Brandon's Notepad

May 29, 2009

WinNT is WinNT is WinNT

Home > My Lists > Technical Notes > WinNT is WinNT is WinNT

Buried in my old e-mails are golden nuggets of geek nostalgia. One such nugget is a snippet of an O’Reilly article that was sent to me by a friend in October of 1998, published two years prior, revealing that the Differences Between NT Server and Workstation Are Minimal. This came at a time when I was a devout NT user who was becoming increasingly-curious about Linux. This may actually have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, giving me a reason to ditch Microsoft altogether.

In a nutshell, Microsoft claimed publically that the kernels of the two products shared a common “structure” and that different kernels were the result of decisions in the compilation process (i.e. ‘ifdef’ statements). In reality, the kernels were identical, as were all of the packaged libraries – only about 100 extra files were shipped with NT Server. All other differences hinged on registry entries.

The only registry entry change needed in NT 3.51 is to the “ProductType” key (“WinNT” for Workstation vs. “ServerNT” or “LanmanNT” for Server). NT 4.0 requires a second entry change to the “SystemPrefix” key, which holds a binary value in the high-order DWORD bit 0x04000000 (on for Server, off for Workstation). There was also a security mechanism added in NT 4.0 to prevent tampering with these entries, though it is reportedly possible to override them.

Microsoft attorney, David Heiner, is quoted in the article “Microsoft has every right to put conditions on how its software is used” and the author of the article agrees (as do I). The real issues are that Microsoft (a) blatantly lied to customers to (b) artificially inflate prices on the OS while (c) low-balling the price on its IIS webserver to (d) unfairly undercut the competition.

Ahhh, the good ol’ days!

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