Re: The Joy of Forking

From: Jesse Pollard (
Date: Sun Jun 24 2001 - 22:34:42 EST

On Sun, 24 Jun 2001, Rick Hohensee wrote:
>2.4.5 is 26 meg now. It's time to consider forking the kernel. Alan has
>already stuck his tippy-toe is that pool, and his toe is fine.
>The "thou shalt not fork" commandment made sense at one point, when free
>unix was a lost tribe wandering hungry in the desert. When you have a
>project with several million users that has a scope that simply doesn't
>scale, it doesn't. Forking should be done responsibly, and with great joy.
>As in nature, software success breeds diversity. Linux should diversify.
>This is cause for celebration, ceremony, throwing of bouquets and so on.
>I have done a few trivial things that people with rather shallow ideas of
>what unix is about have excoriated as "NOT UNIX!". So far that's been
>absurd, but my stuff is getting more intrusive. Linux is far more
>interesting to me for it's general usefulness and openness, which are
>inextricably related, than for it's unixness, although unix is certainly
>Alan was going to file for divorce over dev_t. Isn't is funny how
>estranged couples so often are so much alike? dev_t is crucial, of course,
>but it's not the biggest geological fault in the kernel. SMP is. I have
>dropped hints about this before. An SMP system is more fundamentally
>different than UP than a 386 is different than other big microprocessors.
>As I mentioned that Steve Ballmer mentioned, Linux isn't getting any
>traction on the client, the end-user desktop box. That's a huge and poorly
>served market, so there are lots of tragically shallow ideas of how to
>approach it. A few variations on the Linux theme are in order, that
>preserve unixness, openness, but that don't have pretenses of being Big
>For a client-use Linux kernel, I suggest, and will be and have been
>persuing, features and non-features such as...
> forget POSIX
> The standards that matter are de-facto standards. Linux is the
> standard. Congratulations. Take your seat in the chair for
> First Violin.

NO. I port too many programs both ways. I need POSIX compliancy as much as
is possible. That way the programs will compile and go among Linux, UNICOS,
IRIX, Solaris, AIX, and sometimes HP-UX.

> rtlinux by default
> no SMP
> SMP doesn't scale. If this fork comes, the smart maintainer
> will take the non-SMP fork.

Depends on platform and bus. From reports, it seems to scale just fine on
non-intel systems.

> x86 only (and similar, e.g. Crusoe)

Again, Linux is the only system that CAN run on anything from PDA thorough
supercomputer clusters.

> mimimal VM cacheing
> So you can red-switch the box without journalling with
> reasonable damage, which for an end-user is a file or two.
> Having done a lot of very wrong things with Linux, I'm
> impressed that ext2 doesn't self-destruct under abuse.

Not if you want some speed out of it.

> in-kernel interpreter
> I have one working. It's fun.

VIRUSES, VIRUSES, and MORE VIRUS entry points. Assuming you mean both
translator and execution at the same time.

> EOL is CR&LF
> The one thing Dos got right and unix got wrong. Also, in my
> 2-month experience in a cube on a LAN, the most annoying thing
> about trying to be a Linux end-user in a Dos shop. Printers
> are CRLF, fer crissakes.
> This is not a difficult mod, but it's a lot of little changes
> throughout a box. Things that look for EOLs are the part that
> has to be fixed by hand, and can be inclusive of CRLF and LF.

I've used both. They are equivalent. Live with it.

> Plan 9-style header files structure
> Plan 9's most amazing stuff to me is the subtle refinements,
> like sane header files. Sane C header files, _oh_ _my_ _God_.

As long as source code portability is maintained.

> excellent localizability
> e.g. kernel error strings mapped to a file, or an #include
> that can be language-specific. My DSFH stuff also.

This is quite reasonable. Actually, unless you are referring to Kernel internal
error codes, it's already done with perror.

>What about GUI's, and "desktops" and such? They're nice. They are
>secondary, however. The free unix world doesn't often enough make the
>point that GUI's are much more important when the underlying OS sucks,
>which it doesn't in Linux.

If you only use a compute/disk server. Otherwise you are saying "no desktop
publishing, word processing, or image analysis".

Are you still using DOS only?

>In short, an open source OS for end-users should be very serious about
>simplicity, and not just pay lip-service to it. There is evidence of the
>value of this in the marketplace. What doesn't exist is an OS where
>simplicity is systemic. This is why end-user issues pertain to the kernel
>at all. This is how open source should be. Simple, or at least clear,
>through and through. Linux has lost a lot of simplicity since I got into
>it in '96, and that is a loss.

For the most part, the base Linux appears simple to the user. There are no
desktops to worry about. Desktops are an application, not part of Linux at all
It is becoming better for the administrator. As better desktops are developed,
it is becoming for "user friendly".

Jesse I Pollard, II

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