Favorite UNIX

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Mon Oct 2 04:05:00 AEST 2017

On Sun, Oct 01, 2017 at 01:51:06PM -0400, Noel Chiappa wrote:
>     > From: Don Hopkins
>     > Solaris: so bad I left the company.
> Why was Solaris so much worse than SunOS?

Because SunOS had years of polish.  It was a nicer starting point (BSD
had all the fun stuff, AT&T was sort of a stuffed shirt's Unix, BSD was
Unix for hackers) and the engineers who polished it did so because they
loved it.  Lots of us stayed late into the night working on that OS and
it showed.  It was fun times, McNealy knew we were working on it and he'd
come over to the kernel team's building and egg us on.  He'd get up on
the conference table and preach to us how it was going to rule the world.

> I guess the Sun management didn't understand that was the case? Or were they
> so hot for the AT+T linkup that they were willing to live with it?

No, the deal was that Sun needed money and AT&T bought $200M of Sun stock
at 35% over market.  In exchange, Sun agreed to take SVR4 and make it
popular.   At&T wanted SVR4 to be the next SunOS.

But that was a kick in the nuts to us engineers.  The sytem v source base
was crap compared to sunos, a huge step backwards.

So my crowd pretty much all left in disgust.  There was a lot of heartache
over it.  None of us knew about the business deal at the time, in fact I
think a lot of management didn't know.

I pushed for a free version of SunOS 4.x.  I removed the STREAMS code and
the drivers because that wasn't free; put back the BSD tty drivers and
I had an unencumbered source base.  I demo-ed it.  My boss, Ken Okin,
VP of server hardware, paid me to argue for that for 6 months (which is
why I say I don't think management knew about the deal; Ken was a senior
dude, he wouldn't have sent me off if he knew for sure I was going to 

I wrote a paper arguing for this:


but it never happened.  We'd all be running SunOS today if they had done

Instead, they repeated the SunOS journey.  Bryan and crew polished that
turd for years and got it sort of reasonable.  Some people grew to like
it, I never did.  Too system v-ish for my tastes.  You have to install
the GNU tools to have a reasonable tool chain, they never fixed the
default tools.  That's crazy, why ship them and maintain them if you
aren't using them?  Solaris has always felt weird to me, but they went
for it and got it better.  Only to have it tossed away again.  Yuck.

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