June 12, 2003

Continental Airlines doesn't like Linux users

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -

In an article published June 3 by TechWeb under the title Microsoft Launches New Security Certification, a Continental Airlines employee had some nasty things to say about Linux users and developers.

A link to this article has hit three Linux Users Group [LUG] email lists that NewsForge monitors, and has undoubtedly been mentioned on many others. This paragraph drew the most ire:

Nathan Hanks, managing director at Continental Airlines, said, "All the guys hacking Windows are Linux guys." Continental was hit hard by SQL Slammer and "our CEO said we'd failed," Hanks said.

Several LUG people pointed out the obvious: That if Continental used Linux instead of Windows and Windows-based server software, they wouldn't have been affected by the SQL Slammer worm at all; that yes, Continental's IT people had failed -- by choosing Windows and SQL Server over less expensive, more reliable, and more secure alternatives.

But that was not the biggest problem. Many Linux users interpreted Mr. Hanks' remarks about "Linux guys" as a slur akin to racial stereotyping. One LUG member wrote, in an email he sent to Continental Airlines CEO Gordon M. Bethune, that Hanks' comment "...is no better than a person stating that all black persons are car thieves."

Perhaps that's an excessive reaction to a single throwaway comment, but Hanks didn't stop with his characterization of all Windows hackers (his word) as "Linux guys," but also had unkind words about the difference between the way proprietary software vendors and Open Source developers react to reports of critical software problems:

Having one vendor throat to choke is helpful in crisis situations, Hanks said. An IT pro can't go to the CEO and say that a server is down, "and hopefully some guy in Amsterdam" will get to a fix when he gets back from the "dope house," he said.

For the record, NewsForge runs entirely on Linux and Open Source software, and we have never had to wait for a developer to get back from a "dope house" to provide a critical security fix. Also for the record, Linux-using NewsForge staff people do not spend their spare time cracking Windows servers. We have better things to do with our lives, thank you.


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