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Operating Systems Unix BSD Linux

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 Linuxfr.org; 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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:35AM (#38116106)

    I've thought they've ended this flame war several years ago?
    Well then, here we go, let the flaming commence...

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

    Wow,
    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

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:08AM (#38116318) Homepage Journal

      He comes off as a super-asshole in general. "I published a paper in 1978 on something very close to the Java Virtual Machine, but we never got much credit for it although we were years ahead of Sun. Such is life sometimes." Too bad it was just a paper. But the truth is that Smalltalk is the language which actually existed which deserves the credit that Java got technically, but it also went nowhere because it was neither packaged more marketed attractively. The state of documentation for Squeak is distressing. So, Java it is!

      Tanenbaum is clearly grumpy about continually being asked questions about why Linux ate Minix's lunch, and he's very defensive of his stupid license choices which have kept Minix an "also-ran". Maybe if they couldn't get a rise out of him, people would stop asking him about it. As long as he says stupid quotable things about Linux the questions will keep coming.

      • 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 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:23AM (#38116408)

      The question is not why Linux succeeded, but why Minix failed.
      The answer is simple, Tanenbaum refused to develop a 386 version,
      claiming bizarrely that there were so many 286's in the world
      that people would always use them.

      If he had brought out a 386 version of Minix
      I doubt if Linux would have taken off.

      My impression at the time was that he got bored with Minix,
      and wanted to move on to other things.

      But the way in which Minix has been written out of the Linux story
      is very strange, in my opinion.
      In its origins, Linux was simply a fork of Minix.
      Admittedly Torvalds had to re-write everything,
      but that was just because Tanenbaum had a veto
      on Minix development, and only allowed a tiny handful
      of devotees to add code.

      Torvalds was infinitely better at getting a team
      to co-operate with him.
      That was the secret of his success.

      • 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 next_ghost (1868792) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:32PM (#38116874)

        In its origins, Linux was simply a fork of Minix.

        Oh come on. How many people still believe this Ken Brown nonsense? Even Tanenbaum himself said this is complete nonsense [cs.vu.nl].

      • by turbidostato (878842) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:55PM (#38119242)

        "The question is not why Linux succeeded, but why Minix failed."

        Well.. then I would one to question where exactly Minix failed.

        It was not intended as a hobbyist system, it was not even intended to be usable and Tanenbaum even explicitly stated so, so it's no wonder it did became neither usable nor a hobbyist system.

        On the other hand, Minix was intended as an educational tool to learn the basics of an OS. For this it should remain simple and true to its intention. Well, I think Linus himself said to have learned quite a bit from Minix as a lot of other engineers too, so again, how exactly did Minix fail?

        "In its origins, Linux was simply a fork of Minix."

        True, only for the little fact of being false.

        "Admittedly Torvalds had to re-write everything,
        but that was just because Tanenbaum had a veto
        on Minix development"

        Admittedly Tanenbaum restricted Minix license out of his own reasons but Linus did *not* "rewrote" Minix because of the license; he *wrote* Linux from scratch for the pleasure of doing it, because he was a hacker and he had a shinny new 386 on his desk.

      • by cas2000 (148703) on Monday November 21, 2011 @12:18AM (#38121118)

        In its origins, Linux was simply a fork of Minix. Admittedly Torvalds had to re-write everything,

        Nope. That's called a clone or a re-implementation, not a fork. A fork is based on the original project's source code. Since Linus wrote everything from scratch, it wasn't not a fork.

        IMO, Linux was successful where Minx & *BSD were not, for three main reasons:

        - Linus himself - makes a near-ideal benevolent dictator for his project
        - The GPL - guaranteed other devs that their work would always be Free Software
        - Support for 386 and later 486 chips - a major itch that needed scratching

        There were numerous secondary reasons too, but IMO the above are the main ones. In order of importance

    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @01:35PM (#38117314) Journal
      Linus Torvalds himself says the same thing - that if it weren't for the BDSI lawsuits, he would have just used BSD. [citation [gondwanaland.com]]

      "If 386BSD had been available when I started on Linux, Linux would probably never had happened."

      Read the current article, then the one linked to another interview with Linus. It will become clear.

      • 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 perpenso (1613749) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @02:56PM (#38117846)

          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.

          No, the most enthusiastic Linux developer and hobbyist is saying he would have spent his time somewhere else if BSD were available. Other early developers would have had similar behaviors. The pool of people willing to work on Linux would have been severely diminished. In other words, there would not have been a vacuum for Linux to fill.

    • by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday November 20, 2011 @03:14PM (#38117962) Journal
      You know, back then when you asked about a Unix license the reply was something like "well let's fly a consultant out to you to right-size your licensing to optimize your ROI". That may have been a wee bit off-putting for folks who just wanted to do a few spreadsheets for their small business.
  • Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:39AM (#38116142)

    No, Linux "succeeded" because BSD was frozen out of the market by AT&T at a crucial time.

    Having lived thru that, I'd disagree. BSD was way too elitist, "oh, you wanna run a BSD flavor on a 386? Oh how cute, but you suck. We all use PDP11s here. We'll let you try, if you promise not to pester us with bug reports and things, now here's a nickel kid, go buy youself a real computer like a VAX.". Minix wanted you to buy a book and the hardware support was kinda limited so its unclear if you'd be wasting your money or not, which in the pre-amazon days meant finding out the ISBN and pestering an intimidating bookstore clerk to order it for you and then rolling the dice once it arrived. Linux? That was just some downloads off the local BBSes and/or early internet provider link, and everyone was mostly friendly most of the time, unlike the *BSD guys.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The *BSD community has been painted as being "elitist" for well over 20 years now. But that's just not the case. It's a merely a community that's built around a meritocracy. They don't care who you are, or where you're from, or what your experience is, just as long as you have skill. That's all they ask for, and that's actually quite reasonable. That's why the *BSD operating systems are so damn solid; they're built by very talented developers who know exactly what they're doing.

      Those who call them "elitist"

      • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by synthespian (563437)

          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 do

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

        Bullshit.

        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.

        • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:50PM (#38117008)

          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 evilviper (135110)

          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.

          Right... That was why head-to-head benchmarks of Linux and FreeBSD on SMP and file-system performance showed FreeBSD coming out ahead pretty consistently. These days, people have stopped caring about a little performance one way or the other, but it's utterly ridiculous to claim FreeBSD lags "a good decade" behind Linux.

      • The *BSD community has been painted as being "elitist" for well over 20 years now. But that's just not the case. It's a merely a community that's built around a meritocracy. They don't care who you are, or where you're from, or what your experience is, just as long as you have skill.

        I got in an argument with Theo the Rat about the performance hit of Position Independent Executables on x86. Spoiler: It's 1%, however you get a 5% boost by -fomit-stack-pointer--which doesn't work with -fPIE -fPIC, so you take a 6% hit. Most processes spend less than 0.1% in the main executable process, and so the 6% hit becomes 0.006%. The exception is X11 itself, which at the time spent a whopping 8% of its time in the main executable, making the 6% hit a 0.48% hit.

        When I posted the opening argume

    • "intimidating bookstore clerk"? Holy cow. The guys at the comic book shop must give you night sweats!
    • by afabbro (33948)
      Meh...I don't think it's elitism. Anyone could have picked up 4.4-lite and run with it. It's more the legal problems and the fact that Linux is more SysV than BSD, and the world was moving in a SysV direction in the 90s.
    • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jruschme (76180) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @02:27PM (#38117658) Journal

      Having also lived through this....

      Remember, that prior to Minix, Linux or any of the x86 BSDs, the idea of a personal, affordable, up-to-date Unix platform was something of a Holy Grail. The basic options were either expensive (SCO XENIX), loosely compatible (Coherent, PC-Unix) or discontinued surplus (AT&T UnixPC). The stage was set for somebody to take over the world.

      In the beginning, you had two choices for running BSD on a 386- BSD/386 or 386BSD. BSD/386 was an expensive commercial product. 386BSD was free, but initially flawed and slow to release updates. It was a project basically under the control of a single person, William Jolitz, and his wife.

      Quoting from the Wikipedia entry for 386BSD:

      "After the release of 386BSD 0.1, a group of users began collecting bug fixes and enhancements, releasing them as an unofficial patchkit. Due to differences of opinion between the Jolitzes and the patchkit maintainers over the future direction and release schedule of 386BSD, the maintainers of the patchkit founded the FreeBSD project in 1993 to continue their work.[2] Around the same time, the NetBSD project was founded by a different group of 386BSD users, with the aim of unifying 386BSD with other strands of BSD development into one multi-platform system. Both projects continue to this day."

      In this case, the issue was not elitism so much as vested self-interest. (The Jolitzes has various ties to Dr. Dobbs Journal and the original 386BSD porting effort was documented in a series of articles.

      The AT&T lawsuits did occur at this time, but is has been noted that 386BSD was never party to any of them.

      My personal feeling is that the success of Linux was a combination of timing, personality and community response. Had Linus taken a more controlling stance (not a benevolent dictator), things might have gone very different.

      • by vlm (69642)

        BSD/386 was an expensive commercial product

        I distinctly recall seeing a featurelist / marketing PR material around '93 or '94 and I got all excited and ready to buy until I saw the $995 pricetag. No not $899 or $999 or $1000, exactly $995. On the other hand I could have gone 386BSD but then spent $995 on the rather narrow compatible hardware list, I remember my desktop would not have been able to boot 386BSD at that time, but maybe I could have hacked it into working. In the end I downloaded a set of linux SLS floppy disk sets from a local BBS wh

  • by omar.sahal (687649) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:43AM (#38116158) Homepage Journal

    "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."

    The reasons may also be more to do with Linux and the way it was run! Early hackers have noted that they preferred BSD, but could not use it due to lack of dual booting, this would have meant deleting windows which may have been needed for work. It was also easier for aspiring hackers to contribute to Linux, you didn't have to be one of the inner circle to contribute. There was also a lack of politics, persons within the rival operating systems had noted and open differences which would have affected work.

    • by mark-t (151149) <markt&lynx,bc,ca> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:13PM (#38118974) Journal

      In 1992, the ability to put Linux on its own partitiion and have it coexist with DOS on a single physical drive was the *ENTIRE* reason why I originally decided to go with Linux instead of 386BSD, which was also freely available at the time, even though BSD offered considerably more functionality than Linux during that period.

      It had absolutely squat to do with lawsuits.

  • Thanks! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Bresnahan (638668) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:48AM (#38116184)
    Minix was my first experience with a Unix-like OS (on my original IBM Personal Computer). It was a wonderful starting point to lead on to bigger and better things.
  • What a tool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> 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 [wikipedia.org].

    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.

    • Let me be clear, the *BSDs WERE based on 386BSD which is why it's relevant, and they therefore still are (sort of) but they've inherited code from 4.4-BSD-lite since.

    • by epine (68316) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:24AM (#38116420)

      In hindsight, perhaps, this is all clear. At the time, would you have bet your house on the proposition of 386BSD remaining unscathed if the BSDi lawsuit had come to a different outcome? But wait, I have a reference.

      From Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution [oreilly.com]:

      Like the other groups, they started by adding the six missing files that Bill Jolitz had written for his 386/BSD release. ... At the preliminary hearing for the injunction, BSDI contended that they were simply using the sources being freely distributed by the University of California plus six additional files. They were willing to discuss the content of any of the six added files, but did not believe that they should be held responsible for the files being distributed by the University of California [which 386BSD also used, one would think]. The judge agreed with BSDI's argument and told USL that they would have to restate their complaint based solely on the six files or he would dismiss it. Recognizing that they would have a hard time making a case from just the six files, USL decided to refile the suit against both BSDI and the University of California.

      Yeah, totally clear how 386BSD was free and clear of the legal fog of war. And a huge debt owed by everyone to Marshall Kirk McKusick and friends who fought this battle on our behalf while Linux thrived under the legal radar.

      In my own view, Linux had a crazy-making anthill culture, which appealed to many young coders with more energy than brains. But you know, I wouldn't bet against energy in retrospect. The annual ipchains rewrite boggled my mind. Not my cup of tea. An even crazier splinter group made hay with PHP, breaking just about every rule of thoughtfulness and elegance known to God and man. And look where that got them: pretty damn far.

      I would personally, however, have jumped on the BSD wagon at the time had it been able to promote a coherent vision of life after lawsuit. What would be the balance be now if BSD had gathered twice as many elitist greybeards into the fold? I have a feeling it would have continued to lag in the department of crappy consumer product device drivers, compromising a major defection path from Windows 98. Greybeards don't do popularity worth a damn.

      Debian zealots notwithstanding, Linux quickly became popular enough to become a willing host for binary blobs.

  • Denial... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Junta (36770) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:49AM (#38116200)

    I don't understand how one can say BSDI suit could do anything much for Linux. The suit did not preclude the creation of FreeBSD/NetBSD and thus Linux and BSD both had opportunity. If the claim is that BSDI lent some sort of credibility/support, during that time Linux had none of that either (Red Hat didn't even technically have an offering until 94, and I would say it wasn't worth taking seriously until '97 or so).

    Whatever went 'right' for Linux and 'wrong' for BSD had nothing to do with that suit.

  • 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.

    • Why would you be modifying the kernel/adding a system call? The kernel, in this case, is just a kernel.

    • by naasking (94116) <naasking AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:27PM (#38116834) Homepage

      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.

      Except this isn't true of microkernel systems like Minix. And this is the point: microkernels enforce protection boundaries between components so failure and recovery become feasible. That simply isn't possible in a monolithic kernel without resorting to proof-carrying code of some sort.

    • by DrJimbo (594231) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:51PM (#38118802)

      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.

      Here is a link [kerneltrap.org] to a good example of of such discipline. It contains excerpts from a discussion on the lkml over the use of "goto" in Linux kernel code. The kernel devs have found a situation where the judicious use of "goto" makes the code cleaner, clearer, and easier to maintain. The wisdom of this use is challenged by someone who dogmatically believes that all goto statements are evil. It is quite amusing (and a little sad).

  • 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.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The license is really less important than community in making a project successful.

      The license helps determine what kind of community you will attract; is it people who want to help everyone, or people who want to help themselves first and anyone else only as an unintended consequence? As it turns out, the kind of people who want to help everyone have produced a more popular system, in spite of the supposedly increased improved commercial appeal of the other one.

  • by chill (34294) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:28AM (#38116448) Journal

    Download Minix and you get a microkernel OS. Browsing the FTP site for packages and I see SSH, X, Vim, the make suite and Perl. It seems any actual useful programs are left as an exercise to the student.

    Loads of education fun -- if I was stuck on a rocket to Jupiter and had a few years to kill reinventing the wheel. In Perl, none-the-less. *shudder*

  • Why so harsh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aglider (2435074)

    No, Linux "succeeded" because BSD was frozen out of the market by AT&T at a crucial time. That's just dumb luck. Also, success is relative. I run a political website that ordinary people read. On that site statistics show that about 5% is Linux, 30% is Macintosh (which is BSD inside) and the rest is Windows. These are ordinary people, not computer geeks. I don't think of 5% as that big a success story. [AST]

    I'm still convinced that it's one of those ideas that sounds nice on paper, but ends up being a failure in practice, because in real life the real complexity is in the interactions, not in the individual modules. And microkernels strive to make the modules more independent, making the interactions more indirect and complicated. The separation essentially ends up also cutting a lot of obvious and direct communication channels. [LBT]

    Maybe the webserver itself is running Linux, though. As well as your home broadband router, prof. Tanenbaum!
    I'm sad because of the short sight.
    Linux is successfull (no quotes). This is a fact. Also Windows is (used to be) successful at some time.
    Do you see Windows everywhere? Nope. Do you see Linux everywhere. Nope as well, but it's very, very popular.
    Maybe it's not popular in desktops. But it is, indeed.
    With the computing power available today, wasting a bunch of cycles in safer communication for microkern

  • All the cool kids started wearing Tux t-shirts. Linus Torvalds did interviews with the press, and it didn't hurt that he's somewhat photogenic. Wired Magazine said you weren't hip unless you ran Red Hat and had a frame relay connection to your house.

    And then the startups in the 1990s didn't want to (or just couldn't) spend money on SUN boxes, so they found a "good enough" solution.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:38AM (#38116498) Homepage

    So the HP guy comes up to me (at the Melbourne conference) and he says, 'If you say nasty things like that to vendors you're not going to get anything'. I said 'no, in eight years of saying nothing, we've got nothing, and I'm going to start saying nasty things, in the hope that some of these vendors will start giving me money so I'll shut up'.

    Hardware donations do not come from vendors who use OpenSSH on parts of their stuff. They come from individuals. The hardware vendors who use OpenSSH on all of their products have given us a total of one laptop since we developed OpenSSH five years ago. And asking them for that laptop took a year. That was IBM.

    Yes, people have mentioned a million times how much BSD has done for OS X. What has OS X done for BSD? On the desktop it's fallen off the map, it used to be listed at 0.01% at hitslink now it's nothing. Nobody uses just BSD and I strongly doubt anyone using OS X contributes much to BSD so that the next version of OS X will be better. That I think would have happened with or without Linux. At least on the server side there's a few using BSD as-is, perhaps we'd have a BAMP stack instead of a LAMP stack. But without all the corporate contributions I'd probably be more of a Win/Unix market with BSD as a simplistic, free server.

    BSD depends on people and corporations that are willing to give, give and then give some more. Would Linux be where it is if everybody has constantly grabbed features to put in AIX, SCO (before they turned troll), Solaris, OS/2, MacOS, Windows and so on? No. 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. With or without Linux it'd end up just as libraries for products people actually use. Then you can pound your chest and say our BSD code is in the TCP/IP stack of Windows, while Microsoft laughs all the way to the bank.

    • 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 naasking (94116) <naasking AT gmail DOT com> 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 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 tokul (682258) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @11:39AM (#38116514)

    BSDI got stuck in a lawsuit and was effectively stopped for several years

    Linux kernel started in 1991. Lawsuit started in 1992 and settled in 1993. Linux kernel 1.0.0 was released in 1994.

    Good to know that mature BSD was no match to Linux v.1.0.0.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You'd think he's sore because Linux took his ball away.

    Surely not? :-)

    One of the main reasons Minix crashed and burned was the difficulty in getting the bloody thing. I have a copy of his book "Operating Systems, Design and Implementation", published by Prentice Hall INternational Editions in 1987. I bought a copy in 1990 as I was interested in Unix like operating systems. The prices listed for the Minix software at the end of the preface were out of date even then, Prentice Hall in the UK wanted about

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @12:28PM (#38116844) Homepage Journal
    I think I looked into it in '89, as a potentially free alternative to SCO Xenix, which my company was running at the time. They'd bought the base OS, but didn't feel like shelling out an extra $1200 for the C compiler. I don't recall finding a whole lot of information on BSD, though I do seem to remember something along the lines that they'd send you some tapes with the system on it. It sounded like it'd take a whole lot more investment of my time than I or my company was willing to commit to even try to get it running.

    A few years later I heard somewhere (May have been Wired) about this spiffy new Linux operating system. By then I had a (more or less) stable internet connection and the instructions were quite easy; download 20-some-odd slakware diskettes from Sunsite and you were in business. Nothing was mentioned about BSD. So I downloaded 20-some-odd diskettes from Sunsite and I was in business.

    At least in my case, Linux won out over BSD largely due to marketing and the easy distribution method. No one every really talked about BSD, and Linux worked brilliantly for me, so I used Linux.

  • 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 tyme (6621) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @10:27PM (#38120580) Homepage Journal

    I can say, with some authority, that Linux succeeded on it's own merit, mostly because it supported a broad range of commodity hardware. It got a boost because everyone started buying 386s, which were the first competent hardware for the IBM PC. There were lots of options back in the late eighties, all vying for some kind of position, but most of them had big problems of community: Coherent, MINIX, xinu, Xenix, Apple A/UX, netBSD, OS/2, OS-9, QNX, Lynx, etc. I looked at all of them as reasonable alternatives to the laughable PC operating systems of the day (MS-DOS and Macintosh System 7). NetBSD was a reasonable competitor right up through the mid-nineties, but Linux hardware support eventually blew it out of the water. By 1995 it was clear that Linux and the open source development methodology had won handily.

    Yes, licensing had something to do with all of this, but so did Linus' management style: people wanted to work on Linux, and Linus did not turn them away: he welcomed them. I wouldn't want to say anything bad about Dr. Tanenbaum, I have the greatest respect for him and his work, but other than netBSD, none of the other free and open OSs of the day were making any attempt to take the general market, MINIX included. I remember looking at MINIX and rejecting it because of it's limitation to academic use (the limitation to the 286 wasn't that much of a concern, though it probably should have been).

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