Re: What Is Linux?
- From: Nico Kadel-Garcia <nkadel@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 05 Jan 2008 16:35:13 +0000
Linux is a free operating system that was created by Linus Torvalds
when he was a student at the University of Helsinki in 1991. Torvalds
started Linux by writing a kernel - the heart of the operating system
- partly from scratch and partly by using publicly available
software. Torvalds then released the system to his friends and to a
community of "hackers" on the Internet and asked them to work with it
and enhance it. It took off.
Andrew, it's nice to see you writing, and I'm happy to be here as well. But I'm going to have to take you to task on some of your statements, because they're misleading.
Give credit where credit is due: Linus built and installed that key component, that "carburetor" of the kernel without which the full operating system was not possible. I tested some of the HURD work, the attempts by the GNU crowd to complete an open source operating system, and the kernel was all that was missing. But give credit where credit was due: the other components were already in place. You should have stated that *FIRST*, because leaving it to the second paragraph gives the wrong order and the wrong emphasis.
Don't get me wrong: Linus is a genius, and his ability to organize the developers to complete the work with him makes him a living saint. But in my professional opinion, the kernel is 30% of the work of a full OS, tops.
Today, there are hundreds of software developers around the world
contributing software to the Linux effort. Because the source code for
the software is freely available, anyone can work on it, change it, or
enhance it. On top of the Linux kernel effort, the creators of Linux
also drew on a great deal of system software and applications that are
now bundled with Linux from the GNU software effort (GNU stands for
"GNU is Not UNIX"), which is directed by the Free Software Foundation
(FSF). There is a vast amount of software that can be used with Linux,
all of which includes features that can compete with or surpass those
of any other operating system in the world.
Many of these components are frankly *not* focused on Linux. OpenSSH comes from the old ssh.com code, and has been taken over by the OpenBSD crowd. GCC is a cross-platform tool developed and managed by the FSF. Xorg is a distinct effort, again multi-platform. Apache comes from the Mozilla group.
Linux is not the focus of these development efforts! It is a big partner in many of them, and makes a magnificent hotbed of development and testing and publication of the tools. But for many, many tools, you have the cart before the horse.
And no, some features are still not up to closed source product quality. MS Exchange clients are still fairly poor, due to calendar integration, and dealing with MS Office generated files is still awkward and always will be due to deliberate Microsoft policy. The development environments and configuration tools need serious user interface work. (I refer you to Eric Raymond's famous rant on "The Luxury of Ignorance" for a very good analysis.) Oracle, as much as I loathe their installers, is still the best on extremely large scale database performance.
But the open source tools are workable, get repaired faster, tend to be more secure, and allow you software to evolve in a way the commercial stuff doesn't. And you don't fall off the support bandwagon or have the company shut down and leave you unable to keep your tools working. This is a huge, huge, huge issue for critical applications.
If you have heard Linux described as a free version of UNIX, there is
good reason for it. Although much of the code for Linux started from
scratch, the blueprint for what the code would do was created to
follow POSIX standards. POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface for
UNIX) is a computer industry operating system standard that every
major version of UNIX complied with. In other words, if your operating
system was POSIX-compliant, it was UNIX.
--- Thank You ---
Unfortunately, no, and this kind of error can get you into deep legal trouble. UNIX is also a trademark. Claiming that it's a free UNIX is like my claiming that, just because they both use potatoes, french fries are the same as mashed potatoes. Big, big differences exist at every level.
I'm sorry if it seems like I'm raining on your parade: I've been working with UNIX sincd its ancestor Multics, and my first professional UNIX work was with BSD 4.1, and my first Linux work was with the *original* RedHat 4.1, not RHEL 4.1. So as someone who's watched their evolution and even participated in it throughout my professional career, I'd like to make sure you don't accidentally re-write history.
I was fortunate enough to see a bunch of it happening: I got to know Richard Stallman from a weekly MIT student dinner trip he attended regularly, and contributed modestly to various open source tools early (mostly by porting them to BSD 4.2, SunOS, and later Linux.) Linus has become a well-deserved hero of open source, but I hate to see Richard's name left out, because he frankly deserves mention.
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