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Nikolai Bezroukov. Portraits of Open Source Pioneers
For readers with high sensitivity to grammar errors access to this page is not recommended :-)
"All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others."
George Orwell, Animal Farm
Linus Torvalds - The one, the only ... yeah!
Stampede distribution developers
"If you still don't like it, that's ok: that's why I'm boss. I simply know better than you do."
The life at a glance (of an accidental neo-conservative revolutionary ;-)
Selling Bazaar to Cathedral (Linux Hype Festival and IPO Gold Rush)
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Linux, like Unix in general, is a major democratic OS and a major democratic social force in computing despite the fact that the development of the kernel is ruled with iron fist by Linus Torvalds. The fact that Linux succeeded as de-facto standard for X86 architecture was a tremendous achievement although the role of Intel and Microsoft in this should not be underestimated (rising tide lift all boats).
Along with DOS, Unix was the second after BSD democratic operating system that helped people to get rid of the power of the corporate and university "computer center" bureaucracy and Linux continues this noble tradition. Paradoxically Linux never got an upper hand technically in fierce competition with FreeBSD which used for development a tiny fraction of resources Linus used and never even approached the security of OpenBSD or platform independence of NetBSD. It was blatantly "gray" OS that achieved success exactly like Microsoft of Unix world.
I think that one of the major achievements of Linux is it's counterbalancing value and positive influence on Microsoft and (up to Oracle acquisition) Sun: it did contributed to the lessening what is called the "operating system tax" (while the cost of Microsoft OSes in the USA is very competitive, this is not true for other countries). And this "greed moderating" influence of Linux on Microsoft is very important and should not be underestimated. It is especially important for poor (aka developing) countries, because it provided the ability to run free OS with a respectable set of utilities and applications at minimal cost. While not exactly replacement of Microsoft on desktop ti did creates an alternative ecosystem and stimulated Microsoft to offer special pricing for poor countries.
At the same time Linux itself should be viewed as a classic story of betrayal of the movement roots: commercialization of GPL-based software created by volunteers and used to enrich several "open source pigs" including Linus Torvalds himself. In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the animals on a small farm revolt against the farmer and create a seemingly utopian world in which all animals share the labor and the fruits of that labor. If you have never read George Orwell's barnyard parable, go out and buy yourself a copy; try not to be alarmed at how closely the farm mirrors the Linux world. In Animal Farm, a new order is established with lots of talk about freedom, but a rigid hierarchy was almost instantly established and "top pigs" start to enrich themselves and oppress others using the credo "All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others." If you are tempted to think that Orwell's gloomy story is nothing more than an anti-totalitarism fairy tale, read on. It really has more dimensions that simple decrying of the horrors of totalitarism. Corrupt evangelists shouting "Four legs good, two legs bad" are not limited to one particular Euro-Asian country ;-)
This commercialization betrayed the academic roots of free/open source software and created both "open source millionaires" and "open source politics" not that different from regular corporate politics with sleazy corporate lobbyists, fake image projection and PR assaults on opponents. In Linux startups the stakeholders who can influence the decisions (owners and management clan) immensely enriched themselves to the disadvantage of the remaining stakeholders. During "Linux gold rush" which was actually driven by investment banks the "rank and file" stockholders were openly milked and cheated by those influential stakeholders. It is important to understand that Torvalds has dual role: one as the leader of Linux movement and the second as a front man for pretty sophisticated looting by Wall Street of rank-and-file investors (often Linux enthusiasts;-) during dot-com boom/bust cycle. It was the point when investment banks realized that computers make looting easy and profitable due to increased size of plankton such as retail brokerages customers and participants of 401K plans. Wall Street bonus extravaganza actually started during dot-com boom. So Wall-street envy toward the start-up founders, who often became multi millionaire in three-five years by selling useless companies to the public was a factor that precipitated development of all the spectrum of dirty financial tricks such as subprime mortgages, derivatives, HFT, buy-off regulators. In other words stuff your customers, stiff your creditors, convert a pile of toxic junk into derivatives and stamp triple AAA rating on them, sell to bigger fools and when things get tough get a bailout from taxpayers. In a way, dot-com boom/bust cycle was a training ground for all those Wall Street criminal behavior we have now. Here the role of Torvalds was extremely negative and his behavior was dubious at best. As soon as Linux hit pay dirt, the nature of the development changed and venture capitalist and large companies like IBM became de-facto rulers of the land. And their priorities became the most important. Today it is virtually impossible for an open-source project to hit critical mass without being consumed by venture capital.
Paradoxically despite the fact that due to the commercialization the character of the movement radically changed and it became corporate-controlled and profit-oriented, most members of the Linux community still exhibit the characteristics of "true believers" -- they cannot accept criticism of their belief object, and will, given the opportunity, pour scorn and derision on the proponents of alternatives, or even on those who simply don't believe in the object of their blind faith. As Goethe mentioned "None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free."
This chapter also documents the phenomenon that later was coined as the Fading Altruism of Open Source Development and a very strong corporate influence on Linux development including big business manipulation of Linux technical priorities and goals: big companies, especially IBM, are using the open-source community as Indian subcontractors in best outsourcing tradition rather than encouraging the community to develop independent products. We will be limited to the "glorious period" of Linux history, the period before SCO lawsuit when Linux became open season for lawyers. The latter is a pretty interesting episode of Linux history with quite colorful figures, but due to time period limitation we imposed it is not covered in the chapter.
I would like to remind the reader that this chapter title contains the word "skeptical". The analysis below not only lacks typical for "true believers" excessive excitement about the technical qualities of Linux kernel (it was never able to surpass FreeBSD that used for development a tiny fraction of resources), but has a definite anti "cult of personality" flavor. I hope this page can serve as a antidote to "Great Chairman Linus Torvalds who single-handedly leads lemmings toward the bright future" stories in mainstream media. We need to realize that open source politics relies on manipulation. Since Linus Torvalds, open source leaders became political figures and it has become impossible to discuss them without asking such unpleasant questions as: What is Linus Torvalds "real" character? How authentic or inauthentic his coverage in the mainstream media is? What image is he trying to project?
Contrary to naive (or crooked) accounts about shy Finn, Linus has a "supersized" (but well camouflaged in public appearances ;-) ego and as you can infer from the facts presented below it was always the case. Both Linus' parents are journalists, and he probably inherited a journalistic talent and understands pretty well how important is to project the right public image of humbleness to create contrast that increases a "superhero effect". To get a better sense of him, read the kernel traffic list. In this list he's far from the laid-back, mellow regular guy as he usually appears in the interviews. He is very opinionated and extremely competitive to the point of being very rude to people dissenting from his "party line"; he is perfectly capable in flaming people, solutions or ideas he doesn't like even when those are better ideas or solutions.
I also think that Linus' cult of personality is one of the most significant negative moments of the movement for various reasons propagated by such different people/groups including but not limited to Eric Raymonds, Slashdot founders, Slate's Andrew Leonard, Linux distributors, etc. That's why this chapter can be considered as a modest attempt to address "Linux mythology" issue. All-in-all in this chapter I will try to paint a vivid picture of a talented, colorful and sharply individualistic Linux dictator: one of the most fascinating figures among open source pioneers. It's important to understand that this chapter was written as an antidote to publications emulating North Korean party newspapers articles that depict achievements of the party leaders with just substitution of Linux and Linus Torvalds in several places ;-).
Along with this goal, this chapter also tries to answer several important questions
The rise of Linux was marked with the sharp acceleration of the trend to commodization of software
products, when substance was replaced by flashy RB companies and like in many other fields
brand became more important then technical qualities.
One of the fundamental problem of open source movements like Linux kernel development is the problem of altruism. While Linux was started as an altruistic volunteer project, the situation drastically changed with the first startups and IPOs. At this point Linux pretty quickly seized to be a volunteer developed OS and became some weird mixture of "brain drain" (mainly from Europe) and outsourcing (to Asia). It can be even claimed that there is a substantial component of the movement that views open source development as a "loss leader": it sacrifices many young talented programmers from other countries in order to establish a reputation necessary to get a few a highly played job (often in the USA). While definitely not encompassing, this kind of motivation can help to explains demographics of open source development (with Europe and LA as dominant regions), and, in particular, why the phenomenon seems prevalent among young college-educated men including Linus Torvalds himself (who moved to the USA with the explicit goal to become rich). As David Lancashire aptly noted the appropriate analogy for open source development might be not "cooking-pots" or "cauldrons", but Mayflower. This "Mayflower" component of open source can be played in many different ways, for example:
For achieving the goal of "real" (horizontal) immigration to USA from other country (as in case of Torvalds, Miguel De Icaza, Guido van Rossum, etc)
For "virtual immigration" (immigration up) as in case of using open source credentials as the key for opening doors to highly paid (usually by USA firms) corporate/consultant position (Jeremy Allison, Alan Cox, Theodore Tso).
As a way to become a (rich) founder of high-tech startup (Marc Ewing, Marc Andreesen, John Ousterhout, Michael Tiemann, Tatu Ylönen)
As a way to sell your reputation for the position of an evangelist (Bruce Perens) or a member of the board (Eric Raymond) in some established company or a well-funded startup rushing toward IPO.
This desire for enrichment, "get rich quick" IPO schemes, blatant self-promotion, blatant propaganda
and disinformation typical for such electronic press outlets as Slashdot and Linux Today, etc make
us suspect that along with honest academic style developers who are just doing their job much like
Free/Open/NetBSD developers there is an "Orwell's farmhouse ... full of open-source pigs,
which are now almost indistinguishable from the proprietary humans they recently overthrew" as
John Metcalf aptly noted in his paper
If open-source software is so much cooler, why isn't Transmeta getting it "
A related question is "Will Linus be forced out of kernel development or he'll step down on his
own ?" As we will see approximately from year 2000 Linux became much larger then Linus and Linus
role in centralizing kernel development gradually started to mutate from an asset to a liability.
It's a classic Greek-tragedy theme: the qualities that are instrumental for "software superheroes"
to reach the top then turn into liabilities and logically lead to their self-destruction. One of
the facets of this problem is that "software superheroes" who start important projects that survive
and prosper are usually very difficult to work with. In addition to significant software development
talent they are often opinionated, judgmental, stubborn workaholics. And that's why they get to the
top and why their projects are successful despite all odds. But once on the top the rules of the
game instantly change. Most smart recognize their weaknesses and the "writing on the wall" and after
surrounding themselves with more or less talented followers, who can continue the development independently,
simply step down. Others assume that no one can possibly be as talented as they are. They are usually
The initial version of Linux was the act of rebellion against the commercial software and hardware giants who were raking in millions of dollars a year from their closely protected operating systems and hardware. Who would have thought that, less then one decade later, the same giants he sought to undermine would give him (via Linux startups they financed) stock options and he embraces this opportunity to became rich with the passion Don Juan would have envied. That he will peddle the stock of one of the most closed and secretive chip developers. And that IBM, a pretty controversial technical giant, the company that was hated in 80th much more than Microsoft ever was, will become the godfather of Linux and set up a billion dollars fund to grow its (partially outsourced) technical consultant business. Who would ever think that Linux would simultaneously become a symbol of both "brain drain" from Europe and the symbol of programming and support jobs outsourcing to South-East Asia and other regions with highly qualified but very low paid IT community ?
To reach the goals stated above we will try to reconstruct actual sequence of events that have major influence on the development of Linux during the first ten, most formative years. Some of them are well known, other are not. The role of Microsoft, MINIX community, commercial firms like DEC, Linux distributors, Transmeta and several large corporations (especially IBM and Intel) in the development of Linux is also outlined. I tried to verify all information that is included in this chapter, but of course it is far from perfect. If you find mistakes in the facts presented, please let me know.
I will also try to address several popular fairy tails. First of all the fairy tail that Linux became prominent OS because of technical merits. Nothing can be father from that. From the very beginning Linux kernel was pretty reactionary in a technical sense with severe compromises necessary to achieve high speed on Intel architecture. My impression is that like in case of Microsoft OSes technical merits played secondary role: the initial Linux success was essentially a stepchild of AT&T lawsuit that was filed in early 1992 (note perfect timing, usable version of Linux was available in April 1992 too).
Microsoft withdrawal from Unix development in late 80-s also was of crucial importance: it was XENIX which resolved all principal problems of Unix implementation of PC, for its time it was one of the most complete Unix environment available and with its almost 10 year head time in no way Linux could compete with XENIX penetration in PC marketplace during Microsoft short-lived love affair with Unix (before Linux, Microsoft XENIX was the most capable and that the most PC-friendly Unix). In a sense Linux is an attempt to create old (Microsoft-owned) XENIX replacement for PC.
If not the lawsuit, it is quite probable that FreeBSD could have been dominating the free software world. While BSD sources were "under house arrest" (a settlement was finally reached only in January 1994) Linux filled the vacuum. Many talented developers wanted to use a free Unix clone on newly minted 386-based PCs and, since BSD was in trouble, they helped to develop Linux.
From the beginning Linux was technically weak but extremely PC friendly and fairly quick Unix-compatible OS (Linus was a king of premature optimization) ; in early versions it actually wasn't real Unix, but eventually after several complete rewrites of the kernel it became more-or-less POSIX compatible (in a sense each new version of Linux was a new OS, for example Linux 1.x kernel is very different from Linux 2.x kernel). Another important factor in Linux success was an attractive GPL licensing (and in early 90th GPL was viewed by technical community much more favorably than ten years later, see BSD vs. GPL for additional details). Moreover initial Linux can be installed on 386sx with just 2M of memory: a dominant configuration for PCs at this time. And I would like to stress it again it was reasonably fast.
Another very popular fairytale is that Linus Torvalds was a volunteer -- this might be true only for the first two years of development. The development of Linux kernel quickly switched to the model of "sponsored software" development. The first sponsor was University of Helsinki which gave Linus semi-official possibility to develop kernel in working hours. Later he got non-disclosed Transmeta salary and stock options (association with Linus was a bad move for Transmeta that probably prevented potentially fruitful partnership with VMware, but it did ensured a successful IPO). Crazy Linux IPO gold rush remunerated Linus quite nicely, probably on the level very few leading commercial Unix developers enjoy: in just three years after arriving in California Linus Torvalds became a multimillionaire. I would say that since 1999 Linus Torvalds was probably the most highly paid developer in the Unix world. So much for a volunteer fairy tail.
This chapter also offers support for the hypothesis that Linux startups never operated in true market. It's some kind of artificial market as artificial as the existence of Red Hat after 2000. For those that eventually manage to get to IPO (Red Hat, VA Linux, Caldera) from the beginning it was as close to the typical "Internet bubble" financial scam as one can get. Most startups that survived the burst of Internet bubble were essentially front-ends of bigger companies (Red Hat and Suse are two examples).
Yet another fairytale (that actually is a part of "Raymondism") is that Linus invented new software development model: a democratic (bazaar) distributed development. Actually Linus operated and operates like a dictator and rules the development of the kernel with an iron fist, especially since version 2.0. What was really new is that along with technical talent Linus Torvalds proved to be a brilliant PR person who played a significant role in Linux gold rush (Red Hat and VA Linux IPOs) and in the controversial success of the Transmeta IPO. I would argue that the real role of Linus Torvalds in Transmeta (up to the IPO) had a significant (or may be even primary) marketing load.
Another popular myth is the Linus was invented Linux -- actually at the beginning Linux was a pretty straightforward reengineering project. Technically it was interesting until version 1.x when it was both tiny and capable OS. After that in no way Linux kernel can be considered a technical achievement in a way the original Unix kernel and Unix environment were. Yes it was and is an important social achievement, but technically speaking Linux is a pretty boring, conservative reimplementation of Unix. Moreover, during the first ten years of development covered in this chapter Linux definitely failed to surpass in quality FreeBSD that used for development a tiny fraction of resources in comparison with Linux. Some kernel subsystems remained inferior to FreeBSD up to 2002 (the end of the period covered in the chapter). It's also important to understand that Linux, while an exciting example of collaborative Internet-based development of a Unix clone, doesn't really have a design. It's a software development project based on a 'reference model'.
I would argue that with all its great democratic social value, technically Linux looks more like neo-conservative revolution similar to Newt Gingrich "Contract with America" thing (fight corruption, waste in government spending, tax reform and a balanced budget, etc.), largely directed against Microsoft. It's difficult to see Linux as a technological advance. True innovators explore ideas that will render something obsolete – as automobiles made livery stables obsolete. I think that scripting languages like Perl, Python and TCL are the only real and significant innovation that can be attributed to open source movement. At the same time classic monolithic kernel that Linux is based upon are CS orthodoxy and are much less innovative than, say, Plan 9 or Be OS, or even Amiga. The most innovative things in Unix space for the last 10 years were domain of commercial developers (Sun's RPC, proc filesystem, Pluggable authentication modules (PAM), NFS, Trusted Solaris RBAC implementation, Solaris on the fly updates, AIX Volume manager, to name a few) as well as research institutions (Kerberos, Amoeba, Plan 9, etc. ). Linux record in innovation looks extremely unconvincing for such a mature stage of development (over 10 years).
This orthodoxy -- the fundamental resistance to anything non-traditional makes Linux success really a neo-conservative type of success. You can consider Linux to be a new super BIOS for PC and that in this role the conservatism is of paramount importance. Although it serves as an democratic alternative to Microsoft, Linux in its own turn inhibits grows of alternative OSes, contributing to the lack of diversity, and ultimately lack of innovation that are so characteristic for present stage of software engineering. For example OS/2 has a very neat idea of using the same scripting language both as a shell and as a macrolanguage as well as the idea of user-defined (extended) attributes in the filesystems. Both Amiga and BeOS contained innovative features (for example, it was Amiga which introduced REXX as an OS shell), Nothing similar can be said about Linux. Neither Linux kernel not any distribution were able to introduce any innovations worth mentioning. All Linus Torvalds was concerned was the speed of running on Intel hardware and as Knuth aptly observed "premature optimization is the root of all evil." That's essentially the tragedy of Linus life: he have spend way too much time on premature optimization. From this point of view the success of Linux is a manifestation of a deep crisis in system engineering as Bob Pike noted in his paper. It's a definite sign that computer science is coming into its middle age and is experiencing "middle age crisis".
Paradoxically all this makes Linux and Microsoft OSes really close relatives. Linux actually had become a Microsoft of Unix world. Inferior in many respects to alternatives, plagued with design problems but still highly successful. Not unlike humans war, the Linux-Microsoft fight has resulted mostly in collateral damage to commercial Unixes despite the fact that there are more technically interesting commercial Unix and Unix-like alternatives to Windows than Linux including BeOS and Mac OS X. Instead of wiping out Windows, Linux helped Microsoft to drive commercial Unixes out of the entry level server business as Sun can attest.
Contrary to popular press claims Linux wasn't the first open source OS, nor is it the only one that's caught the Internet wave: Linux was late to the table and included TCP/IP stack into OS only after 1995 (before that it was a separate package supported by . Many enthusiastically biased papers and books about Linux kernel claim that Linux has a high standard for source code quality. In what version and compared to what? Even in v. 2.4 (a rework of the kernel stimulated by Mindcraft fiasco) several subsystems are still pretty raw and ugly. In reality the first ten years it was definitely weaker in quality of programming that other contenders, for example weaker then any member of BSD family( FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD). And it is not accidental that despite all Linux PR a lot of real work on Internet is done by BSD servers, even though the general public has less awareness of them. For example few people know that Yahoo has been relying on FreeBSD since 1995, and according to Yahoo co-founder David Filo they might never succeed if they use the other OS. They would definitely fail with Linux as running an OS that is in constant beta is an extremely challenging even for established players to say nothing about startups.
All-in-all despite Linus claims to the contrary, Linux was more the success of a political movement (anti-Microsoft coalition) and because of commercial distributors marketing than it was a technical success. In this sense Linux is a continuation of the democratic processes that was started by Microsoft and IBM in PC. Actually in more then one aspect Linux success is very similar to the success of Microsoft software: Microsoft success was also partially based on very strong anti-IBM feelings, and like Linux Ms-DOS and Windows were the result of democratization of the software and hardware development that was achieved by personal computer revolution. Like Microsoft helped people to escape from the tyranny of "Sysadmin controlled environment" that existed both on mainframes and large Unix servers (actually in late 80th Microsoft owned the first Unix and extremely influential PC-based version of it called XENIX), Linux, in its turn, helps in diminishing or in some cases even elimination of the "Microsoft operating system tax", especially Microsoft server tax. Like Microsoft OSes the main advantage of Linux was and is that it is the most PC-friendly Unix. In this sense Linux is a true successor of Microsoft Xenix. This PC-friendliness along with tremendous increase in power and sophistication of PC hardware platform was important driving force behind Linux success.
As for fighting Microsoft the dents that Linux managed to inflict are almost unnoticeable to the naked eye. On the contrary it can be argued that Linux has a symbiotic relationship with Microsoft and that it revitalized Microsoft and prevented Microsoft stagnation in the operating systems market. Linux hasn't done anything to make PCs more attractive, more powerful, or easier to use. To the extent that there is innovation there, it has come from other companies. All of Linux's contributions have been in providing other companies' technical innovations to a wider audience at lower (zero) cost. It's a big win-win situation for consumers and I think that one of the main achievement of Linux as a social movement is stimulation of improvements in Microsoft operating systems and software and to a lesser extent in major commercial Unixes (Solaris 10 and AIX 5.3).
At the same time commercial open source (Red Hat model) represented an interesting outsourcing strategy with volunteers as zero cost workers (or low cost workers, if they are converted to salaried employers in Europe or third-world countries): they produce code, we sell it. And instead of Stallman's private charity it is companies like Red Hat, IBM, HP, VA Software, etc which are benefiting from this implicit outsourcing. On the other side of political spectrum Red Flag Linux was adopted by (formally communist, although the question is pretty complex) Chinese authorities.
Fortunately all those events did not place Linus at the center of the firestorm that has erupted
in the United States over the globalization of white-collar jobs. But it's not completely improbable
that Linus might succeed were Stallman failed and managed to produce an offspring of two dangerous demons
(high speed Internet and cheap powerful PCs) to impoverish God-blessed American programmers including
many who like him previously moved to the USA from other countries. That might help USA's educational
system, but unfortunately, the only time displaced programmers think of becoming teachers is when after
they got pink slips, there is no McDonalds or gas station nearby ;-).
“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is
a revolutionary act.”
Linux is now a trademark of Linus Torvalds
in the US and some other countries.
|1970||DEC begins shipping PDP-11 and revolutionizes the computer industry by selling 250,000 systems. Bell Labs gets a PDP-11 to do text processing for the legal department. System is developed and implemented in UNIX. The standard DEC OS is never installed.|
|1971||First edition of Unix was released|
|1972||The second edition was released. Number of installations grow to 10|
|1973||Third edition was released with C compiler. Pipe mechanism was introduced.
The number of installations grow to 16
The forth edition: the first edition of Unix with kernel largely written in C
|1974||Unix the fifth edition. Following Richie and Thompson's ACM paper, the Unix Timesharing System (1974), fifth edition was made freely available to universities for educational purposes|
|1975||Sixth edition: the first edition that was available outside Bell Labs. Most on the OS was written in C. This version was installed by Thomson at the University of California at Berkeley. Due to its portability and flexibility, UNIX Version 6 (V6) became the minicomputer OS of choice for universities in 1975.|
||In 1977, Digital announced VAX-11/780 and VMS 1.0, making the first product shipments in 1978.|
|1978||Professor Donald E. Knuth from Stanford University begins to work on TeX, a typesetting system distributed as free software.|
|1981||4.1 BSD was released||On August 12 the IBM Model 5150 Personal Computer was released|
Microsoft Xenix released and soon became the most popular PC Unix
|1984||The Unix support group (USG) became the Unix System Development Laboratory (USDL) and subsequently released System V Release 2 (SVR2) that included paging, copy on write semantic, shared memory and file locking.|
|1985||MIT based X Consortium distributes the X Window System as free software covered by BSD-style license.||The first split of the UNIX family tree:
|1985||Microsoft released a really impressive PC-based version of Unix: XENIX 3 or XENIX 286 and became dominant Unix vendor on PC. Xenix 3.0 was capable of dual booting from a partition with MS DOS on the other partition. It included new features from 4.1BSD and from AT&T's System III and instantly became a huge hit among Unix enthusiasts: it required just 512K (yes, kilobytes) of memory and 10M harddrive and can run on a PC XT or, better, PC AT, which used to cost less then $5000: the cheapest Unix workstation of this time.|
|1988.||The NeXTSTEP operating system was released for very elegant black NeXT computers
(cubes). It used the Mach microkernel, and added elements of 4.3BSD. It incorporated an
advanced GUI, arguably the most advanced available at the time. NeXT's engineers even created
a new programming language — Objective C — to take advantage of the new GUI. Display interpreted
Postscript and for this time was simply amazing.
In August 1988, Bill Gates hired Dave Cutler, the architect of VMS. One of Cutler's conditions for moving to Microsoft was that he could bring around 20 former Digital employees with him, including several Prism hardware engineers. Microsoft readily met this demand - the company knew hiring an OS architect of Cutler's stature was a coup, few engineers had Cutler's track record. In addition, Gates felt that Microsoft's long-term future depended on the development of a new OS that would rival UNIX.
|1989||Cygnus, the first commercial company devoted to provide commercial support for GNU software and open source software in general, is founded.||
|1988||Admitted to the University. The same year Minix emerged.|
|1990||Takes his first C programming class and Unix class|
|1991||in January bought his first PC (386sx-based)|
|Jan, 1991||Linus bought a 386sx based PC, may be after reading the first Jolitz paper||The
first paper by William and
Lynne Jolitz on how to port BSD Unix to i386-based PCs was published in Dr. Dobbs
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: A PRACTICAL APPROACH
In this first installment of a multipart series, Bill and Lynne define the design specification for 386BSD -- Berkeley UNIX for the 80386.
|Feb, 1991||Linux played enough Prince of Persia and needed some other entertainment :-)||The
second paper by William
and Lynne Jolitz PORTING UNIX TO THE 386:THREE INITIAL PC UTILITIES
Utilities to let you execute GCC-compiled programs in protected mode from MS-DOS, and copy files to a shared portion of disk so MS-DOS and Unix can exchange information.
|Mar, 1991||Learned some assembly language programming and wrote terminal emulators.
..he spent a long time just reading netnews. Sorry, I mean of course that he was debugging his terminal emulation code by reading netnews. The emulator consisted of two processes, one reading the keyboard and writing to the serial port, the other reading the serial port and writing to the screen and emulating a terminal.
third paper by William
and Lynne Jolitz
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: THE STANDALONE SYSTEM
Using their protected mode program loader, Bill and Lynne create a minimal 80386 protected mode standalone C programming environment for operating systems kernel development.
|Apr, 1991||Installed Minix, Linux kernel programming started.||The
forth paper by William and
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: LANGUAGE TOOLS CROSS SUPPORT
Bill and Lynne describe "cross" mode operations as they work towards bootstrapping 386BSD.
fifth paper by William and
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386:THE INITIAL ROOT FILESYSTEM
six paper by William and
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386:RESEARCH & THE COMMERCIAL SECTOR
Seventh paper by William
and Lynne Jolitz
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: A STRIPPED-DOWN KERNEL
|Aug 25, 1991||The first Linux release announcement. Linus Torvalds posted an article in comp.os.minix saying his new experimental kernel was running bash and gcc, and he was going to post the source code soon.||The
8-th paper by William and
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: THE BASIC KERNEL
|Sept, 1991.||Using Marice J Bach book Design of the Unix Operating System and Minix released the first (0.01) version of Linux kernel (at the age of 22). 0.01 was just source code, no binaries. The kernel itself was pretty primitive and barely worked. Primitivism made is very attractive to the enthusiasts||The 9-th paper
by William and Lynne Jolitz
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386:THE BASIC KERNEL
Multiprogramming is the focus of this month's installment.
|Oct, 1991||On October 5 famous "Free minix-like kernel sources for 386-AT" letter announced the first "official" version of Linux, which was version 0.02. At that point, Linux was able to run bash (the GNU Bourne Again Shell) and gcc (the GNU C compiler), but not much else. Ari Lemmke, the administrator at ftp.funet.fi who first made Linux available for FTP coined the name Linux||The
10-th paper by William and
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: THE BASIC KERNEL
Bill and Lynne continue their exploration of multiprogramming and multitasking.
11-th paper by William and
PORTING UNIX TO THE 386: THE BASIC KERNEL
It's necessary to understand UNIX device interfaces before integrating device drivers. Bill and Lynne examine BSD kernel/device driver interfaces and how BSD works the miracle of autoconfiguration.
|Jan, 1992||More stable version 0.12 released. License was changed to GPL. Due to increased stability this version was soon renamed to 0.9||Unixware was released as a result of a joint venture between Novell and USL, called Univel. High quality commercial Unix for Intel 386 platform is back.|
|Mar, 1992.||Linux v.95 was released. First more or less stable and usable Linux version. The kernel can be built in less than 30 minutes on a 20 MHz 386-based machine.||The US Air Force awards New York University (NYU) a contract to build an open source compiler for what is now called Ada 95. The NYU team chooses GNU GCC for code generation and calls their compiler GNAT (GNU NYU Ada 95 Translator).|
|Apr, 1992||The first Linux newsgroup, comp.os.linux, is proposed and started by Ari Lemmke. Huge boost to Linux due to USL lawsuit: Linux became a bastard child of the lawsuit.||April 20, 1992
The start of infamous USL vs U.C. Berkeley lawsuit and Linux development
|Jun, 1992||Commercial distributors were blessed by Linus. The first commercial distributions SLS("Softlanding Linux System" on which later Slackware was based was created.||386BSD 0.1 was released. A CD-ROM version of 386BSD has been announced in Dr. Dobb's Journal. The source is ~180Meg|
|Nov, 1992|| "Linux commercialization wave" started. Yggdrasil were
created by Adam Richter. It quickly became the most popular early distribution until it was overtaken
Sun introduces Solaris, which is based on System V, release 4. SunOS, which was based on BSDF UNIX, is phased out.
|March 1993||Linus writes a email about "taking advantage of the GPL to make a quick buck" stating "So please, don't bitch about commercial uses just because they are commercial: find something better to complain about."|
|June, 1993||On June 16 Novell acquires USL and both Univel and USL were folded into Novell Unix System group.|
|July, 1993||Slackware, by Patrick Volkerding, becomes an important "second wave" distribution and quickly becomes popular within the Linux community. Patrick was a college student who took SLS and created Slackware from it. The SLS people decided to let him to continue from there. Is was available from free ftp server and used .99 kernel and Net-2 BSD package for networking. See Announcement|
|Another "second wave" distribution Debian by Ian Murdock was announced. It was non-commercial distribution developed by a group of volunteers distributed around the world. The creation of Debian was sponsored by the FSF's (one year: Nov 1994 to Nov 1995). Debian 0.91 was released in January 1994. This release had a simple package system which could install and uninstall packages.|
|Dec, 1993||Version 0.99pl15 aka v.1.0 was released. WEB revolution reached critical mass with Linux as one of the major beneficiaries. Very weak networking support limited Linux role to a developer workstation.||
|March 1994||Commercialization created a flow of money and talent into the project. Linux became one of the most often sold CD by CD distributors. At least five CD Rom distributors already exist selling ~50,000 CD ROMs a month. Several talented developers were attracted by the scent of money into the Linux distribution business.||BSD gains popularity in Eastern Europe and xUSSR. Used for running uucp networks which provide email for the region.|
|Jun, 1994||The first issue of Linux Journal is published. Robert Yong is a founder|
|Jul, 1996||Professionals from DEC come to the rescue of Linux from FreeBSD attack; Digital invested money into two porting projects to bring Linux to DEC Alpha. Quality of the kernel improved, a pretty decent Ext2 filesystem was added. Networking started to look acceptable. Linus got important insights and training due to the process of porting, ability to work with professionals from DEC and the quality of the Alpha architecture. He also got a personal Alpha workstation|
|Oct, 1994||The first "third wave" start-up supported distribution -- Caldera was founded by Bryan Sparks as a start-up venture funded by Ray Noorda, former CEO of Novell.||NetBSD 1.0 released.|
|Nov, 1994||The second "third wave" distribution Red Hat was created. Version 1.0 was released by Marc Ewing, a former Carnegie Mellon student who had become a star Linux developer. See Free Online Encyclopedia for additional details|
|Dec, 1994.||FreeBSD 2.0 was released, the first distribution based on 4.4BSD-Lite release
without infringing NET/2 file. See
|Jun 1995||Red Hat was founded by Marc Ewing and Bob Yong. More correctly it was bought by ACC Corporation, run by Bob Young. Robert Yong of ACC (former founder of Linux Journal) became a CEO. A dominant Linux distributor (Microsoft of Linux) was formed. Robert Young start working to attract VC with the eye on the future IPO.||The final set of changes to 4.4BSD-Lite, was released as 4.4BSD-Lite, Release 2. The CSRG was disbanded and development of BSD became a volunteer operation supported by BSDI|
|Sept, 1995||Red Hat Commercial Linux 2.0 was released, the first RPM package manager based distribution. Red Hat edged out Slackware as the leading distribution (in less then two years)|
|1996||Linus' first daughter was born. Minor disruptions of kernel development. It's the first time many developers have openly complained of the Linus source control system (i.e., submit patches into the black hole named Linus).||The Open Group forms as a merger of OSF and X/Open.|
|Linux fanatics as a group with "Amiga syndrome" were first described in mainstream press. Slashdotters were still non-existent at this time ;-)|
|Jun 1996||Caldera acquired DR DOS and filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft seeking treble damages, as well an injunction to halt "illegal conduct by Microsoft calculated and intended to prevent and destroy competition in the computer software industry." Everybody in Linux community applauded the move. Their behavior will change later with SCO lawsuit...|
|Aug, 1996.||FreeBSD 2.1.5 released with significantly improved stability and feature set.
Support burning of CDROMs and some of the best reasonably-priced hardware available, like Adaptec
AIC7850, Intel EtherExpress Pro/100B PCI Ethernet card. Able to run Linux version of Netscape.
FreeBSD 2.1.5 represents the culmination of over a year's worth of work on the 2.1-STABLE branch of FreeBSD since it began with FreeBSD 2.0.5. In the 7 months since 2.1 was released, many bug fixes, updates and careful enhancements have been made, the results of which you now see here.
|Nov 1996||Caldera Releases Caldera OpenLinux (COL) Base 1.0. It contains a lot of commercial software including MetroX (A commercial X11 server) and was the first distribution that has reasonably stable and robust X implementation. For some time Red Hat was kicked off the enterprise arena by Caldera and it became the No.1 enterprise-oriented Linux distribution. Caldera preserved its lead probably until 1998 or Caldera 1.2 inclusively|
|December 1996.||Linux 2.0 was released|
Summary: Microsoft was partially paralyzed by the battle with the Department of Justice and cannot retaliate against defectors from the Windows NT camp. Halloween memo was leaked to the Web. Intel invested in Red Hat. Number of staff developers in Red Hat was grown to over twenty. Major database vendors ported product to Linux. Corel ported Word Perfect. Shipments of Linus servers surged by 212%, a growth rate that outpaced all others in the server market. Linus became a media darling, and enjoyed his minutes of fame. Gave more interviews in one year that for the rest of his life;
Eric Raymond attacks FSF and launched an open source marketing campaign. Raymondism became a more moderate, reform branch of open source religion and splits from Stallmanism. Salon Magazine interviews Eric Raymond after Netscape's announcement to open their source code. Some interesting quotes:
The UNIX system reaches its 30th anniversary. The Open Group and the IEEE commence joint development of a revision to POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. First LinuxWorld conference. Mac OS X Server Released at about the same time as Darwin, Mac OS X Server was a sort of preview version of Mac OS X designed specifically for file servers. Tru64 UNIX ships.
January 1999. Version 2.2 of the kernel released despite bugs -- Linus probably needed to respond to the announcement of the FreeBSD 3.0 ;-)
"The greatest opportunity for an open-source software business model may come from even less direct plays -- companies that specialize in essential accessories like manuals stand to gain substantial profits from the demand for open-source software materials. O'Reilly & Associates, the leading publisher of technical resource books, has sold more than $94 million in open-source-related materials since it was founded, most of that since 1997."
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