Linked by Kevin Adams on Fri 9th May 2003 23:04 UTC
Linux "Lately, there has been lots of discussion on the current state of Linux as a desktop system, and articles pop up here and there, occasionally with very good ideas. However, none have surprised me more than this one. It was all very hyphothetical, but had pretty radical ideas on how the author thought the Linux directory tree should be reorganized." Read more about GoboLinux, a Linux distro that uses a new style directory tree at Kuro5hin.org.
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Refusal to adapt
by Rayiner Hashem on Sat 10th May 2003 01:21 UTC

Look. Most UNIX people don't refuse to adapt. The fact is UNIX has copied a lot from other OSs where it made sense to do so. I use KDE on my personal machine and I see lots of similarities to MacOS and Windows. For the most part, those similarities are fine because the MacOS and Windows way of doing things is entirely adequete. But there are some things that simply aren't going to be accepted by the UNIX community because they don't stand on their technical merit. In these cases, simply saying, "well, that's how everyone else does it!" just isn't good enough of a reason to change things and break compatibility.

The filesystem hierarchy is one of these things. All the inane "/Programs" examples people keep throwing around just don't cut it in the heavily networked environments in which UNIX OSs run. Besides, the benifet of switching to these alternate methods is vanishingly small. In my experience, most of the "newbie" users that everyone seems so concerned with really don't understand the idea of a hierarchical filesystem. They know about "My Documents" and the "Desktop" and that's it. That's fine, because that's all they really need to know to use the machine as a tool. The ones who really understand the idea of a hierarchical FS are the intermediate users, who know enough about computers to understand the metaphors involved. These same users also know enough about computers to learn the UNIX layout with little more than half an hour of study. It is sheer inertness and lack of familiarity that causes these users to choke at the sight of the UNIX layout. Well, inertness really isn't a good excuse here. If you want the power of directly accessing the filesystem, then you'd better be willing to put in the modicum of time to understand the FHS. It's not like there aren't tons of docs available just a Google away.

To recap:

The benifets of changing the FHS:
- Satisfying lazy intermediate users who want to directly access the filesystem.
The costs of changing the FHS:
- Massive, widespread breaking of compatibility.
- Severe handicaps in heavily networked environments.
- Pissing off a whole bunch of longtime UNIX users.

PS> You might think "lazy" is an awefully harsh word to use. It is, but it's well deserved. The UNIX FHS is really no more complex than the Windows hierarchy. For example, where are temp files stored in Windows? There are two places: one per-system (which I can't remember at the moment) and one per-user "Documents and Settings<user>Local SettingsTemp". Is this really easier than "/var/tmp" and "/tmp"? Where is the documentation stored in Windows? Oh, scattered all over dozens of program directories? In UNIX, they're all together in "/usr/share/doc". Quick, what's the difference between "windowssystem32" and "windowssystem"? Heck, what are the meaning of half the weirdly named directories under "windows"? Finally, has anybody ever tooled around the registry? Is something going to have the gall to stand there and tell me that all this HKEY nonsense is somehow easier than a few dozen text files in /etc?