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Linux and the golden Egg


© October 2003 Tony Lawrence

Link: Getting real about SCO(link dead, sorry)

There's only one thing that's right in that article: yes, we do love the Unix philosophy. It isn't the command line per se that is important though, it's the design that makes it work: small tools that work together.

But beyond that, he's wrong to dismiss the importance of Linux and, by extension, the SCO suit that threatens it. Unix was rapidly losing ground to Microsoft before Linux gained it back. BSD has always been a niche player - don't misunderstand, I love BSD and use it for my own webserver, but it has never attracted popular attention and is no competitor to Microsoft. Yes, the author of that article can replace Linux with BSD, as can I and probably most of the folks who read this. But that doesn't mean that BSD could or would replace Linux en masse, and absolutely could not capture the imagination of people as Linux has. If BSD could have, it already would have. It can't, and it won't.

Part of the reason for that is that BSD development is a much more prissy and exclusive world than that of Linux: if that were not so, the early BSD efforts would have attracted the same fervor that Linux did. I also think that BSD suffers because of its non-embrace of inittab: it's a better way, and the stubborn refusal to see that is, I think, one more problem they have. But it really doesn't matter what the reasons are: BSD is a non-contender.

As to Solaris, well, again, I like it (and I like SCO, too, in different places of course), but do I really have to point out that they cannot compete with Microsoft? SCO and Sun both once had pretty strong positions in different areas. Sun held on a little better than SCO did, but Microsoft still damaged them considerably. Solaris couldn't even begin to replace Linux, and it being a closed, proprietary OS is only part of the reason why. Sun, like Apple, makes its money from proprietary hardware, not from its OS, so they'll never be a player in the Intel world.

Only Linux has been able to make Microsoft run scared. Only Linux has ever caught the imagination of the public. People who have never heard of Solaris or BSD or SCO have heard of Linux. Linux is important to far more than we few Unix loving geeks who are, as that article says, quite happy with anything that gives us that Unix command line. I love my Mac for just that reason, but we are a very small minority, and completely unimportant: it's Linux that has all the sizzle.

And so, because Linux is important, so is this damn lawsuit. Understand that, unlike many of the SCO haters, I agree that SCO has every right to pursue their gripe with IBM. I don't believe that this is a sham, a made up suit to push up stock prices. I think it could be a matter of incompetence and sloppy record keeping, but it also could be just what SCO says it is. But even if it is, I think they have made a terrible mistake: damaging Linux will do nothing to help SCO's fortunes, and in fact can only damage Unix more and bolster Microsoft. Proprietary Unixes may have a difficult time living with Linux, but they are more at risk without it. Linux really is the goose that laid the golden Unix egg when no one else could, and killing that goose is only going to help the big Microsoft fox pick off the others one by one.


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Actually I made up the term "object-oriented", and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind. (Alan Kay)




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