Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Aug 2008 23:33 UTC, submitted by Charles Wilson
Editorial GoboLinux is a distribution which sports a different file system structure than 'ordinary' Linux distributions. In order to remain compatible with the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, symbolic links are used to map the GoboLinux tree to standard UNIX directories. A post in the GoboLinux forums suggested that it might be better to turn the concept around: retain the FHS, and then use symbolic links to map the GoboLinux tree on top of it. This sparked some interesting discussion. Read on for more details.
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RE: Inertia and stupidity
by kaiwai on Tue 19th Aug 2008 08:12 UTC in reply to "Inertia and stupidity"
kaiwai
Member since:
2005-07-06

The reason Linux distros don't do someting sensible like changing the file system layout is inertia. It's the same reason so many people use Windows. They're stuck in their old ways. We Linux users like to tell Windows users how stuck in the mud they are and how they should join the 21st century and use Linux, a cutting edge operating system, with an out-dated, brain-dead file system structure.

In all seriousness, there is some use in keeping _some_ things separated. An app's binaries, local libraries (not system libraries), and data files should be kept in one place. But configuration files would likely go somewhere else so that you don't have to muck about in an app's internals to configure it. That brings me to the other major problem with Linux: All the config files are flat ASCII text in a custom format for each app. Switching to some standard XML format would make it easier to automate things like upgrades that need to combine config files from different versions of the app.


That reminds me of a question that was raised not too long ago - how come every 'competitor' to Windows is a UNIX clone. That isn't to say that UNIX is inherently bad or deficient, but it is a question that is posed in the hope that things would have moved on from there. Even BeOS had almost all the resemblance of a UNIX as one example - and that was meant to be a 'fresh start' and 'legacy free' operating system.

I have a look at things such as Plan9 and I shake my head with dismay when I see the hoards of programmers gravitating to the old and decrepit ideas such as *BSD and Linux. What is needed in the world to compete with Windows isn't yet another UNIX-like clone but something new, original, or atleast something which addresses the flaws in the old paradigm.

I'd love to see 100 of the smartest programmers in the opensource community throw up their hands, embrace Plan 9 and turn it into a viable desktop alternative. A single distribution build in the cathedral model with a single GUI built on under pinnings not based on concepts from 20 years ago.

I know I'm going to be slammed for this, but really, it is bloody depressing when the only thing competition can come up with is yet another UNIX-like clone, be it MacOS X, Linux, *BSD or some other OS. I'm a MacOS X user, and I love it - but I kinda expected a van guard of programmers working on the bleeding edge with freaky ideas rather than simply pounding out code in the 'same old way'.

Edited 2008-08-19 08:14 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: Inertia and stupidity
by hobgoblin on Tue 19th Aug 2008 08:18 in reply to "RE: Inertia and stupidity"
hobgoblin Member since:
2005-07-06

iirc, plan9 was until recently (or may still be) under a very strict license.

on that note, linux seems to be picking up more and more plan9 features as time goes on. most recent example is fuse iirc...

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Inertia and stupidity
by yiyus on Tue 19th Aug 2008 10:23 in reply to "RE[2]: Inertia and stupidity"
yiyus Member since:
2006-02-27

Plan9 has been absolutely free for a long time.

It implements namespaces per proccess and bind commands that make actual file hierarchies look like something of the past. You can install different versions of the same program and more, for example: just run the yesterday command and you will be back to your system from the previous day.

And plan9 really follows its conventions.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Inertia and stupidity
by dagw on Tue 19th Aug 2008 12:29 in reply to "RE: Inertia and stupidity"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

I'd love to see 100 of the smartest programmers in the opensource community throw up their hands, embrace Plan 9 and turn it into a viable desktop alternative.

What specifically do you see Plan9 offering that cannot be added to existing platforms and that will make it a superior platform for a desktop OS.

Take into account that the main things holding Linux back on the desktop is not the kernel, but apps and drivers.

but I kinda expected a van guard of programmers working on the bleeding edge with freaky ideas rather than simply pounding out code in the 'same old way'.

There are several open source and/or free Operating systems out there that are working on all kinds of bleeding edge and freaky ideas. Basically they all come to the same conclusion, doing things in a new and totally different way is Very Hard and takes Very Long Time to make work well enough for regular use.

The big advantage with Unix is that it's tried, tested and most of the basic problems are already solved leaving developers open to work on new and exciting things on top of a solid platform. Not everybody wants to code their own network stack and NIC driver before they get to develop a new network protocol.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Inertia and stupidity
by CrLf on Tue 19th Aug 2008 12:37 in reply to "RE: Inertia and stupidity"
CrLf Member since:
2006-01-03

Maybe, just maybe, every Windows competitor is a Unix clone for the very same reasons unix is still strong after nearly 40 years, while other "modern" and "improved" systems have come and gone...

In computing terms this is like a million years. Sure, you can attribute this to inertia, but then you have to explain why the rest of the "industry" changes so fast and so much.

Exactly what does unix have that makes it so enduring no onde really knows for sure, but the fact is people like it.

I'm not saying unix is a perfect system, it sure has problems. What I'm saying is that the filesystem hierarchy hasn't fundamentally changed in all these years because it _isn't_ one of those problems.

What really annoys me is that these criticisms to fundamental unix concepts always seem to come from people who don't do actual work with their systems and thus cannot tell the difference between problems that affect real-world system usage from "problems" that only exist in their supposedly "power-user" minds. These people often cannot justify their claims with more than "the old way it obsolete" or "this new way is better".

Hei, the wheel is thousands of years old, it's obsolete. Let's just replace it with this "square" thing which is way better...

Like (I think it was) Ken Thompson said when asked what would he change in unix if he could: "I would add an 'n' to 'umount'."

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Inertia and stupidity
by wdeviers on Tue 19th Aug 2008 14:05 in reply to "RE: Inertia and stupidity"
wdeviers Member since:
2008-08-01

You seem to be assuming (and I may be wrong) that because something is "old" it's also inherently broken. The UNIX-like model is "old" (ancient, really, in terms of computer science) and therefore broken? The reason developers consistently go back to UNIX-like systems is because Unix was wildly successful and solves a number of "paradigm problems" without much effort. Multi-user support is built in. Simple backup systems are built in. A massive code-base that can be accessed with scriptable compiling systems are built in.

What you're asking people to do, essentially, is re-invent the wheel simply because the "wheel has been around for a long time." In terms of general computing, there are a surprisingly small number of design models that work well.

For instance, remember light pens? Remember how light pens were supposed to replace the mouse because they're much easier and intuitive to use? But ultimately they didn't, because the mouse is much *lazier* to use. The light pen design model doesn't work because users are lazy and, frankly, don't want to deal with having to move around an ungainly device attached to a wire, point it at a monitor all day long, and look stupid.

There's a small number of operations that you have to be able to handle to develop a general purpose OS. You have to take input; it could be CLI only, or you could use a keyboard/mouse combo. Or a light pen, or a digitizer tablet, a touch pad on the screen, etc. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to 1) a character stream and 2) an x-y(-z?) coordinate system. UNIX has had that licked for years.

The UNIX model also has a proven history for stability, low barriers to programmer entry, and modular design. All three of those things lead people to want to use it as a base design.

However, when you ask "why don't good developers create a new operating system paradigm from scratch" you're framing the question wrong. First, there's a limited number of models for GPOS's available...all of which have basically been exploited at this point (pending advances in neural or motion interfaces). There's a limited number of ways, for instance, that you can move items around in memory. There's only three archetypes of kernels, all three of which have been implemented as UNIX-like (Mach/OpenStep as a micro, Linux as a traditional mono, and various hybrids and other examples.)

There's a very limited number of people in the world that are qualified, dedicated, and obnoxious enough to write a successful kernel for general computing. The majority of them have determined that the UNIX-like paradigm is the way to go, especially considering that through the history of computing, other paradigms have tried and failed.

So Linux isn't UNIX-like because Linus lacked creativity or was conceptually limited; Linux is UNIX-like because UNIX-like is one of the few design paradigms that have survived 70 years of computer scientists being elitist snobs about kernel design.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Inertia and stupidity
by theosib on Tue 19th Aug 2008 14:10 in reply to "RE: Inertia and stupidity"
theosib Member since:
2006-03-02

My main gripe with UNIX really is the file system and config file organization. I have no problem with the kernels in general, although honestly, I don't have much complaint about the NT kernel. The real problems are in userspace. But even there, UNIX/POSIX APIs are growing and evolving and keeping up to date. MacOS X layers a well-designed graphics API on top of UNIX, and I think they did that well, although X11 really isn't all that bad either (especially when you hide behind a toolkit).

No. When it's all said and done, my main complaints about UNIX and Linux all come down to system administration issues. Where do you install an app? How do you uninstall it? Where are the config files? What format are the config files in? When you upgrade an app, do you wipe out all your config settings? When you install a library or an app, are there going to be version conflicts? When something breaks, do I know which of the dozens of log files to look in?

Reply Parent Score: 1