[TUHS] unix "awesome list"

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Wed May 9 00:53:16 AEST 2018

I'll take a slight different road on this topic.  I think we are dealing
with the paradox of progress. I don't blame Linux's developers any more
than I blame BSDs or anyone else.   Really it was hardware progress/Moore's
law that changed the rules :-)

As much as I wax a bit for the simplicity of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh
Editions of my youth, the truth is I would not want to try to use them
today.   My needs are now different and I think the is true for most people
also which is why a modern UNIX implementation is different from the
original ideas or maybe I should say ideal.  That said, a lot of what I did
then, ands like Steve, I still do use and many of the 'classic solutions' I
find are better for me (*i.e. *troff *vs.* MS-Word)

Pike's '*cat -v harmfu*l' paper foretold where we would get.   On the
PDP-11 with a limited address, a programmer was constrained so you had to
keep things simple.   The programming model of small simple programs that
did one thing well, was easier to 'enforce.'   The ideas that formed UNIX
make sense, and yoiu could build an extremely power 'system' from simple
and small things.   At the time, that was almost heretical.    But once HW
dropped in price and the address space issues relaxed the size of a program
that could be written, people did.  The cast was out of the bag, and there
was no going back.    I'm not saying all of the new BSDism of the time were
right, but they certainly made many things easier/more approachable for
many users and many/most live in modern UNIX definition.

I think Ted makes an excellent point, that *BSD and Linux, by their nature
of being 'open' and 'available' pushed the code along and that needs to
continue to be the high order bit.  Open and freely available had a huge
positive effect, because many of these new feature (like X-Windows,
Networking) were 'useful' and the cost to add them was accessible -- so
people added them.   But .... slowly the system changed and the
*expectations* of the users with them.

I admit, I'm torn.   I do think Pike was right and many of the new
features/frameworks *et al* are pretty lame (useless IMHO) and the
simpler/cleaner methods of old, are being ignored. Dave Pressotto and I
were talking a week or so ago and Dave made the observation that he's not
sure he knows how write a modern program now with all these frameworks,
IDEs, *etc* and I completely agree.  But that is the old guy in me talking;
but I really do want to see progress and the new generation make its mark.
I'm sure they will do wonderful things.

Bakul's observation of little >>practical<< progress is an interesting
one.   In many ways I agree, in others I'm not so sure.  I think Ted knows
that my major gripe with some of the Linux (and Gnu style) community has
been a focus on reimplementing things that were already there instead of
using what could have been taken from somewhere else such as BSD, or
replacing subsystems just because they could without really adding anything
(*i.e.* the whole systemd argument).

But over all, as much as I respect and think Ken and Dennis did amazing
work at the time, I do tend to love when new ideas/things have been done
beyond the original ideas from Ken and Dennis.  For instance, just as BSD
can take credit (or blame) or sockets and making UNIX really a 'networked
OS', Sun really gave us multiple file systems with the VFS, but  I strongly
credit Linux for really making kernel modules a reality (yup Solaris had
them, as did a few other systems - but it was really Linux that made it
wide spread).   I wish Linux had taken the idea of a modular kernel a tad
farther, and picked up things like Locus vproc work, because I personally
think modularity under the covers is better than the containers mess we
have today (and I agree with Tannenbaum that uKernel's make more sense to
me in the long run - even if they do cost something in speed).

it's also why I liked Plan 9 and have high hopes that a new OS, maybe
written is something like Rust might finally appear.   But I don't want it
re-implement UNIX or Linux.   Grab from them the subsystems that you need
to duplication, but don't re-invent.

Warren - at the risk of being political -- I think the paradox we have it
larger than just UNIX, although it is simple.  We can wallow and say
everything is bad, it was simpler in 1959 -- which exactly what some folks
in my country seem to be doing in other areas.  I personally can say my
world was simple in those days and I certainly have fond memories [read
Bill Bryson's
which parrots many of my own memories of those times ], but UNIX, like the
world, has grown up and changed and is a lot more complicated.   I like
progress we have now.  I don't want the world the way it was any more than
I want run Fifth Edition on my Mac for day-2-day work.

Yes, I would like us to look at the good from the past and see if we can
have some of the good things again; but if it means giving up what gained
too, then we have gone backwards.  The problem is how to decide what was
good and what was bad?   What is real progress and what is just 'showing
off your money' to use a Forest Gump concept.

I suspect we will argue for a long time about what qualifies as progress
from the core idea of UNIX and what does not.


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