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Network: Doh! Egg on my interface

AS HOMER Simpson is my hero - we share a hairline and five o'clock shadow, even if my skin isn't yellow or my trousers blue - I would like to take this opportunity to say: Doh!

Before I wrote last week's piece about the Linux operating system, I was told that doing so is about as safe as putting your head into a hungry lion's mouth. But when my head was duly bitten off (in fact, more like gently but thoroughly chewed off), it was entirely my own fault.

In analysing the potential of Linux against Windows NT for running large organisations, I concluded by saying "don't expect to see Linux running on a PC near you any time soon, unless you want to return to the mystifying days when computers only spoke in blinking command-line cursors". The implication being that there aren't any graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for Linux.

As I now realise - Doh! A stack of Linux-users e-mailed to point out - Linux has had a GUI for ages called KDE (the K Desktop Environment), details of which can be found at www.kde.org. There is also XWindows.

As one correspondent, Tracy Reed, commented: "This misconception about command lines is one of the first things Windows users always use to dismiss Unix/Linux as a competitor, and it is completely groundless. For the record, Unix had a GUI long before DOS had the Windows interface." So nyah, Bill Gates.

Anyway, this means Red Hat Software is not going to be first to provide a GUI for Linux. (And another correction: Red Hat is based in North Carolina, not California; that's the East Coast rather than the West.)

However, more interesting than the corrections were the unbidden testimonials. Such as that of Mike Banahan of GB Direct, which writes network software, who commented that the reason so many seasoned network administrators and systems managers use Linux "is not because it is free, but because overall it works out to give radically lower running costs than the alternatives. Frankly, I would pay thousands for software that, like our Linux systems, installs easily then JUST RUNS without ever having to be touched again. The fact that it's free is an incredible bonus... It works. It is painless. It solves problems. It means I can breathe more easily and sleep better at night."

On that basis it sounds as though it's not just Bill Gates who should worry. The makers of Night Nurse should perhaps be looking to their laurels, too.