21st Log: Brief reports and tidbits from the info-sphere.

An instant sequel to Microsoft's "Halloween" memo on Linux.

By Scott Rosenberg
Published November 6, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

Earlier this week we wrote about the "Halloween Document" -- in which a Microsoft engineer analyzed the threat to the company from the "free software" or open source movement. No sooner had the Net begun to absorb the contents of that leaked memo than a second memo turned up to extend the story.

The sequel -- leaked to open source advocate Eric Raymond and posted Thursday as "Halloween II" -- focuses more closely on the free Linux operating system than on the general methodology of open source software development. Though it contains fewer strategic recommendations for Microsoft to combat the upstart challenge, it cements and deepens the tale the first memo told of Microsoft's vulnerability and open source software's strengths.

"Halloween II" tells how, last August, Microsoft engineers Vinod Valloppillil and Josh Cohen took an old Pentium 100 box, installed Linux on it and were blown away by its performance: "I previously had IE4/NT4 [the Internet Explorer browser and Windows NT] on the same box, and by comparison the combination of Linux /[Netscape] Navigator ran at least 30-40 percent faster when rendering simple HTML and graphics."

At another point, one of the authors describes the appeal of being able to look at the operating system's source code: "I'm a poorly skilled UNIX programmer but it was immediately obvious to me how to incrementally extend the DHCP client code (the feeling was exhilarating and addictive)."

The message of "Halloween II" echoes its predecessor -- Microsoft must beware of Linux, not only in the market for servers but across the board: "Long term, my simple experiments do indicate that Linux has a chance at the desktop market, but only after massive investments in ease of use and configuration."

Scott Rosenberg

Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg is director of MediaBugs.org. He is the author of "Say Everything" and Dreaming in Code and blogs at Wordyard.com.

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