Ex-Microsoft Employees Report Unix Is All Around

Former Oracle Corp. No. 2 man Ray Lane has surfaced again, and Randi took great pleasure in reading an interview with him in the local paper in which he talks about how he is taking more time for his family, including a toddler and another baby on the way.

"Ray finally realized that those 18-hour workdays were interfering with his personal and spiritual growth, Bobby," Randi said to me as she packed an overnight bag with her sweet-smelling, silky clothes.

Lane has joined venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, looking to provide his operating expertise to start-up companies and to spend more time working on his golf swing.

In the interview, Lane made it clear that his own grueling work schedule as chief operating officer of Oracle was what allowed CEO Larry Ellison to live a full personal life and still be a powerful executive.

Randi was so inspired by Lane's awakening that she decided to do a retreat weekend. She left me alone and went with some girlfriends to a llama and sheep farm to learn how to handspin yarn.

In defiance, I stocked up on some lamb chops for the weekend.

Unix in Redmond

I was going to avoid writing about Microsoft Corp. this week, but how could I resist sharing these tidbits from ex-Microsofties? These former Microsoft employees have written in to set the record straight about what's really going on behind the scenes at a few of the software giant's subsidiaries.

When Microsoft acquired Linkexchange (now bCentral), company officials tried to get rid of Oracle databases in favor of the company's own SQL Server.

"Some of the best folks from Redmond came down to make the change, but after two or three months they gave up and switched back to Oracle on Solaris, where it remains today," this reader wrote.

Another former bCentral employee says Microsoft mentions Linux in its help-wanted ads for bCentral just to lure unsuspecting enthusiasts to come work there. The OSes in place were primarily FreeBSD, BSD/OS, and Solaris. That is, until Microsoft tried to migrate more of the systems to Windows NT and 2000.

According to this source, Microsoft had to quadruple the number of servers when it moved to its own operating systems.

For the most part, according to our ex-Microsoftie, the company's money-making Web properties are all based around Unix, with Hotmail 99 being 99 percent FreeBSD, MSN using some Apache on Solaris, bCentral ad servers on 100 percent FreeBSD, and WebTV pretty much entirely Solaris.

"Internally when Windows 2000 was announced, people were told not to even think about using it for production because it was too unstable," says this ex-Microsoftie.

So much for mature software written by professionals. It seems that, internally, Microsoft prefers the stuff "written by college kids in their basements."

"CAN YOU HEAR ME, Bobby?" Randi asked from a crackly cell-phone connection.

"I'm staying for an extra day."

I took another lamb chop out of the freezer.

Send tips to