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Posted Mar 22, 2007 2:47 UTC (Thu) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026)
In reply to: First FOSS OS? by landley
Parent article: The road to freedom in the embedded world

Micro-soft was one of the first, and they were a shoestring operation with three employees, one of which was part time and one of which had a day job at HP.

A Microsoft employee had a day job at HP? Which one? Are you sure you're not thinking of Apple computer and Woz?

Draping a GNU flag over Linux is SILLY

That's a matter of perspective. Personally, the software packages I rely on most are Bash, Emacs, GCC and GDB. Notice the pattern? I run these atop a Linux kernel at the moment, but draping a Linux flag over all that would be silly since I've also used FreeBSD, NetBSD, Solaris and even Microsoft Windows at times. The GNU project may not have become whatever you wish it had and there are certainly plenty of other important projects in the free software community, but it has not failed. GNU remains relevant to quite a few people. Deal with it.


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Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:00 UTC (Thu) by landley (subscriber, #6789) [Link]

> A Microsoft employee had a day job at HP? Which one? Are you sure
> you're not thinking of Apple computer and Woz?

Ah, you're right. Paul Allen's day job for Microsoft's first year was at
MITS, as "associate director of software". Before that Paul Allen worked
at Honeywell, not HP. (Sorry, all my reference books are packed.)

> I've also used FreeBSD, NetBSD, Solaris and even Microsoft Windows at
> times.

I don't. I also use vi instead of Emacs, and I point out that Ubuntu has
replaced bash with dash as its' default #!/bin/sh in Edgy and Feisty
(although I actually object to this because dash is broken).

> The GNU project may not have become whatever you wish it had and there
> are certainly plenty of other important projects in the free software
> community, but it has not failed.

Unix won. MacOS X's Unix underpinnings are BSD, Linux was directly
inspired by Minix (Andrew Tanenbaum worked at Bell labs and describes the
history of Minix in more detail at http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/brown/), and
Solaris and *.BSD all trace their directly ancestry back to Berkeley and
Murray Hill.

The GNU project was one of a half-dozen independent rewrites of the basic
Unix ideas published in the ACM paper in 1974. DOS 2.0's divergence from
CP/M (subdirectories, replacing FCB with file handles, etc) was wholly
inspired by Unix (and Paul Allen's desire to promote Microsoft's Unix
port, Xenix). I once used a Unix interface for the Vax VMS
called "Eunice" (think "cygwin for the vax", only even more strange and
brittle). IBM got Unix95 certification for its' mainframes, and it
didn't do that because of GNU.

> GNU remains relevant to quite a few people.

I am not one of them.

The biggest boost GCC ever got was Sun's Ed Zander deciding to unbundle
the compiler from Sun's Unix and sell it as an add-on, for extra money.
(He did the same thing to the network stack.) It was a huge boost to
short-term revenues and a huge drag on market share in the long run.

Before that gcc was virtually unheard of, after that it became the
de-facto default compiler for Sun workstations. The FSF never understood
the importance of PC hardware, and didn't pay much attention to it back
when Linux started. (They were far more interested in 68k than x86, as
most old-school Unix types were. They bought into the "RISC will
overwhelm everything" rumour going around then, just as they bought into
the "Microkernels are one true way" fad. Linux succeeded because it was
NOT part of the FSF. The original "Cathedral" in the Cathedral and the
Bazaar was the FSF, not any proprietary software company.)

Posted Mar 22, 2007 18:07 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

You use vi over Emacs because of the *license*?!

Sheesh. Even RMS isn't remotely this rigid.

(Oh, and GCC was widely used and widely known in the embedded market long before Sun's unfortunate C compiler unbundling. Surely you know this, what with busybox's embedded penetration...)

Posted Mar 22, 2007 21:00 UTC (Thu) by landley (subscriber, #6789) [Link]

> You use vi over Emacs because of the *license*?!

No, I use vi over Emacs because learning Lisp never struck me as a
reasonable requirement for a text editor to impose on its' users. (I
don't recommend vi to other people, and I'd have stuck with Joe if it
wasn't so buggy. I still miss qedit under DOS. But vi is ubiquitous and
available.) I used to use microemacs on the Amiga, but microemacs isn't
ubiquitously available on systems I sit down at either, and the big
version's no substitute for it.

> Oh, and GCC was widely used and widely known in the embedded market
> long before Sun's unfortunate C compiler unbundling. Surely you know
> this, what with busybox's embedded penetration...

First I've heard of it. What would that have to do with BusyBox? (Let's
see, Busybox Dates back to 1999, depending on whether you want to count
the project from the abandoned Debian boot disk utility ala Red Hat's
nash, or from Eric Andersen reviving it as an embedded project. That
means Linux predates it by about 8 years, and the Sun thing predates
Linux.)

Seems somewhat unlikely, since up through the 1990's the most common
target of the embedded market, far and away, was the 8-bit Z80. I don't
think gcc even had a target for the 16-bit 8086 before
http://www.delorie.com/djgpp/16bit/gcc/ , do you have references?

Maybe you're referring to 68k, ala http://www.obviously.com/dice/ ?

According to
http://www.network-theory.co.uk/docs/gccintro/gccintro_4.... the first
release of gcc was in 1987. (The book "open sources" has more detail but
that sounds about right.) Peter Salus says that the unbundling had
happened (and users had time to react) by the end of 1990:
http://icims.csl.uiuc.edu/~lheal/doc/dgp/chapter10.html

I know 1990 is about when I first heard of it. Then again, I was looking
for compilers with source code at the time for a DOS project. I believe
I found something like five of them, all of which sucked in different
ways... The one I wound up paying the most attention to was an upgraded
version of the "Small C Compiler" for DOS, a variant of
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small-C

Rob

Using Emacs requires learning Lisp?

Posted Mar 23, 2007 18:27 UTC (Fri) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

No, I use vi over Emacs because learning Lisp never struck me as a reasonable requirement for a text editor to impose on its' users.

How does editing text with Emacs require learning Lisp? I'll admit that I do know Lisp but I don't often apply that to Emacs. Even when I do I'm experimenting or adding some custom feature, which is not normal use. I appreciate the light footprint and ubiquity of vi and I have no trouble accepting that many people like it better than Emacs, but I hope you have some reasons less silly than this one.

Using Emacs requires learning Lisp?

Posted Mar 26, 2007 12:53 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Doing anything much with Emacs customization used to require learning Lisp, but this hasn't been true for perhaps a decade. One of the problems with long-lived projects is that they acquire reputations which they then drag around long after they are no longer accurate.

(In any case, it's not as if elisp is very hard to learn, at least not to the depth required to customize Emacs. I learnt that much of it in two hours when I was twelve from the emacs-lisp-intro...)

Sic transit GNU

Posted Mar 23, 2007 18:04 UTC (Fri) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

I also use vi instead of Emacs, and I point out that Ubuntu has replaced bash with dash as its' default #!/bin/sh in Edgy and Feisty (although I actually object to this because dash is broken).

So? As far as I can tell your position is not merely that it's *possible* to get by without this or that GNU component (that's clearly true) but that GNU failed and is irrelevant. Since a substantial number of people depend on Emacs, Bash and other GNU components on a day to day basis that can't be true. Noting that there are other people who don't seems to be just another way to say, "there are certainly plenty of other important projects in the free software community" which I said above.

Unix won.

Yes, obviously. But that's beside the point. The GNU project didn't set out rewrite Unix for technical reasons. Their goal was to ensure that a complete, free software operating system would be available. Distributions such as Fedora, Gentoo, Debian, Ubuntu and others may not be all things to all people (and yes, I know "Saint Ignutius" himself is unwilling to bless them) but GNU components remain a vital part of each and the free software philosophy articulated and promoted by RMS played a substantial role in making them what they are.

Spinning history to obscure this is not productive. You don't have to personally like RMS, to call the Linux based operating system on your computer GNU, to use the forthcoming GPLv3 as a license for your own work or otherwise accept any suggestion from the Free Software Foundation to appreciate the contributions they have made and continue to make to this community.


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