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Linux vs. Unixware

© December 2004 (various authors)

Note that this is from 1999 - a LOT has changed since then!

From: tangent@cyberport.com (Warren Young)
Newsgroups: comp.unix.unixware.misc,comp.unix.sco.misc
Subject: UnixWare vs. Linux, a feature comparison
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 07:20:25 GMT
Message-ID: <377748bb.1067244218@news.cyberport.com> 
References: <376DE957.BB5D0474@kryz.es>
<376F7971.4A1EB047@zwg.zicl.co.uk> This comparison was sparked by the following post in comp.unix.unixware.misc: Nige <znige@zwg.zicl.co.uk> wrote:

>> I'm a Linux User migrating to Unixware and I need documentation about
>> this system. I need all kind of docs including instalation system and
>> setup it. Where can I find these docs???
>Don't know, but I'm a Unixware user possibly migrating to Linux.  Where can
>I find out the differences?

First, note that none of the items below deal with opinion, only fact.
It is not my purpose to ignite a flame war here, but simply to give
potential UnixWare deserters an idea of what to expect from Linux.
Flames go to /dev/null, but if you have other items to add to this
list, please post them.  I don't care which OS they favor -- I
probably already know about the difference, but just forgot to put it
here.  Nothing has been left out due to bias or malice.  If my facts
are wrong, please correct me calmly -- it's only ones and zeroes,
after all.  I may post a revised list here later, or among my web

1. UnixWare has better support for high-end apps like terabyte
databases.  This stems from having support for Intel's 64 GB memory
hack (anyone who thinks differently of this feature probably also
thinks that the x86 chip architecture is elegant) and for having
support for larger filesystems.  (1 terabyte filesystems in the
UnixWare case with 1 TB maximum file size; 2 TB filesystems in the
Linux case, but only 2 GB files.)  On the other hand, Linux on an
Alpha or UltraSparc box supports 64-bit memory addressing and file
sizes, which makes memory and file size limitations a hardware problem
rather than an OS problem.  The filesystem limitations in 32-bit Linux
are also being worked on -- Linux 2.4 will probably push these back
quite a bit, especially if the newly open-sourced SGI XFS filesystem
is accepted into the kernel.  See also item 16, which bears on this

2. Linux has much better hardware support than UW does, especially
user-level hardware like laptops/PCMCIA, IRDA, TV/radio boards, CD-ROM
burners, 3-D graphics boards, alternative input devices (graphics
tablets, etc.), USB, parallel port devices (NICs, Zip drives, external
IDE) as well as adequate PnP support (better than NT4, at any rate!)
This also extends to common hardware categories: NICs, graphics cards,
sound cards, SCSI cards and printers (by way of built-in support for
ghostscript) all have broader support under Linux. There are a few
cases where UW supports something that Linux doesn't.  For example, UW
supports telephony cards, whereas until recently, Linux didn't; the
Linux support for these cards is still somewhat immature.  There are
other examples, especially in high-end server hardware like the more
exotic types of RAID controllers.  If you count Sequent's efforts, UW
has better top-end SMP support than Linux, though Linux has been known
to run well on 14-processor UltraSPARC systems.

3. It's much easier to get freeware to run on Linux, in general.  The
reason for this is that Linux is almost always considered a primary
target platform from day one, whereas UnixWare and other SCO OSes are
usually after-the-fact ports.  For the same reason, the typical Linux
distribution comes with more and newer versions of freeware packages,
even when you take Skunkware into account.  (Skunkware is around 120
packages, whereas even a relatively slim distribution like Red Hat has
perhaps 400 non-core packages.  Distributions like SuSE and Debian
have thousands of packages, all installable at the same time as the
base system.)  Many of the packages in a Linux distribution overlap,
because choice is preferred, whereas in UnixWare, only one package (or
just a few) from the available ones is provided.  A good example is
text editors: Red Hat provides vim, elvis, nvi, emacs, pico, jed,
jove, the KDE editor (forgot the name; knote?), gnotepad+, GXedit and
gEdit.  UnixWare provides vi, pico and the "Typewriter" Motif thingy.
Oh, and both OSes support ed(1).  Gotta have ed.  B->

4. Third-party software support (binary payware) is similar for both
OSes, but very much non-overlapping.  In the low-end server and
user-level apps arenas Linux has the advantage, whereas UnixWare has
ports of some high-end server apps that Linux doesn't.  Often, one
system will have a port of a package that the other doesn't, but a
similar competing product is available for the other OS.  Example:
Reliant/HA on UnixWare, Net/Equater on Linux.  Another traditional
UnixWare stronghold is vertical market apps and small business apps
(bookkeeping, POS, etc.).

5. Linux is generally more user-friendly.  This is of course due to a
difference in the Linux and UW target markets.  You can get KDE and
other stuff from Skunkware or port it to UW, but the fact that it's a
post-installation matter is significant.

6. UW tends to be more administrator-friendly, as SCO has been working
on the "pretty administration tool" problem far longer than the Linux
community has.  (For most of the decade, if you consider sysadm, from
the Novell days.)  linuxconf and COAS are good examples of how this is
quickly changing.

7. Some people like the single-source nature of UW.  Others like the
freedom of style choice in the Linux world.  Those that don't like the
results of these freedoms will see the Linux world as horribly
fragmented.  In my experience, this is only a limited problem, of
concern only to those who insist on "just one way to do it".  The
difference between any two Linux distributions is less than the
difference between UnixWare 2.1 and OpenServer, for example.  (UW7, of
course, brought the two much closer.)

8. UW comes with Motif and CDE in the package.  Most distributions of
Linux don't, because these packages aren't free.  You can of course
get them from third parties.

9. You get almost everything in a typical Linux distribution that SCO
makes you pay extra for: SMP, SMB/CIFS file sharing, unlimited
concurrent users, directory services, software RAID, a C++ compiler
and Netware file/print support.

10. Online docs for UnixWare and Linux are similar in their scope,
though Linux's are more spread out: man pages, GNU info files, Linux
Documentation Project books, HOWTO files and any additional docs that
come with the package are all provided, and they are by no means
completely overlapping.  With UnixWare, almost everything is in

11. Both OSes come with similar amounts of paper documentation, unless
you get a cheapie version of Linux, like the $1.89 CDs from Linux

12. Third-party documentation for UnixWare is hard to find.  I only
know of one book (the Hendriksen job) specifically for UnixWare; most
of the generalist Unix books like Frisch and Nemeth et al. don't even
cover UnixWare -- you have to infer the correct info from their
Solaris coverage.  Linux books are, by contrast, easy to find.  There
are even two books out that dissect the kernel code, though both still
need to be updated to cover kernel 2.2.

13. Linux doesn't support NDS and WebTop, as UnixWare does.

14. Linux has better networking support than UnixWare does.  This is
multifaceted: more protocols (DECnet, SNA), more features
(masquerading, tunneling, QoS, DHCP client), and support for popular
programming standards (e.g. tools like tcpdump and code from the W.
Richard Stevens networking bibles runs on Linux, but often not on

15. Where both OSes have the same command-line tools, the Linux
counterparts are often more advanced than the ones on UnixWare.
Examples: vim vs. vi, bash vs. ksh, tcsh vs. csh, less vs. more/pg,
ncftp vs. plain ftp, gzip vs. compress, GNU awk, m4, ls, make, man,
tar, and find vs. the SysV flavors, etc.  Other good examples are
vixie-cron and the Linux version of man: both are far more flexible
than their UnixWare counterparts.

16. The UnixWare disk device naming scheme allows for more online
storage because it can support more volumes.  So far as I know, the
Linux kernel doesn't have any inherent limitations in this regard, but
the limitations stem from the way the OS is configured in all
distributions I'm aware of.  Specifically, you can easily have 240
volumes (sd[a-p][1..15]) under Linux, whereas UW supports over 1000,
IIRC.  More importantly, the Linux disk naming scheme doesn't have
much to do with the SCSI ID or partition number.  So, adding a disk to
a SCSI chain with a lower ID than an existing disk can shift the /dev
names assigned to the disk under Linux; under UnixWare, this would not
happen.  Note that Linux will be getting a System V-like naming setup
in the next version.

17. Linux's loadable module support is much more powerful than
UnixWare's, and more of Linux's drivers are dynamically-loadable than

Aside from all of the above, there are numerous style differences:

1. UnixWare believes in TLI/XTI whereas Linux believes in Berkeley
sockets.  (Both OSes support the other standard, but the preferences
are still there.)

2. UnixWare believes in the Service Access Facility, whereas Linux
believes in separate getty and lpd processes.

3. UnixWare believes in System V options for tools like ps, ping and
ls whereas Linux believes in the BSD flavor.

4. UnixWare believes in /tmp as a RAM disk whereas Linux believes in
/tmp as a disk-based filesystem.

5. UnixWare believes in only a basic /proc whereas Linux believes in
giving away all kinds of info in /proc.  (This is why Linux has more
system monitoring tools: the information is readily available, and
documented.  In UW, you usually have to dig for it in
poorly-documented kernel structures via /dev/kmem.)

6. UnixWare believes in a combination of DCU, the /etc/conf.d
directory and the opaque id* tools for kernel configuration whereas
Linux believes in a straightforward makefile-based system.

7. UnixWare believes in STREAMS whereas Linux does not.  (Linux
prefers speed to being able to dynamically reconfigure the network
stack.  There's an add-on STREAMS package available, but the kernel
developers are adamant that it will never be part of the core

8. The directory layouts are, of course, rather different.

= Warren -- https://www.cyberport.com/~tangent/

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