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Second childhood

Sure, the Internet can be used for research and education. But it can also be quite handy for finding the kind of garbage that you couldn’t live without when you were a kid.

As befits an operating system run by businesses mostly as a server, Linux makes an excellent system for storing your data. Linux runs equally well as a desktop environment, but in the business realm Linux more often appears in the back end, not on users’ desktops.

All of the major commercial databases, except those from Microsoft, run on Linux. WINE, a technology that allows users to run many Windows applications under Linux, doesn’t yet support Microsoft’s SQL Server or Access databases, unfortunately.

Oracle, the database market leader, has especially promoted Linux. Part of this is in counter to IBM, the force behind DB2 and Informix, and a major competitor to Oracle. IBM has made a huge effort to sell Linux solutions for application servers, databases, server hardware, and services. IBM even ported Linux to their mainframe systems. Sybase, another major DB vendor, shouldn’t be discounted either. An early convert to Linux, Sybase, offers database and application server products that run on Linux.

SAP DB and Firebird, both cross-platform databases, run on Linux as well. Both are former commercial products now available as free open-source incarnations. Both have attracted dedicated user communities. Other cross-platform databases include four written in Java. HSQLDB and McKoi SQL are both open-source applications. Pointbase and Cloudscape are commercial products. All require a Java Runtime Engine, or JRE, to run.

In the open-source arena, two databases stand head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of market share: PostgreSQL and MySQL. PostgreSQL bills itself as the most advanced open-source database in the world. MySQL counters by claiming to be the world’s most popular open-source database. Can you see some competition? Both database products even sport animal logos.

PostgreSQL is available under the business-friendly BSD license. MySQL is available under a GPL license for free, or a commercial license for cost. Both are open source. And, you can purchase technical support for both as well.

Traditionally, PostgreSQL has provided a larger feature set and MySQL a faster, smaller but less feature-laden database. These lines have begun to blur, though, with MySQL adding missing features and PostgreSQL advancing as well. PostgreSQL started at the University of California at Berkeley in 1986 and grew from there. It is supported by a number of companies, including PostgreSQL, Inc. and Red Hat, which uses PostgreSQL as the basis for its Red Hat Database product.

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