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Readers comment on PC connectivity

Linking PCs to Unix an agonizing ordeal

By Mark Cappel

November  1996
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Readers comment on PC connectivity

Linking PCs to Unix an agonizing ordeal

We gave SunWorld Online readers the chance to comment in essay form on their thoughts on PC connectivity, and many seized that opportunity.

The comments are reproduced as received; only some minor spelling and punctuation errors have been corrected. -- Editors

Date: Tue Oct 1 09:40:53 PDT 1996
Too expensive (lots of small "plug-ins" to be purchased in order to have connectivity working, huge administering time).

Date: Tue Oct 1 17:50:08 PDT 1996
poor backup and inconsistent file sharing ability.

Date: Tue Oct 1 20:25:59 PDT 1996
Netbios type networking should come with the operating system. It would make connecting machines _much_ easier.

Date: Wed Oct 2 01:23:29 PDT 1996
We need more comprehensive tools on Unix servers to administrate PCs (or NCs in future). - software assets management - security management - remote control (of PCs, NCs)

Date: Wed Oct 2 01:49:19 PDT 1996
Not really problems, as we have homegrown telnet clients for PC, and PC files are in Novell servers.

Date: Wed Oct 2 05:42:00 PDT 1996
Routing print requests to HP jet direct cards. Rasterizing loads on PC (rather Rasterize on Unix box) are excessive. Selecting proper formats for unix boxes to print to current (popular) printers. The postscript animal has diverged due to hardware specificity. Every body and his brother has a TCP/IP package. Win 95 is a tricky critter to manage. Trickier still to network peer-to-peer. Viruses suck the life out of PC's. MLV's will only add to benefits of OLE. Go CORBA. JDW

Date: Wed Oct 2 05:49:45 PDT 1996
Ease of connectivity through PC front end. We have invested considerable amounts in Sun hardware and want to leverage off that to connect the PCs.

Date: Wed Oct 2 05:55:21 PDT 1996
How to integrate PCs and Macs with Unix to a degree that allows all three systems and applications to interoperate transparently to the use. The goal is to have a desktop with any of the three OS show application icons on all three systems that can be initiated from any user desktop, run somewhere on a compute server (when the application is not native to that users desktop OS), but have the application's I/O work correctly to the client desktop.

Date: Wed Oct 2 06:43:02 PDT 1996
I would really like to have Solaris 2.x for x86 running on our PCs. However SunSoft's Marketing Department must be realistic in their pricing of their PC products. They need to bring their OS down below $100 if they want to compete with MicroSloth or Linux.

Date: Wed Oct 2 10:32:14 PDT 1996
Providing seamless and transparent data access across multiple platforms so that the user can think of the network as a collection of services as opposed to a collection of servers. Our current environment still requires the end-user to know some of the underlying architecture before they can access some services.

Date: Wed Oct 2 11:11:57 PDT 1996
Do we run the applications on the server and use the PC as an X-terminal or do we place the applications on the PC? The former is likely to be slower. The latter is likely to be more expensive and more difficult to manage. With Java we could have both the speed of local execution and the ease of centralized management. However, this requires that Java applications be available and it also requires that the data be available to the server.

Date: Wed Oct 2 13:35:49 PDT 1996
Whether we have enough staff to handle overhead should a PC-->unix hardware connection fail for technical reasons

Date: Wed Oct 2 23:49:22 PDT 1996
Most of our TCP/IP infrastructure is out-of-the-box Windows 95. We use NFS Maestro, which has more features then we need, and has never given a problem with function. We are still shopping for X-Server software, but price is an issue. We struggled to find a Windows program editor that was Unix text file friendly, and are trying win-emacs from Pearl Software, but are not entirely satisfied with its ease-of-use (not enough like Windows). We are using SCCS for source code management and would like a better way to drive this from PCs. Last year, our Sun was a technical desktop machine. PCs running W95 have now replaced these, and the Classic has become a dial-up Internet server and small file server. We are transferring any key applications still left on the Sun to PCs. Although I have been working with Unix for ten years now, we will probably not buy another Unix machine. We are a company of three people, each with a W95 PC running MS Office. We work from our home on a farm in Africa with a twisted pair Ethernet. The Sun sits in a corner for compatibility testing of software, and a legacy W3.1 sits in the kitchen for the kids to play on.

Date: Thu Oct 3 02:24:35 PDT 1996
If UNIX was invented by God, PC's were invented by you know who.....

Date: Fri Oct 4 05:18:02 PDT 1996
Microsoft unwillingness to allow utilization of other server types (i.e. UNIX). This includes the groupware functions of MS Office which seem to only work with a MS Mail server. Isn't there some way to replace their MAPI client with a IMAP client that will support all the calls that their groupware requires. I also have difficulties with their centralized authorization scheme which requires a NT Server. This includes such things as sharing MS Win 95 resources with other 95 users (I don't like the one password per resource scheme, too much overhead in changing these passwords and also too much risk).

Date: Fri Oct 4 10:56:12 PDT 1996
Mostly marketing and politics. To most people here, a new product from Microsoft is "an upgrade", and anything else is "something to upgrade from". In short, Microsoft's blood is (perceived as) blue.

Date: Sat Oct 5 19:26:09 PDT 1996
Complexity of installation and configuration.

Date: Mon Oct 7 00:42:18 PDT 1996
Reliability, security and most important, ease of support

Date: Mon Oct 7 03:16:45 PDT 1996
There are lots of problems, we can work around many of them but it takes time and effort to do so. PC client configuration is a little time consuming, and getting a working combination of hardware, O/S, TCP/IP and nfs client which ought to be trivial usually throws up a few surprises. I suspect a lot of problems are down to PC and PC OSes just being fairly bad all the way through. Setting up Sun's PC-NFS isn't too bad, but we find some machines it doesn't like or that don't like it. Hummingbird's client is quite nice but we've had problems customizing it to automatically work and it requires running hclnfsd on our main fileservers to get OLE2 apps to work. We're now starting to put NT in to replace Windows 3.x, which should give a more stable platform to start with, but again getting nfs and X working reliably and seamlessly takes time and effort. Far too much time and effort. With Unix boxes, you unpack it, plug it in and walk away. Why is it so much trouble to get simple things like networking going on PCs? Grrrrrr..

Date: Mon Oct 7 07:42:03 PDT 1996
Trying to run CDE on Solaris servers displaying onto PCs (Windows 95/NT) with X server software

Date: Tue Oct 8 11:09:33 PDT 1996

Date: Wed Oct 9 07:58:57 PDT 1996
I work in local govt. and the cheapest solution usually wins, thus the extended use of Samba. We have 35 licenses of PCNFS-Pro 2 but we are migrating to Win95 and PCNFS has periodic failures in Win95 and causes us trouble. I like the products and functionality of PCNFS-Pro, bu it is too expensive and has Win95 trouble. My preference for all of this would be to have a SUN developed and supported Samba-type package that was minimally priced or just packaged with Solaris, because if you don't make access to the Solaris from the PC cheap and stable, it makes Solaris servers hard to sell to the organization. Please include a DHCP server package in the next release of Solaris as well.

Date: Wed Oct 9 14:02:45 PDT 1996
We use Samba 1.9.x quite a bit, and have been disappointed by the performance. Fortunately, most of our PC<->Unix needs are not very demanding; we're primarily a UNIX (HP-UX and Solaris) shop. While management is perfectly happy to purchase NFS for our PC systems, and the performance is better, we are loathe to blow our budget on high-end NFS solutions; we'd rather use Samba and and keep our budget for software tools more directly related to our work, such as CASE and project management tools. It seems unfortunate that most vendors only sell NFS as part of an expensive bundle. We typically don't need any of the other applications in the bundle, and want to run NFS over the Microsoft-supplied TCP/IP transport bundled with Win95.

Date: Sat Oct 12 04:28:36 PDT 1996
The PC being unreliable and under-performing

Date: Mon Oct 14 04:42:03 PDT 1996
It seems to be far more sensible to make the servers talk the protocols of the clients. We faced far too many problems trying to get the PC's to talk NFS. It takes too many system resources and is not compatible with all applications. Having the servers talking all protocols reduces cost and provides much greater reliability, it also reduces the admin overhead as you only have one problem to manage rather than several. I think Sun should seriously think about including packages like Samba, Caps or TotalNet with Solaris.

Date: Mon Oct 14 15:13:18 PDT 1996
Backing up the PC with UNIX tools.

Date: Sun Oct 20 14:20:09 PDT 1996
network adapter support by Sun...(new adapters come not work with PC-NFS... protocol compatibility between different styles of networks...AS400 emulation and Sun PC-NFS coexistence on personal computers no documented standards for PC TCP/IP and the methods a PC uses for determining what "DLL's" get stuffed in directories and also into configuration files, such as the "win.ini" and the "system.ini"...this results in conflicts with applications and system instability... Looking for a successor to SUN PC-NFS that allows transparent use of NFS under Windows/WIN95/NT, and provides support for DOS... Is Sun PC-NFS 5.1a the last release of PC-NFS???

Date: Tue Oct 22 16:01:43 PDT 1996
Ease of use/configuration for multiple use (e.g., ppp and inhouse). Periodic bouts with losing services. Periodic (frequent) problem with using a license server. The pc will display a message saying it already has a valid license even though it is temporary until a plum server issues a license. Thereafter, the temp license expires and the pc needs to be rebooted to be able to get another license assigned.

Date: Wed Oct 23 08:35:05 PDT 1996
The limitations of Windows 3.1 has become such a problem that we are moving away from the Win31 client <--> UNIX server platform in some areas where MS Apps are used. These areas are moving to Windows NT & NT servers. Your questionaire assumed that the solution would be to move away from PCs altogether. (Questions 17-19). This isn't the case. It's Unix workstations that may go away entirely, not PC desktops. I don't quite agree with this solution myself, I prefer UNIX over NT. I do prefer NT to Win31/DOS "operating systems", so I have to admit the move will improve the situation. Fortunately, our real-time applications that are required to always be up and always running are sticking with UNIX workstations- for the time being...

Date: Wed Oct 23 20:38:33 PDT 1996
1) Lack of 32-bit NFS v3 implementations 2) Lack of NFS testing and performance benchmarking programs

Date: Thu Oct 24 12:45:01 PDT 1996
Difficulty in installation & configuration Compatibility and functionality problems with applications performance

Date: Thu Oct 24 21:39:59 PDT 1996
Novell <--> Unix integration. Applications.. ie: Word for Windows but not workstations. Email -- Good client that works on both. with automatic mail filing, and shared Directory services

Date: Mon Oct 28 17:57:39 PST 1996
Microsoft blows....Unix and Macs rock!

Date: Wed Oct 30 06:46:09 PST 1996
Seamless integration with common network services.

Date: Thu Oct 31 05:00:51 PST 1996
Single sign-on is our major issue. The refusal of Sun to recognize the reality of Microsoft's market dominance is a major headache. (See for example Scott McNealy's recent comments to the Australian press claiming that the use of Microsoft products is banned within Sun Microsystems.) We will have around 400 Windows NT systems and 4 Solaris systems when our desktop conversion is complete. It is absurd to expect us to adapt the 400 systems to fit the 4 systems. Please, please follow the example of Digital and HP and make Solaris work with Windows NT, rather than concentrating your energies on trying to displace it. In particular, the ability to accept NT domain authentication for single sign-on would make our lives (and our users' lives) much easier.

SunWorld Online is published by Web Publishing Inc., an IDG Communications company, independently of Sun Microsystems Inc., which is not responsible for its contents. The opinions expressed in SunWorld Online are those of the authors or the publisher, WPI/IDG, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its advertisers, or of Sun Microsystems, Inc. or its affiliates.

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