Having received a spate of queries about network operating systems during the past few weeks, I thought I'd devote this column to explaining the nature of the key NOSes and related network services. To make the NOSes easier to understand, let's look at them as if they were people you knew.
This is your aunt Matilda, who is very religious and won't talk to anyone but her children. She completely ignores everyone else.
Apple's Macintosh System 7
Matilda's very religious children who talk only among themselves or people who they think are as equally religious.
Novell's NetWare 2.X
This is your uncle Edward, who owns that old house down the block. He used to be big in business, but he's old now and has been on life support for a couple of years. His health care company is about to pull the plug.
Novell's NetWare 3.X
Your older brother Eric, who has about a thousand kids. Eric is a fast talking corporate manager who works hard and lives in a modern house full of gadgets. He knows all about accounting and organization but has little empathy for his employees or his kids. He's got lots of friends in the business who are wary of him, just as his kids are.
Novell's NetWare 4.X
this is your younger brother Tarquin, who manages to talk even faster than Eric. He has been looking for a management job for the past 18 months. He has the most amazing theories about management that no one really understands, and he lives in a house that he can't afford.
Novell's Personal NetWare
One of Eric's kids. He's overweight, pimpled and talks nonstop to his siblings. No one is sure what to do with him. He may grow up to be likable or he may get shot ''accidentally'' in a freak gun accident at home.
Here is your cousin Phyllis. She runs a small business and has only a few clients. She'll talk to anyone except Matilda. She's very small and moves pretty fast, and while she knows she should lock the house, she never bothers to.
This is Phyllis' son who sponges off Tarquin. He's about to graduate, and everyone is curious to see what job he'll get.
Your old college professor who everyone refers to as ''the Rocket Scientist.'' His students seem to think he's the messiah, but he's pushed for higher tuition fees, and the students are all annoyed with him.
This is your crazy old granny who only speaks Esperanto backwards, lives in the attic and refuses to communicate any other way than by passing notes under the door.
IBM's LAN Server
Your neighbor Frederick, who was adopted when he was young by very conservative people. He speaks in a curiously convoluted way, and he's really only at home with his adopted parents' family.
Microsoft's Windows NT Advanced Server
This is your other neighbor, Robert (''My friends call me Flash, heh heh. Love your tie, where did you get it? Have you seen my Ferrari?''). He is a sales whiz kid. He is highly visual and is always waving his arms around as he talks. He lives in a huge house and has stuff in every room. He is the type of man who tickles children until they cough up blood.
Your other crazy old granny who runs a lending library. She will only lend to people who speak to her nicely and makes them pin up a photograph of the library in their houses before they can access the books.
Windows for Workgroups
Doug, the older brother of your neighbor Robert. He's not quite as flashy as Bob. He looks similar, although much shorter, and you can see he needs to put on some weight. He has breakdowns at regular intervals and can only do one thing at a time.
So there we have it. Is everything clear now?