[TUHS] Why Linux not another PC/UNIX [was Mach for i386 ...]

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Feb 23 05:35:00 AEST 2017

On Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 1:24 PM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:

> I think we're trying to get at accurate
> ​ ​
> history, right?
​Agreed... apologies to all if this is a strange thread, but frankly its
refreshing to try to tease this out in my own mind and I respect so many of
you here.  Thank you for listening to my rambling and my dealing with my
dyslexic typing.


> So what is written there was not how I felt at all.  I personally felt
> like AT&T had a case, I thought it was copyright not trade secret.
​So did I at the time!!  So did most people I knew.  That was exactly the

> ​...
> I found routines
> ​ ​
> that were bit for bit identical in both in less than 5 minutes.  The one
> I remember was bmap(), I found a couple of others that I don't remember
> (just remember there were more) and I gave up in disgust.  I was pretty
> disappointed that CSRG considered this not AT&T source, it was.
​Agreed... the argument... I'm not saying it was correct... was that the
code for bmap and like was the obvious code and any reasonable programmer
would have written it that way.​  Again .. not a lawyer ... but as the law
has been explained to me... *obviousness* is one place in copyright law
where code *can be duplicate*.  So the question, come if there are when
does it go over the line and become *infringement*.

Don't ask me....   I'm not defending or saying one way was right or wrong.
  In fact, like you, I was *really* worried, I too thought the case was
about copyright and I thought, like the Apple/Franklin Computer Case (which
I personally knew a little about but thats a different story), believed
that AT&T would win (which pissed me off - even though I had a number of
friends at AT&T - i remember grousing at some of them - they would not
defend their employees for their actions - I'm not sure they were happy
either).   But like you, I started to help the Linux folks too.

That said, I will also say I thought morally....   *Bostic and team was
right.*  By that point the core of what I consider "UNIX" really had been
rewritten and it ws not the same thing I had run on the PDP-11 at CMU years
before.   I too, wanted a "freely available PC/UNIX" (with sources).  Even
if I was as, Chet suggested, a card carrying member of the "BSD Club."

So, maybe I was splitting hairs.  Could be.   I wanted BSD, I had helped
make it happen.  Like Larry, it was a system I cared deeply about.   I did
not yet have children, at that point, probably felt similar to the way I
feel today about them.   I have put  lot emotional energy into BSD's
success.  All of my early career.    I had started companies around it
etc...  I watch Microsoft unfairly crap on the UNIX community etc...  Can't
say I wasn't too happy with Sun in those days too, as I felt Scotty was
almost a slimy as Billy G.   I had a pretty low opinion of the "boys in the
coats and ties" and this court case was just another example of "TPC" (see
the movie "The Presidents Analyst" for the reference) doing it again.

But it was the AT&T lawyers that made the case about trade secret not
copyright.   They want to win everything and they lost it all.  That called
karma:   "Squeeze too tight, while you keep the bird, it will die."

> That left me with a strong feeling that AT&T was going to win.

> I was
> ​ ​
> wrong but it didn't matter, BSD was sort of dead to me.
​Ah, that was the difference... I was still rooting for phoenix to rise
from the ashes.​ I was hoping there was a still one more chance.​

> I can't tell
> ​ ​
> you how painful that was for me, I was very much a BSD guy, SunOS was
> BSD plus the stuff you would want fixed, fixed.
​I think I have an idea.   I was very nearly the in same spot.​

> Linux wasn't BSD but it wasn't going to get taken away from me like
> SunOS was taken away and now BSD looked like it was going to be taken
> away.  It just looked like a bad investment to work on BSD so I worked
> on Linux.
​Ah... and I was hedging my bet. but trying to help both.  I admit, I
wanted BSD to win. Which is why I also tried to get OSF to make an
alternative.  OSF/1 vs. Linux at the point (again as a pure technology
play) was the same as BSD vs Linux.   Linux had a long way to go.

I just wanted a PC/UNIX (basically with the BSD extension and managed like
a BSD system) that I run on the PC/386 that was no more than the cost of
DOS/Win or the like.  If that could be found and better yet, source were
available (and here Chet is probably right - because I had always been part
of the club, I guess I was less worried, as I suspect my employers
would always have sources and thus I would too).

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://minnie.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/attachments/20170222/f0c1f6ac/attachment.html>

More information about the TUHS mailing list