many PCs I manage.

    On the strength of many recommendations from Scot's Newsletter readers, I've spent a good deal of time with Eset's Nod32 over the last couple of months. From a pure security standpoint, Nod32 has a lot to recommend it. I think that advanced users and IT guys looking for a low-cost alternative should give Nod32 a close look. But I'm not a security purist. In fact, I'm a user experience purist. And Nod32 is missing some things.

    Note: In the next installment of this series, I revisted, clarified, and corrected my Nod32-specific comments in the next few paragraphs. Specifically, Nod32 does inbound email scanning with all email programs. It does outbound scans with Outlook only. Also, while it's difficult to find the settings, you can configure Nod32 to be completely silent, or silent in all but the areas you're most concerned about.

    For example, Nod32 doesn't specifically support pure inbound/outbound email scanning for any email package other than Microsoft Outlook. Its real-time monitoring virus scanner is fast enough to catch email-based threats. But, hey, I don't use Outlook. I don't plan to use Outlook. The only thing worse than Outlook is Lotus Notes as far as I'm concerned. And I have never gotten a virus from my network, my browser, a CD or DVD, or a floppy disk. Most viruses and worms use email as their transport. So the most important criterion for me is an antivirus product that specifically works with Eudora, my email package of choice.

    The second most important criterion is that the darn software shut the heck up. I mean it. I'm so tired of desktop security software yakking at me. No warning screens, no voices telling me the virus database has been updated, no question dialogs asking me whether I want to quarantine or delete. I want no decisions to make; I want no interruptions. If an email message arrives with a virus in it, quarantine it for two weeks then automatically delete it. Or if you can't quarantine, then quietly — and I mean completely silently — delete it. I don't want to confirm. I don't want to investigate. I don't want to send it to your virus center for detailed dissection. I just want to use my computer for what it's for, and not be hampered by viruses. Is that so hard to understand?

    Give me solid anti-malware protection that knows how to do its job without nagging me or thumping its chest about how great a job it's done.

    Nod32 failed the quiet test. I don't really expect antivirus software to come pre-configured to be quiet. I expect to have to mess around with configuration dialogs until I can induct it into the silent service. Nod32 didn't have enough options to keep it out of my face. so it got a quick discharge.

    I've also spent some time testing Softwin's BitDefender during the last couple of months. On my systems, BitDefender had serious issues with Eudora and would not scan mail. It appears to use some sort of proxy server that conflicted with Eudora when the latter is using SMTP authentication, which one of my email providers requires. The message I got from tech support was both totally inscrutable and blithely unconcerned about the problem. Eudora is often an afterthought with antivirus guys.

    BitDefender does have an elegant interface with excellent configuration options. If it worked properly with Eudora, it almost certainly would have been a contender.

    That brought me back to Alwil Software's Avast. It was the second antivirus program I tried after giving up on Norton, and I used the freeware version for several months before I felt the need to try another program. Unfortunately, the freeware version doesn't have scheduled full-system scans (a questionable feature to hold out, in my opinion). This time around, I've got Avast 4.7 Pro.

    In a nutshell, Avast may not be quite as protective as Nod32, although I've used it for many months and it's prevented a lot of bad bugs on my systems. It's hard to argue with real-world success. Avast has a terrible interface. It's quirky, illogical, difficult to find things, and has multiple configuration areas in completely separate locations (a no-no that Symantec also used to practice). It's hard to imagine a program that is more poorly designed from a work-flow point of view than Avast. It also comes with voice-enabled notifications turned on, which makes me want to scream. But ... the saving grace is that it works with Eudora, and after you fiddle with at least four separate dialogs and turn off a few things, it finally becomes clams up. Silence is golden.

    Alwil Software: Blow this thing up and hire a true interface design team. Make Avast what it could be. Create a "Silent" configuration option that lets you configure the program to maximum protection with automatic decisions. C'mon, antivirus isn't rocket science. So we'll lose a few emails now and then. It's only email and file attachments. Everyone knows you can't trust email for important business communication anymore. (You didn't get the memo? We're all using instant messaging for that now. It's nuts.)

    Even though Avast is getting the job done, I have this feeling I can do better. After reading this entry in the newsletter, if you think you're using the antivirus product I'm bound to like, drop me a line. Note: I've crossed these products off the list so far: Panda's Platinum and Titanium, Trend Micro's PC-cillin, Eset's Nod32, Softwin's BitDefender, and Symantec's Norton AntiVirus. Kaspersky is definitely on my list to look at again (it's been about two years), although I dislike the company's expectation that we'll pay them $40 a year in perpetuity. AVG is another that I haven't examined for a while. Are there others I should check out? Vendors are welcome to use this email link too.


    Thanks to Computerworld Well Wishers
    I'd like to thank the many Scot's Newsletter readers — especially a lengthy list Scot's Newsletter Forums members — who wrote to offer their best wishes on my new position at Computerworld. I've been on the job about three weeks, and I'm really enjoying it. There's a lot to do, and a great team of editors and business people to collaborate with. I'm very excited about the growth we're experiencing. And I'm digging in to help boost our visibility and success.

    Look for new approaches online at Computerworld, including new kinds of stories, a new site design (coming very soon), and a dedication to the things that IT pros and technology experts like best online. I'm sure I'll be telling you more about this in future. In the meantime, here are some links I highly recommend SFNL readers check out at Computerworld:

  • Security Knowledge Center - Edited by Angela Gunn
  • Mobile/Wireless Knowledge Center - Edited by Dave Ramel and Marian Prokop
  • Macintosh Knowledge Center - Edited by Ken Mingis
  • Networking Knowledge Center - Edited by Marian Prokop and Dave Ramel
  • Storage Knowledge Center - Edited by Lucas Mearian


    Living with A Mac and Virtualizing Windows
    I wrote quite a bit about the Mac last time when I offered both a review and instructions for using Apple's Boot Camp beta software.

    Right after the newsletter went out I started working with Parallels, Inc.'s Parallel Workstation 2.1 for Mac OS X Beta 3 — a virtualizing utility. A week later I upgraded to Beta 4. Parallels is now up to Beta 6 (which I haven't tested yet).

    My experience with this product has been very positive. After you install the utility, install Windows XP (or almost any version of Windows or Linux, and then run Parallels' hardware driver routine, you'll find the virtual utility is fast, has excellent hardware support (although they're still working out some issues with WiFi networking, USB, and Mac-specific video resolutions). You can copy and paste text and other data between the Mac and your Windows XP window, and back. Windows XP runs nearly as fast as it does in Boot Camp. And best of all, you can leave it running all the time and call it up when you need it. It runs fine with 1GB of RAM, and doesn't require you to allocate a large amount of disk space to Windows permanently.

    Since I installed Parallels Workstation 2.1 for Mac OS X, I haven't booted into Boot Camp even once. I just wish Parallels would ship the software so I could buy it and get my Windows-on-a-Mac environment permanently installed and configured. Speaking of which, if you buy this now it's $40; once it ships, Parallels will be getting $50.

    Parallels also has versions of its product for Windows and Linux hosts, which I intend to test — if I can ever get the company's PR folks to return my email. But then, the company has a lot more competition there. Back on the Mac, Apple may be Parallels' biggest competitor when it releases OS X 10.5; VMWare is also reportedly working on a Macintosh product.

    I will be removing Boot Camp from my MacBook Pro permanently in the near future in favor of a virtualization solution, more than likely the Parallels product. Still, for some people, Boot Camp is a good idea. If my Mac were my only computer, I'd probably run both virtualization and Boot Camp

    Some MacBook Pro and Boot Camp Corrections
    MacBook aficionados will be interested to know that I've recanted my criticism of the Mac Trackpad's two-finger scrolling feature. It turned out that the problem I was having only happens in Firefox 1.5.x for the Mac. There's a setting called "use smooth scrolling" on the Advanced Options tab in Firefox that, when removed, allows the two-finger scrolling to work perfectly. Interestingly, when I checked for the same problem on the MacBook Pro of Computerworld's Ken Mingis, two-finger scrolling worked fine on his machine even with Firefox's "use smooth scrolling" setting turned on. It's probably some sort of extension conflict, although, I uninstalled all the extensions at one point and the problem remained. It's a mystery. But the bottom line is that I love two-finger scrolling on the Mac. I still miss the ThinkPad eraser-head pointer and third-button scrolling feature, but only because I'm a touch typist, and they let me leave my fingers on the home row.

    I've updated the last issue of the newsletter on the Web with information about this, as well as a statement about why I didn't refer to the possibility of creating your own Windows XP Service Pack 2 CD by burning the data from your XP SP1 CD and a downloaded XP SP2 files, and slipstreaming the installation process so they run together.

    Take another look at the last issue if you're interested in added "Notes" on these topics.


    Linux Explorer: The Truth About Linux and Viruses
    Conventional wisdom says that a virus scanner is one of three protections necessary these days for computers connected to the Internet. (The other two being a spyware scanner or two, and a trainable spam filter.) The same wisdom also says that the only reason Linux and Macintosh computers don't see the same level of virus attacks as Windows PCs is because Windows PCs are so much more prevalent.

    While this may be partly true, it's not the whole reason. According to various virus lists, there are less than 100 known viruses for Linux, none of which spread the way a Windows virus does. Meanwhile, there are thousands and thousands of Windows viruses. With the so-called discovery of a Linux/Windows virus, more light is being shined on the subject of Linux security.

    But it's easy to protect yourself in Linux, once you know a few things about viruses under the operating system. And if you still think you need it, we're including instructions on how to use Frisk Software International's F-Prot Antivirus.

    1. If you run Linux and only Linux, you do not need antivirus software. In its efforts to make Windows easier to use, Microsoft simplified the process of running executables under its operating system many years ago. Not only can a user launch a program by clicking an e-mail attachment, but it's possible for an executable to launch automatically just by hitting the preview pane of some email packages, including older versions of Outlook and Outlook Express. Scot's Newsletter Forums member Nathan Williams has provided an excellent FAQ for the All Things Linux forum explaining why Linux when used alone does not need antivirus protection.

    Under Linux the steps for launching an executable from an e-mail are separate, discrete steps. A user would have to read the email, save the attachment, give the attachment executable permissions, and then run the executable. And to be truly damaging, the latter two would have to be done as root — not something informed users would allow. (For more information see Ch- Ch- Changing File Permissions.)

    2. If you dual boot Linux and Windows and get a virus-infected mail in Linux, it can NOT jump to your Windows partition. Nor can it spread over the local network to other systems. You can even store the attachment in your /home directory and open the zip or click the file, and it will be dead in the water. Windows executables won't run under Linux. Linux files need to be granted permission to become executable. And even then, it can't spread beyond the home folder. (This is also why Linux AV programs do not have a "live guard" module in them — the virus does not execute or move.) You could even leave a virus executable there as long as you wanted to without risk. Windows will not get infected, unless you deliberately copy the virus to your Windows partition.

    3. If you dual boot, however, you better get a good antivirus program for Windows. Microsoft's operating system and its bundled applications, Outlook and Internet Explorer, offer users powerful functionality in their attempts to be easy to use and easy to update. As a result, it's all too easy for virus writers to exploit the same functionality in a malicious way. Don't leave them an opening. Install an antivirus program and keep it updated.

    4. The only time you'll need a Linux antivirus program is if you're running a mail server. And that's just good social behavior. It's not to protect your Linux server or client computer so much as to make sure you don't pass a virus on to a Windows system.

    Think about it this way: If you have two warehouses, and you use the first one to store cheese, are you going to place mouse-traps in the second one where you only store stainless steel? I mean, be reasonable, mice do not eat stainless steel! So don't let antivirus vendors make you unnecessarily paranoid.

    Despite my recommendations to the contrary, if after all this you still think you need AV software, I recommend F-Prot Antivirus for Linux. It has a fast scan engine it's been around since the days of DOS and has long-term proven its reliability.

    F-Prot is free for home users. There's an F-Prot .rpm for Mandrake and SUSE and a .tar.gz for use with other distros. You can download it from the F-Prot site. The newest version, 4.6.6 as of this writing, introduces some changes in command line syntax, so here's a quick overview of how to use F-Prot.


    Important: The tips in this document require the use of command-line commands. For more information about how to read and execute Linux command-line prompts and commands, please check the Linux Clues Linux Cheat Sheet, especially Linux Prompt Basics and Linux Command-Line Nomenclature.


    To install an application, you need to be logged in as root. For a reminder on how to do that, check the Linux Cheat Sheet, Logging in and out as Root, at (the navigable, searchable companion site to Linux Explorer).

    Once downloaded to the /Download directory type:

    # rpm -ihv /home/bruno/Download/fp-linux-ws.rpm

    This filename refers to the RPM version. You'll need to change the command if you downloaded the Debian/GNU or Tar versions. The number prompt lets you know you're logged in as root.

    F-Prot automatically gets the latest updated virus definitions as part of the install process. To make updating the definitions simple you make a sym-link. (See Hard Links and Symbolic Links for more information.)

    # ln -s /usr/local/f-prot/tools/ /usr/local/bin/f-prot-updates

    Then to get the new virus definitions next time, all you have to do is:

    # f-prot-updates

    You'll see screen message indicating there's a new version of the virus signatures available (if there are), followed by a message indicating they've been successfully installed. Now let's check to make sure it works:

    # f-prot -verno

    Virus scans should be performed as root, because root has permissions to read all the files on your computer.

    To scan your Windows partition:

    # f-prot /mnt/win_c

    Or /home:

    # f-prot /home

    Or the full "/" partition:

    # f-prot /

    The scan will run, followed by a screen display summarizing the findings — viruses found or not. As you can see the command does not need an extra argument, the default is -dumb -archive -packed -server.

    Important Note: If you've used a previous version of F-Prot, you'll see that the syntax is different.

    A quick way to get the updates and do the scan on the Evolution mail directory in one go is:

    # f-prot-updates && f-prot /home/bruno/.evolution/

    Getting virus definition updates automatically is a task that just cries out to be scheduled, so let's set up a cron job. (For more on cron jobs, see Taming the Cron Daemon.) Start with:

    # crontab -e

    This opens a file in Vi. (For more on the Vi editor, see The Vi Editor.) Just add this line in Vi:

    0 4 * * * /usr/local/f-prot/tools/ -cron -quiet

    Now cron will get the updates at 4:00AM every day, notifying you only if there was an error getting the signature files.

    Installing and updating the software is good, but to protect your computer, you need to also perform virus scans on a regular basis. So let's create a cron job for that too.

    0 5 * * * /usr/local/bin/f-prot / -report=/root/f-prot-report.txt

    Cron will do a scan of / at 5:00AM every day and send a report to /root/f-prot-report.txt.

    Now you're a good Linux citizen.

    Most of the material found in Linux Explorer comes from Bruno of Amsterdam, lead moderator of the popular All Things Linux forum at Scot's Newsletter Forums. Bruno is helped by All Things Linux co-moderators Peachy, BarryB, and Teacher, as well as other forum members who have posted in the highly useful Tips for Linux Explorers thread (from which Linux Explorer and the site are adapted). All previous installments of this section of the newsletter can be found at, a service of Scot's Newsletter. For more from Bruno, please see his Tips for Linux Explorers website.

    Linux Explorer is edited by Cyndy and copyedited by Scot.


    Link of the Month: Robert X. Cringely's Series on Apple
    I've written about Robert X. Cringely before in this space, although not in a couple of years. His April 20th "I, Cringely" PBS column is fascinating, both to Windows and Mac users. The column consists of his speculations about significant changes Apple may make to its OS X operating system with the 10.5 release, better known as Leopard. It seems clear to many observers that Apple is likely to include virtualization functionality, which may also make it easier for third-party virtualization utility makers to create products aimed at the Mac.

    Cringely also believes that Apple may change the OS X operating system kernel to improve performance, possibly to make Apple's servers faster. That's interesting enough, but what really caught my attention was his assertion that Apple may be considering including support for the Windows XP APIs (application programming interfaces), the hooks into the operating system that Windows applications are written to address. Cringely believes that Apple got some legal right to the Windows API as a result of a late 1990s cross-patent agreement between Apple and Microsoft that Jobs engineered when he returned to Apple. It's at least conceivable, fantastic though it may sound, that with OS X running on Intel architecture and with support written in for the Windows XP APIs, that applications written for Windows could run on the next version of OS X. It sounds like science fiction, and probably is — but it's fascinating reading.

  • Native Speaker

    Cringely's latest column continues the prediction. Working the strategy for Apple, he projects that Apple would need to adopt a Microsoft Office competitor — in case Microsoft yanked Office away from the Mac. He also suggests that Apple would need to purchase Adobe outright.

  • Killer Apps

    There are a couple of holes in the argument. Microsoft is shipping Windows Vista in about seven months, and Vista has a new set of APIs. They are backward compatible with the old APIs, but they extend the possibilities for independent software makers. Over time, newer app versions would no longer work properly under the Mac. If Apple even has the right to incorporate Windows APIs under OS X, it can't have the rights to use the Vista APIs.

    Even more importantly, though, I think Cringely misjudges the importance of Microsoft Office in the market place. It's not just "the bludgeon Microsoft uses to keep other software vendors in line." It's also the application that millions and millions of business users have been using for years and years now. It's utter supremacy emerged with the release of Office 95, more than 11 years ago. An entire generation (or two) of business people has never used any other word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation graphics tool than the ones made by Microsoft. I believe they'd rather fight than switch. It's not that they love Office; it's that they don't want to waste even 30 minutes learning a different suite of office apps. Right or wrong, Microsoft Office is the business standard. And standards are good for business.

    Apple needs Microsoft Office for the Mac. It can't afford to take Microsoft on there. But, I tend to agree with Cringely that Microsoft won't yank Office off the Mac, at least not for a while.

    Whatever I may think about what Cringely is writing right now about Apple, it's undeniable his latest series of columns is a compelling read. Don't miss them. Check out his archive too, because the two previous columns are equally intriguing.

    Have you discovered a relatively unknown, technology-related website that's a little amazing? Please send me the URL so I can check it out and let everyone know about it.


    Newsletter Schedule
    Scot's Newsletter is a monthly e-zine delivered by email. My aim is to send each issue near the first of each month.

    In May I'll traveling on business quite a bit, including a trip to Microsoft where I hope to learn more about upcoming products. As a result, the timing of the next issue of the newsletter is a little up in the air.

    Keep an eye on Computerworld if you're looking for impromptu insights from yours truly. I've started a blog there and may be posting to the blog about things that I will write about more fully in the newsletter.

    You can always find out when the next issue of Scot's Newsletter is expected to appear by visiting the Scot's Newsletter home page.