Stories by Nicholas Petreley

Opinion: NetWare reloaded

Life imitates art, or at least popular entertainment, more often than we'd like to think. Some of the current drama in the IT industry has intriguing parallels to a recent, popular movie sequel. Here's an excerpt of how the screenplay might go in the IT universe version:

Sun Microsystems takes a turn on the couch

Sun Microsystems enters the office of noted therapist Dr Sickmund Fraud and lies down on the couch. “Doc, I think I’m having an identity crisis,” Sun confides. Dr Fraud: Well, they say recognising the problem is the first step toward addressing the problem. So how long have you had this problem?

What Microsoft customers want

Now that the Microsoft antitrust trial is over and Microsoft is no longer distracted from its full-time effort to eliminate the word competition from the English language, I notice that the company’s spokesmen have retreated from their daily usage of the word innovation and have returned to justifying every product, policy and technology by saying: “This is what customers are asking for.” I’ve often wondered what customers would say if they wrote letters to Microsoft requesting the kinds of things the vendor delivers, so I decided to try my hand at drafting one.

Opinion: SCO-Microsoft conspiracy theory

The SCO Group vs. IBM lawsuit gives off a subtle, unpleasant odor I couldn't quite place. When SCO set its sights on Linux distributors and even Linux itself, the source of the stench became unmistakable -- Redmond. It was too early to make an accusation when the suit was filed since any such claim lacking even circumstantial evidence would be nothing more than a conspiracy rant.

Getting out the crystal ball

Every year after the dust of the holidays settles, I like to wipe off the old crystal ball and take a peek into the future of IT. Before I get started with this set of predictions, allow me to boast a moment about my record. My predictions may not pan out as quickly as I expect, but they usually come to pass.

PHP and Python hit prime time

It's strange to say that PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) has only recently reached the point where it's ready for prime time, since PHP is already the most popular Apache module, running on almost 10 million domains (over a million IP addresses).

Two sides to every dsniff story

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. All network traffic should be protected by strong encryption. I recently learned that even SSL is simple to bypass, thanks to a powerful collection of free, open-source network sniffing utilities called dsniff. So if you think you're safe because you're using Secure Shell (SSH) instead of Telnet, or because you've connected to a Web site by using the https address, think again.

Where McNealy's wrong about open source

I found interesting comments in an interview Robert McMillan conducted with Scott McNealy. Let me sum up McNealy's views, and what I think is right and wrong with them. While it's not my intention to alter a subtlety in McNealy's argument, please send me a message if you believe I have, and include an explanation of where I went wrong.

Kick-starting the Web

I'm getting tired of waiting for the Web economy to restart, so I'm going to offer two suggestions to give it a kick in the pants. One of the many reasons the dot-com bubble burst is that there are so few ways to fund a Web service. You can adopt a subscription model and make users pay to reach the content, but that approach flops more often than not. Or you can make the content free and support the site through advertising, but most vendors have little incentive to advertise on the Web.

Think like a terrorist

I was working from my home office a few years ago when my access to a Web site called NC World was suddenly cut off. My service provider told me that a router in Southern California had gone down. This struck me as odd for two reasons. First, I live in Northern California, about a half-hour from San Francisco, where NC World was hosted at the time. Second, I was under the impression that one of the primary design goals for the Internet was to make sure that communications would proceed uninterrupted even if some of the primary hubs are taken out by a nuclear blast.

Palladium power play

I hope you caught the Computerworld article about Microsoft Corp.'s proposal for a new security chip called Palladium. I read the story a half-dozen times, and I'm still not sure if it's a real project or an attempt at self-deprecating humor by Microsoft. There's so much wrong with this idea that it's difficult to decide where to start debunking it.

Open source's open door

As most of you know, much of success has to do with being in the right place at the right time. A golden opportunity is about to emerge, thanks to consumer advocates and a horde of greedy lawyers, and open source will once again be in the right place at the right time to exploit this opportunity.

Tips for tough times

I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but as much as I keep hearing we're in an economic recovery, you couldn't prove it by me. The evidence of said recovery certainly hasn't trickled down to me or to anyone I know. Perhaps I need to change my newspaper delivery route to a richer neighborhood.

Open rules for e-business

I went to J.C. Penney the other day to buy some socks, when the strangest thing happened. As I attempted to step through the store entrance, my foot went flying upward into my face, forcing me to do a back flip and land on the sidewalk. The J.C. Penney store manager, who happened to be walking by at the time, explained that I couldn't enter the store as long as I was wearing New Balance sneakers; the floor was compatible only with Nike.

IT from Planet Bizarro

I have always loved comic books and old science fiction movies. I wasn't a big fan of Superman, but I liked the stories about the planet Bizarro. Bizarro was an opposite world, where people set their alarm clocks to ring when it was time to go to sleep. And for some reason I never quite understood, the Bizarro people all talked like Sesame Street's Cookie Monster: "Me want cookie."
As for old science fiction movies, one of my favorites is the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Kevin McCarthy.

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