[TUHS] Why BSD didn't catch on more, and Linux did

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Wed Feb 7 08:38:00 AEST 2018

On Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 5:13 PM, Dan Stromberg <drsalists at gmail.com> wrote:

> IMO:
> 1) It kinda did catch on, in the form of macOS,


> but there was a time
> when it was nearly dead as the major vendors moved to System V.  For
> some reason, Sun was the last major vendor to make the move, but they
> caught most of the flack.
​This I disagree - Sun was the last.  HP-UX to this day is a BSD based
kernel with System V interfaces.   Tru64 was OSF/1 - ney Mach 2.5 ney BSD +
CMU and IBM, was it's own thing which was a combination of BSD, System III
and System V salted.    You're right that folks >>shipped<< using a SVR3
>>license<< but don't confuse the license with the kernel technology.​

> 2) I think the main reason BSD nearly died, was the AT&T lawsuit.  At
> the time, Linux appeared to be a safer bet legally.
​Yes, I explore this in depth in my latest paper.    Al biet we thought it
was safer for an incorrect reason and if AT&T had won, Linux would have
technically had to be removed from the market.   Although, in practice, I'm
not really sure how that would have worked out. But if AT&T had won, all
>>UNIX based<< technology (the IP) - which Linux was just one example​ -
would have had to go away.   The suit was about >> trade secrets<< not

I really believe this is/was the key item.   It's certainly why I started
using Linux and I know a number of others that did the same.

> 3) Linux got a reputation as an OS you had to be an expert to install,
> so lots of people started it to install it to "prove themselves".
> This was sort of true back when Linux came as 2 floppy images, but
> didn't remain true for very long.
​Hmmm... possibly.  I never saw or thought about it that way, but I was
never trying to prove myself.   But I take your word for it.  ​

> 4) I believe the SCO lawsuit "against Linux" was too little, too late
> to kill Linux's first mover advantage in the opensource *ix
> department.
By that time - the damage was done.​  I really don't think this has any
effect on BSD one way or the other.

> 5) I think FreeBSD's ports and similar huge-source-tree approaches
> didn't work out as well Linux developers contributing their changes
> upstream.
​Hmmm.. BSD has a similar scheme and in fact, Linux took a lot from
FreeBSD​ in the ideas of install, ports *etc*.  In time, I think they
surpassed it.

So I come back, if the original BSDi/UCB vs. AT&T suit had not occurred, it
would have been a BSD world.   But people like me got scared and even
though BSD/386 vs Linux 0.99 was not even a fair comparison (BSD had
networking, a window manager, did not crash - basically was a complete
system).   Linux was good enough with enough solid UNIX hacker making it
complete it quickly took over.   As I say in the paper, it is a
classic Christensen style disruption.

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