Linked by Kroc Camen on Thu 5th Nov 2009 21:05 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y There's no right way to do it, only ideas that are better than others in certain situations. But if you had the opportunity to head up the design of a new OS, one to Put Things Right, one that could be radical enough to varnish out those UI/X bumps that have clung on for years, but practical enough to be used every day, what would you design? How would you handle application management? What about file types and compatibility? Where would you cherry pick the best bits from other OSes and where would you throw away tradition? I've tackled this challenge for myself and present (an unfinished idea): KrocOS (warning: HTML5 site, will display without CSS in IE/older browsers). OSnews Asks: What would make your perfect OS?
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Why was he modded down?
by nt_jerkface on Thu 5th Nov 2009 22:05 UTC in reply to "Fix Desktop Linux"
nt_jerkface
Member since:
2009-08-26

ChromeOS won't be using X and it wouldn't surprise me if they freeze the kernel as well.

People have been criticizing the lack of a stable abi, library dependency issues and X for over a decade and yet some Linux advocates still mod down people for daring to question these obviously flawed aspects of Linux.

OSX has proven that Unix can do away with the 70's dependency system, provide a stable abi and be successful desktop OS. Maybe Linux advocates should take a lesson.

Edited 2009-11-05 22:15 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Why was he modded down?
by Zifre on Thu 5th Nov 2009 22:27 in reply to "Why was he modded down? "
Zifre Member since:
2009-10-04

Linux is open source, which means that everybody can do whatever they want; there is no central authority. Therefor, most of your point is silly. Some points I do agree on are that it would be nice to replace X, have a stable ABI for userspace programs, and get rid of dependencies for user-oriented applications (i.e. a web-browser, but not Apache).

However, a stable ABI for drivers would be extremely bad. I love open source, but I understand that there are valid reasons to create closed source/commercial software. However, there is no reason at all why a driver should be closed source. It simply doesn't make sense. Closed source drivers are less secure, hold back progress in the kernel, and make reduce portability. The only reason for closed source drivers that is even at all close to being somewhat valid is to protect IP. But that really only applies to graphics cards. And even then, I imagine it's just nVidia being lazy.

Reply Parent Score: 1

nt_jerkface Member since:
2009-08-26

Please be more specific as to which points you find silly, especially in the context of design decisions made by Apple engineers when they built OSX.

As for the stable abi which Windows, OSX and Solaris all have...

hardware companies prefer to have a stable abi. They would prefer to not open their source and be able to provide a binary driver that lasts throughout the lifetime of the OS, or possibly even through two.

The reasons behind this preference are irrelevant. It doesn't matter if they really have ip to protect or if they do so out of voodoo superstition. It doesn't matter because they make the hardware that users want.

Even more significant is that there are only a few video card companies which means they don't need 1% of the market to make a profit. There isn't a financial incentive to cater to Linux users.

You can build a kernel designed to appeal to hardware partners or you can build it around ideology. Linux has chosen the latter and we have all seen the results. Linux gets treated like an unwanted stepchild by NVIDA and ATI. Of the support they provide they only exert minimal effort. OpenSolaris has a fractional share of Linux and yet there are many cases of it working better with Nvidia video cards.

It isn't just about video card drivers, there are wireless card and printer companies that hate supporting Linux as well.

Disallowing binary drivers makes a platform unappealing to hardware companies. The reasons why are irrelevent. They make the hardware, it's their preference and kernel developers can either choose to meet this preference or work against it.

Reply Parent Score: 6

lucas_maximus Member since:
2009-08-18

It isn't about closed sourced drivers it is about lack of stability in how drivers interface with the kernel.

The problem is that devices that worked that worked a earlier kernel version are broken with a later kernel version .... because the way the drivers interface has changed .... this frustrates developers (whether it is closed or open development) because they have a moving target to develop to and frustrates users because things "don't work" anymore. Remember smaller companies have don't have infinite resources and somebody has to work on writing and supporting a driver.

Reply Parent Score: 2

shadoweva09 Member since:
2008-03-10

Linux is open source, which means that everybody can do whatever they want; there is no central authority. Therefor, most of your point is silly. Some points I do agree on are that it would be nice to replace X, have a stable ABI for userspace programs, and get rid of dependencies for user-oriented applications (i.e. a web-browser, but not Apache).

However, a stable ABI for drivers would be extremely bad. I love open source, but I understand that there are valid reasons to create closed source/commercial software. However, there is no reason at all why a driver should be closed source. It simply doesn't make sense. Closed source drivers are less secure, hold back progress in the kernel, and make reduce portability. The only reason for closed source drivers that is even at all close to being somewhat valid is to protect IP. But that really only applies to graphics cards. And even then, I imagine it's just nVidia being lazy.

I can't do it without hiring a bunch of programmers, and I don't have the money to do that. So it doesn't really matter whether it's open source or not; all that matters is who the money is currently going to, and they've already spoken on how they love it the way it is.

Also about the drivers, it's not the OS vendors place to criticize 3rd parties, they need to be doing all they can to make all stakeholders jobs easier (including hardware vendors). As for compatibility, all of my vista drivers work on 7, doesn't matter that their closed source as long as they work is all most users care about.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Slambert666 Member since:
2008-10-30

However, a stable ABI for drivers would be extremely bad. I love open source, but I understand that there are valid reasons to create closed source/commercial software. However, there is no reason at all why a driver should be closed source. It simply doesn't make sense. Closed source drivers are less secure, hold back progress in the kernel, and make reduce portability. The only reason for closed source drivers that is even at all close to being somewhat valid is to protect IP. But that really only applies to graphics cards. And even then, I imagine it's just nVidia being lazy.


A stable abi is not the same as closed source (!)

Drivers are one of the most nasty, buggy and system dependent pieces of code that one can write. There are so many testing what if's and maybe's involved that it is horrible. Every time you change the interface of a driver (class) you need to test not just that driver but also the drivers interaction with all possible combination's of other drivers / hardware.

The Linux kernel developers are delusional of their own capabilities to such an extent that they think they can change driver interfaces and release the code without testing. In a given iteration 90% or more of the code never gets tested and the small part that actually gets tested doesn't work, this is labeled "regressions" and each release has a number of these.
A stable abi would be the first step on the way to a more systematic testing framework for the kernel and related drivers.

Reply Parent Score: 1

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Part of the issue claimed by some NIC providers was patent related and/or regulation related. For example, an open NIC driver allows the owner to modify it changing the broadcast strength of the NIC radio (wifi). You can push it's power output beyond what is allowed by regulations for that class of radio. Given the availability of signal extenders, this reason doesn't hold a lot of validity in my opinion.

Some device drivers include the firmware rather than it being loaded on a flash chip on the hardware. The claim here is that providing driver source is not possible because they can't allow access to the bundled firmware. For this one I ask; is it really that much harder for the driver update wizard to push firmware updates into a nand chip on the given board?

I've also yet to hear why these "secret sauce" built hardware components can't simply provide a generic driver interface and hide the state secret hooks in the chips behind it. (GPU is a good example)

The claim that competition can read the drivers and copy them carries a bad smell also. If your competition is waiting for your next hardware release before starting development of a competitive device; they are not competition. They're not likely to be in business very long either. On the other hand, would this not motivate faster advancements in technology? Older generations drop into consumer budget ranges faster while newer generation's profit supports development on the next board to come out. (yeah, I know, that would benefit tech and the consumer far more than the shareholder profit margins.)

Bit of a rant but my original point was that it's still very wide spread beyond GPU. Wifi NIC are probably second on the list for most people. (has broadcom gotten any better?)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Why was he modded down?
by jabjoe on Fri 6th Nov 2009 09:25 in reply to "Why was he modded down? "
jabjoe Member since:
2009-05-06


OSX has proven that Unix can do away with the 70's dependency system, provide a stable abi and be successful desktop OS. Maybe Linux advocates should take a lesson.


Yer, because Linux supports less hardware then any other OS. Oh wait, no, it supports more! So maybe it's not as simple as you think.

http://lxr.linux.no/#linux+v2.6.31/Documentation/stable_api_nonsens...

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Why was he modded down?
by sorpigal on Fri 6th Nov 2009 13:59 in reply to "Why was he modded down? "
sorpigal Member since:
2005-11-02

It seems like I am forever repeating myself. Once more!

A stable ABI will kill the open source Linux kernel in short order (I'm betting on ~5 years). It will guarantee that in the future your drivers are closed source. Maybe you don't care, but I do and the kernel developers do.

X is not the problem. Replacing X doesn't solve any problems and introduces a slew of new ones. There are few good reasons to replace X and a large number of reasons not to replace X. I'd love to hear why you think X is an issue so I can see if you fall in to the 90% of the anti-X camp that just doesn't know what it's talking about.

OS X works as well as it does almost entirely because it is a single vendor system. Linux distributors could do exactly the same thing. It is not a technology issue! The fact is that distribution makers don't want to do that level of integration (or at least they don't do it) and Linux's users would punish them with their feet if they departed so radically from the status quo.

I had high hopes for Ubuntu once upon a time, but they fell in step (in the end) with every other distribution in any number of ways.

I will repeat it once more for the tl;dr crowd: If you want Linux OS X you can build it 99% out of existing software available for Linux right now. Form a company, build boxes with a specific set of hardware, build your distribution, use app bundles. It can work! Today. Without replacing X, or changing the kernel.

If you have a small enough target even the unstable binary ABI is not an issue. If vendors only need to target one new kernel per year (at most) then there is no problem.

Reply Parent Score: 4

boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

X is not the problem. Replacing X doesn't solve any problems and introduces a slew of new ones. There are few good reasons to replace X and a large number of reasons not to replace X. I'd love to hear why you think X is an issue so I can see if you fall in to the 90% of the anti-X camp that just doesn't know what it's talking about.


I agree completely. It's become kindof a motto for the Linux Hater's Club around here: "X Is Old, X Is Bad, X Is the Problem!" It's basically just a sizable group of people saying the same thing over and over again, and hoping that having it endlessly and oft-repeated makes it meaningful.
X isn't perfect, but it's improving, and it's becoming pretty damned good. It's come a loooong way from several years ago.

OS X works as well as it does almost entirely because it is a single vendor system. Linux distributors could do exactly the same thing. It is not a technology issue! The fact is that distribution makers don't want to do that level of integration (or at least they don't do it) and Linux's users would punish them with their feet if they departed so radically from the status quo.


That's quite true. There's enough common hardware that's well-supported in Linux that, at least in theory, you could have a vendor start shipping tuned-for-linux systems that'd be about as reliable as OS X is now. Well, almost: the 3D stack is still a little quirky, but, excepting that... ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

shadoweva09 Member since:
2008-03-10


A stable ABI will kill the open source Linux kernel in short order (I'm betting on ~5 years). It will guarantee that in the future your drivers are closed source. Maybe you don't care, but I do and the kernel developers do.


Maybe you should explain how that would happen, there's no reason having to download a driver from a third party or shipping them separately from the kernel will kill it. And how exactly will the demand for an operating system running millions of servers vanish? I can only guess you think that all drivers have to shipped with the kernel, or some other similar logical flaw.

Reply Parent Score: 2

nt_jerkface Member since:
2009-08-26

It seems like I am forever repeating myself. Once more! A stable ABI will kill the open source Linux kernel in short order (I'm betting on ~5 years).


How will it kill the kernel? A stable abi would bring in better driver support which would bring in more Linux users.

Why are you so worried anyways? The Linux desktop has been in a coma for over 10 years, I'm not sure why you are so concerned with death when desktop Linux just sits there and drools on itself.

I'm really gonna laugh if an alternative like Haiku comes along with a stable abi and trumps Linux on the desktop. Defenders like you will have helped save desktop Linux from its own success.

Reply Parent Score: 1