Aug 18th, 2006 by ravi
BS on BSD

The big names at LinuxWorld seem to be getting a bit defensive about their baby, as they hold forth on why Linux “succeeded” where BSD “failed”. This “success” is attributed to everything from the sex appeal of Linus Torvalds to the purported development model. BSD’s “failure” is, naturally, a failure on these fronts (and perhaps unrelated to the AT&T lawsuits and ensuing qaugmire?).

Any rhetorical adventure that includes Eric Raymond at the forefront is (to me) to be taken with a good dose of salt, and that is surely true of this discussion. The premature news of BSD’s demise is ill-substantiated by the points offered nor is it empirically evident. Perhaps anticipating the MacOS X (built around BSD and Mach) issue, one of the speakers notes:

“If Mac and Windows didn’t suck, people would’ve used them,” DiBona said.

Eh, wot? This while predicting that Linux desktops “will” be in the 15% range in 5 years. Any guesses on what the Windows and MacOS X shares of the desktop market is, today?

At least one of them had enough decency to address what Richard Stallman has correctly insisted on for years:

For Hohndel three key factors that fostered the rise of Linux: […] the GNU toolchain, without which none of Linux would have happened.

I think it was last week that InformationWeek gave us their take on the greatest software ever written:

So there you have it: The single Greatest Piece of Software Ever, with the broadest impact on the world, was BSD 4.3. Other Unixes were bigger commercial successes. But as the cumulative accomplishment of the BSD systems, 4.3 represented an unmatched peak of innovation. BSD 4.3 represents the single biggest theoretical undergirder of the Internet. Moreover, the passion that surrounds Linux and open source code is a direct offshoot of the ideas that created BSD: a love for the power of computing and a belief that it should be a freely available extension of man’s intellectual powers–a force that changes his place in the universe.

Raymond is a smart guy, but I think the above (last sentence) is much more inspiring and (in the long run) sustaining than Raymond’s “whatever compromise is necessary”. The latter is nothing more than a “corporate lite” approach while Stallman (with all his faults) offers a higher vision.

Just my 2 cents.

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