Tackling WinFS

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-04-29 Print this article Print

Miguel de Icaza, one of the most respected open-source programmers and father of the Mono project, which attempts to bring .NET to Linux, says it best. He writes in his blog, "What makes Longhorn dangerous for the viability of Linux on the desktop is that the combination of Microsoft deployment power, XAML, Avalon and .NET is killer." Hes right, but this time, unlike the thumb-fingered proprietary opposition that Microsoft has faced in the past, open-source programmers arent going to be caught napping.

We already have Mono for .NET compatibility, and I think XAML and Avalon are doable, but I fear WinFS may be a harder nut to crack. File systems are basic, and without compatibility on that level, getting CIFS-based servers to work on a WinFS-dominated network will be a real pain.
Microsoft, you see, is electing to make WinFS not just a mere file system but a complex database engine application that will manage relational and XML data as well as file data.

Microsoft says this aims to give users a way to search for information content independent of format. I say thats a job for search engines, and Googles doing just fine, thank you very much. I dont see any real need to deconstruct something as basic as a file system and replace it with such a complex infrastructure except to make it harder for anyone else—say, the open-source community—to make WinFS-compatible programs and servers.

If this all seems a little far-fetched, well, you tell me, what is Microsoft really trying to do with Longhorn? I know what I want from an operating system, and I dont think Im that different from most people. I want my operating system to be fast, stable, secure and to work with open standards and have an open set of application programming interfaces (APIs), so I can be sure that Ill have many software program choices. Now, look at Longhorn.

With all of those proprietary innovations, I dont see any way it can be fast, even if were running Pentium VIs at 4GHz when it finally comes out. Stable? Secure? Please! They didnt get it right in Server 2003, and it didnt have a quarter of the new stuff theyre planning for Longhorn. And as for opens standards, come on, this is Microsoft were talking about after all.

All in all, theres no question in my mind that Longhorn is meant to do two things. One is to make money by replacing aging XP installations (and maybe this time Microsoft will get the Windows 98 users to switch, too!) The second is to make life harder for open-source advocates. Fortunately, open-source programmers have at least one ace in the hole: Microsoft has never met a product schedule it could meet, so theyll have even more time to get their programs and tools ready to address Microsofts latest attempt to maintain control over the PC.

eWEEK.com Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at http://linux.eweek.com for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis. Be sure to add our eWEEK.com Linux news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page:  

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel