Production Machines

a companion to my article on Web servers by Philip Greenspun for the Web Tools Review.

A Web server is a big fast machine that has to be close to the Internet backbones, run for months without crashing, and be manageable remotely. My primary personal Web server now is a Hewlett Packard K460 running HP-UX. Racked up with its UPS, it weighs 3000 lbs. I would not want to have it on my desktop.

Here's what I think a Web nerd needs for a desktop machine:

  1. Ability to run an X Windows server so that one can drive Unix boxes remotely
  2. Crash-proof operating system so that this X server cannot be taken down by a bug in another application (e.g., Netscape Navigator)
  3. Ability to run the latest Web browsers and plug-ins so that one can test one's site.
  4. Ability to run Adobe PhotoShop
  5. Ability to run, it pains me to say this, Microsoft Office
Conveniently enough for Bill Gates, it turns out that there is only one operating system in the world that meets these criteria: Windows NT.

I realized this intellectually long before it was true in practice. I documented my stumblings with NT 3.5.1 and then went back to my HP Unix desktop box. But in September 1997, I finally pushed my HP Unix box into the machine room and went 100% NT on the desktop.

The Right Hardware

You want to buy a machine that is purposely designed to run Windows NT. In the old days, tech people thought that software was more flexible than hardware so they might as well write all the software very generally and then they could use any hardware. Microsoft changed all that. Now hardware engineers have to try to figure out what 22-year-olds at Microsoft had for breakfast and design boards accordingly. This means that you may be extremely sorry if you let a computer into your house that is not already running NT.

My personal choice is a Hewlett-Packard Vectra 200. I like HP for the following reasons:

It is a shame that there aren't more consumer-priced machines that come packaged with NT. It is obvious that Windows95 is beyond the capability of consumers to administer. Helpless users are constantly having to bring in near-professional sysadmins to make their home Win95 work. NT really isn't much harder to set up and it certainly is no harder for a professional to set up. So people might as well get a system that is robust enough to not mysteriously degrade. Anyway, nobody else seems to share my belief so it is tough to find a $2000 NT box on the shelf.

It is worth paying someone to install everything that you think you will ever want on your computer before you take it home. My experience is that once a PC's case comes off, it never goes back on. If you can make something work electrically, you probably can't get it to work mechanically. If it goes in mechanically, you either won't be able to get it to work electrically and/or you won't be able to get the software to work.

As far as disk drives go, you'll want at least a 4 GB and probably a 9 GB disk. Remember that one PhotoCD contains 500 MB of data. With 9 GB of space, you'll be able to do things like copy whole CD-ROMs onto hard disk for awhile. You want the disk formatted as NTFS (NT file system) instead of FAT (the old losing DOS file system); NTFS is much more robust and doesn't have a stupid set of shadow 8+3 file names.

If you have a big PC server then what you want is a Mylex RAID controller (a $1000 card) and 6 hard disk drives. The RAID controller spreads your data across 5 disks (you want RAID level 5 for almost all purposes). When one of them dies, its place is taken up by the 6th (a hot spare). You do not lose any data. When a second disk dies, you still don't lose any data but you will if you lose a third disk.

Someone malicious and/or stupid could get into your system and delete all of your data. So even if you have a nifty RAID-5 you'll want to back up. What you want is an internal DDS3 DAT tape drive. These store 12 GB of data (24 GB with compression) on a $30 4mm tape. They cost around $1000.

You probably also want an HP CD-ROM writer ($500) so that you can ship huge files to other people and/or archive stuff. Under NT, these require installation of some extra software from Adaptec (ASPI) and you can't copy directly from an IDE CD-ROM reader to the HP (SCSI) device.

As far as graphics go, it is a huge challenge in the PC world to get to where a Mac II was in 1986. NT 4.0 is so primitive that it can't drive multiple monitors. Once again, Microsoft's software backwardness has been papered over by clever hardware engineers. You can buy pairs of identical Matrox Millinium video cards that will pretend to the OS that they are one big 1200x3200 pixel video subsystem. Then you can have two 20" monitors on your desktop. My friends tell me that they can't ever get this to work because the monitors interfere with each other magnetically. My personal desktop has Hewlett-Packard Ergo 1600 monitors side-by-side and they do not distort each other.

All the pictures on those monitors will look incredibly dark, however, because Microsoft forgot to engineer gamma correction into their operating system (another thing that Apple had back in the 1980s). If you look at the comments in my fixing gamma article, you'll see that some people have figured out how to work around this using controls for the display cards. It goes without saying that you want 4 MB or 8 MB of video RAM in each card. This gives you 24-bit color ("millions" or "true color"). Smart programs like PhotoShop can sometimes make do with the more common 16-bit color on PCs but stupid programs like Netscape only display photos properly with 24-bit color.

The Right Software (to talk to Unix)

The first thing I want to do after plugging in a new computer is check my email. Of course, I would never trust my email to the ongoing harlequinade of Windows mail systems. I use GNU Emacs on HP Unix. So I need to connect to my HP Unix machine and start up an X-hosted Emacs.

I could just use the TELNET client supplied with Windows to talk to my Unix machines. At MIT, however, we don't have a firewall. And we have some Linux machines. That means there are all kinds of crackers running packet sniffers from these Linux boxes. TELNET sends username/password in the clear. So a few minutes after I log into my HP Unix box, the cracker can log in also.

A pretty reasonable solution is to download an SSH client for Windows from This encrypts not only the login process but also all the other packets that go back and forth between you and your Unix box (even ones for X-hosted apps that you start).

As soon as you're logged in, you have to start up an X server on your NT box. My favorites are eXodus from and Exceed from I'm sentimentally attached to eXodus because it is the best Macintosh X server. Most people at MIT seem to like Exceed the best and the Hummingbird people claim that it is far and away the market leader.

I am looking incredulously right now at an April 1997 research report that says the market for PC X servers is $125 million/year! Apparently I'm not the only one doing this.

The Right Software (to work with Unix)

At some point you'll probably begin to think that it is pretty stupid to merely use your NT box as an X terminal. Your Pentium II is probably 10X faster that moldy old SPARC so why not run Emacs locally?

If you are a wizard, you can download all the GNU stuff and make it run on NT. I can't but I have friends who can. Then you have to figure out how to make Unix file systems available to your local Emacs. You can install some crud on your Unix box to make it look like a Windows file server (SAMBA is the standard, and free, solution). Or you can install some crud on your NT box to make it capable of NFS-mounting a Unix file system.

I've tried and failed with SAMBA so now I think it is probably easier to make the PC understand NFS. I'm hoping to test out Hummingbird's NFS client soon and add a report here.

The Right Software (Web Production)

Of course you'll want to install Netscape 4.0. One good thing about this version is that you can choose "Edit Page" from Server A then "Publish" to Server B and copy pages with in-lines around with ease.

For production, you need Adobe PhotoShop. It has its own built-in gamma correction stuff so you don't really have to get your video card act together to do photo production.

I've given up on having a drawing tool. I simply can't draw.

Recording sound into a Windows NT box reveals that Microsoft apparently needs more than 13 years to copy the Macintosh user interface. If you do the obvious thing and stick a microphone into the microphone jack and open Programs -> Accessories -> Multimedia -> Sound Recorder, you'll get noise and static. Why? Well, you could figure that you need a fancy program like Sonic Foundry's SoundForge. So you shell out $500, spend two minutes installing the program, and use its comprehensive recording controls, meters, etc. What do you get? Noise and static.

So you get your friend Jin to play with the NT box and he uncovers Programs -> Accessories -> Multimedia -> Volume Control. Wow! A mixer for all kinds of hardware such as "line-in", "CD-ROM", "Synthesizer", "Wave Output", "Microphone", etc. Since most of these things aren't running, you figure that this must be the source of the noise. So you turn off everything except "Microphone" and try again... Noise and static.

What's wrong? You were adjusting the mixing for playback, not recording (why "Microphone" is a default playback option at all is beyond me; perhaps for low-budget Karaoke). There is nothing in the volume control panel to indicate this. You have to pull down Options->Properties and set the control panel to work for recording. Turn off everything except the microphone or line-in or whatever you're trying to use and you will be able to successfully record sound.

Note: Once you get past the horrors of the operating system, SoundForge works very nicely. I was able to record and save in RealAudio format without resorting to the manual.


I'm keeping a little section on the Macintosh for two reasons. The first is that Apple brilliantly illustrates the moribund nature of the software industry even better than Microsoft. Why? Because Apple bought the NeXT OS in 1997 and was able to credibly call it a step forward. Imagine if the president of General Motors said, in 1997, "It has come to my attention that our cars are kind of clunky and unreliable. Don't worry, though. We're rectifying this problem by licensing the blueprints to the 1985 Toyota Camry." Everyone would laugh. Maybe GM cars aren't state of the art but certainly a 1997 Chevy is better than a 1985 Toyota. Car making is a mature industry but you can't compete by offering technology that is 12 years old.

People assume that computer technology moves forward at a rapid clip, yet no eyebrows were raised when Apple said that its big step forward was going to be licensing the NeXT OS. This is Steve Jobs's late 1980s facelift of Carnegie-Mellon University's early 1980s rewrite (Mach) of Bell Lab's early 1970s Unix. Maybe it is better than Windows NT but, if so, that only makes the whole software industry look more pathetic.

Nor does anyone really reflect on the irony of the fact that it took Microsoft three tries to successfully copy the Macintosh user interface, itself mostly a copy of the mid-1970s Xerox PARC stuff. This is a healthy industry where a company with an unlimited fount of cash (from its MS/DOS monopoly) can't copy the work of a handful of programmers? Of course, on the fourth try (Win95/WinNT4.0) Microsoft finally did a couple of nice things, but that was 12 years after the Macintosh was introduced.

Finally, very few people thought it worth remark that Apple was paying its good programmers so little that they all bailed and left the company with the same old technology from 1984. Meanwhile, they were paying executives hundreds of millions to run the company into the ground. One of my favorite things about the Internet, though, is that it provides an outlet for writing that doesn't have an obvious commercial market:

Date:          Thu, 1 Feb 1996 11:23:05 -0500
From:          Adam Solomon 

     Subject: Apple News FLASH
     Stock Price Increases 50%
     "We'll do it better," Says Microsoft
     CUPERTINO, Calif. ------- JANUARY 30, 1996 ------
     The massive pile of smoking rubble near Interstate 280 here in
     Cupertino was not the result of an earthquake or natural gas
     explosion, as officials first believed.
     It now appears that the terrific explosion and fire at Apple Computer
     headquarters was the result of the first corporate-initiated airstrike
     on U.S.  or California soil in U.S.  history.
     Sources within Apple have told newspapers that, in an effort to save
     Apple from an internal coup that would result in the breakup and sale
     of the company, embattled Apple CEO Michael Spindler called in
     elements of the California Air National Guard, based at Moffet Federal
     Air Station in Mountain View, Calif.  to bomb and strafe his own
     Spindler allegedly called the California Air National Guard late last
     night and ordered the airstrike, using an Apple Macintosh Quadra A/V
     with experimental sound cards to simulate the voice of California
     Governor Pete Wilson.
     Within Apple, Spindler is seen as a hero.  "Cool!  He called in an
     airstrike on his own position to save his company," said one internal
     Apple applications developer, who gave his name as "Scooter."  "It was
     like one of those cool movies about, like, you know, Viet Nam, that I
     read about it on the Web, dude."
     A memo to key staffers, reportedly written by Spindler himself,
     explained the need for the air strike to counter moves by Apple
     managers and board members to oust him in a corporate coup and to
     simultaneously increase the company's marginal revenue.  "Existing
     Macintoshes, both those in use and those in warehouses, will instantly
     become collector's items and therefore increase dramatically in
     value," according to the memo, which went on to explain that "this
     action will therefore increase our margins on existing stock with no
     cost to our sales and manufacturing operations."  Spindler, said to be
     ailing, is in seclusion.  Attempts to reach him by phone mail and fax
     were unsuccessful.
     Apple stock shot up 50% on the news, as Wall Street apparently agreed
     with Spindler's strategy.  "Blowing up his own headquarters was a
     stroke of genius," said one Wall Street analyst.  "This is the kind of
     pure creative, self-destructive genius we used to see when Steve Jobs
     was at Apple.  It's like the old days.  Mac is back!"  Overall,
     computer stock stocks rose 75% as a result of the Apple news, then
     plunged 80% later in the day on rumors that Dan Dorfman had been seen
     having lunch with Jim Clark and Marc Andreeson.
     The Spindler airstrike memo, obtained via Internet e-mail by this
     reporter, was fragmented and missing key information.  Apparently, the
     strike was planned for January 1, but key aides to Spindler did not
     receive the e-mail until yesterday due to routing table buffer
     problems and addressing errors.
     Cupertino city officials issued a statement at 10:00 PST this morning
     calling the air strike "an unfortunate incident that, while we hope we
     will all gain something from it, we hope it did not offend anyone of
     any race, creed, color, religion, thought process or emotional state,
     and we must emphasize that the City of Cupertino had no role in this
     incident if it did."  Class-action lawsuits against Apple and the
     city, alleging emotional trauma resulting in a lost train of thought,
     loss of computing resources and interrupted Internet access have
     already been filed in California State Court.
     Later, when told by federal officials that the city will qualify for
     both federal disaster relief funds and labor department funds for
     unemployment and job training programs as a result of the destruction,
     Mayor Bob Mellow said, "Cool.  We applaud Apple and Mike Spindler for
     having the vision and courage to take this decisive action, and hope
     that our earlier statement was taken in the spirit in which it was
     In Redmond, Wash., Microsoft announced plans to build and detonate
     several networked low-yield nuclear devices at its own headquarters
     some time in 1997.  "This is a project we already had underway," said
     a spokeswoman for Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.  "We just decided
     that the marketplace won't be ready for it until 1997.  Or 1998, if  we
     decide that's when we really want to do it.  Or maybe later.  Right
     now, we're hiring additional staff, developing new technology and
     getting ready to copy Apple's idea, strategy and execution.  Oops, I
     meant to say that we're evaluating previously extant competitive
     actions."  The project, dubbed Curtains 97, is expected by analysts to
     be complete some time in 1999.
     Apple announced it will sue Microsoft in federal court over the "look
     and feel" of the use of explosive devices in business and home
     computing product strategies.

Return to Web Tools Review home

Reader's Comments

Phil has the money to spend on Adobe PhotoShop and expensive machines running Windows NT. The starving artists among you might consider running Linux or FreeBSD, and using a free PhotoShop clone known as the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). You get the X server and so on, and can test CGI programs and run databases locally. You can then take the $2000 you would have to spend on Windows NT, PhotoShop, and Office, and triple your RAM and disk space. Administering modern Linux and BSD systems is not the painful torture of yore; if you installed your Linux the smart way (Red Hat) you can get all these packages installed and working with less difficulty than you would have doing the same under Windows 95.

-- Daniel Boyd, November 4, 1997
Philg writes about how Apple bought the NeXT OS and how this is essentially the same as buying 12-year-old technology as an attempt to rectify problems in a much more modern OS (MacOS).

While it is correct that Apple bought the NeXT OS, the analogy is not correct, for one simple reason: Apple has not made a single substantial change to the MacOS since sometime in the mid-80's. The MacOS has 90% of the problems that it did then (philg likes to ridicule modern OS's because they are less reliable than those of the 60's and 70's, but doesn't seem to complain so much about the MacOS, which has, for the past 10 years, been the most primitive OS available, period).

Therefore to compare Apple buying the MacOS to GM buying the blueprints for the 1985 Toyota Camry is misguided; instead, he should be comparing this purchase to GM buying the blueprints for the 1985 Toyota Camry to help replace its own 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme -- in 1997.

By the way, Apple's inability to improve its OS in any material way over the course of 10+ years is the reason that they're about to give up the ghost. And they deserve it. In my humble opinion, anyway.

-- Bryan Ischo, February 2, 1998

I thought I would throw my two cents in here after experience with both NT4.0 , Linux and MacOS. I agree with Dan that the NT solution is rather expensive, and I found my NT machine regularly hung up due to memory problems with Netscape.. this on a Dell machine with Pentium II and 100 Meg of RAM. I have converted my PC to Linux running Apache, and BSCW collaborative server and IP- Masquerading to my private LAN with the design and development on MacOS Starmax PPCs. Instead of Photoshop, I use Claris Home Page, FilemakerPro 4.0 and Canvas 5.0 which is a reasonably priced alternative, although I have read good things about GIMP on Linux. Admittedly this is not an industrial strength server, but functions very reliably over a dialup PPP connection for my clients. StarOffice is also availble for Linux at no charge and has all the functions of MS Office. I would disagree that the MacOS hasnt changed ( I have used it since 85). The user interface has improved consistently and lead with introduction of features although the guts havent added the sophistication required for a good server. While you can argue that NextOS technology is "old", it adds additional capabilty for the server systems with excellent development tools and customer base. BeOS is also interesting and hopefully will provide other good alternatives. I would argue that Microsoft, by its predatory practices, has held back the OS business by driving out of business potential competitors. Supporting alternative vendors is cheaper, more effective and supports advances in the industry.

-- Jamie Ross, May 3, 1998
First off, I would like to say that nothing that I could say about Windows NT will be interesting to anyone two years from now (the criteria for adding a comment). I would like to shoot for 15 minutes.

Next, I would like to say that Web consulting must be very good to Mr. Greenspun for him to consider that kind of hardware as the minimum for an NT desktop. Nice if you could get it. Now for the inflamatory part:

Windows NT has no clothes! Everyone is touting WinNT as the minimum for a serious machine: supposedly faster, supposedly crash-proof, supposedly secure.

Yes, WinNT provides isolation between processes so that if one crashes they all don't. But then Microsoft did something pretty stupid. When you install Internet Explorer, it replaces a lot of OS code as well and ties it to itself. The file manager then uses IE code, and the desktop shell uses IE code. And they are all sharing a process. So if your browser crashes (pretty easy to do), often you end up rebooting. Or that has been my experience anyway.

Supposedly, WinNT runs code faster than Win95. Not with the same amount of memory they don't. 64 Megs is the bare minimum for an NT Workstation system, and nothing is fast with that amount of memory.

There is nothing that you can do with WinNT on the desktop that you can't do with Win95 OSR2 just as well. Yes, I know there's all that legacy dos code in there, but who cares? It just helps you run games, use whatever hardware floats your boat, and save a little money, for what it's worth.

-- Noah Clements, December 3, 1998

>>Yes, WinNT provides isolation between processes so that if one crashes they all don't. But then Microsoft did something pretty stupid. When you install Internet Explorer, it replaces a lot of OS code as well and ties it to itself. The file manager then uses IE code, and the desktop shell uses IE code. And they are all sharing a process. So if your browser crashes (pretty easy to do), often you end up rebooting. Or that has been my experience anyway. <<

The file mananger, desktop shell, or any other program does not use IE code unless you chose "Active Desktop" for IE4/5 installation. My NT workstation has been running 24/7 for the past year without any rebooting except when installing service packs. A few programs did force me to reboot in order for the installation process to work. Other than that, I've never had to reboot.

>> There is nothing that you can do with WinNT on the desktop that you can't do with Win95 OSR2 just as well. <<

Try running X server, Photoshop, and Illustrator at the same time. Then try opening a 50 MB TIFF file from Photoshop. Have fun. Go make some coffee. Bake some muffins while you're at it. It's SLOOOOOOOW on Win95/98. It might even crash just attempting to open that 50 MB file. With NT Workstation...opens in less than a minute on my HP Kayak XU. Now imagine rendering on 3DStudioMax on Windows 95/98...hahaha. Games? Most cool games run on Windows NT. And if you _must_ play the games that require Windows 95...try installing Win95 and WinNT on separate partitions and dual-booting.

-- Jon Lee, January 27, 1999

>>Yes, WinNT provides isolation between processes so that if one crashes they all don't. But then Microsoft did something pretty stupid. When you install Internet Explorer, it replaces a lot of OS code as well and ties it to itself. The file manager then uses IE code, and the desktop shell uses IE code. And they are all sharing a process. So if your browser crashes (pretty easy to do), often you end up rebooting.<<

I would like to comment on this. This problems happen only if the "active desktop update" is active. I agree that installing the ADU is asking for trouble (a LOT of trouble as a matter of fact from my own experience). I also agree that since NT runs all explorer sessions (desktop, taskbar, NT explorer) in one process even without ADU installed, loosing one session means loosing all of them, or loosing the icons of the taskbar or hanging the machine and it all ends with a reboot.

However, a quick and harmless modification to the registry can help a lot: add the value DesktopProcess (REG_DWORD) with a value of 1 in HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer. This will run every instance of explorer to run in a separate process. If one explorer process goes down, it doesn't affect the others. This truly improve the reliability of my machine. However, this takes more memory, so do it only if you have the memory to handle it (I have 128MB of RAM and it works fine). Also DO NOT use that trick if you use active desktop update. It will only make your machine more instable (trust me, you won't need that...)

With NT 5.0 (or Windows 2000, whatever...) coming out soon, I don't know if this will be meaningful 2 years from now, I also know that Photo.Net is no NT techies' corner but I hope you will appreciate this tip for a few months.

-- Stephane Moulec, February 27, 1999

For about a year, I have been running Exceed on top of NT to access Unix machines. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable with the small amount of real-estate on my machine. While I was spoiled by an X on Mac setup with two monitors seven years ago, I knew better to try to try the same thing with PC hardware for another few years.

Then someone pointed out Desktop Switcher to me. I was skeptical at first as I have always found virtual window managers pretty annoying. But I found Desktop Switcher quite streamlined and simple: Drag the mouse all the way to the right hand side of the screen, and click to switch to the other desktops. (Like the Macintosh menus, you can perform this gesture without ever looking at the screen at all.) I can switch between my Windows desktop and the Unix windows in an instant.

I recommend Desktop Switcher highly as an ultra-cheap replacement for a multi-monitor setup. (No screwdrivers necessary!)

-- Farshad Nayeri, March 11, 1999

I've given up on having a drawing tool. I simply can't draw.
For simple schematics, I have found the Microsoft Draw program to be pretty useful. (It comes as an addition to Microsoft Office, not to be confused with PhotoDraw.) It has adequate support for gravity and a nice library of common shapes and arrows.

...I can't believe I am promoting a Microsoft product, but I do believe it is one of their better products....

-- Farshad Nayeri, March 11, 1999

Just a comment on integrating NT and Unix. I've used Samba with great success. Currently, I have a network that includes a couple dozen NT workstations at separate locations, one Network Appliance Filer running both NFS and CIFS (SMB), and five Samba 2.0.3 servers. One of the Samba servers functions as both a WINS server and domain master browser while another at a remote location is a local master browser. Net result: two physically and logically separate subnets appear as one "Network Neighborhood" on my NT and Win 95 boxes, and everyone talks to everyone else, sharing files and printers. All this on a "production" network.

Admittedly, this took quite a while to get right. No two PCs seemed to function in exactly the same manner, and we do have to contend with some rather amazing problems, but overall the darned thing works. I'm both proud and amazed.

Philip, I'd be happy to make it work for you -- for a suitable fee. However, my cat says we should simply document this work as Frank and Una's Guide to Unix and NT Integration. :-)

-- Frank Wortner, May 3, 1999

The normal NT/Samba integration misery is to do with plaintext passwords: Samba wants them (NT has two different password hashes, neither of which is equivalent to the Unix one, so the "secure" authentication scheme in NT can't be used with Samba unless you generate a new set of password hashes). The Samba documentation (docs/ENCRYPTION.txt) has an explanation of this and how to fix NT (with an obscure registry tweak, of course) to transmit plaintext passwords. If this bothers you on a security basis, you can get tools to keep password hashes in both formats for Unix.

The other problem is getting two machines to find one another. This is a perpetual mystery to me, but the things which seem to work most often are (1) referencing machines by IP address ("\\\home") and (2) putting the IP addresses of interesting machines in an LMHOSTS file, then importing it in Control Panel (and rebooting, of course).

I've managed to get this to work in a large heterogeneous network environment, and across the internet -- sometimes.

However, the thing is a bit of a joke. A better strategy is to build a secure (home) network with a Linux firewall/router, then NFS mount stuff into that (tunnel over ssh if you want) then re-publish the NFS imports as SMB exports on your private network. Break NT and 9[58] until they do what you want, then curse Microsoft a bit and away you go.

-- Chris Lightfoot, July 15, 1999

>> My NT workstation has been running 24/7 for the past year without any rebooting except when installing service packs. A few programs did force me to reboot in order for the installation process to work. Other than that, I've never had to reboot. <<

Mr. Lee, you sound like Mr. Wonderful from the Dream Land. I suppose you've been just stearing at the (blue) NT-screen all that time? Come back to earth and face it: NT needs a reboot at least once a WEEK if anything USEFUL is running on it. Win95/98 is even worse: a reboot is recommended each day a few times. Leaving Win98 idle overnight leads to the dead system by the morning .. Such things never happened to my Linux (RedHat 6.0) though, running on the same machine.

-- Valeriy Ovechkin, August 1, 1999
Not to praise Microsoft, or bash Apple, I just want to say that I run a digital imaging business (we make large prints for trade shows and exhibits) and relay some experiences.

1. We use Macs to open any customer files prepared by our customers on their Mac's. Most of the files (75%+) are from artists working on Mac's)

2. Some of the technicians here really do prefer to work on Mac's.

3. The biggest problems we have with the Mac's other than crashing daily is a) they are terribly slow on the network, and b) writing large postscript files from Adobe Illustrator is painfully slow. We frequently re-open the AI files on an NT Pc to prepare the postscript.

4. The NT Workstation machines almost never crash. When they do, it's usually because disk space has run short. Lot's of temp files left around can bring them down.

5. I can't remember the last time an NT RIP crashed. We run diskeeper on them nightly to reduce fragmentation, keep on eye on the disk space, and shut them down on Friday for the weekend. That's it. Period.

6. All of the NT boxes are plain vanilla pc's locally made in CT and Mass. We stick with SCSI drives on the RIPS, SCSI on the larger of our workstations, and IDE and SCSI on the lighter duty units.

We are starting to experiment with Linux Servers, and I'll follow up in a month or two with a progress report.

-- Marc Sitkin, August 4, 1999

You no longer have to have NT as your primary operating system.

Install VMWare ( on your Linux box and then you can run FreeBSD, BeOS, Windows95, Windows98, WindowsNT, and Windows2000 concurrently under X. This is a great way to see if your website looks right on different os/browser combinations.

You could also run Linux in a window of your NT box.

-- Michael Edwards, August 20, 1999

And if you _must_ play the games that require Windows 95...try ? installing Win95 and WinNT on separate partitions and dual-booting.
Yes, go on, try! But make sure it's a small disk, and an old version of 95, because otherwise NT won't be able to see the disk. Make sure you do it in the right order because otherwise the other-OS will refuse to install at all. No NTFS for you, sorry.

To be fair, I use NT Workstation on my work PC with very few complaints, aside from a persistent wierd sound driver problem, and the lack of modern directx and multi-head support. W2K will solve at least one of those for me, if it ever arrives.

I run linux on the same machine, and it definitely feels slower, although it rarely stops completely, as NT is wont to do from time to time. I think this is due to the X drivers not being as tuned as their NT counterparts, mainly, as the actual working bits seem pretty snappy.

I just recently aquired a cheap SGI Indy, which is noticably responsive for what is theoretically a Pentium 66/100 class machine (it's a MIPS R4600/133). Having an OS that was designed for a particular machine or range, rather than next year's range, which seems to be what MS do, is definitely a Good Thing.

-- Howard Jones, November 26, 1999

Say what you like about the NeXT, but the ease of deveopment it offered helped saved Tim Berners-Lee a lot of work writing a little program called WorldWideWeb...

-- David Murphy, January 8, 2000
Add a comment

Related Links

Add a link