Greetings From Jim Dennis
Well, it's been another great month for Linux. We hear that Intel and Netscape are investing in Red Hat Inc. and Intel is joining Linux International.
So, everything is looking rosy for our favorite platform.
What could be better?
Well, I read an interesting editorial in ``;login'' the USENIX (http://www.usenix.org/) Association's monthly magazine. This is by Jordan Hubbard, one of the founders of the FreeBSD project --- and an employee at Walnut Creek.
He talks about the tendency of the freenix "clans" to fragment and duplicate development effort over relatively petty differences in licensing and --- more often as a result of the slithings and bites of "the snakes of Unrestrained Ego and Not Invented Here."
This fragmentation has been crippling the overall Unix marketplace for twenty years. The odd thing is that there is both a Unix "community" and a "marketplace." The members of the community tend to form "clans" which may bicker but mostly feel that they have mostly common goals. We'll argue incessantly over the advantages of a BSD'ish vs. a GPL license, or the superiority of 'vi' over 'emacs' or vice versa (I'm a heretic on that battle --- I use xemacs in "viper" -- vi emulation mode).
The Unix community has a long history of producing free software --- one that predates Linux, FreeBSD, X Windows, and even the Free Software Foundation itself. The FSF's GNU project was the first organized and formal effort to produce a fully usable system of tools that was unencumbered by corporate copyright (some argue that the "encumberances" of the GPL are even too much --- but that's back to the perennial clan feud; so let's skip it).
We may believe that Linux is the culmination of that effort. I hope it's not.
Jordan goes on to explain the FreeBSD attitude to software vendors that are expressing a renewed interest in the UNIX market and why he (and his associates) tell them "to port to Linux first (or at all)"
The FreeBSD support for running Linux binaries is apparently pretty solid (my use of FreeBSD has only required native binaries). It's possible that FreeBSD could be "fully Linux compatible" right down to compliance with the "Linux Standards Base." (It's likely to be easier for FreeBSD to achieve compliance than it will be for the various non-x86 Linux ports).
Jordan also goes on to speculate:
`` Say, for example, that someone fairly prominent in the Linux community popped up and told various users that they might want to give FreeBSD a whirl, just to check out what it has to offer lately. ''
Well, I'm probably not "fairly prominent" enough to fullfill Jordan's wish here. However, I've been saying that for years, here and in other fora. I think some of the SVLUG members are sick of hearing me suggest it.
My co-author (on the Linux book that we're writing) is a FreeBSD user. Some of my best friends favor NetBSD. My wife has been recently working for an outfit that uses FreeBSD for most of their desktop systems (only occasional spots of Linux) and Solaris for their servers. (The FreeBSD support for Japanese is apparently very good --- and it seems to be *much* more popular than Linux in Japan)
I've used FreeBSD and still recommend as an FTP server. I tend to stick with Linux for two reasons. The first is laziness, I've gotten much more used to Linux' quirks than FreeBSD's, and it's easy to pick up new CD's for Linux --- they're everywhere; I have to hunt around a bit for FreeBSD CD's.
However, I'm going to be trying a copy of 3.0 when it ships (I guess that will be near the end of this month). I'd suggest that all serious Linux students and enthusiasts try one of the BSD's --- FreeBSD for x86's; NetBSD for just about anything else; OpenBSD if your putting up an "exposed" system and allowing shell access to it.
Meanwhile I'll also suggest that you look at other operating systems entirely. Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris .... they're all Unix. When you get beyond DOS/Windows/NT and MacOS all you see is UNIX.
However there's quite a bit more out there. You just have to dig for them. Here's one place where you can start:http://www.starshine.org/OS/
I wrote that page a long time ago --- but most of the links still seem to be alive (O.K. Sven moved --- so I had to fix one link).
Two notes of interest:
Amoeba is now "free"
Amoeba is a distributed OS (think Beowulf clusters with lots of OS level support for clusering, process migration etc). It was written as a research project by Andrew S. Tanenbaum of Vrije University (the author of Minix, and the text book from which Linus learned some of what he know about OS design). There was a legendary "flamewar" (actually just a public debate) on the alt.os.minix newsgroup about the merits of monolithic kernels (Linux and the traditional Unix implementations) vs. "microkernels" (Minix, MACH, the GNU HURD, NeXTStep, and many others).
To learn more about Amoeba:
The EROS project (Extremely Reliable OS) has apparently finally been completed (for its initial release). I've mentioned this project in my earlier columns --- it is a microkernel OS which implements a "pure capabilities" security and authority model. This is so unlike the identity and access control lists models we see in Unix, NT, Netware, VMS and other multi-user OS that it took me about a year to "unlearn" enough to get some idea of what they were talking about.
EROS is not a free system. However, there are provisions for free personal use and research.
You can read more about EROS at:
(The FAQ's explanation of capabilities and its comparison to ACL's and identity based authority models is *much* better than anything that I found back when I first looked at this project a couple of years ago).
So, before you sing the praises of Linux to another potential convert --- consider your basis for comparison. If you've only only used DOS/Windows/NT and Linux --- you'll want to go back to school.
Answer Guy #1, January 1997
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