The "U" Word

Making Windows safe for Unix people since 1995


SFU 3.5 Announcement Causes Epidemic Of Rampant Paranoia

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Like most technogeeks, I have a lot of pride in the work I do. So much pride that I like to listen in on other people talking about what I've built. Sure, I'm looking for praise; I've got the outsized ego that long-time Unix guys get. But I'm also looking for stuff we can do better next time, features we missed, bugs we didn't catch. Those missing features probably appear on my own list, but my priorities may not match those of real customers; I look for that stuff, too.

The downside to reading comments: my dentist and my doctor get annoyed. My dentist tells me that, if I don't stop grinding my teeth, he's going to have to replace my molars. My doctor has told me I have to reduce my bloodpressure in a big way, and he doesn't like the looks of that throbbing vein in my neck.

I looked at the coverage on The article and analysis themselves were pretty fair and even-handed. Then I started reading comments.

“Same ol' thing. MS gives away stuff to stiffle competition. Years later they'll charge everyone twice as much for it after they crush everyone else.”

Oooo-kay. We're competing with a product whose cost-of-acquisition is zero (linux), and we're doing it by dropping the price of competing technology to... zero. How can we “crush the competition” if we're charging the same thing they are?

Look at it another way. SFU adds a bunch of capabilities to Windows; it's an add-on pack of APIs and tools. Windows still costs the same thing it did yesterday. Windows competes with RedHat and SuSE, and now does so on a more-even footing: there's now a significantly larger overlap in identical APIs, utilities, and behavior between the operating systems. Makes apples-to-apples comparisons easier. RedHat runs Unix apps; hey, Windows does, too. Windows runs Windows apps; with Wine or some other (freeware - hey, they're trying to crush the competition!) software, RedHat runs some Windows apps, too. Which platform runs more apps? Which runs them better? Which does so at a better total cost of ownership? Which provides more value to your organization? That is competition.

Bring it on.

This comment kills me. “A friend of mine knows the girl that writes this, yes "THE GIRL". From what I understand there is one girl that pretty much maintains this entire package.”

Yeah. Right. Like Microsoft ever shipped a product with a single developer. The product team has a couple dozen people on it. Both genders, even.

I'm not going to talk about the ones that were downright offensive. I'm just going to go brush my teeth and try to save what's left of my molars.

  • I am very excited about SFU 3.5 coming out for free. I have used cygwin in the past and found it needed better integration with Windows. Authentication and authoriziation is one area I found lacking. But support for Password Sync using PAM is encouraging. I also find pthreads to be a very welcome feature. What I would like to see next is an effort to properly port common Unix utilities such as VI, CVS, OpenSSH and others over to the SFU environment. I use both Windows and MacOS X and I find I am much more productive on the Mac simply because it has these standard Unix utilities by default.

    But I have one problem. I do not want to create a Passport account just to download the software. I refuse to create one, so I will need to find another way to get a copy of SFU 3.5. For now I will be happy using my Mac.

  • You'll find vi (real, honest-to-gosh vi) in the package.

    Check out for a huge pile of open-source stuff already ported to SFU 3.0 and 3.5. Including OpenSSH and CVS. And bash, for that matter.

    And if you port some open-source tool that you like - go ahead and mail the binary and the changes (if any) to the folks at Interop Systems; I'm pretty sure they'd be happy to share your work.

    (Read the OpenSSH license in-depth some time and you'll see why we were too nervous to include it in the SFU package.)

    Be careful throwing the word "standard" around. There is a standard for Unix - IEEE 1003.2. I guarantee that SFU contains every tool named by that standard. There are a couple of thousand other common, but far from universal tools. CVS, for example, is used by quite a few people, but most Unix systems don't ship with it. They ship with RCS (like SFU does), or they ship with SCCS (which is available for SFU from interopsystems).

    Linux distros tend to throw in everything. Some distro makers actually test what they put on the CD (RedHat, I think, claims they do this); others do not (Debian just puts stuff on the CDs without doing much checking). Anything Microsoft puts on the SFU CD (or in the free download) we test, and we support. The more we "lard up" the SFU package, the longer it takes to test.

    Besides, doesn't Microsoft already get yelled at for putting too much stuff into Windows?

  • I have always wanted to try SFU and see if it is a viable alternative to cygwin and MKS. But it was not included in my MSDN Universal subscription. Now, I can finally play! Thanks a lot.

    I hope the new shell services in Longhorn will be good enough for me to give up tcsh/bash on windows. But for now, we can just hope.

  • Actually, SFU 3.0 was included in MSDN Universal; it wasn't easy to find, I guess, but I know it was there.

  • I found Interix and Services for Netware in my subscription, not the SFU. But I guess it does not matter now!