Why bother?

Scott Gifford sgifford at tir.com
Sun Apr 22 17:26:35 GMT 2001

Richard Sharpe <sharpe at ns.aus.com> writes:

> Hi,
> I am seeking to re-affirm the faith?
> Why bother, why not give into the borg and use M$ products?
> What is it that keeps you using Samba, or indeed any other open source
> software like Linux, FreeBSD, GIMP, etc.

Among philosophical and theoretical reasons, there are some good
pragmatic ones, too.

At my last job, we had an NT server for simple file and print serving,
which was used fairly heavily for both general-purpose files, and for
MS Access files.

During normal use, it would have some kind of problem that required
manual intervention at least once a month; it might lose track of how
many people were logged in, and start refusing logins for licensing
reasons, or the printer might stop working, or it might stop serving
files altogether.  These problems could only be fixed by rebooting.

When applying service packs, it was much worse.  This server was
attached to the Internet, and many service packs contained security
fixes that made it pretty much mandatory for us to install them.
After installing them, it wasn't uncommon for something random to
break, and require us to re-install a component from CD.  Of course,
it would often take us hours to figure out exactly what component
needed to be re-installed.  Generally, for a service pack, we planned
a full day of outage.

For each of these, somebody would have to physically go to the server
and reboot it.

Additionally, we were a mostly Unix shop, and nobody really knew NT.
That made doing any work on the NT server very time-consuming, since
the system itself does not contain comprehensive online help that is
worth a dime.

After about 18 months with this server, we got sick of it and switched
to a RedHat Linux system with Samba.  After the initial install, and a
week of getting permissions just right, we literally didn't have to
touch Samba for 6 months, and then only because the power went out; a
manual fsck had us back up and running in an hour or so.  After that,
I don't remember any manual intervention required for the following
year, after which I left.

By installing only the packages we needed, we had a minimum of
security updates to install, and the update process was pretty much
just an "rpm -Uvh", and a restart of the service.  No reboots, no
re-installing random components afterwards, no hours spent figuring
out why everything stopped working.

Any work that had to be done could be done remotely with ssh.

And the existing technical people could take advantage of the wealth
of Unix knowledge that we already had.  When they didn't know
something, the manpages made it relatively easy to figure it out.

For us, leaving NT for Unix+Samba was a huge win overall.


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