|By Chris Spencer||
|December 18, 2004 12:00 AM EST||
Recently I was reading an article from Wired magazine talking about the Windows spyware problem . It was unbelievable to me that people would choose to use programs that they know make all their personal information available to companies. It turns out that 80% of Windows users suffer from spyware . I read many articles like these but always thought that these people have problems just because they aren't careful. Maybe they don't run anti-virus, they don't use a firewall, or they browse seedy sites and download applications for seedy activities. It turns out though that is not the case.
My wife discovered that her computer had been infected by spyware and trojans despite the anti-virus, regular Windows updates, having the good sense not to open attachments, using a firewall, and avoiding any type of seedy activities online. As best we can tell someone exploited IE transparently while she searched for medical information to help our nephew.
The clean up from these types of infections is great fun. I spent not less than 5 hours running about every spyware prevention program known to man. Each one searching for those pesky files and registry settings. The worst thing of all was that, once I cleared them off the disk, simply starting Internet Explorer would reinfect the whole system. Seriously, it was great fun and I did, eventually, have the satisfaction of beating the problem. That's right - a system administrator for 10 years with a degree in computer science and a RHCE CAN clean up a single spyware infection in 5 hours.
I hope you see what I am really saying here. How on this earth are people that aren't trained in Information Technology going to do it? As a Linux desktop user, I had never been exposed to this type of problem. Having now battled with spyware, I am finally motivated to speak up and say something to the world. I want to get a single message across:
It's time for anyone running a Windows PC to switch to Linux.
You see, the Windows platform is not just insecure - it's patently, blatantly, and unashamedly insecure by design and for all the lip service to security it's really not going to get better, ever. To make matters worse, it's more expensive and gives you fewer necessary applications right out of the box than Linux. Everyone, even Microsoft, knows this - they are just too afraid to say it. The tide is coming in. Nothing on this planet can stop it.
Whew. I said it. I am so happy to get that off my chest, however, for me to stop here would be unfair. I haven't really proved it to you. So if you will entertain me a bit longer here is the rest of the story.
Microsoft started conducting a "Get the Facts"  marketing campaign against Linux. This signaled that they have correctly assessed that their competition is Linux and that they need to fight it with all they have. It even made it into their 10K filing.  It's really an interesting read to note that Microsoft sees Linux as a major threat It's a big enough threat to their monopoly that they say:
"The Linux open source operating system, which is also derived from Unix and is available without payment under a General Public License, has gained increasing acceptance as its feature set increasingly resembles the distinct and innovative features of Windows and as competitive pressures on personal computer OEMs to reduce costs continue to increase."
If Microsoft thinks this then that alone is more than enough reason to give a fair look at Linux. Of course it's just as likely that they are preparing the lawsuits to attack Linux because it is a real competitor. I am not sure which distinct and innovative features they are referencing. Perhaps it was the whole GUI concept that Apple sued them for stealing from them. Perhaps it was the Microsoft Office-like functionality that Open Office has that Microsoft took from Word Perfect. It's hard to tell and it gets me off topic to delve into it.
Alright, let's talk about the "Get the Facts" marketing campaign. What happened is that Microsoft and vendors that make money on Microsoft products have all come together to tell us that we us why we should use their products. As a consumer and something of a student of history, I always question people that are highly motivated to protect their jobs and money. Did big tobacco say their products were safe long after they knew it wasn't true? Might Microsoft be inclined to say that their products provide better total cost of ownership (TCO) and security than another product despite knowing it wasn't true?
It turns out they have done something strikingly similar before.  When IBM OS/2 had just taken off and become "the best selling retail software product in America" then "sources close to Microsoft" leaked word to a columnist for the UK edition of PC Magazine, who dutifully reported both the rumor and source." - Computerworld, March 20, 1995, page 118. From there it was all downhill for IBM. Despite everything indicating that OS/2 was doing great the press just kept printing the Microsoft party line. In the almost 10 years since that happened, have things changed? Are they kindler, gentler, and friendlier to work with or do they still spin, bully, and use talking heads?
Carrying on in their history we see that, empowered by their victory over IBM, just 4 years ago Microsoft was ordered to be split in two by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson because they were convicted of abusing their monopoly market position. Then 3 years ago Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly reversed the decision to split them and a much lighter penalty was imposed. Unhappy with the results the EU took up the case and just this year Microsoft was convicted in the EU. Since then Microsoft has paid billions of dollars to the companies that were aligned against them. One by one settling the differences. Most of the companies had little choice but to accept the money they were offered. Because they have been so badly beat. Now they stand with billions of dollars in the bank and a patent portfolio that is rapidly expanding.
I don't know about you but when a convicted monopolist that has been shown to use those monopoly powers against their competitors says that Linux is a competitor but that it's not as secure or cost-effective, well then I take note. Because I know there is a good chance that a half truth was spoken.
Maybe Linux is shoddy code just hacked together by a college student. However, according to the four-year analysis by five Stanford researchers  Linux contains only "0.17 bugs per 1,000 lines of code" and most all of those bugs have been fixed. Given that an earlier study from Reasoning, Inc  had already shown that the Linux TCP/IP stack had a 0.013 per 1000 lines of code defect rate back in 2001, it is hardly astonishing that the entire Kernel is also relatively low in defects compared to your average commercial software application To put that in perspective the average code seems to have anywhere from 2 to 30 bugs per 1000 lines of code. That makes the Linux kernel between 11 times and 176 times better than your average product. So it's certainly not shoddy software by any stretch of the imagination.
Considering that many Linux distributions are free, it is hard to believe that it would be more expensive than Microsoft where a simple upgrade costs $100 and their Office application costs hundreds more. Call me crazy but I am having a hard time finding any truth in the "facts" as reported by Microsoft. However, Microsoft studies the TCO to show that other factors make Linux more expensive. Yet, the studies that I have read seem to make crazy assumptions like saying it takes more money to train users to push a button on Linux than it does to push a button on Windows. They also tend to ignore the costs associated with viruses, spyware, and trojans that prompted me to write this. Perhaps most unfortunately for Microsoft they also ignore that wildly varying labor costs directly affect TCO.  That means it wouldn't just be a poor decision it would be a completely moronic decision for a government to use the Windows platform in the third world if it wasn't absolutely necessary. To be honest, for a long time I have wanted to see a case study that took these types of issues into account. I was, for this reason greatly disappointed, when I heard about a study from Cybersource  that ignored these things but still found Linux, even Red Hat Enterprise Linux, to be at least 19% less expensive. So much for Windows being better value, they can't even win when the whole thing is tipped in their favor.
Maybe I missed something? Maybe Microsoft just happens to be truly better at security than Linux? For this I had to get dirty and dig. On the surface it did seem like Windows had fewer security issues. Looking at Seconia, a security research company, I discovered Windows 2000 Server has had only 76 Advisories in all of 2003 and 2004.  Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 on the other hand has 101 Advisories  and it wasn't launched until November and looking at Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 I found a whopping 145 vulnerabilities.  That looks pretty bad, right?
I am sure that is what Microsoft would like us to think. If we would just ignore the elephants in the closet then we would come to their happy conclusion. I'm not going to do that though.
Microsoft Windows is but one component in a much larger Windows platform. What good is the operating system without remembering productivity software, anti-virus software, instant messengers, media players, software to burn CD and DVDs, and the list goes on and on? These are all things that Red Hat and every other Linux distribution includes as part of the package. Usually they go so far as to include multiple applications for each function. It would be, therefore, completely unfair if we didn't compare a comparably equipped Windows platform to a comparable Linux platform. How do you add it up though? Whose products do you pick and whose products do you ignore? It's a horrible can of worms. I tried to do it. To build the comprehensive list so that we could compare a Microsoft Windows that's fully equipped like a Linux distribution and I was able to exceed the number of advisories. I just felt dirty doing it and in the process of doing it. Besides, I came to the realization that the bug count isn't what really mattered.
What really matters is that the bugs are getting fixed so you aren't online without protection and that the updates were easy to track and install. Both of which Microsoft is in serious trouble with.
With Linux all of the updates for all of the different types of applications come through a single path and in an automated way. It is a process very much like the Windows Update service. The key here is that one update service covers all of the products. On the Windows platform you can get the Windows updates this way but what about all of the third party applications we needed to have the same functionality as Linux? Each of those need to be searched for or are hidden inside the application themselves.
In my research I found one particularly nasty Microsoft bug that really emphasizes this point. I am talking about the GDI+ buffer overflow with JPEG processing . They put out a security bulletin and they released a patch for each of their affected products but they never identified who put the SDK library in their products and each of those products linked to it individually. Not only did this mean users had to be experts that researched the update on their own, but they also had to manually install it in each location. You have to admit, that sure isn't as nice as the centralized updating that Linux has. It seems more like a tidal wave to me.
Then there are the issues related to actually fixing the bugs that are known. Again, Secunia makes it really easy to see. Of the 76 advisories Microsoft 2000 Sever still had a whopping 20% outstanding and one of them was rated "Highly Critical". Red Hat Enterprise Linux had fewer than 1% outstanding and it was rated only "Moderately Critical". So much for fewer security updates meaning you are more secure and let's not even talk about the Internet Explorer Web browser. Because it is so insecure that the United States government, through the Computer Emergency Readiness Team, had to issue a warning to use any browser besides IE.  Yet, to use Windows Update you have to use IE. It's just not fair.
Then there is the issue of design. Linux was designed to be in a hostile Internet centric world. As people were programming it they knew this and it no doubt played a role in the designs of their products. With Linux you will find that firewalls are enabled by default, users rarely login as administrators, server applications run as users that have limited rights, etc. In Windows these obvious things were an afterthought. Finally put into Windows XP with the creation of SP2, well mostly. I think it's because of the mindset that Windows is for end users on either private networks or no network at all that Microsoft has been hit so hard by security issues. It's of course equally possible that the issue is entirely different. Maybe they don't fix the security holes because it's considered a feature. I know they said as much about the Windows Messenger Service  even though it was being actively used to send banner advertisements to desktops around the world.
Perhaps Microsoft is finding that the standard software wisdom about bugs  being less expensive to fix before a product ships is true because after several years of having security as the number one focus they are as plagued or more plagued by security issues than ever before. Maybe pouring money on the problem won't fix it? I mean come on Even before Windows XP  - we knew these things but it still shipped with the stupid default settings and we STILL have 20% of their advisories unfixed. How can anyone feel safe running on a Microsoft platform?
Linux provides a better paradigm. It costs less, it is more secure, and perhaps most importantly of all it isn't controlled by a single vendor. While Red Hat is the largest distributer of Linux and does provide a comprehensive support system and legal protections for their customers, they aren't alone. Major companies like IBM, HP, and Novell are all deeply involved with Linux but none of them are in control of it.
Because of Linux, the future of computing is commodity. By the year 2000, Linux already represented billions of dollars worth of development effort  and it's owned collectively by each one of us. The savings will follow and you can count on getting what you pay for or there will be someone else that is there for you on the terms that you want. The tide has turned and Microsoft is going to get wet. From my perspective they already are all washed up.
It's all an issue of attitude. Linux follows the share and share alike  mindset where as Microsoft seems to have the greedy mindset of it's all mine and I want to get paid for it now . Well Bill, Steve, and talking parrots, that's not very nice. As I have shown there are good reasons for using Linux as the better alternative to Windows. Give my friends at Red Hat a call. I am sure they could comp. you a copy. Anyway.....
Like I said: It's time for anyone running a Windows PC to switch to Linux.
I really appreciate you taking the time to read my letter and I hope that it gets you motivated to make the switch or, if you already have, that it just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
chris at digitalfreedoms dot org
Links (in order used):
 "Spyware on My Machine? So What?", Michelle Delio, December 6, 2004, http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,65906,00.html
 "Your PC May Be Less Secure Than You Think", Paul Roberts, October 25, 2004, http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,118311,00.asp
 "Get the Facts Home", December 14, 2004, http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/facts/default.mspx
 "Microsoft 2003 Form 10-K", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://www.microsoft.com/msft/ar03/alt/item_one.htm
 "The Warped Perspective", Tom Nadeau, June 28, 2001, http://www.os2hq.com/archives/wp38.htm
 "Linux: Fewer Bugs Than Rivals", Michelle Dellio, December 14, 2004, http://www.wired.com/news/linux/0,1411,66022,00.html?tw=wn_story_top5
 "Comparing free and proprietary defect rates", Joe Brockmeier, Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://lwn.net/Articles/22623/
 "License fees and GDP per capita", Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_12/ghosh/index.html
 "Study: Linux Is Still Cheaper Then Windows", Matthew Broersma, December 14, 2004, http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,118937,00.asp
 "Secunia - Vulnerability Report - Microsoft Windows 2000 Server", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://secunia.com/product/20/
 "Secunia - Vulnerability Report - RedHat Enterprise Linux ES 3", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://secunia.com/product/2535/
 "Secunia - Vulnerability Report - RedHat Enterprise Linux ES 2.1", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://secunia.com/product/1306/
 "Microsoft Security Bulletin MS04-028", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS04-028.mspx
 "CERT recommends anything but IE", John Oates, June 28, 2004, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/28/cert_ditch_explorer/
 "Microsoft's Help System Needs Help", Stuart J. Johnston, Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,113742,pg,2,00.asp
 "Software Testing", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_testing
 "Microsoft: Bad security, or bad press?", Elinor Millis Abreu, September 28, 1999, http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9909/28/ms.security.idg/
 "Counting Source Lines of Code (SLOC)", Retrieved December 17, 2004, http://www.dwheeler.com/sloc/
 "GNU Operating System - Free Software Foundation", Retrieved December 16, 2004, http://www.gnu.org/
 "Desktop Linux is Windows piracy aide", Michael Kanellos, September 30, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9909/28/ms.security.idg/
Vendor Links (for any vendors mentioned, in alphabetical order):
Red Hat http://www.redhat.com/
Secunia http://www.secunia.com/ License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0
|Baywolfe 02/05/05 01:59:45 PM EST|
A Reader, hackers would love to have any Unix clone become the #1 O/S. The value of spoofing IP addresses using Raw Sockets is worth it's weight in gold.
|Baywolfe 02/05/05 01:57:05 PM EST|
Forrest, methinks thou does protest too much.
|A Reader 02/05/05 11:34:12 AM EST|
I'm a long time Linux user, but one point that nobody seems to consider is that the majority of spyware, viruses, trojan horses, and cracking software are written for Windows is that Windows resides on the majority of machines. Hence writting the attacks for Windows raises the chance of a successful attack, since odds are the target machine is running Windows. As the proportion of Linux machines increases (which I believe it will), we will start to see more and more security threats for Linux appearing.
|Forrest 02/05/05 10:14:17 AM EST|
Come on, guys... the move to Open Source software is inevitable, like it or not.
A.P. Delchi, Abe and the like - I, too, have been in this game for a long while... cut my teeth on RSX-11 on the PDP-11 then onto assembler on the 6506/Z-80/8086, DEC VAX/VMS, IBM System 34/36, MVS, blah, blah, blah and hey, almost forgot my favourite - VIVA la CP/M!!!
If there is ONE thing we old-timers (in IT terms) should know, is that the game is constantly moving and the best technology doesn't always win.
(E.g. - Abe - you are spot-on when you say that VMS was the best OS of all-time - it's a pity DEC didn't open up the source-code because if they did, we'd all be using some derivative of VMS for sure - Unix and all of the other ix's would have been left in the dust.)
However, the fact is that Linux on the desktop is finally a reality. OSS is finally a reality. Sure, there are still some teething problems, but they are disappearing at an amazing pace.
Remember the LP? (Kids, that was a piece of black vinyl on which the music industry used to flog its products – it would spin at 33RPMs and sound great.) When the Compact Disc came along, there were all sorts of problems. "I can't play any of my favourite music - only the new stuff gets put on CD". Early CD manufacturers even had differing formats and were incompatible. Then we had the 2x, 4x, 8x, ... "over-sampling" race between vendors. Many suggested that the CD would never take off - and at one point it was to be usurped by the "minidisc".
Well, I don't suppose I have to remind anyone what happened to the CD. I even finally got rid of my old LP collection of 800 records or so, once I found a way of ripping my favourites to CD - somewhat akin to running a Windows app on Linux :o)
So, your favourite windows application doesn't run on Linux? Hang on a moment, it soon will - market forces are dictating so.
And all the brand new apps of any worth are coming out supporting Win and Linux from the word go - Skype is a perfect case in point.
Will all software eventually go the open source route? - of course not. Leading-edge software technologies will nearly always be proprietary - someone has to fund the expensive R&D required for truly unique innovation. But the more COMMODITIZED a software category becomes (like operating systems, relational databases, word processors, etc.), the sooner open source equivalents of the once-proprietary offerings will emerge.
At what point a person (or organization) feels comfortable in shifting to the new paradigm is up the individual (or company). It took me about 3 years to splash out and buy a CD player - and the next 10 to slowly replace as much of my favourite LP collection as possible with CDs. So, for a long time, I had a turntable as one of the components in my sound system. For a similar reason, I have a dual-boot laptop with WinXP and Gentoo Linux. But guess what? – the shift to the ubiquity of open source software IS inevitable.
What is to become of Microsoft? Well, the once-mighty king of the networking hill, Novell, has finally managed to re-incarnate from its demise (caused by its failure to appropriately react to the commoditization of networking) to become a force in the open source world. Microsoft will have to do something similar or be VERY clever to stay afloat in this new age of the open source model. Consumers are finally waking up to the fact that they are paying 100% for an imperfect product, 5% of which they will only ever use. Halleluya!
Linux guys – don’t slate a happy Windows user just because he/she doesn’t feel comfortable with gnome/kde, etc. yet. Conversely, you Wintel bigots also need to let the pioneers get on with making the new world palatable to the masses and don’t diss them for standing up on their soapboxes from time to time and proclaiming how wonderful the view is.
Ok - 'nuf said.
Back to my music ... CD-scmhee-D, where did a put my iPod?
P.S. hey “mbstone” – I use all the functions on my HP OfficeJet G95 all-in-one multifunction fax/scanner/printer/copier perfectly from Linux (FC3) – well, I can’t get the Cappuccino steamer to function, but it wouldn’t work under Windows either :o). It took a few minutes to set up, but at least I didn’t have to down load a 54MB file from the HP site and install HP’s XP version of their bloatware that would crash Windows altogether every other day. Also, my 3Com PCMCIA wifi card and two USB wifi (Belkin and Netgear) NICs worked perfectly when I plugged them in to my Fedora-driven laptop – plug ‘n play, man. And you WILL soon see little penguins on most computer products in Fry’s – trust me.
|mbstone 02/04/05 09:58:46 PM EST|
So where are the peripherals that run under Linux? Show me a multifunction printer, a wifi card, take me to Fry's or CompUSA and show me hardware product #1 that says on the outside of the box, Works With Linux. Then I'll consider switching.
|South African 01/25/05 07:51:23 AM EST|
Love that Linux wrote: "Being from South Africa, it hard to find good Linux help around here, they don't exist."
|love that Linux 01/08/05 11:25:38 PM EST|
Great, if you think it takes an administrator to run MS Windows, who do you need when in trouble with Linux. Being from South Africa, it hard to find good Linux help around here, they don't exist. I'd probably get good help online, if I could get the damn machine online, three modems later. But ok, I'll switch to Linux and be back to farming in a year ;)
|/me 12/28/04 07:39:24 AM EST|
Come on, Chris. You've been working on *x for so long, you wouldn't be able to configure a Windows machine if your life depended on it. Yeah, you're cool, Linux is cool, get back to your basement.
|RogueET 12/27/04 06:48:07 PM EST|
Linux is safe because it is created by the same people who use it. It was not slopped together the way MS does. Shoddy code slapped together by people who don't care.
As for the usability for the average user, Fedora installs just as easily as XP. My wife, who is an XP USER (note USER) can sit down at my machine and drive it the same way she drives her XP machine. It's not just a geek's OS anymore.
|Baywolfe 12/26/04 09:16:03 PM EST|
Please... Linux is a safe operating system because a small number of people are using it, therefore it is off the hacker's radar. If all the many different hacks that are currently directed at Windows were aimed at Linux, what then? Are you going to trust an Open Source "fix" for your OS? What if that's a hack too?
Most people use computers, not their operating systems. They don't even want to know about their internet connection (AOL), so why would they want to know about their OS? They want the company (MS) to take responsibility for the upkeep of the OS. Why do you think that MS gives the users the ability to install updates with no user interference?
Most PC users want to surf the 'net and play solitare. Not jack around with a geek's OS.
|oldman 12/26/04 09:48:31 AM EST|
Let me get this straight...
You won't put up with having to do maintenance work in a modern M$ environment, but you will put up with having to cobble together open source sw, install it resolve package dependencies. tweek the "little" things that go wrong - all while su'ing or sudo'ing your brains out (because as we knwo good linux sysadmins NEVER run in root) in a linux environment.
You are willing to void your wifes laptops warranty by placing an unsupported OS on her brand new laptop when you could have patched Windows XP and equipped it all that safe open source software that removes most if not all of the windows vulnerabilities.
This is your right to do, but it does not change anything - Linux as workstation for the casual non technical user has in my experiences barely reached useabiliity level that windows was at 10 years ago.
|schmokey 12/26/04 01:46:16 AM EST|
Well put Chris. Couldn't have said it better. Although I could likely add my share of points. Windows is a disgrace.
Got me a nice new laptop from my wife for Christmas. Almost made me head to the John, knowing full well what I had staring me in the face the first time I powered it up. Yessir!!! No less than XP Home. How special. Didn't take me 3 hours from the time I opened the box, I had Mandrake 10.1 (hey, anything is better than 'doze) downloaded and burned to cd with the desktop machine and installed, all devices up and running. Merry Christmas!!
One small caveat (or two), is that the acpi seems to need some tweaking and I had to hunt down and install libdvdcss in order to view my dvd collection. What a pain eh?? heh heh.
'Doze, my arse.
|rogueet 12/26/04 12:41:39 AM EST|
Wow. This really hits home. I, too, within the last week spent 5-6 hours un-bugging my wifes computer. It was infected with over 40 adware and spyware apps. I am not a RHCE but I am A+ and have an MCSE in NT and 2000. Guess you could say Microsoft is my bread and butter. I have intimate knowledge of Win 2000 security and I have to agree that it is a joke. Ironically, I found this article from my home machine running Fedora 2. I work as a network engineer and have been tapped to work on the security/IA side of the house. The tools I need to learn are Snort, Sidewinder, Netforensics and such. Yep, you got it, the Windows guy has to make himself smart on Linux. I always wanted to but never took the time. Now that I have to learn Linux I have had my eyes opened. I am quickly coming up to speed with Fedora and RHEL. I no longer use MS products on my home machine and am working on converting my wife. It took her less time to learn to navigate through Redhat than Windows.
The Microsoft fog is lifting. Yes Jimmy, we can build a better OS.
|kuza 12/25/04 07:29:51 PM EST|
I disagree that Linux is harder to use than Windows. Maybe if your first distro happened to be Gentoo or Debian, but most distros are more user-friednly than windows is. At least you don't have to spend ages installing things that should have come with the sistem in the first place! Or pay a few hundred dollars for something like MS office.
Let me just say that I agree with Spencer's opinions and also that I understand those who use MS windows.
|oldman 12/25/04 07:13:24 PM EST|
The only thing you have proved is that you are a good sysadmin and that you wifes computer needs are minimal (web surfing, work processing, etc.) This changes nothing. For those of us who do not have a built in sysadmin, Windows XP Pro is still easier to use and administer than a Linux Desktop. I have had NO virusea and hacks on my XP Pro home system by doing the following:
- Firefox is my Browser (IE is used only for updates)
|Banzai 12/22/04 05:21:12 PM EST|
Daer Chris Spencer!
|k1G 12/22/04 09:53:27 AM EST|
Aaaah yes, the great "Linux is hard to use" myth.
We dumped Billware in 2001 - my first installation was Caldera OpenLinux c/w KDE 1.x.
My wife, who is an average user, was up and running after a maximum 5 minutes tutorial, connecting to dial-up with kppd, surfing with Netscape, mailing with KMail, etc.
Once I'd explained about mounting/unmounting devices and where her personal files lived in the system, she was off.
These days she scans with kooka, downloads from our camera's cf card and GIMP's the images. How incredibly taxing.
If you want to talk system headaches talk to my friend in Germany who has just about given up trying to get Windows 2000 to talk to his brand new HP printer.....
|john reco 12/22/04 08:30:14 AM EST|
I guess most ppl opensource ppl just dont get it, people are happy with XP, its not windows 95 or 98 , its XP. It works fine, hardly no problems apart from IE. The problem with IE? Who do you think makes all these exploits and spyware...programmers ye? And what do alot of programmers use, thats right linux. So surprise surprise that most hackers out their go and hack windows. Also they never had to support DOS and old applications and be backward compatible like MS has. Only reason ppl are bothering to consider linux is because of the spyware problem, we all no that is not microsofts fault but the hackers. Its like blaming the bank and not the robbers in a holdup. THE PPL WHO MAKE SPYWARE IS THE PROBLEM, REPEAT THE PPL WHO MAKE SPYWARE ARE THE PROBLEM. LETS HAVE 1 million ppl hacking linux and im sure we'll find exploits. Right now XP is fine, server side linux is good, but for an interface for real users nothing beats Microsoft. Also, do users really like a blank interface DOS style, didnt we leave that back in the 80s/90s? X windows. Face it opensource ppl Linux is NOT easy to use for the new and average user, ill let you programmers keep it. One more thing imagine technical support, thats right technical support to all those dumb users who thinks their cd-rom is a coffee cup holder? Their gonna provide support for free? then again the adoption of upgrades will be decided by whom, at least when u pay for software, the problem is the companies, stuff that ill pay and let someone else worry about the problem.
|niiler 12/21/04 10:10:04 AM EST|
It's one thing to have experience in secure computing; it's quite another to share that with someone else.
The call is usually one of the following:
Just for fun, I've given them an extra computer running KDE 3.3.0 on top of Linux with all the latest scanning, printing, image processing, instant messenging, browsing, cd-burning, dvd-watching software...but they won't use it because:
The point is that you can educate users, but most simply don't want to be educated. They have gotten comfortable in their current paradigm (usually some mixture of the "freedom" of Windows 95/98 with the performance and "security" of windows XP) and don't want to change/learn anything different. Not only that, but remember that when it comes to family and friends, you can't set a policy like you can in a company. Telling the wife - NO - you cannot run that program that you love and have been using for ages because it is insecure is, in general a bad move.
In short, I've been where this guy has, and I'm totally sympathetic.
|Funksaw 12/21/04 07:55:46 AM EST|
I was much the same way with my laptop. Now, my main computer is a MacOSX desktop, but I had occasion to use the laptop every now and again. I also had to deal with my Windows98 work computer and my father's computer (WinXPHome) All were getting spyware. Mine wasn't.
I think it was because of a combination of factors:
First, I used Mozilla, rather than IE. Second, I connected through a Belkin router, with firewall built in.
I do know that I immediately had trouble with the computer upon hooking it up via a modem to Earthlink (my net connection was down a few days.) I got hit with a virus almost immediately - no browsing nessessary.
My ex-girlfriend's computer was much the same way - we got hit with a virus there IMMEDIATELY after a reformat. We had to reformat again, this time using my secure Mac computer to download a firewall and install it BEFORE connecting the computer to the network.
If I can find a Wi-Fi PCMCIA card - or better, a USB dongle, that works with Linux, I'm reformatting my laptop immediately to get it to work with linux. It's only on XP because I don't have the time to do it right this second.
That said, it WOULD be helpful if the guys at the computer places could point out "A wi-fi card that works with Linux" to me on the retail shelves... every Linux Wi-Fi guide that I've find points out which *chipsets* work with Linux, but that doesn't help me when I'm looking at wi-fi cards in the store - they don't publish chipsets on the box (indeed, I got my current wi-fi card because it was SUPPOSED to be Linux compatable but the company changed the chipset without changing the name of the card -- I'm steamed!)
|gggggggg 12/21/04 07:27:12 AM EST|
|calibanDNS 12/21/04 06:53:18 AM EST|
Windows (and it is in not unique in this) suffers from design flaws that cannot be fixed with patches. One obvious solution for these flaws would be for Microsoft, and other OS developers, to make an effor to redesign parts of their system which haven repeatedly proven to be easily compromised. Instead, MS continues to release versions of Windows with default settings that are dangerous to the average user. Microsoft is certainly not the only OS vendor guilty of this, but they are the most high profile and with their controlling share of the desktop market, are easiest to blame for the problems that arise because of infected computers and users who are unaware of how to protect themselves.
|kourge 12/21/04 06:32:41 AM EST|
If Microsoft really wants to make a great media player, they should buy Sonique from Lycos, make it open source, and start developing.
To see how Media Player sucks, try to play a video using Media Player, pause it, and drag the window around.
|Angel 12/21/04 12:06:20 AM EST|
No offense but saying that users are to blame for a shoddy piece of software that they consider trustworthy because most users are gullible and believe the MS bull lines is just wrong.
Users who are not knowledgeable in certain things should not be blamed if they happen to go to a site and get a malicious program installed without their consent because IE allowed the site to execute code.
What the MS fans are ignoring is the fact that yes Windows can do somethings that Linux can't like gaming. And given some programs and software aren't made for Linux but that's the developer's fault not Linux's. Don't knock the OS unless you're going to learn how to code and help make the necessary improvements to the Linux distros. After all, Linux allows you to make your own apps so why not make your own gaming app or drivers for your hardware? The sky is the limit if you know how to get there in Linux.
What Linux fans are ignoring is that most users comfortable with MS cannot just switch just like that. They're like babies still on the bottle. You have to wean them off slowly. You have to slowly make them less dependant upon MS programs firstly and then work on helping them get off of the OS itself. However, some people are stubborn and refuse to give up their MS or IE. Kind of reminds you of a mob that follows its leader to the ends of the earth without a thought of their own.
And you cannot force someone to use one OS or another or one browser or another. You can only recommend that they use a safer OS or browser and that's it. Unless they're your kids of course. ;)
Now those who are saying that he should not have taken that long to get rid of the spyware infection on his wife's computer are forgetting that spyware can slow a Windows system to a crawl or to crash repeatedly. Thus it might have very well taken that long to clear out all the garbage. Besides for a serious infection 5 hours isn't bad - that's about average.
And Windows is going to die sooner or later. All depends on when users will get ticked off enough to stop buying it. It can be years or months - only time can tell.
Linux is the future because they listen to what users want and they work to protect users from threats - because they are thinking like a user and asking themselves the questions... if I were to use this OS what would I want or need? What could make this OS better?
MS on the other hand only thinks about their pocket book. They could care less about what users want or need. They only fix things when they're risking losing profits or getting sued.
And I haven't had too much time to play around with Linux yet but as far as I can tell... XP looks uglier than any Linux distro I've seen. And Bluetooth looked even worse!
Linux is not for only geeks and advanced users. It is for those who are sick and tired of being pawns.
|Richard Morton 12/20/04 11:53:58 PM EST|
I totally agree that the only issue for me with Linux is the postability of software from the windows platform to Linux and the ease of use that windows offers that Linux appears to lack. I think it's high time someone should have the balls to say here is a base for the gui and make it as brainless as windows appears to be. The average user has no clue as to what a root dir is nor do they wish to relearn what they do not know. I'm talking the average user not those of us who have a desire to rip riggs apart and install software and write code. I'm talking about the user who buys a box and wants to plunk in down in their house and have it say yes I'm ready. If someone would just take up the torch I would do what I could to help carry it. I myself own two copies of XP legal and after having to re-activate one 8 times alone due to viruses or system crashes and/or hardware changes, They are refusing to activate the software telling me it's my problem and I should shell out another $445.00 CDN Well I didn't. and I won't ever again. Microsoft is the cause of pirating and good old uncle Bill knows full well what he can do with these two legit copies of Windows XP Pro... Trust me they'll fit.
|Steve Klingsporn 12/20/04 09:54:03 PM EST|
Linux is not the answer. There are security problems with Linux all the time, and there is very little, if any, "adult supervision" in the development process. Mac OS X is a much better choice. It's secure, has most all ports off by default, is very easy to use, and the hardware's very slick.
Linux is a nice server OS, and is a nice Unix for developers and geeks, but it's not at all ready for prime time in the consumer/home space yet. Too many people don't understand Mac and Windows as it is!!
|gad_zuki! 12/20/04 06:33:47 PM EST|
All my relatives who I have switched over to Firefox or Mozilla do not have ANY spyware. Nada. Nothing. I showed them a list of spyware apps, in other words what not to install and they have healthy and happy PCs.
Claiming switching to linux is the only solution is a huge admission of ignorance of how the spyware problem stems almost exclusively from one piece of software, namely Internet Explorer.
Windows, even as admin, can be safe for the technophobe. I've seen it and I continue to see it. The problem is IE. I don't care how savvy you are, if you're using IE to access the WAN (perhaps SP2 is an exception) you will get spyware and other nasties.
|Jim French 12/20/04 05:31:55 PM EST|
Actually it is a crime. (Just try hacking any company site, and get caught.) It's the getting caught part that's tricky. If you can convince the appropriate law enforcement agency that xyz has hacked into your computer, you can press charges. The only trouble is you might have a little difficulty if the hacker lives in another country.
|Jim French 12/20/04 05:20:49 PM EST|
David Simmons asked:
"If anyone knows how to run a windows application under linux they should really tell the world about it."
It is not a free solution but it works: VMWare.
I'm not trying to sell a product, but the question was asked and here is an answer.
Please note, to be legal you need to install a licensed copy of Windows on the virtual machine. Please also note, anything you do with the virtual machine using windows, will be just as vulnerable as running native Windows. However what you can do is create a virtual disk, install the software in question, and if it gets infected, simply wipe the virtual disk, (and create a new one re-install Windows and applications) but the rest of your computer is still safe.
There are other possiblities as well, such as Wine, but I am not familure with it. Do know VMWare has worked well for me for years.
|Jim French 12/20/04 05:00:25 PM EST|
The article mentions a single point of reference for getting all updates, but fails to provide what that link or point is.
|Digital World 12/20/04 01:33:53 PM EST|
We have already handled this problem. Buy your wife a Macintosh for Christmas.
|fishbot 12/20/04 01:20:47 PM EST|
To clean your PC of all these attacks the first thing to do is remove Windows and all its failings. Or buy a Mac.
|Abe 12/20/04 11:51:30 AM EST|
“I am a mercenary”
“A little background”
“all computers have problems”.
“It means that an experienced admin teamed with educated users can make any OS run safely and efficently. “
“I run my mission critical on Linux. I would never use a Windows server for anything.”
“Every day I hear the Linux people scream about how they have a better this and that. I then challenge them to retrain one user , and they back off.”
MS XP $120*1000 = 120,000/yr.
This is only a small part and for one year, don't you think these savings are worth hiring professional trainers?
“OS wars are not the answer.”
“Linux is not ready for the average user yet.” not true. Linux is more ready than Windows for all levels of users. Download MEPIS and give it a try. Just couple days ago, I downloaded its last version to test it out. I had Linux running with all apps. ALL I need in 30 minutes. I don't play games although there are some for Linux, Free & commercial. They might not be the ones for everybody's choice but give it time. Companies & governments all over the world are moving or planning to move to Linux everyday. Many commercial apps. are not available for Linux but give it time they will be. For many users, Linux is fully ready because all apps & tools they need are available. The majority of Internet users don't need much. They only need to surf the Internet, chat, office apps., e-mail and such and few games. It is estimated that this constitute 80% of home users. All of these are available on Linux and even better and cheaper (if not free) than Windows' apps . And who said everyone should use Linux? It is a choice and preference. No one is forcing any one else except MS. Their strategy has been all along to lock-in consumers and to kill every competition at any cost. This is the only way they know how to compete. Now is their turn to taste some of their medicine.
|jonbryce 12/20/04 10:53:41 AM EST|
How about an open letter to the local police dept to ask why companies get away with producing such spyware. It is illegal in most countries.
|mjh49746 12/20/04 09:30:55 AM EST|
If someone broke into my house and made a mess, it's breaking and entering AND malicious destruction of property. When someone breaks into your computer and ***** up your system files, isn't that ALSO breaking and entering AND malicious destruction of property? No? Then maybe it should be, because NOBODY will take it for the crime that it really is if we just treat it as a simple 'inconvienience
|anon 12/20/04 09:09:59 AM EST|
Windows user status sucks. I read a number of people who indicate one should run Windows XP in user mode, but have they actually tried it? Unless you wish to simple browse the Internet, you are pretty restricted and unlike Linux, a myriad of programs require “root access” and cannot be installed locally.
The first thing one should do before connecting Windows to the Internet is simply install a firewall, then run Windows Update, then install Firefox — sites exclusively reserved to Internet Explorer users are becoming decreasingly common, it should not be a problem anymore.
|stanislav 12/20/04 07:40:55 AM EST|
Very well said, Mr. A.P. Delchi.
"I am a mercenary. You give me an OS , and I will secure it as best can be done. I don't care what it is. I will train the users to use it properly."
I like to fancy *myself* to be such a mercenary.
I take care of many sytems. Linux, FreeBSD, and many, many Windows workstations. Mostly Windows ... Sigh. ...
I usally install Mozilla (firefox) plus privoxy for a user and then I show him/her "Look how different your favourite site looks with advertisment and Pop-ups removed. And now, let us visit a really nasty, aggresive site. See? 95% of adds removed." and then I have 60 seconds they will listen to my rant: "See, how much difference can a good piece of free software make?" And if it is my lucky day, I can start persuading them to stop using Outlook Express.
|A.P. Delchi 12/19/04 11:39:07 PM EST|
I've heard this rant several times before. I agree with the factual bits, and I can easily see where you are coming from.
A little background : I've been working in this field since the TRS-80 was the hot ticket to the computer world.
I currently administer several subnets each with about 300 or so people on them, using a mishmash of Linux, OS-X and Windows.
That being said, let me say that all computers have problems. All operating systems have bugs. All are vulnerable in one way or another. I have exploited machine after machine in testing at my office and I can say this with the knoweldge that I have been there and done that.
At home, I run XP, 2000, Redhat, FreeBSD, and TRSDOS.
I don't have spyware problems. I patch my Windows machines just like I patch my other machines ( except the TRSDOS one, naturally ). I surf " seedy " places in search of the latest and greatest worms, trojans and try to keep up on the edge. I don't have problems.
I had a user bring a machine to me with 45 pieces of reinfecting spyware on it. I cleared it in 2 hours.
Does this mean that Windows is better? No. It means that an experienced admin teamed with educated users can make any OS run safely and efficently.
Every day I hear the Linux people scream about how they have a better this and that. I then challenge them to retrain one user , and they back off. They tell me that OpenOffice is better and I challenge them to go to any department of my company and convert them. They back off. I try to walk users who ask me to help them convert from Windows to Linux, and they are fed up after about 3 hours. Mysefl personally? I wrestled with it for a month the first time, and threw it in the basket. I came back to it a few years later and now I use it with few probelms.
Does this mean that Linux is bad ? No. I run my mission critical on Linux. I would never use a Windows server for anything. I run XP on my desktop and open SSH connections to my Linux boxes.
Linux is not ready for the average user yet. Someday it will be. I don't say this to stir the pot, I say this based on experience on both coasts trying to help people convert.
Windows has issues, and it's backing company needs to get their collective head out of the sand and do somethign about it.
However, OS wars are not the answer. Trying to convert someone from one patform to another is just as wrong as sitting around bashing users for their choice.
I am a mercenary. You give me an OS , and I will secure it as best can be done. I don't care what it is. I will train the users to use it properly. I will do this becasue I know that no matter what you choose there are good decisions and bad, good users and bad, hackers that will attack you and succeed.
In the end it doesn't matter what OS you use. Learn what to do, learn what not to do, take precautions, and get your work done.
You can sit around coffee and donuts and beat each other up over whos OS is better, whose car is faster, who is the better pitcher, who the bowl teams are going to be next year, or who has the best ordering technique at starbucks.
I'll be in the server room keeping things running.
|Jim McCorison 12/19/04 11:09:23 PM EST|
I agree whole heartedly, except for one problem. What do you do if the mission critical application you run is only available on Windows? We live aboard our boat full time and are full time cruisers. Electronic navigation software is only available for Windows, or one obscure package for Mac. The software which provides us email over our HAM radio is only available for Windows. So we are trapped in a Windows world. This despite the fact that I am retired from Unix consulting and would vastly prefer a solution other than Windows.
|Bill Parkes 12/19/04 10:45:43 PM EST|
Good rant Chris :-)
I can see no reason a company that is not reliant on specialised software would even consider continuing to use a windows desktop, if you (the IT decision maker)are stuck and the specialised software is not made for Linux you should _demand_ a port from the vendor.
IBM has published a planning guide to help organisations migrate from windows to Linux.
|NoOneImportant 12/19/04 08:25:23 PM EST|
Well, great, I'd switch to Linux a long time ago, but I'm using Photoshop and Flash all day long so it's not an option for me... sadly
|James 12/19/04 07:47:28 PM EST|
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Heard it all before. Whining and squealing and finger pointing. It's just soooo boring.
Linux on the desktop is poor. The apps are crummy and the window managers ugly and bloated. I don't care about source code. Microsoft software is a security nightmare but with the appropriate preventative action it's possible to secure it (I mean what "technologist" in their right mind still uses IE???). Roll on OS-X for usability and relative security.
I'm bored with Unix - it's so old hat. I'm bored with Microsoft - but given both are so entrenched I daresay they are both here for the forseeable future.
|Karl 12/19/04 07:41:33 PM EST|
Please pay attention to Erik and fix the article typeo. Thanks.
|chong 12/19/04 06:43:37 PM EST|
I stopped reading as soon as I read the words "Internet Explorer."
Windows isn't the problem. You are the problem. Had the PC been properly configured from the get go you wouldn't have to worry about this stuff. By properly configured I mean running as a non-root user first and foremost, and then installing ANY other browser to take the place of Internet Explorer.
I'm all for getting people to use linux on their desktop machines, but its not Microsofts fault that you don't know what you are doing. What kind of CS program doesn't teach you that using the root account as your normal user is a bad idea?
People should use linux because they want to. Not because Microsoft sucks.
Microsoft isn't going anywhere. Windows is making it along just fine in enterprise deployments. I'm curious to see what Novell will come up with reguarding Novell Linux Desktop.
Linux on the desktop is slowly making progress. It's made enough for me to justify switching my parents over to Debian, but they don't have very complex needs.
|Joe Shim 12/19/04 06:16:05 PM EST|
Well, that's what you get for a bloated company. Seriously, Microsoft doesn't care about a thing in securing their programming code. I remember how happy i was with Dos 3.3 than with Windows 95 and the rest. Recently i am fiddling around with Linux (namely Fedora Core 3), and man, i find it to be exciting platform. Unfortunately, my management seems to believe that Microsoft is the one lowering TCO (*sigh*), and the best part is that back in 1997, someone told our management to use Linux but got an answer replying "What good is Linux?, you got to patch that always". Now back to 2004-2005, aren't we doing the same thing with Microsoft? For consumers, especially us in particular in South East Asia, we don't earn US dollars, so a US$100 is like 200 bucks to us, and most of us are just earning US$1000 a month with a diploma. So paying 200 bucks for a shoddy product is too much for us.
1. The most common available after eating up every competitor around the world in the early days.
If you tear yourself from Microsoft-centric products like Office and IE, then Linux by all means can do it for free and better. If it is games, then one has better learn to strip windows of it's excess services and registries. I'm running on 12 procesess now.
|Lucas 12/19/04 05:39:36 PM EST|
Your advice to suggest all Windows users to convert to Linux is premature. The fact is that in my home environment I want to run games - and the games do not have non Windows versions. The games will not run under Linux under the various Windows emulation environments.
At work, we run stacks of custom software, all of which is written for Windows primarily. It is possible in some cases to run Linux versions, but they are usually several release behind. Windows as a corporate desktop is sensible, even if it is not satisfying to some people.
Some users - home users with a browser and mail existence - can move to Linux now.
I have not problem with spyware and viruses under Windows, as I use Firefox and Thunderbird.
So it is not so much discard Windows - that is zealot talk - it is use what you have the best way you can manage.
Painting everything as black and white does not win hearts - they only become disillusioned when the promises are not kept.
As a collary - I am often asked what console to buy - the answer is always what games do you want to play? Buy the console that runs it. An operating system is a tool - not an end unto itself.
|WindozeBloze 12/19/04 05:32:51 PM EST|
As an owner of two computers running Windows as well as two Macs I can safely say that I would much prefer to buy Macs in the future than to continue running Windows. As someone who enjoys turning on the computer and immediately being productive I don't have time to fool around with arcane OS problems that I might encounter with Windows (or even Linux). I also find the Macs to be well constructed and elegant to look at. The Mac OS X operating system is light years beyond Windows or Linux. People reading this article should take a serious look at Macs.
|jmassey 12/19/04 05:02:33 PM EST|
I've ran Linux on a couple computers before, and so far I've liked it to the extent that it did the things it said it did, and it did them well. My most recent system (on my older computer) was Slackware and I have to say it was the smoothest install I've ever had, even compared to such distributions as Mandrake or Red Hat. However, I'm afraid that I am hopelessly attached to Windows until a) a broad variety of game developers start to directly support Linux, or b) It doesn't take intermediate-to-expert level knowledge and several hours of hand-tweaking files just so you can get a fairly modern game to run half-decent on Linux with things like Wine / Cedega / Whatever. Maybe that makes my Windows computer a glorified console system, but if that's the case then so be it...Linux has come a long way, but it's still got a long way to go before it can convince Everquest fans to switch. (I don't play it, b.t.w., but it's a great example of a huge market that Linux simply can not touch as it stands today.)
|David Simmons 12/19/04 04:24:19 PM EST|
In truth you can set up windows to work well, I have. It requires using as little of Windows as possible. But then I wouldn't say I'm an ordinary user so it doesn't quite work out.
Linux would be great, I have tried it before and did like it but for a few problems. As an engineer there's some stuff I need for my work and they're only available on windows. For example, the CAD programs I use, wonderful tools they are, are windows only. If anyone knows how to run a windows application under linux they should really tell the world about it. There's no doubt a fair number of people who would switch but are stuck saying "but then I can't use this one program I just need to have..."
|Res 12/19/04 04:13:51 PM EST|
Having already made the switch...I feel torn...some of the points Mr. Spencer makes are superb...and some are just as specious as Microsoft...so in the end...should I believe him that Linux is perfect? Or should I realise that no OS will ever be perfect, there will always be bugs, and that I should just use the best and what works for me and not fall prey to zealotry or petty civil wars? Yeah...that sounds pretty good.
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SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search an...
Apr. 27, 2017 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 647
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
Apr. 27, 2017 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,109
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Apr. 27, 2017 05:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,241
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
Apr. 27, 2017 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,311