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Wishes For 2007
Scott Granneman, 2007-01-10

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Moving from IP to our computers, I'm hopeful that competition will continue to blossom in 2007. Little things, like the continuing spread of Firefox and Thunderbird, are heartening. In the operating system arena, we should all hope that Linux and Mac OS X continue attracting users, if for no other reason than keeping Microsoft on its toes and because choice is almost always a good thing. Even better, the more people running alternative operating systems, the fewer machines there are to make up the massive botnets that haunt the Net. How bad is it? Well, in the first half of 2006, Symantec found 57,000 active bots per day; overall, 4.7 million computers were used in various botnets.

With those really bad numbers in mind, let's hope that operating systems like OpenBSD, PC-BSD, Fedora, Ubuntu, and Slackware (and yes, Mac OS X) see further releases in 2007 and continue to provide powerful, innovative, and safe alternatives to the status quo OS.

Note that I'm ignoring SUSE thanks to their ill-advised slap in the face called a patent "pledge" with Microsoft signed earlier this year. Don't you know what happens to blues singers who sign agreements at the crossroads, SUSE? They do alright for a while, but they ultimately suffer a steep price that they always regret paying. Bad move, SUSE.

Moving from software to data, there's no web site I've used more this last year than Wikipedia. Yeah, I know that you can't rely 100% on what it says, but it's a fantastic first place to go when you want to learn about a new topic, and it has information on things that you just can't find anywhere else. I'm hoping that it continues its growth during 2007, and also works to improve the quality of its articles.

Finally, I'd like to thank the makers of the hardware and software that I've used over the course of the last year, technologies that have made my life and work easier and more productive. Ubuntu continues as my favorite Linux distro, but in October I bought a MacBook Pro, my first Mac in 11 years, and wow. Just wow. The MBP is the best laptop I've ever owned, hardware-wise, and Mac OS X is a joy to use. Mac OS X is basically Unix with Apple's shiny goodness on top of it, but the fact that I can also use MacPorts (the former Darwin Ports) and install and run a huge number of Unix and Linux apps, that CrossOver Mac means I can run the most widely-used Windows programs, and that the awesome Parallels virtualization software allows me to run Windows XP and Linux - all at the same time! - means that I can run just about any piece of software for any OS on the same machine. That, my friends, is sheer nerd computing heaven.

When it comes to software, SSH is something I use every day, and I'm constantly discovering new uses for this fantastic tool. Skype is my IM and file transfer tool of choice thanks to its built-in automatic encryption. BitTorrent is easily the best way to download ISO images of Linux distros as well as other enormous files. I don't like spyware, so I use Firefox, and I don't like macro viruses, so I use OpenOffice.org or NeoOffice, and I don't like spam or viruses that automatically run when you open an email, so I use Thunderbird. That these apps (with the noted exception of Skype) are all open source is just the icing on the cake.

And here's a biggie: I give lots of presentations to students and to business groups, and now that I'm using a Mac laptop, I have the killer combination of Keynote and the Apple Remote available to me, the best presentation tools I've ever used. If you have to stand up and give talks as part of your job, you owe it to yourself to check out Keynote - it's that good.

It's still early in 2007, but I'm optimistic about the upcoming year. I know I'll probably be disappointed somehow, and I'm sure I'll end up smacking my forehead from disgust or amazement at several security issues over the next twelve months, but a guy can still hope, can't he? And I know I'll have fun at my family's Chrismukkah celebration in a few weeks. It's too late for the Jets this year, unfortunately, but there's always next season!

Scott Granneman teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, consults for WebSanity, and writes for SecurityFocus and Linux Magazine. His latest book, Linux Phrasebook, is in stores now.
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