[MUD-Dev] Preference for host OS

Vincent Archer archer at frmug.org
Mon Sep 10 13:14:43 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

According to Brian Hook:

> The factors that seem to be the crux of an OS choice are probably
> price, robustness, security, performance, and ease of
> installation/administration/development.  I've done some Linux
> installs and, overall, they seem to be okay (RH and Mandrake).

Price is a stopper, which excludes some OSes, but it's not a
deciding factor.

The main and overriding factor for selecting an OS is: familiarity.
Pondering about robustness, performance is probably good for a
manager, but the real criteria is: how well do the programmers
and/or administrators of the system know it.

Unix is typically more secure (chiefly because it's easy to prune or
replace unwanted components) than Windows, but if when (as a
security consultant) I was faced people who worked in a Windows
environment, I often told them to stick to Windows because it's
better to be able to do something on a system you know than to rely
on a black box you don't.

The trick, then, is to diagnose false expertise. Many people tell
you they know Linux when all they know is how to click on the
Mandrake config GUI. The same persons will tell you they are
"Windows admins" when all they know is setting dynamic IP address
and removing a task from the automatic startup list. I'm slightly
exxagerating, but I saw similar situations all the time.

So, once you've got your mind set on Unix vs Windows (OS X is really
a disguised Unix), the question is automatically answered: you pick
either NT, or the Unix flavor you're familiar with.

Now, if you don't have a deep enough knowledge of any of the
considered OS for this to be a factor, what to choose? Personally, I
much prefer Unix. Windows offer better development environments, but
the advantage of Unix is its loose coupling between all the
components of the system which allows you to prune and tailor the
system to the exact task required and no more (which means less
security risks). And that's a good feature to have when you're
making a system that has to sit on the Internet (even with a
firewall) to serve people from all over the world.

Now, as for Unix, there's no strict and exact preference. The BSD
variants are probably more stable (OS X is a BSD variant), while the
Linux variants have probably a lower barrier of entry for the novice
to Unix.

By stable, I mean softwarewise. None of these crash particularly
more often than any other (well, I know one Solaris system that ran
for over 400 days before an electric maintenance forced the
datacenter to shut it down), but the Linux variants are prone to
quick and rapid software updates (Debian, in particular, falls down
to this syndrome, as it's developped by a large and loose
organisation of people, and dependencies between parts of Debian can
sometime cause you to upgrade half of your system because you just
wanted to add PHP4 to your web server).

Linux is also falling prey to its popularity; many script kiddies
these day have ready-made cracking tools for the most popular
variants (notably Redhat). It was great fun, once, to watch a hacker
try to become administrator on a FreeBSD machine by using every
single trick for...  a RedHat6 system. :)

	Vincent Archer			Email:	archer at frmug.org

All men are mortal.  Socrates was mortal.  Therefore, all men are Socrates.
							(Woody Allen)
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