Home > Unix > The Unity of UNIX The Unity of UNIX Submitted by rhowell 2005-07-28 Unix 36 Comments Although many people claim that Linux is well on its way to replacing Unix, the reality is that Linux is Unix: a particular stream within a much wider community whose traditions and ideas both surround and extend those found in the Linux group. About The Author Thom Holwerda Follow me on Mastodon @firstname.lastname@example.org 36 Comments 2005-07-28 6:01 pm morganth I think this article does a good job at pointing out what UNIX really is–distinguishing the proprietary SCO UNIX everyone thinks of when someone says “UNIX” from the system developed in a kind of union of academic research at universities and in the industry (at Bell Labs and other places. I tend to agree with what Linus about innovation in operating systems, namely that much of the low-level stuff already works well enough and is pretty fundamentally functional, and that the real modern innovations come from the layers installed over the kernel, i.e. userspace, desktop apps, etc. That’s why when people write about the evolution of Linux, really what we’re talking about is the evolution of userspace software, as it gets more sophisticated atop the kernel core. You only see new, serious innovations happening at the kernel on an “as-needed” basis, i.e. when RML wrote inotify to support good file monitoring so that live queries would be easier to implement, etc, or now the work done in ACPI support for laptops, or Nigel Cunningham’s Software Suspend 2 “hibernation”, now that notebooks are widespread use on Linux. I personally wish I knew more about Xserver hacking, because I think that’s the major userspace app that deserves more attention and innovation (it’s getting a lot of attention, but I think they need yet more help). Anyone in the know want to write up a developer’s guide for XOrg? 😉 2005-07-28 6:15 pm Anonymous unix is now open source and linux has been open source. linux was built to be a clone of unix. 2005-07-28 6:26 pm Anonymous Gnu’s not UNIX. Would you say that OS/2 and Windows are VMS or that Solaris is BSD? Its interesting how Linux can differentiate itself from UNIX and everything else, yet as it becomes popular everyone want to show how they’ve been long-time supporters of Linux by promoting commercial UNIX. There is a reason why GNU is such a big part of Linux. Because commercial UNIX wanted to have NOTHING to do with it back in the 90s. They wanted to keep their source code, technology and secrets to themselves. Now they’re becoming obsolete because entropy will eat anything proprietary alive, and GNU is an unstoppable force against entropy. Perhaps we need to educate our fellow capitalists about the nature of this universe they seem to have forgot they live in. That is why things like GNU exist. To educate. While you might make a lot of money exploiting someone else’s creative energy, if you don’t nurture their creation and care for it and grant it freedom, it will fade away and its only legacy will be as an example of your greed. That might be good for you, but probably not so good for your employees, their families, etc. Unless, of course, you give them lots of money. 2005-07-28 6:35 pm Anonymous Linux is GNU The Linux kernel doesn’t require any GNU tools. To be practical, GNU tools are used — they are damn nice after all — but the kernel doesn’t need them; Linux isn’t GNU. 2005-07-28 9:08 pm morgoth Wrong. Linux is most certainly GNU. It’s released under the GPL, and that licensed is governed by the GNU and FSF. Take your mis-facts and go elsewhere. Dave 2005-07-28 9:30 pm Lumbergh Once again we get these GNU/FSF fanatics that are so demented that they think because some code is under the GPL that it’s part of GNU. morgoth/dave if linux “is” GNU then how come Stallman/FSF can’t do crap about the binary driver modules in the kernel? Answer that one. I’ll answer it for you. Because they can’t and GNU/FSF has nothing to do with the kernel. 2005-07-28 9:43 pm Anonymous maybe you should get your facts right actually. The Linux kernel is not a GNU project it is under GNU’s GPL, this does not mean it has the blessings of GNU however. Much like if I was to license a project under the CDDL, does this then make my project a Sun sanctioned project? NO. GNU is not in a monogamous partnership with Linux, the GNU tools are also important to FreeBSD. 2005-07-29 1:38 am rm6990 Ah, is KDE GNU? What about QT? Fedora Directory Server? None of these are. They use the same license. GNU is a project ran mainly by the FSF to create a free OS. Linux is a SEPERATE project that just happens to use GNU tools. With your logic Windows is Adobe, since a lot of people run Adobe tools on Windows. Or OS X is Microsoft since it runs MS Office. 2005-07-29 3:33 pm rcsteiner Would you say that OS/2 and Windows are VMS or that Solaris is BSD? FWIW, while NT’s internals were designed by folks like Dave Cutler (formerly of DEC) who had considerable VMS experience, IBM’s OS/2 2.0 and later has absolutely no relationship with Cutler, DEC, or VMS. The notion that post-1.x OS/2 and any released NT have a close architectural relationship is simply incorrect. * * * Wasn’t SunOS originally a BSD derivative? 2005-07-29 3:35 pm rcsteiner Coyote Linux, for example, uses neither the GNU C runtime nor the standard set of GNU utilities, preferring instead to replace them with much smaller functional workalikes. No GNU software involved at all, at least AFAIK. 2005-07-28 6:33 pm Anonymous By license only. Linus Torvalds has shown himself to be a lot more pragmatic than RMS, and it is generally recognized he chose the GPL because it was popular at the time. Face it: Linux is UNIX _enough_. People can move among Linux, BSD, or OpenSolaris and feel fairly comfortable that the rules haven’t been completely re-written somewhere in there. They all target POSIX, they all use the X Window System, they all have the kernel-space/user-space model, etc. These systems compete on a level playing field of open standards, which is the way it should be. All are now open source, all can learn lessons from each other, all can still maintain an identity, while making all our lives easier in the post-Microsoft-monopoly era. 2005-07-29 12:27 am abraxas Linus Torvalds has shown himself to be a lot more pragmatic than RMS, and it is generally recognized he chose the GPL because it was popular at the time. That’s not true at all. Read Linus’ book “Just for Fun” to find out why he used the GPL. 2005-07-28 7:08 pm Anonymous The various groups working on UNIX wanted to monopolize on their technology, so they made it proprietary, creating limited supply to increase the price we have pay. This kept that technology out of the hands of mere mortals. So what was open source UNIX hung around in universities and mostly stagnated as a research project until GNU came along because us kids couldn’t afford it, couldn’t get free documentation or development tools and had to spend our childhood wishing we could afford Microsoft’s Visual Studio while we were trying programming in qBasic or assembly. Now we have our own OS and development tools that we had to write from scratch and you want to call it UNIX? That’s just rude! There’s this guy, you might have heard of him, Richard Stallman founded GNU because UNIX and most software at the time was commercial, proprietary, closed, locked up tight with an NDA and could not be shared. That’s a very different perspective than this utopian open source UNIX this article talks about. Maybe we had to have been there to see it to understand what its like to lose access to technology because of greed. Or maybe we’ll never understand. Windows is a brand, Unix a set of ideas. UNIX is an old set of ideas, like everything is a file and keep it simple, stupid. GNU is the new set of ideas, like GNU’s not UNIX and keep it free, stupid. Without freedom, without access to information, what’s the point? Why are we here? What are we trying to do? Are we just trying to make money? Or is this UNIX stuff really cool? If you can forget about the money for a moment and just look at this technology.. IRIX, HPUX, AIX, Solaris, Windows, OSX, OSF, BeOS, Novell… We could have a lot more fun playing with this technology if it were anything like Linux. The closest we get of this bunch is OSX, and maybe Solaris one day, but we’re still missing very big pieces of the whole system. Let’s say you’re interested in this tech and want to learn how to build your own OS. Where can you go to learn that? Linux or BSD. If UNIX were anything like Linux you should be able to learn that from IRIX, HPUX, AIX and OSF. Why can’t you? Because you don’t have access to that information. All are now open source, all can learn lessons from each other, all can still maintain an identity, while making all our lives easier in the post-Microsoft-monopoly era. AIX, HPUX, IRIX and OSF are not open source. I can’t learn any lessons from their kernels, expressly forbidden in the EULA. Sure, as an end user you can expect ls to output the same thing, more or less, but not as a developer. The libraries are different, the init system, apps, compiler suite, etc. Every UNIX system has its own set of development tools which are not GNU and are not the same across UNIX systems. But all GNU systems use the GNU tools. See the difference? Linux isn’t GNU. No? Its GPL, that’s about as GNU as you can get. Its all about the license. 2005-07-28 7:29 pm orestes No? Its GPL, that’s about as GNU as you can get. Its all about the license. No, It’s all about who holds the copyright. Go read the GNU website if you don’t believe me. 2005-07-28 8:07 pm Tyr. Gotta love anonymous zealot rants. This kept that technology out of the hands of mere mortals No, see A/UX and Amiga Unix. Also broe students have always had unix access through the universities. So what was open source UNIX hung around in universities and mostly stagnated as a research project until GNU came along BSD is (was) stagnated ? You’ve been reading too many slashdot trolls. had to spend our childhood wishing we could afford Microsoft’s Visual Studio while we were trying programming in qBasic or assembly. So you’re an expert in a period of computing history you apparently didn’t even live through ? (late 70s vs. mid 90’s) UNIX is an old set of ideas, like everything is a file and keep it simple, stupid. GNU is the new set of ideas, like GNU’s not UNIX and keep it free, stupid The GNU ideals were actually already present in the Unix culture. See also “The art of UNIX programming”. The closest we get of this bunch is OSX, and maybe Solaris one day, but we’re still missing very big pieces of the whole system. My life isn’t complete either without the code to every piece of software ever on my hd [/SARCASM] Let’s say you’re interested in this tech and want to learn how to build your own OS. Where can you go to learn that? Linux or BSD. Also Minix, a good university, a good book or just plain trying it yourself and seeing what works. After all what do you think Linus did ? AIX, HPUX, IRIX and OSF are not open source. I can’t learn any lessons from their kernels You need to look at the code to see the advantages/disadvantages of their implementation? You must lack the ability for abstract thinking, maybe that’s why you can’t design an OS. The libraries are different, the init system, apps, compiler suite, etc. Every UNIX system has its own set of development tools which are not GNU and are not the same across UNIX systems. But all GNU systems use the GNU tools. See the difference? Except in Linux they init system is sometimes different, different versions and different combinations of apps/libraries are used along with custom patches and they all include different apps designed especially for that distro. Take a deep breath, take a step back and examine the big picture. Find an old guy with a beard and take to him about Unix, Linux and GNU. Then take 2 aspirin and come back in the morning. 2005-07-28 8:51 pm Anonymous No? Its GPL, that’s about as GNU as you can get. Its all about the license. Not at all. Remember, GNU is a project run by the FSF – that’s it. Linux and other projects may share the same license, but that doesn’t make them in any way connected with GNU. 2005-07-28 7:25 pm Anonymous It doesn’t matter if it’s GNU/Linux, *BSD or Solaris, the ideas are there, the Unix philosophy, and it works very well. On the other side we have the superproprietary and incompatible Microseft products that nobody with a clue uses. 2005-07-28 8:54 pm Anonymous The article is nice but why should we be content in being UNIX? When you go to USENIX you have the FREENIX branch that is all about FOSS UNIX implementations. Well Linux and the BSD won, they are now the major versions and the proprietary implementations follow us. What sun did with opensolaris is trying to enter the circle of winners, and it probably will. But we are still FREENIX, we can if we want be different from UNIX and POSIX. If Linux and the BSDs chose to change or define some part of what UNIX/POSIX is, then UNIX/POSIX will go that way in the future. It would be nice if we (the community, the developers) could get together and decide where we want to go. 2005-07-28 9:29 pm Anonymous You need to look at the code to see the advantages/disadvantages of their implementation? You’re damn right we have an urge to do so.Instead of thinking about what sells right even MS itself these days tries to think less about marketing and a little bit more about the actual value of the code (how it’s written,what’s the structure,what are the weak spots,and i’m not even starting to talk about possible weakspots and attack vectors/patterns). lack the ability for abstract thinking, maybe that’s why you can’t design an OS. Then what took your company so long to develop vista. Is it a lack of “abstract thinking”? My life isn’t complete either without the code to every piece of software ever on my hd [/SARCASM] That’s what separates us./No Sarcasm,just a necessity 2005-07-28 10:14 pm Tyr. You’re damn right we have an urge to do so.Instead of thinking about what sells right even MS itself these days tries to think less about marketing and a little bit more about the actual value of the code (how it’s written,what’s the structure,what are the weak spots,and i’m not even starting to talk about possible weakspots and attack vectors/patterns). I missed the point when source code became something with mystical qualities. I’d rather have a good design doc and a high level description of how the stuff works than having the pour over code for days on end trying to understand it. Like most people I don’t have the time. You also missed my entire point, you don’t need access to the code to find “weakspots and attack vectors”, or are all the Windows exploits the work of insiders? Then what took your company so long to develop vista. Is it a lack of “abstract thinking”? Why are you changing the subject to Windows, “my company” ? I don’t even understand this sentence. 2005-07-29 12:06 am Lumbergh I missed the point when source code became something with mystical qualities. I’d rather have a good design doc and a high level description of how the stuff works than having the pour over code for days on end trying to understand it. Like most people I don’t have the time. The mystical qualities also ties into those people that try to anthropomorphize code by saying it’s “free”. It’s one of those GNU/FSF religion things that’s why rational, normal people don’t understand it. Why are you changing the subject to Windows, “my company” ? I don’t even understand this sentence. Nobody understands the ramblings of GNU/FSF kook cult members. 2005-07-29 2:49 am archiesteel The mystical qualities also ties into those people that try to anthropomorphize code by saying it’s “free”. Are you saying only humans can be free? Therefore you do not believe in free speech? (That would explain your irrational urge to insult those you disagree with…) Or do you think that the founding fathers were anthropomorphizing speech (spoken or written) when they argued that it should be free? Nobody understands the ramblings of GNU/FSF kook cult members. If you don’t understand them, how can you be in disagreement with them? Well, you’re not one to pass up on an opportunity to satisfy your own personal obsession with the FSF, and insult any who even dare consider their point-of-view. Thank god there’s free speech, even for immature and overly aggressive internet posters… 2005-07-29 3:22 am archiesteel “Morgoth” was indeed wrong in his statement. Linux is licensed under the GPL, but that doesn’t make it part of the GNU project (Hurd, for example, is part of the GNU project). The idea is that you can disagree with someone and correct them with resorting to insults, and without insulting groups of people who do not share Morgoth’s erroneous belief but still support the FSF. 2005-07-28 11:39 pm Ronald Vos I’ve read someone describe the difference between GNU/Linux (yes, I said it, GNU/Linux, because Linux invariably comes bundled with GNU tools, requires GCC to compile and so forth) and the BSDs, was that Linux is a clone of Unix, and the BSDs are Unix. Of course, any definition is up for grabs once you start discussing. Anyway, highly recommended reading is the chapter on ‘Basics of Unix philosophy’ in the book ‘The Art of Unix Programming’ by Eric Steven Raymond. http://www.faqs.org/docs/artu/ch01s06.html When you’re done, go read the Unix-haters handbook, with an anti-foreword written by Dennis Ritchie: http://web.mit.edu/~simsong/www/ugh.pdf 😉 2005-07-28 11:51 pm orestes yes, I said it, GNU/Linux, because Linux invariably comes bundled with GNU tools, requires GCC to compile and so forth One of these days I’m going to get around to rewriting the entire $DEITY-damned set of traditional *nix tools and compilers, single handedly, just to spite that name/myth. It annoys me *that* much. 2005-07-29 12:04 am Anonymous i wonder if there will an a free open source implemention of the Plan9 way of doing things? 2005-07-29 12:09 am orestes Plan 9 is OSS now, it has been for quite some time. So are Inferno and Plan B for that matter. 2005-07-29 12:50 am re_re http://www.mslinux.org/ It’s a joke lol 2005-07-29 12:52 am Anonymous In Ritchie’s anti-foreword for “the unix hater’s handbook” he says an interesting thing: “Yet your prison without coherent design continues to imprison you. How can this be, if it has no strong places? The rational prisoner exploits the weak places, creates order from chaos: instead, collectives like the FSF vindicate their jailers by building cells almost patible with the existing ones, albeit with more features.” 2005-07-29 3:19 am Anonymous Sadly, this is one of his better articles. It amazes me that these complete morons can make a living as professional journalists. 2005-07-29 4:35 am CanuckleFrog You are a moron. You better tell Linus Torvalds that Linux is a GNU project. Do yourself a favor and kill yourself. 2005-07-29 5:35 am Anonymous I didn’t say it was a GNU project, but it is GNU. What I mean simply is that it is protected by the GNU GPL license, which grants me additional rights to that code. Whomever owns the copyright can change the license to whatever they want, but I will forever retain the rights to modify, copy, redistribute and sell all versions that have been licensed by the GPL with patent protection. That patent protection is my favorite part. *G* 2005-07-29 7:31 am Anonymous I am fucking sick and tired of people writing C code full of Linuxisms. Please, once and for all, learn UNIX programming. Then, as if by magic, it will /all/ work, and software will be PORTABLE accross MANY platforms. I am sick and tired of ignorant, clueless newbies who think Torvalds invented the wheel. LEARN YOUR HISTORY. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Like Torvalds. He did his homework (it became Linux). 2005-07-29 9:58 am Anonymous I don’t particularly care if people call the operating system GNU/Linux or Linux. I more often than not refer to the operating system as Linux, but that’s because it rolls more easily off the tongue and is in common usage, but what I don’t do is reject the idea that the operating system is GNU. One thing that really bothers me is when people throw in X and KDE as though they are integral parts of the operating system. Lets be clear. If you take away X or KDE or GNOME you are still left with an operating system, but if you take away GNU all you are left with is a kernel. 2005-07-29 4:28 pm MadDwarf The Linux Kernel is released under the GNU GPL. This does not make it a GNU project, or owned by or sanctioned by GNU any more then me releasing my software under the GNU GPL. We just happen to like the pre-written licence more than making up our own. Most distributions combine the Linux kernel with GNU tools to make a feature-rich OS combining the work of both Linus (and contributors) and the GNU-tools team. … sorry, what were we arguing about? Does FSF own Linux? There is only one thing that is GNU, and that is GNU. Some other things (not seen any mentioned here) may be similar to GNU, and posibly use the same licence, but are not GNU. 2005-07-30 3:29 am Anonymous The point is that the only part of a Linux “operating system” that is Linux is the kernel. Whether the operating system uses GNU or other tools and utilities, it still remains that the only part of Linux that is Linux is the kernel. I don’t know very much about Coyote Linux, but I am sure of one thing. The only part of that operating system that is Linux is the kernel. This isn’t a bad thing. It gives Linux massive flexibility, but I wish people would give credit where it is due.