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Andrew Tanenbaum On Minix, Linux, BSD, and Licensing 480

Posted by timothy
from the factors-converge-to-define-reality dept.
An anonymous reader points out an interesting, detailed interview with Andrew Tanenbaum at; Tanenbaum holds forth on the current state of MINIX, licensing decisions, and the real reason he believes that Linux caught on just when he "thought BSD was going to take over the world." ("I think Linux succeeded against BSD, which was a stable mature system at the time simply because BSDI got stuck in a lawsuit and was effectively stopped for several years.")
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Andrew Tanenbaum On Minix, Linux, BSD, and Licensing

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  • by Ynot_82 (1023749) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:38AM (#38116128)

    he couldn't have pushed the "Linux succeeded because BSD had legal troubles" thing any harder
    What was that? Three mentions of it?
    I don't personally agree, I think Linux succeeded on it's own merit, but anyhow

  • What a tool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:48AM (#38116188) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure he knows more about operating system design than I will ever even want to know, but he knows jack shit about why Linux succeeded and it has nothing to do with lawsuits against BSDi, which in turn has nothing to do with BSD-4.4-lite, upon which all free *BSDs are based (and so is OSX, for that matter, although it may still retain code from BSD-4.3 for all I know, via NeXTStep.)

    Linux succeeded because of the GPL, plain and simple. It had less than a year's start before 386BSD, which was not affected by the lawsuit [].

    Tanenbaum will say anything to make himself sound like less of a douche for placing such strident restrictions on Minix and thus killing it, and so he wants to take anything away from Linux that he possibly can. If he has to ignore history to do so, so be it. Thankfully there's Wikipedia.

  • Well.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junta (36770) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:00AM (#38116274)

    Linux was behind, but generally expressed a more practical set of sensibilities that caused the relevant bits to catch up and pass BSD a bit quickly.

    All of them sucked on driver support, but I seem to recall Linux tending to getting more drivers more quickly than BSD. Some of the quality was less than stellar, but there was a willingness to go with something that mostly worked and refine it in the larger community. This sort of approach was pretty well required to work as a software platform running without the cooperation of the hardware platform you are on.

    GPL may have scared off companies in the beginning and maybe even a few to this day, but the value of companies that would reject GPL and embrace BSD is rather low to the community. GPL forced the companies that *did* use it to contribute back. BSD-only companies felt any and all work they did was theirs and theirs alone and BSD upstream didn't benefit. Over time, it's snowballed and most successful companies cannot ignore the benefits of Linux. It may be common sense now that their is lower maintenance cost of submitting it upstream even if not required by license, but had GPL never made waves, the 'keep your code to yourself or else' mindset may have persisted.

  • Re:Tanenbaum? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:02AM (#38116284) Homepage

    One thing doesn't exclude the other.

    And both Linux and Minix has their merits, but Linux has one big advantage and that is that it has so many drivers that it did overtake Windows a while ago. You may find cases where you miss a driver for Linux for your pet device but it's starting to get unusual unless it's a very new device.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:04AM (#38116296)

    There's no debate any longer. It's quite clear that BSD-style licenses promote freedom, while the GPL goes out of its way to remove freedom.

    That kind of depends who you are and whose freedoms you're concerned with, actually. GPL promotes certain types of freedom, where BSD goes with the idea that "freedom" means "no restrictions whatsoever". I dont think theres a clear cut "this one is more free" because both are certainly correct uses of the word "freedom".

    The GPL license is all about limiting the freedom of people to do what they want with the software.

    Come on, you know better than this. The GPL compromises the freedoms of future developers in order to guarentee that the end user at LEAST has the freedom to modify and redistribute.

    Wikipedia sums it up well:
    The distribution rights granted by the GPL for modified versions of the work are not unconditional. When someone distributes a GPL'd work plus his/her own modifications, the requirements for distributing the whole work cannot be any greater than the requirements that are in the GPL.

    In a stricter sense BSD IS about maximizing freedom in the sense of anarchy; but US' society was formed with the idea that in order to maximize individual freedoms when groups are involved, you need to do so by setting restrictions (Bill of Rights, enforcing contract law, enforcing theft laws, etc). You lose some freedoms (the ability for a congressperson to vote on a speech law, the ability for you to take Bob's lunch) in order to gain a more stable, guarenteed level of freedom (being secure in your home, being able to agree to an enforceable contract, being guarenteed the right to political speech).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:17AM (#38116366)

    It requires the same amount of effort to politely redirect someone to the appropriate place, without mistreating the "ignorant". They are ignorant, because they don't know, they are trying to learn, but instead of being helpful, you turn to being abusive? I wouldn't call someone like that elitist, I'd simply call them an asshole.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:18AM (#38116376)

    Try doing a simple modification to the MINIX kernel like adding a new system call. The new system call doesn't even have to do anything interesting or touch hardware: just add some numbers and return them, for the sake of argument or something. Last I tried in MINIX this required touching something like 6 or 7 different files in the source. There are a lot of different components in the kernel that need to know about the new system call, which component it gets forwarded to, how to package up the message to send to that server. I think Linus is bang on when he says microkernels add complexity on to the interactions between components, which is where the worst of the complexity was to begin with.

    Linux does run every component of the kernel in the same address space, which has its downsides (a buggy video driver can theoretically affect your network driver), but I haven't seen these downsides come up in practice. Truth be told, if one of your drivers crashes, there's little hope of maintaining a useful system and you'll likely want to reboot anyway.

    As far as AST's assertion that Linux is "spaghetti" code, no no no, look at the code for yourself. The components in Linux are very well separated. Linux keeps them separated by coding discipline rather than by some technical enforcement (like different address spaces), but this discipline is kept up very well. I suspect the high-level Linux developers (like Linus) spend a lot of time and effort tracking people down and yelling at them for breaking this discipline and trying to put in some spaghetti, but in my dealings with the kernel, they've done a very good job of staying disciplined. I haven't come across anything in the Linux kernel that I'd call "spaghetti".

    Back to the example of adding a system call, I think in Linux this requires 3 source files that need to change. I've only spent a few weeks on each of them, but in my experiences, Linux has the edge on MINIX when it comes down to keeping components logically separated. In Linux, what you do in one place, no other code ever needs to know about that. In MINIX, you have to worry about how and where to forward messages and, while it is sort of elegant in its design, but I don't see an actual benefit coming out of it.

  • The license is really less important than community in making a project successful. What is important is a high pace of development and a large developer community, not whether a project uses the BSD or GPL licenses. In these cases, economically most commercial players will contribute most of their changes back.

  • The GPL license is all about limiting the freedom of people to do what they want with the software.

    Incompetent, cowardly troll is incompetent and cowardly; The GPL license is about limiting the freedom of programmers to do what they want with your copyrighted source code, specifically for the opposite of the purpose which you state; it is indeed there to prevent people from placing limits on what users may do with the software.

    Try harder, weedhopper.

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:46AM (#38116556) Journal


    My experience with BSD development is that it comprises core teams of fairly smart geeks with tireless sycophants on the sidelines taken under the wings of the elders on the basis of their ability to suck up. This is why everything BSD beyond the kernel and a few specific userland apps is an also-ran.

    And the BSD operating systems are "so damn solid" only in the sense that many parts are very mature and the pace of development is fairly slow, lagging well behind Linux for a good decade. This is not to say that stability isn't sometimes a good choice - which is why many people choose Debian.

    Linux, meanwhile, is much more meritocratic. Your code good enough? We'll take it, even though we're not sure who you are. Big business wanting to contribute time, money and resources? We'll take it. Not up to scratch? We'll give you advice but we won't include you in anything mainline. Hell, we'll not only give you advice but we'll point you to the copious amount of documentation produced to help kernel and userland developers.

    Here's a simple challenge for you: try writing a functional network card driver for Linux over a weekend. Now try the same in FreeBSD.

  • Re:Well.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:46AM (#38116558)

    GPL forced the companies that *did* use it to contribute back.

    Only if they distribute it. In house only mods don't have to be contributed back which would make it as secure for BSD.
    All the software development I've done for pay has been for internal use and not distribution - yes if you're writing something for shipping you'd need to release the source but that's not as common as most people think. Tanenbaum makes the same error/assumption as well, possibly deliberately, maybe not...

  • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:56AM (#38116630)
    There is also the slightly relevant fact that Minix was a teaching demo, and was meant to be a teaching demo. It was not meant to be a sueable system.

    And to get it, you had to buy a book that cost more than I paid for a used car that year. (Yes, I did buy the book too!)

  • by Dr. Blue (63477) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:58AM (#38116650)

    Tanenbaum has always been the kind of person with good technical insights, but no sense whatsoever about what makes something successful as a product or "in the real world." I have a lot of sympathy for that, because I'm like that as well. I'm a researcher - I write papers, they have good technical insights and contributions, they definitely impact the science of the field, and I hope that along the line they can affect practice - but I know there's a world of difference between what I do and making a product. Tanenbaum doesn't seem to get that.

    And as far as the Java bit, yeah a LOT of people had that idea. It long predates what Tanenbaum did, back to o-code in the 1960's and p-code in the early 1970's (with the most popular version, remarkably similar to the Java/JVM model being UCSD's Pascal/pSystem). Those didn't take off like Java either - because there's a huge difference between having a good technical idea and having a successful product. Some is timing, some is "cool factor", some is marketing and sheer determination and drive. But superior technology, or having the first idea technically, has very little to do with it. See the success of MS-DOS or Windows for further examples... :-)

  • by maztuhblastah (745586) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:10PM (#38116724) Journal

    Has it occurred to you that some people don't share your view that everyone should be forced to use their code in a way consistent with Stallman's ideologies?

    (As an aside: Apple has actually done a fair bit -- but since you're borderline trolling I wouldn't expect you to mention that.)

    And yes, I do use FreeBSD exclusively on everything but my laptop. Who gives a shit if it's not listed on some popularity-ranking website? There were plenty of doofuses saying the same thing about Linux when it started, and Mac OS X back in 2001.

    The BSD license allows people to use code for pretty much whatever purpose, provided that they don't claim to have written it. The GPL allows people to use code for whatever purpose -- provided they conform to the GPL ideology, license their code under the GPL, and don't use it in certain ways that Stallman et al. think are unacceptable.

    You tell me which embodies the spirit of freedom more.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:15PM (#38116750)

    Not really, *BSD was taking off and the Linux devs made liberal use of the FUD that resulted from the lawsuit to scare people off of *BSD. Linux itself, by Linus' own admission, probably wouldn't exist if he had had a copy before he started Linux.

    The GPL itself has its utility but in all honesty, let's be honest about the effect that had on developers early on that weren't just hobbyists. The BSD license is one of the main reasons that the internet was able to grow so quickly despite MS not having a viable TCP/IP stack for its OS until late. That never would or could have happened with the GPL just because of the way it's written.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:23PM (#38116798)

    Get your facts right. Linux was NEVER a fork of MINIX, no more than your post is a fork of Internet Explorer because that's what you used to write your drivel with.

  • by naasking (94116) <naasking @ g m a> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:30PM (#38116858) Homepage

    Has it occurred to you that some people don't share your view that everyone should be forced to use their code in a way consistent with Stallman's ideologies?

    That's irrelevant to his point of software dominance via natural selection. His point was simply that the GPL is a better survivor given software market dynamics and the human mindset, and that's why it's thrived more than BSD. Nobody cares what license you choose, but it's undeniable that the GPL is more successful.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:42PM (#38116948) Homepage

    The whole lawsuit thing really isn't relevant.

    The real problem with BSD as a mass movement has always been it's approach and management style. Blaming those old lawsuits are just a sort of "lost cause" excuse.

    What really gave Linux the advantage was the cooperative development approach with "hobbyists". The chaos of multiple different versions that many people like to knock Linux for is precisely the advantage it had over BSD and probably still has. People fork Linux for their own reasons and make tweaks and improvements on it. Eventually those changes propagate to other distributions and the whole thing gets better.

    It's the Cathedral and the Bazzar.

    In my own case, Linux was simply the first Unix that supported the hardware I had at the time.

    When Slackware botched the 2.0.0 release, it was nice that Redhat was there to help pick up the pieces.

  • Here's a simple challenge for you: try writing a functional network card driver for Linux over a weekend. Now try the same in FreeBSD.

    I have to say your right on the money with that statement. One of the things that made Linux so attractive was Linus et el put a lot of effort in allowing people to add driver support for hardware. It stands to reason making an OS for machines people slap together themselves you need to be able to quickly add support for a multitude of hardware. This alone is a huge reason for the success of Linux. The BSD developers on the other hand, had a clear idea of what hardware they wanted to support -- big ass servers -- so the means to support "oh look a new graphics card" type new hardware was low priority and never built in.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:07PM (#38117142) Journal

    In my own case, Linux was simply the first Unix that supported the hardware I had at the time.

    And the BSD lawsuit delaying the distribution of the i386 versions of BSD by a few years had nothing to do with that...

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:22PM (#38117244) Homepage

    Has it occurred to you that some people don't share your view that everyone should be forced to use their code in a way consistent with Stallman's ideologies?

    Who said anything about force? Apple is using their freedom to make OS X out of BSD. Users are using their freedom to choose OS X over BSD. Everybody is free to contribute to or use BSD, I'm just saying most don't. That even if you take away Linux and the GPL, most would continue to use their freedom to not contribute back to do just that. That the market share currently held by Linux would belong to proprietary alternatives, not BSD. It's my opinion of how an alternative timeline would look.

    (As an aside: Apple has actually done a fair bit -- but since you're borderline trolling I wouldn't expect you to mention that.)

    Because BSD is so far away from being a competitor it doesn't matter. If they saw competition from BSD, they'd probably keep a proprietary fork. But why bother when 99.9%+ of the people using that code will be OS X users anyway? It is really just another indication that BSD is completely harmless and no substitute at all, a library more than an alternative.

    The BSD license allows people to use code for pretty much whatever purpose, provided that they don't claim to have written it. The GPL allows people to use code for whatever purpose -- provided they conform to the GPL ideology, license their code under the GPL, and don't use it in certain ways that Stallman et al. think are unacceptable.

    Actually just conform to the license. Like Linus has shown many times, there's no need to take everything RMS says as gospel. So the code is free but almost only Apple uses BSD code, users use OS X. Through that they use the code, as every BSD fan likes to point out, but they have no access to it or freedom from it. The only free form, the pure BSD form, is a form almost nobody uses on its own.

    You tell me which embodies the spirit of freedom more.

    What I refuse to agree with are the BSD pundits that pretends it is more popular and more free at the same time. You can either say you have a 5%+ market share of users with no freedoms, or a <0.01% market share with freedoms. But when they try to pretend they have 5%+ of the market enjoying those freedoms as if they were OSS users, it's being intellectually dishonest. <troll>It's almost as bad hearing RIAA math where you take the number of pirated copies and multiply it with the retail price, you reach a completely imaginary number.</troll>

  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:37PM (#38117322)

    First, on the Linux vs Minix piece - Minix wasn't ready for any use at all or at least so it was perceived. So Linux won that one. Regarding BSD, Linux ran on current hardware that hobbyists had laying around, BSD generally required a level of effort above and beyond that, so despite being a much better system, Linux won there also. Quite honestly, BSD is just a much better designed system, but that's not going to help it win outright converts when Linux appears to meet the needs and has mindshare. However, BSD may yet make a come back. I don't think the final chapter has been written yet. There's all those Windows machines that can be converted, after all. ;)

    On the Java piece - Java took off because it actually worked for the things people needed. It had the libraries, so even though Smalltalk might be better designed, it fails to meet those goals for 90+% of the folks that needed something. Java was truly the first to deliver adequate functionality and performance across platforms, and people (and companies) embraced it for it came with a license and was backed by a company that everyone felt they could tolerate and trust. So far, neither's been violated. We'll see what happens now that Oracle is in charge.

  • by musial (2448338) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:37PM (#38117328)
    The simple answer (and probably one of the more correct answers) is GNU/Linux won because it works. I love BSD, especially OpenBSD. I buy OpenBSD's CD's to contribute money to the project because I admire the hell out of it, but rarely do I try to run it. OpenSSH? Amazing. And that it came from such a relatively small group, just shows what a complete powerhouse the OpenBSD group is. However, when I got my OpenBSD CD's in the mail, I figured let's do the twice-a-year dance where I attempt to run OpenBSD. Results? On my primary workstation, OpenBSD's X doesn't agree with my video card. On my primary laptop, though I can get OpenBSD to install via CD, once installed, it doesn't recognize my DVD drive, and on my EEE machine, it doesn't recognize my wireless. Now, let's look at one of my favorite GNU/Linux distros, Trisquel. Which uses the linux-libre "deblobbed" kernel. It works, flawlessly, on my workstation and both laptops. Zero un-free drivers, blobs, or software. People can come up with as many theories on why GNU/Linux overshadowed BSD, but in my case, and in the case of many, GNU/Linux works better. BSD might have more elegant, bug free code, but for the vast majority of users, that doesn't matter, working features matter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @02:24PM (#38117646)

    Linus Torvalds himself says the same thing - that if it weren't for the BDSI lawsuits, he would have just used BSD.

    That is not the same thing. Torvalds is saying Linux likely would not have existed. That doesn't mean the success of Linux is correlated to the temporarily hamstrung BSD, that simply means Linux may not have had an opportunity to succeed if BSD was not hamstrung because it would not have existed.

    It may very well be that Linux would not have experienced the success that it has if BSD was not legally hamstrung but you are drawing an incorrect conclusion from Torvalds' statement.

    If BSD was not hamstrung and Torvalds still decided to start the Linux project it still may have succeeded. The decision on whether or not to start the project only determined whether Linux would exist in the first place.

  • by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedge@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:28PM (#38118076)

    Why should linux target the consumer market? Leave it to Apple and Android devs to develop computer appliances for the mass market. Linux is for people that take computing seriously. Not to say that that's all it's good for or that's all its users are interested in, but if you don't have an ideological chip on your shoulder and aren't interested in the command line, you're probably better off just using whatever came on the box you bought. Until Apple, there was no interest from the Unix community in the consumer segment, and the degree of consumer that consumer OSs enjoy is inversely related to their Unix components.

    There's a lot of people I would recommend linux to, and many tasks for which it is an (arguably) superior option. Freedom from viruses is worth a great deal to me, as someone who has spent years repairing fucked up Windows systems. But I'm not eager for that particular advantage to erode, and I've dealt with far too many windows-using idiots to wish that upon the linux community.

  • by pugugly (152978) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:55PM (#38118290)

    Sure it could have - and nothing they did with the fork would have benefited anyone but them. If you think the hundreds of Linux forks are bad, imagine hundreds of forked OS's growing and dying . . . with absolutely none of the knowledge gained going back to the main community.

    Windows beats Linux because, however crappy it often is, it's crappy in entirely consistent ways. Linux improves because different distros learn not to be crappy in new and different ways. The way *I* read the BDS license(s), BSD would have been legally forced to be crappy in a new and different way each and every time - unless the failures voluntarily submitted their improvements and new knowledge back to the community he claims they avoided doing in Linux specifically because they didn't want to do that.

    Or - to rephrase - as nice as Mac's BSD under the skin OS is, how much has it actually improved the BSD experience of anyone else?


  • by sproketboy (608031) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:46PM (#38119190)

    Seriously? Smalltalk failed do to bad marketing? This is a fallacy of the highest order. Languages become popular because they solve real problems. What problems did Smalltalk solve?

    Smalltalk is unmaintainable for teams - Java is highly maintainable over a long period of time.

    Smalltalk has no goal to be cross-platform - Java does.

    Smalltalk has no standard for math, memory or treading - Java does.

    Real world solutions sell a language. Not academic "pure oop" nonsense.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @06:47PM (#38119518) Journal

    Nobody uses just BSD

    They don't? If I wasn't required to use Linux at work, I'd be 100% FreeBSD, no Linux, no Windows, nothing. FreeBSD remains a far superior desktop system. Linux remains a nightmarish fight to get a system stable and with the software you want installed. Load up RHEL5/6 with all the repos you want, and it's still completely hit or miss as to whether the program you've been using for decades will be in any of the repos. So go get the source RPM and cross your fingers and hope... Ever tried to compile OpenSuSe SRPMs on RHEL? Yikes!

    In FreeBSD, there's a port (and probably a package if not for license issues) for everything you could ever want to have installed. And if it's older and was since deleted, you can probably pull it in from an old ports tree, and it'll still work just fine.

    One simple little thing ALL the BSDs get right, that ALL the Linux distros (except Slackware) get wrong... Headers (-devel) included in the package, not separately. They're tiny, they'll never cause any problems, and almost everyone will end up needing them at some point, so it's incomprehensible that they're universally shunned...

    The BSD license lacks the self-preservation to exist as an independent product, sure the code won't go away but all the users disappear on proprietary spin-offs and so too in essence all the potential developers.

    Linux and GNU aren't dependant on companies and developers just doing the bare minimum to comply with the GPL. No, they have to go above and beyond that, to working with the community to get their changes merged. Apple's tar dumps of WebKit source code were useless, yet this is the license you were saying was going to keep them honest? Sorry, no, it was public pressure that got them playing nice, NOT license obligations.

    There are many examples of non-CopyLeft licenses working out fine, and furthermore, being NECESSARY.

    Theo is complaining, because he personally burned a lot of bridges, and I'm not sure companies want to be associated with him at all. FreeBSD is doing just fine and developing quite well, even if it gets vastly less press than Linux. Jimmy Wales is begging for money every day, does that mean Wikipedia, like BSD, is a failed idea, and it needs a copyright that requires contributions to Wikimedia for all commercial redistribution?

    There are plenty of examples of BSD/MITX licensed software being NECESSARY. Pretty much EVERYTHING that is a de-facto internet standard was released as BSD/MITX-licensed software, and I'd say next to nothing released as CopyLeft has ever risen to that level...

    OpenSSH wouldn't have caught-on if it was GPL'd. Why do you think FreSSH has negligible installed base? Telnet and rsh stayed in-use far after they should have died out, yet it wasn't until OpenSSH came along that everyone agreed on a standard.

    Apache has done quite well, both in funding and code contributions, despite their very free license across their projects.

    The same is true of BIND and SENDMAIL.

    NFS (v3) was looking horribly decrepit for a number of years. Yet it kept being used, while all the GPL'd network filesystems being developed without the drawbacks and features like encryption died on the vine. And now with NFSv4, the freer option is back up to snuff, and all those CopyLeft alternatives remain dead.

    rsync is a great service, but will it ever be established as an alternative to primitive FTP file transfers? It actually looks like SFTP is taking over a lot of those functions.

    NTP? LPD? Kerberos & LDP? iSCSI?

    Go ahead, just name one piece of CopyLeft software that has gone on to become a defacto internet standard, and prove me wrong.

    The moral of the story is, you want to say if it was BSD instead of Linux, it would have been "stolen" and locked-up in proprietary products. I'd say if it had been BSD instead of Linux, penetration would have been VASTLY faster, and COMPLETE. Sure, th

  • by Jonner (189691) on Monday November 21, 2011 @12:40AM (#38121210)

    I've thought they've ended this flame war several years ago?

    Several years ago when BSD based Mac OS X took over the Unix desktop market? ;-)

    I think things are a little more complicated than in the 1990s with respect to BSD vs Linux.

    People who buy into the "OSX is BSD" idea need to look a little more closely. Of course OSX has BSD code in it; all modern OSes do (even Windows). However, the XNU kernel [] is very different from the kernels of modern BSDs like FreeBSD and OpenBSD. While containing some BSD code it is also based on Mach and its own device driver framework. While OSX borrows BSD userspace components (like almost all modern OSes) it also depends on GNU ones, most importantly the development tools. The biggest way OSX differs from BSDs is in all the components the user sees, including the window system and GUI libraries; those are proprietary and can't be found in any non-Apple OS.

    Though somewhat subjective, I think the typical modern BSD system has more in common with the typical modern GNU/Linux system than with OSX, especially if considering desktop use. Though all three contain code from BSD and GNU origins, only BSDs and Linux-based systems use traditional Unix-style monolithic kernels and X11 as the windowing system.

  • by synthespian (563437) on Monday November 21, 2011 @02:45AM (#38121648)

    Back in 90-smth I used to be a Debian user. I used to ask a lot on Usenet and lists. That's because the system was so bad, and the documentation so shitty (Linux users back them used to use the "LDP" - Linux Documentation Project - which in effect was a bunch of badly written and outdated documents.

    Then some dude from a Debian LUG (I helped begin, BTW) talked greatly about the virtues of FreeBSD. I never looked back. Right he was, indeed. Soo much better than Debian. I actually felt a sort of relief. You don't know your in the shit when you're always in the shit...And then, Mac OS X came out (borrowing stuf from FreeBSD, of course), and they set the bar higher for "Unix".

    The reason you don't hear much about FreeBSD from users in forums is because the documentation is good and the system so solid and easy to understand design-wise, that you never hear that incessant bruhaha you get in Linux distros, where everything is always breaking from one upgrade to another (or the never-ending infighting that goes on). If you head out to a BSD forum without having read the thorough documentation (a trait all BSD distros share), then it turns out you are one lazy moron. There's no excuse, like there is in Linux distros, where typically the manual page was last written in 1998.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday November 21, 2011 @06:29PM (#38129826) Homepage

    As someone who has tried to treat MacOS as "just another Unix", I say that you are no BSD sysadmin at all.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach