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1. Commentary: Does Microsoft Market Domination Spell Doom?

2. What's New in the Online Article Archive


May 2003 Issue
- Focus: Capitalize on Microsoft Management Options
- Plan It
- Solve It

3. Announcements
- Order Windows & .NET Magazine and the Article Archive CD at One Low Rate!
- Last Chance to Register: Windows & .NET Magazine Connections

4. What's New in the Latest Issue


November 2003 Issue
- Focus: Migrating to Windows Server 2003
- Editorial
- Lab Feature
- Buyer's Guide

5. Event
- We've Added 3 New Web Seminars

6. Contact Us
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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==== 1. Does Microsoft Market Domination Spell Doom? ====

by Mark Minasi, Senior Contributing Editor, mark@minasi.com

In late September, a group called the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) released a report taking Microsoft to task for the company's dominance in the industry. (You can read the report at http://www.ccianet.org/papers/cyberinsecurity.pdf .) Although this report is old news, it provides a new spin. The CCIA claims that Microsoft's monopoly threatens national security. But is the computing world getting more insecure because of Microsoft market dominance? I think the short answer is "yes," but the more complete answer is "yes, but we can't do much about it."
The report's writers use a biodiversity metaphor to make their argument. Let me use the following example to explain the CCIA's position. Suppose Monsanto uses genetic engineering to design the perfect tomato. It tastes good, grows under a wide variety of conditions, is disease-resistant, and yields more tomatoes per acre than any other competitor. In just a few years, virtually all tomato growers will have switched to this super tomato. Then a nasty tomato pith necrosis strikes our super tomato with particular ferocity; 99 percent of the tomato crop is unusable. The loss of ketchup and salsa (the two most popular condiments in America, I'm told) decimates hamburger sales, the lack of tomato sauce eviscerates the pizza market and brings sad times to Italian food lovers, and before you know it, chaos ensues. If only some farmers had planted some other tomato. Just a few trainloads of The Second-Best Tomato might have saved us, but there are none.
Seriously, this is a grave concern in the biological/ecological world. Introducing a disease into an ecosystem (or agricultural system) with a wide variety of organisms results in far less damage than introducing a pathogen into a system with a small number of different genomes. But is this an appropriate analogy for computing? Again, probably yes.
Imagine a world in the near future that mostly runs Windows NT in some variety; then imagine a hole like the one that MSBlaster crawled through. What if the people who discovered the MSBlaster hole didn't tell anyone, but instead, figured out how to exploit the hole with a destructive worm that left so many back doors behind that the only certain way to disinfect the system would be to use FDISK and rebuild. Imagine that the worm spreads as quickly as Slammer--which hit about 90 percent of all the systems that it would ever hit in just 7 minutes--and you have the plot of a pretty scary disaster movie. So yes, if the most of the computing world settles on Microsoft OSs, and if Microsoft OSs continue to be vulnerable to attacks of the magnitude of MSBlaster or Slammer, then yes, one day this scenario could happen.
How can we avoid this possible scenario? Clearly, one answer is more "cyberdiversity." Some percentage of us should use Macs, others Windows, and others, Linux, Solaris, HP/UX, and so on. Or a better answer would be for every organization to use a bit of each.
By now, you're probably shaking your head, saying "he can't be serious," and I'm not. Having to deal with interoperability problems, whether within an organization or across organizations, just makes computers more difficult to use, and I can't imagine anyone willingly taking on more interoperability responsibilities. To continue the agricultural analogy, what tomato farmer would willingly grow a tomato with worse market and profitability potential?
I'd argue that interoperability is so much of an annoyance that under any scenario, a population of computing users would want to standardize on something. For example, in the absence of Microsoft Office's dominance, I doubt that 20 percent of the world would use TeX for their documents, 25 percent would use some kind of PDF-like tool, 40 percent would use Corel WordPerfect, and 15 percent would use some Lotus product. People would naturally gravitate to some set of standards, whether de facto or de jure. If Linux or Solaris were the OS of choice for 90 percent of the servers and desktops in the world, then we'd be just as vulnerable to a "killer bug," unless we believe that Linux or Solaris are inherently more bug-free and secure than Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000, and I've never seen any numbers that support that belief.
To date, we've standardized on alternating current (AC) in our walls rather than a mix of direct current (DC) and AC. We've also standardized on gasoline in most of our cars' fuel tanks instead of a mix of kerosene, jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline. We didn't arrive at these standards because they were necessarily the best answers but because they were good enough answers and we didn't have to worry about a lot of compatibility problems in power. In the same way, I believe that we'll always have a dominant OS--whatever that OS might be--and that we'll always be vulnerable as a result.
What's the answer? Yes, we've seen some pretty scary bugs in the past few years in the Microsoft, Solaris, and Linux worlds, but the strides that Microsoft has taken in automated patching tools are steps in the right direction. The company has a long way to go--patching feels as if it's in the DOS 2.1 days right now--but Microsoft knows that it's in the security spotlight and it had better solve the patching problem once and for all. If it doesn't solve the patching problem, then the Solaris and Linux guys might.

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==== 2. What's New in the Online Article Archive ====

May 2003 Issue
To access this issue of Windows & .NET Magazine, go to the following URL: http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/issues/issueid/640/Index.html

Focus: Capitalize on Microsoft Management Options
In this issue of Windows & .NET Magazine, we'll show you how the new tools in the SMS 2.0 Feature Packs can add value to your SMS installation and help you effectively use SMS in distributed, multisite networks.

Plan It

Fast Forward: (Almost) Perfect Devices
Current smart-device technology comes close to delivering every item on Mark Smith's wish list.
--Mark Smith
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38481/38481.html

Storage Admin: Virtually Confused About Storage?
Storage virtualization can be complex. Windows 2003's new Virtual Disk Service makes the process much simpler.
--Jerry Cochran
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38483/38483.html

Solve It

Inside Out: Assemble a Security Template
Get the most out of security templates in XP and Win2K.
--Mark Minasi
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38497/38497.html

Windows Client: Scripting with WMI
Discover how to script with WMI to automate the task of gathering desktop inventory information.
--Ed Roth
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38498/38498.html

Best Practices for Exchange: Content Scanning Your Exchange Servers
Learn techniques for monitoring mailboxes, doing keyword searches, and scanning content on the fly.
--Paul Robichaux
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38499/38499.html

Scripting Solutions: More About How to Assign Network Resources
Finding common elements lets you assign network resources to more than one user or computer at a time.
--Christa Anderson
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38500/38500.html

TOP 10: Renaming Special Folders
Discover how to change the name of Recycle Bin, My Network Places, and other Windows special folders.
--Michael Otey
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/38503/38503.html

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==== 3. Announcements ====
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Last Chance to Register: Windows & .NET Magazine Connections
Windows & .NET Magazine Connections will co-locate with Exchange Connections on November 2-5. Now is your last chance to register. Learn the latest tips and tricks from gurus like Mark Minasi, Mark Russinovich, Tony Redmond, and Sue Mosher. Attend both conferences for the price of one, plus you'll have a chance to win a free vacation. Register now.
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==== 4. What's New in the Latest Issue ====

November 2003 Issue

Focus: Migrating to Windows Server 2003
In this issue, you'll find a special Exchange Server 2003 section and help for making the Windows OS migration decision.

Editorial

Is .NET Dead?
Microsoft's dropping the .NET name from its server products is neither a marketing failure nor a signal that .NET is dead.
--Michael Otey
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/40464/40464.html

Lab Feature

Spinnaker Networks SpinServer 3300
Learn how to centrally manage as many as 512 servers without disrupting users or causing system downtime.
--John Green
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/40452/40452.html

Buyer's Guide

Single Sign-On Products
Save users from having to write down their numerous passwords.
--John Enck
http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/40453/40453.html

==== 5. Event ==== (brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

We've Added 3 New Web Seminars
You won't want to miss our latest free Web seminars: Understanding the Identity Management Roadmap and How it Fits with Your Microsoft Infrastructure, Assessing IM Risks on Your Network, and Five Keys to Choosing the Right Patch Management Solution. Register today for these informative and timely Web events!
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==== 6. Contact Us ====

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