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MS national security threat


"Microsoft's monopoly threatens consumers in a number of ways, it it's clear it is now also a threat to our security, our safety, and even our national security."

"I don't think that Microsoft can ever fix this."

A panel of leading security experts Wednesday blasted Microsoft for vulnerabilities in its software, and warned that reliance on Microsoft's software is a danger to both enterprises and national security.

How many more mailworms does it still take to make people realize this ?

A Unix based Exchange replacement


If there's one area where Microsoft produces good software, then it must be their groupware and office product line. On my work, we're using the GUI nightmare called Lotus Notes, and I would trade everything for an Outlook based emailclient. On the sole condition that I would not have to administer it, of course : Outlook seems horrible to maintain, and it's virus prone. I'm still puzzled why there's no Unix alternative for Outlook. There's PHPGroupware, but many people will revolt against a pure webbased product (although it may seem strange in these Hotmail based times).

Rick Moen recently posted a list of Outlook replacements. Click on the Read More link below to see the full list. There tends to be confusion in these discussions because of lack of agreement on what the term "Exchange replacement" means. At one extreme, something qualfies only if it accepts Microsoft-proprietary RPC connections from MS-Outlook for MAPI transactions providing 100% of
the functions the Outlook / Exchange Server combination du jour supports. At the other extreme, Web-based access (e.g., Sherpath) and
glorified BBSes (First Class, Citadel/UX) are deemed worthy of consideration.
Anyhow, here's a list I maintain as part of []:

  • MS Exchange Server (server end; NT only), MS Outlook (client
    end; Win32, MacOS). Very limited support of open-protocol clients
    (IMAP, webmail?). Microsoft Corp. wants to sell you Exchange 2000,
    these days, but Exchange 5.5 is still very common.
  • Lotus Notes / Domino (server end, Linux supported), Lotus Notes (client end; Win32, MacOS). Limited webmail access (iNotes).
  • Novell Groupwise.

    [] Server end runs on either Novell NetWare 5/6 or WinNT.
    Client end is proprietary Win32 client or webmail. A native Linux
    client is under development.

  • SuSE Linux Openexchange Server (formerly SuSE Linux eMail
    Server). Standard, good open-source components (Postfix, Apache, Cyrus
    IMAP, OpenLDAP, OpenSSL) preconfigured to work well with one another,
    plus a couple of proprietary components: YaST2 for graphical
    administration, and SkyrixGreen for integrated scheduling and group
    discussions (shared folders). Client access from any OS, including but
    not limited to webmail. A full-functional trial version (lacking only
    "maintenance") is available for US $20 at ml
    [] . Sites are known to scale well to at least 1,000 users per
    site. The largest deployment yet known (March 2003) is 1,900 users.
  • Bynari Insight Server,

    [] . Server end is Linux-based. Intended as a plug-compatible
    replacement for MS-Exchange Server, based on POP3, IMPA, SMTP, and
    LDAP, but also with full support for all the special, proprietary
    MS-Exchange Server RPC-based protocols for group discussion,
    scheduling, contact management, task lists, etc., when used with
    MS-Outlook clients. Review: []

  • Bynari InsightConnector,
    [] . Extensions that load into MS-Outlook clients to let them
    perform MS-Exchange-type functions (scheduling, contact-management,
    public folders) without needing an MS-Exchange server, using only
    open-standard IMAP, SMTP, and LDAP servers, instead.
  • Samsung Contact (formerly HP Openmail),

    [] . Server end can be Linux-based (or Solaris/AIX).
    Based on SMTP, IMAP, POP3, LDAP. Supports proprietary protocols for
    e-mail, scheduling, etc. native to Samsung's Contact client (which is
    available on Linux and Win32). Webmail access. Implements Microsoft's
    (documented, for a change) MAPI protocol for scheduling, public
    folders, offline folders.

  • Oracle Collaboration Suite, [] . Formerly Steltor CorporateTime,
    [], until that firm's recent acquisition by Oracle. (That
    product is said to have emerged from Netscape Calendar.) Does IMAP,
    POP3, SMTP, E-mail, real-time conferences, voicemail, scheduling.
    Apparently implements all of the special, proprietary MS-Exchange
    Server RPC-based protocols for group discussion, scheduling, contact
    management, task lists, etc., when used with MS-Outlook clients. Uses
    Oracle 9i as its message store. Web site doesn't really make clear what
    OSes the server end runs on.
  • CommuniGate Pro Messaging Server,

    [] . Server end runs on lots of Unixes including Linux, or
    on Win32, and quite a few other OSes. Does IMAP, POP3, SMTP, LDAP,
    scheduling, webmail. Can implement Implements Microsoft's (documented,
    for a change) MAPI protocol for access to its features from MS-Outlook.

  • EasyGate Workgroup,
    [] (Don't know much about this, yet. Appears to be a superset
    incorporating exchange4linux, about which see separate entry.)
  • Kerio MailServer,
    [] . IMAP, POP3, SMTP, antivirus/antispam, public mail
    folders, shared mail folders, webmail. Optional integration into MS
    Active Directory.
  • SCOoffice Mail Server, formerly Caldera Volution Messaging
    Server: Postfix for the MTA, Cyrus for message storage, Horde/IMP/MySQL
    for webmail, and OpenSSL and pam-ldap for authentication. Lacks
    scheduling, but SCOoffice Mail Connector for Microsoft Outlook is
    available separately. [] []
  • Joydesk, [] . Proprietary, uses Borland Interbase for data storage.
  • Kroupware, upcoming, working in beta stage. Postfix for
    the MTA, Cyrus for the LDAP core, can be used with Outlook when a
    Bynari connector for Exchange is installed. Includes scheduling and
    tasklist modules, which establish new, open-source standards. Imagen's
    Pegasus Mail already supports the latter, as does the new KDE Kolab
    client. [] []
  • Sherpath,
    [] , beta stage. Client access via Web browser (only). 100%
    open source: Implemented with PHP4, Apache, MySQL in PHP + HTML +
    JavaScript. E-mail, scheduling, contact mgmt, task mgmt.
  • OSER (Open Source Exchange Replacement,
    [] ) seems to be in very early development, and will use
    Qmail (proprietary, source-available), Courier IMAP, OpenLDAP,
    Samba-TNG, Jabber, Jical, Squirrel Mail, and so on, to provide e-mail
    and group discussions (public folders), IM, and scheduling.
  • exchange4linux (including the older BILL Workgroup Server server-side codebase,
    []) from Neuberger & Hughes GmbH (Netherlands) is
    a suite of tools to serve mail, public folders, task lists, shared
    calendars, etc. to MS-Outlook (but not Outlook Express) clients
    operating in Corporate / Workgroup mode. Server code is open source;
    the BILL MAPI Service Provider for Outlook (which must run on the
    MS-Windows/Outlook client side) is proprietary. Web-based access, an
    IMAP gateway, and an LDAP export feature are under development.
    Supports a single-level global Outlook address book, ACLs on public
    folders (including Appointments, Contacts, Notes, etc.). Support for
    opening another user's private mailbox or calendar is under development.

Update (2010) : As someone mentioned in the comments, this article is *old*. You might want to have a look at this article, which mentions Zimbra, Open-Xchange, Citadel and Kolab as worthy Exchange replacements.

Distributing Word documents is bad for you.


One of my favourite Open Source advocates, Richard M. Stallman, explains in a NewsForge article the burden of receiving email with Word documents :

Most computer users use Microsoft Word. That is unfortunate for them, because Word is proprietary software, denying its users the freedom to study, change, copy, and redistribute it. And because Microsoft changes the Word file format with each release, its users are locked into a system that compels them to buy each upgrade whether they want a change or not. They may even find, several years from now, that the Word documents they are writing this year can no longer be read with the version of Word they use then.

Distributing documents in Word format is bad for you and for others. You can't be sure what they will look like if someone views them with a different version of Word; they may not work at all.

Receiving Word attachments is bad for you because they can carry viruses (see Symantec's article). Sending Word attachments is bad for you, because a Word document normally includes hidden information about the author, enabling those in the know to pry into the author's activities (maybe yours). Text that you think you deleted may still be embarrassingly present. See MicroSystems for more info.

But above all, sending people Word documents puts pressure on them to use Microsoft software and helps to deny them any other choice. In effect, you become a buttress of the Microsoft monopoly. This pressure is a major obstacle to the broader adoption of free software. Would you please reconsider the use of Word format for communication with other people?


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