[TUHS] Mach for i386 / Mt Xinu or other

jsteve at superglobalmegacorp.com jsteve at superglobalmegacorp.com
Wed Feb 22 20:16:52 AEST 2017

I always hear that universities had access, but it wasn’t undergrads in 1000 level classes that arrived.  Asking for that kind of thing was either greeted with laughs, or should shrugging.  Access to anything like that was for either graduate students or people ‘in the click’ and people just arriving were neither.

Just like the partitioning code that was apparently common, none of this stuff was available to anyone that simply didn’t know as there was no central clearing house of information.  And I gather the fear of AT&T meant it wasn’t anything anyone was willing to share.  Not everyone got 20th generation photocopies of the Lions book, nor did they get access to anything other than what teachers were willing to let kids have access to.

Prior to Net/2 people were trying to hack milnet to find BSD source code.  And even when Net/2 was a thing I can tell you that in south Florida among hackers I knew that were my age, none of us had heard of it, or knew anything about it.  When people saw us kids swapping floppies, and lugging around our 386’s to do Linux install parties nobody ever once mentioned anything about having BSD source or anything.  It was a very much gated community, and new students were certainly not welcome.  In those regards it really is no surprise that Linux used nothing from places with ‘source licenses’ as nothing in that was available to actually look at.

Another thing that killed Net/2 was that second networking package for Linux, surprisingly called NET2 shared an incredibly similar name, and even in it’s readme:

	NOTE: In this document, ``NET-2'' does not refer to the Berkeley
	Software Distribution NET-2 release of BSD UNIX. Yes, the names
	are conflicting. In this FAQ, ``NET-2'' refers only to the new
	generation of TCP/IP code in the Linux kernel.

And I’m sure the lawyers were happy that way as us 1000 level kids didn’t care and would happily steal said source, and try to use it.  Even today I’m finding out about this CMU Mach+4.3BSD that was available in 1990, and I suspect there are other i386 based BSD’s that could have filled some kind of gap but either chose not to, or were at best public secrets.

Just as I’m sure if the non Portuguese world had heard of Tropix (http://www.tropix.nce.ufrj.br/) it too may have had a following.

Had AT&T won, there was no stopping Linux though.  It didn’t use anything from AT&T, and back then it was still based on a.out, and some people were looking at using COFF... After AT&T’s defeat did the whole ELF thing come, and then there was the lawsuits on API’s and headers.

If anything I’m more so surprised that the USSR with their stolen BSD didn’t push some kind of Soviet UNIX (DEMOS) into the west, to ride that whole ‘free’ software thing.  Or they were just too politically blind, and figured that westerns would be highly suspicious of Russians pushing stolen American tech.

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

From: Clem Cole
Sent: Thursday, 23 February 2017 11:27 AM
To: Dan Cross
Cc: TUHS main list; Noel Chiappa
Subject: Re: [TUHS] Mach for i386 / Mt Xinu or other

On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 8:50 PM, Dan Cross <crossd at gmail.com> wrote:
If I may, I think there was an additional thing at play: Linux was essentially Unix.
​But that is of course my point.   Linux is (was) UNIX, AND ...  "UNIX" as a free UNIX was available at the time.​


Linux "won" because people wanted low-cost or free (as in gratis) Unix with source that could run on modest commodity hardware, and Unix wasn't available at a price point that was reasonable for most individuals (certainly not with source).
​Indeed - that was 386BSD.​   At first anyone with a source license (which was just about anyone at University - so that means students like Linus BTW), and most commercial places had access to the BSD license.  The ftp site for download 'Jolix' as some one called it earlier today was pretty much the worst kept secret on the Internet.   All you had to do is ask, and you could find it and once NET/2 was released, and then FreeBSD, NetBSD et al came to be it was all over.

They key was in the case of 386BSD, you want to ask for it (and officially needed a license to ask), but long before Linux shows up there were >>freely<< available PC/UNIX systems.

And you point, which is 100% in agreement with my own is that under the rules of Christiansen disruption, a PC/386 based UNIX that was "cheap enough" was going to win.

The question Noel asked was why did this flavor of UNIX win over the others since there were other choices.   That is what I tried to answer.   As Larry and I both pointed out, if the BSDi/AT&T suit had not occurred the "hackers" which Larry described very well in his document, were going to find something.   386BSD was that place.   Then it got clouded in legal nonsense and lot of us fled.

Larry suggest there were other reasons.  He and many others think the GPL/2 vs the BSD license was important.  I really don't think so.  But that's less of an argument.   The key is that the BSD version was cloud in legal issues (and as Larry pointed out some strong personalities).  

 So Linux comes along and it's basically a "simplest possible solution" Unix, freely available, runs on a PC, comes with source, and wasn't mired in a lawsuit brought by a major US company. It was the right thing in the right place at the right time.

​Exactly ... ​
Linux arrive at the right time, free of the perceived legal issues.  The sad truth is that if AT&T had won, technically Linux would have had to be removed from the market in the US and NATO countries.   I'll not try to speculate what would have happened then other than to say the not only was cow out of the barn, th
barn had caught fire so there was not place to put it back.


I think there's a network effect that blinds a lot of folks to this reality. Most of the folks on this list had access to Unix source and, with no disrespect intended, it's easy to lose sight of what a big deal that was. But unless you were in a position to already have access to it, it was remarkably difficult to come by. 
​Actually, I always found that a strange statement.  I hear you and no disrespect intended, but  I fear that people that make that claim just did not know where to look.  It was ignorance (not stupidity mind you) - just lack of knowledge that is was available.

I'm going to ask Dan, were you not at an university at time?  Most schools in the US and Europe had BSD licenses.  If you working, I can understand it somewhat.   Many people's first UNIX experience was on a Sun Workstation so those folks did not have UNIX source licenses.   But if you were at a either a University or commercial enterprise with a AT&T and BSD license,  All it took was making sure you university had one and sending and email to the UCB folks (which many of us on this list were some of the folks that might have read it).​ They reply (I if I got searching through old email I might even have a copy of some where) basically was the url of the blind ftp address to pull the iso off the ucb ftp site.  It was incredibly easy to get but you did have to have ftp access (and know the magic path - which if you asked was easy to get).   Even with the first ISO, at one point, I seem to remember the bazillion *BSD floppies showed up on the one of the netnews channels and clogging up the dial-up links for a few days.

The point was if you were at all in the community, it was pretty easy to find the BSD code.  

Which brings me to my point... many developers abandoned it - and most of them certainly know how to get it.  They why I think the incorrect belief that legal entanglement (miss guided as it turned out) where not there with Linux.

By the time the legal case was settled, the developed had "completed enough" of what was missing in Linux from *BSD that many folks never went back.   And the newbie never knew any better.  

Linux filled a gap that a lot of people were looking to have filled.
​Agreed..​ but that gap would not have been there if the AT&T legal case had not clouded it all.   Imagine that if the case had no occurred, the hackers were already working with *BSD.

So then the question comes which Larry raises, was the UNIX personalities and/or the licensing what would have caused Linux to rise.

I don't think so, because BSD had too much of a lead - already had networking, windowing, and in fact had a "better" installer on a PC/386.   The first stuff "distro" that was at all reasonably easy t install was a PC was slackware and that was partly because they pulled a bunch of stuff from the stuff Jordan had created.

But they problem was that FreeBSD et al was starting under a legal cloud, I know I was worried.  I ran it on two of my systems, but was working on Linux on another to hedge my bet.  I was not sure BSDi/UCB would win, so I started helping make Linux work better too.


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