Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Hint to Apple

Author:Eric Kidd
Posted:5/15/1999; 8:05:31 AM
Topic:Hint to Apple
Msg #:6284 (In response to 6277)
Prev/Next:6283 / 6285

As somebody who works with a lot of Unix systems (Digital's Tru64 Unix, NeXTSTEP, BSDI, Linux, AIX, IRIX), I'm going respectfully disagree with some of your points.

Leaving enterprise features aside, Linux is the best single-processor Unix system I've ever used. It's biggest weaknesses, relative to other Unix systems, include true scalability (Linux does not make effective use of anything beyond four to eight processors) and lack of such useful features as a cloning file system. These features are being worked on, but they'll take a few years. Oh, yeah--IRIX has much better OpenGL support than Linux.

But if you don't believe me, let's get some expert testimony:

Linux represents a best-of-breed UNIX, that is trusted in mission critical applications, and - due to it's open source code - has a long term credibility which exceeds many other competitive OS's. -Vinod Vallopilli, internal Microsoft memo

Miller also said that, ``the three commercial [Unix] systems that we compared in both 1990 and 1995 noticeably improved in reliability, but still had significant rates of failure (the basic utilities from GNU/Linux still were noticeably better than those of the commercial systems).'' -Barton P. Miller, Fuzz Revisited: A Re-examination of the Reliability of Unix Utilities and Services

Darwin has a real device driver interface. Linus doesn't believe in device driver interfaces.

One of my previous jobs involved writing device drivers for various operating systems. Trust me, here--Linux has the nicest device driver interface I've ever used. Again, to quote a Microsoft engineer:

An important attribute to note which has led to volume drivers is the ease with which you can write drivers for linux, and the relatively powerful debugging infrastructure that linux has. Finding and installing the DDK, and trying to hook up the kernel debugger and do any sort of interaction with user-mode without tearing the NT system to bits is much more challenging than writing the simple device-drivers for linux. Any idiot could write a driver in 2 days with a book like "Linux Device Drivers" -- there is no such thing as a 2-day device-driver for NT -NatBro, internal Microsoft memo

The Linux development community tends to be extremely immature, both in terms of personality and in terms of understanding quality and the state of the art. Apple doesn't need this in their public relations or their codebase. I certainly don't need it in my codebase.

I will make no claims in defense of the Linux user base--most Slashdot posters drive me nuts, too. But I've never seen anyone accuse Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox or Donald Becker of immaturity. As for technical knowledge, even Sun's kernel engineers will vouch for the skills of the top Linux hackers.

I won't defend Linux and open source software as the best way to do things. I'm not smart enough to know the economic ramifications of open source, or the future of Linux in the market. For me to make loud pronouncements on these subjects would be arrogant and foolish.

However, I've spent two years immersed in Linux. I've been a Linux sysadmin, a Unix software developer, a consultant and an open source developer. I've recommended that companies try Linux. I've also recommended, on occasion, that they replace an existing Linux system with an NT system.

So even though I'm not smart enough to make pronouncements about the future of Linux or whether the industry should use more open source software, I can say a few things with surety:

I can't tell Dave whether he wants to port Frontier to Linux--that's his job. I can't tell Apple whether to bet on Mach and NetBSD--that's their job. But I can say, based on first-hand experience, that Linux is a respectable operating system built (for the most part) by kind, decent and intelligent people.

Thank you for your patience with my ranting. ;-)

Cheers, Eric

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