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Linux, OpenBSD, Windows Server Comparison: Linux Stability

My primary Linux web server was up 336 days as of August 20, 2001 which is far longer than any other computer I've ever worked with. I accidentally reset it when the Windows NT server next to it crashed at 3:00 A.M. I don't believe the Linux web server ever crashed. When Linux was new to me, I used the Windows' way and sometimes rebooted to make a change.

When faced with problems, I started with the standard Windows' administrator approach. If a machine is behaving oddly and you don't know why, reboot it and see if the problem persists. On Windows, the reboot often makes the problem go away. The reboot doesn't help you understand what caused the problem, but since this is often unknowable on Windows and the reboot so frequently supplies a quick fix, it is a rational response to Windows' anomalies. Only when the problem recurs relatively soon, i.e., soon enough that you recall seeing a similar problem before, do you need to actually start troubleshooting to find the cause of a Windows problem.

Early on, I didn't know how to restart networking on the UNIX like systems, without rebooting. Sometimes I'd make system configuration changes from the command line and break something that was working. If I couldn't quickly figure out how to undo whatever I'd done, I'd reboot to get back to a clean starting point.

Since becoming familiar with Linux, there seems to be no need to ever reboot it except for a system (kernel) or hardware upgrade or change. The Linux web server that was up for 336 days was even moved to a new location while it was running. It was connected to a UPS and both were moved together. One local virtual console hung, but otherwise everything was fine when network, keyboard, and video cables were reconnected.

I have fairly clear recollections of two or three occasions that networking on the Linux web server stopped for no apparent reason and that a simple "./ifup eth0" restored it. If I have notes on these, I can't find them.

I have had experimental Linux machines lock up. With one machine in particular there were graphics, X Window system, compatibility issues with both Red Hat 7.1 and Corel Linux. Though all the hardware was supposed to be compatible, some actions in the GUI interface instantly locked the mouse and keyboard. These Linux installs were fine if they were kept in text mode. I'm sure the kernel itself was not affected but cannot prove it as the Corel system was not configured for networking and the Red Hat system had a firewall that prevented network connections.

KVM Compatibility Issues

There were some minor incompatibilities with the Belkin 8 port KVMs (keyboard mouse video switch boxes) that I use and Linux and OpenBSD. Windows and Novell are listed as supported on the original KVM. Linux is also listed on the newer box. No BSD is listed on either. The model number is identical on both KVMs. I have no idea whether any minor changes were made or it was simply tested with Linux by the time I bought a second.

Early on I locked up or thought I locked up the keyboard with both OpenBSD and especially Linux, on several occasions. I say thought, because I've gone a number of months without locking the keyboard on either type of system. A double scroll lock press is the hot key starter to switch systems. Sometimes it's actually three or four presses. Early on I'd press scroll lock quickly twice and then go straight to 01 - 08 to switch to the appropriate system. I learned to press more slowly and not press 01 - 08 until I heard the beep. Following a switch, sometimes the scroll lock key needs an additional press or two to get a keyboard response.

There's no question these were keyboard / KVM issues and not system crashes. As long as networking was operational, I could telnet in and reboot the system remotely. Rebooting always cleared what appeared to be a locked keyboard. Networking wasn't always available because different IP addresses, subnetting and routing were some of the things I experimented with.

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