To hear the Linux proponents tell it, it's a classic story: the little guy versus the big guy, David versus Goliath. All that is good and free and open versus the evil corporate overlord.

You could even say it's the story of the founding of America itself . . .

But that might be going too far. Maybe it's the battle of the network stars—or, rather, one star and one up-and-comer.

In this corner, the champ, Microsoft. Huge, powerful, predominant on the desktop. The maker of Windows—such an essential part of our computer that, for a long time, most of...

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