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Old 01-26-2013, 04:43 PM   #1
Staples
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Default Why did Linux get so popular while other *nix kernals didn't catch on?

Did it all come down to the license of GNU/GPL?

Kernals like *BSD have very permissive licenses too but yet only Linux gained such a huge following while the others were left behind.

It is my understanding is that all software you typically find on a Linux distro such as KDE and everything that runs on top of that platform can be downloaded and installed on *BSD systems so software couldn't have been the issue.

Also, BSD systems were more stable (at least webservers would stay up longer) running *BSD 10 years ago so I have no idea why this wasn't the superior choice. (of course that was 10 years ago, Linux may be as stable now).
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Old 01-26-2013, 05:31 PM   #2
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The historical situation back in the early part of the 1990s had a lot to do with it. At the time BSD unix was 'struggling to be free' and was viewed as the way forward in many circles. Linux did not get a working TCP stack for a couple of years after it came out and the internet was still somewhat rarefied.
  • UC Berkeley and AT&T were engaged in a lawsuit about the ownership of the BSD code, so the future of the 'free' BSD code base was in question. Ultimately UC Berkely won the suit by being able to show large chunks of BSD code in the SVR4 code base. AT&T was suitably embarassed by this and backed down. The UCB people replaced the last of the infringing code with their own work and could release an AT&T free code base.
  • About this time Bill and Lynn Jolitz took the BSD code base and ported it to the 386, creating 386BSD and documenting it in a famous series of articles in Dr. Dobb's Journal.
  • The lawsuit went on for long enough to paralyse the potential BSD community, which could not invest significantly in the code base until the legal uncertainty had cleared.
  • A 'stable' version of Linux finally came out with a working TCP stack.
  • Linux was available under the GPL which reduced the incentive to fork it. This and Linux Torvalds' effective benevolent dictatorship worked to keep the kernel development unified.
  • Several competing forks of BSD grew out of the BSD code base, fragmenting the community.
The relative cohesion of the early Linux kernel development meant that Linux moved forward relatively quickly and ultimately gained the mind share. The entire BSD world stood still while the lawsuit was resolved. Even with lawsuit resolved it still lacked the structural cohesiveness of the Linux kernel development process and split into several forks.
Thus, while BSD was (certainly at that point) more mature and arguably technically superior, Linux got the mindshare - which is pretty much the be-all and end-all of success in any large software market.
http://serverfault.com/questions/363...pular-than-bsd
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:45 PM   #3
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Jodell88's link explains that pretty well. I wanted to add that if the official OpenBSD 5.2 release song is any indication, they are sort of bitter about it.

http://www.openbsd.org/songs/song52.mp3
Quote:
Linux, the one and only true Unix
We are in every way Posix
We voice our yearning "Someday soon"
We won't need any other.

Then, tomorrow brings a new distro
It's better than the last you know
Another million bits that changed
All the hacks and tweaks we conjure up
They just get pushed into Posix
There's one thing that I know
The world will love it, all Linux

Then, there's other stuff we push as well
Others can work around this hell
With just a million lines of Shell
Now, as standards ape the one Linux
Everyone else just gets stuffed
There's one thing that I'm certain of
The world will love it, all Linux
We are Posix
World, you'll love my Linux
Linux, Linux
Seems like the VHS vs BetaMax deal, but who remembers those 12' "Laser Disks" from the 80's?
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Old 02-08-2013, 06:23 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Staples View Post
Did it all come down to the license of GNU/GPL?

Kernals like *BSD have very permissive licenses too but yet only Linux gained such a huge following while the others were left behind.
When the Linux kernel was first released, BSD was mired in legal issues, and there was a lot of uncertainty about it's future. By the time that legal matter was resolved in the BSD community's favor, Linux had already established itself as a viable free operating system kernel, and developers followed.
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:40 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by MrColin View Post
Jodell88's link explains that pretty well. I wanted to add that if the official OpenBSD 5.2 release song is any indication, they are sort of bitter about it.

http://www.openbsd.org/songs/song52.mp3


Seems like the VHS vs BetaMax deal, but who remembers those 12' "Laser Disks" from the 80's?
I would say that the OpenBSD people are just plain bitter.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:48 PM   #6
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I would say that the OpenBSD people are just plain bitter.
Well, yes, but try experimenting with a little extra salt (use in moderation) or perhaps a slightly sweet and creamy sauce to balance the flavors.

Frankly, I don't eat OpenBSD people any more as they give me indigestion.
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Old 02-10-2013, 05:07 AM   #7
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Does Darwin count?
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Old 02-10-2013, 05:15 PM   #8
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Does Darwin count?
For what? If you're thinking about it "catching on" via OS X, I guess it sort of did but not really since it only got used by 1 project and while OS X's marketshare is probably larger than it was in the past its still dwarfed by Linux if you include desktops and servers. And the Linux kernel paired with busybox is used by a ton of other products too from TiVo to various SOHO routers and NAS devices to Cisco products like their ASA line and virtually all of their voice stuff now.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:39 AM   #9
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I wish it was FreeBSD that caught on and not Linux.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with Linux, I just feel as though I align more with FreeBSD philosophically. What sucks is that even though the product and development is top notch, it's moving at a snails pace.

Linux on the other hand is just this massive clusterfuck of development that moves at a thousand miles an hour and somehow manages to keep fitting together. There seems to be so much fighting and arguing, forking, etc, etc, etc. It's like organized chaos.

I use Ubuntu because there's no support for my laptop on FreeBSD.
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Old 02-16-2013, 05:53 PM   #10
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I wish it was FreeBSD that caught on and not Linux.

Not that there is anything inherently wrong with Linux, I just feel as though I align more with FreeBSD philosophically. What sucks is that even though the product and development is top notch, it's moving at a snails pace.

Linux on the other hand is just this massive clusterfuck of development that moves at a thousand miles an hour and somehow manages to keep fitting together. There seems to be so much fighting and arguing, forking, etc, etc, etc. It's like organized chaos.

I use Ubuntu because there's no support for my laptop on FreeBSD.
Since most of that flailing is in userland the same would apply to FreeBSD. Do you really think that Gnome 3 wouldn't have been such a major change if they had been running FreeBSD instead of Linux?
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:13 PM   #11
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I don't like the BSD license. It allows companies to take code and give nothing back.
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:29 PM   #12
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Since most of that flailing is in userland the same would apply to FreeBSD. Do you really think that Gnome 3 wouldn't have been such a major change if they had been running FreeBSD instead of Linux?
I see much of the FLOSS world being in a huge transition state right now, and Gnome 3 would have been a big change no matter what the OS.

I guess one of the things I like about FreeBSD is the clear separation between base OS and 3rd party software. No matter what's going on with stuff like desktop environments, the foundation is there.

With Linux based distributions, the foundation is always changing. I'm so new to the community that I can't speak too in depth about certain things, but I know there's a lot of hoopla about udev and systemd, and these are pretty big parts of a complete system.
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:40 PM   #13
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I don't like the BSD license. It allows companies to take code and give nothing back.
I can see that, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that viewpoint.

The way that I personally look at things now (just in life in general) is that people are going to screw you over, or hurt you at every point in your life. I've spent so much time in my life being angry, and upset, and feeling like I needed to fight the world. It's not fair, but I've come to realize that just doing the "right" thing never gets you anywhere.

Now, I've just sorta stopped fighting, and in a way, it's kinda why I like the BSD license. To me, I see it as saying "here's my code, I made it, and I'm going to keep working on it and doing my own thing. If you want to take it and make a billion dollars on it, take it. I'm not going to fight you".

I can see a place for the GPL as well. I certainly don't have any issue with it at all. I think it's a wonderful thing.
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Old 02-16-2013, 08:00 PM   #14
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I don't like the BSD license. It allows companies to take code and give nothing back.
Which is the cost of that level of freedom. Much like the 1st amendment, I may not like what someone says but I still believe they have the freedom to say it regardless of how stupid it makes them sound.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigToque
I guess one of the things I like about FreeBSD is the clear separation between base OS and 3rd party software. No matter what's going on with stuff like desktop environments, the foundation is there.
That can be a selling point, but with Linux you know that 99% of the time you're getting the GNU userland with it so while they may not be developed in lock-step, the environment is standardized.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigToque
With Linux based distributions, the foundation is always changing. I'm so new to the community that I can't speak too in depth about certain things, but I know there's a lot of hoopla about udev and systemd, and these are pretty big parts of a complete system.
Well udev is effectively maintained with the kernel because of it's tight integration and the fact that its maintained by kernel developers.

I'm not sure about how systemd is making its way through various distributions, but if it's better than the current init systems it'll end up being the dominant one eventually which is a good thing, right? There's nothing stopping someone from making a FreeBSD distribution that uses SysV RC instead of BSD init. It's just that no one really cares to because we have Linux.

Things do change more quickly in the Linux world, but compatibility is a huge concern as can be seen from Linus' recent blowing up on Mauro Carvalho Chehab for a sound bug that he introduced. Less regard does seem to be given when compared to a project like FreeBSD, but that's mostly because if you want a static environment you should run Debian stable, RHEL, CentOS, etc. The public releases of the Linux kernel are more akin to Debian unstable which is a well working system with new features and such being added which may cause odd issues.

I think the free software world just seems more chaotic because of the transparency. You get to see all of the fights, failed ideas, etc that would also happen at a non-free development company.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:23 PM   #15
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I don't like the BSD license. It allows companies to take code and give nothing back.
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Seems contradictory.

Also, the GPL doesn't *require* companies to "give back". Anybody can take GPL'd code, and modify it and use it privately without ever giving any source code to the original project or making it public.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:38 PM   #16
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Seems contradictory.
Not really. I'm not advocating the outlaw of the BSD license. I just don't like it, and think it's a dick move to take what was freely given, and not extend the same courtesy to others. Practically speaking, it makes a stronger ecosystem since all improvements are shared by everyone. What a company loses in work they give, they make back in work they don't have to do.
Quote:
Also, the GPL doesn't *require* companies to "give back". Anybody can take GPL'd code, and modify it and use it privately without ever giving any source code to the original project or making it public.
Correct. That's the way it should be.
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Old 02-17-2013, 09:52 AM   #17
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Not really. I'm not advocating the outlaw of the BSD license. I just don't like it, and think it's a dick move to take what was freely given, and not extend the same courtesy to others. Practically speaking, it makes a stronger ecosystem since all improvements are shared by everyone. What a company loses in work they give, they make back in work they don't have to do.


Correct. That's the way it should be.
But forcing someone to return the favor kills the sentiment and generally makes them indignant towards you and whatever tool you used to force them, right? People are free to be dicks all they like as long as they don't harm someone or break the law in doing so. You're free to give away your work under any conditions that you see fit, but you can't expect everyone else to feel the same as you and you shouldn't feel negatively toward them if they don't.

The GPL has been both a boon and hindrance for Linux, although it seems the good has outweighed the bad in most areas it's very hard to say where we'd be right now if Linux was released under a more free license. Some companies, like Cisco, have found the balance between keeping their IP secret and releasing enhancements to already GPL'd code but a lot have avoided Linux completely because of the GPL.
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:28 AM   #18
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...and you shouldn't feel negatively toward them if they don't.
I disagree. When a dev takes code given freely, and turns it into something he wants, but tells me to go fsck myself when I want to turn the code into something I want; I have a problem with that. BSD isn't the worst license by a long shot, but I'll take GPL code every day of the week. That's a selling feature, and I actively seek it out and choose it when there's similar programs available, that differ in license.
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Old 02-17-2013, 11:10 AM   #19
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I disagree. When a dev takes code given freely, and turns it into something he wants, but tells me to go fsck myself when I want to turn the code into something I want; I have a problem with that. BSD isn't the worst license by a long shot, but I'll take GPL code every day of the week. That's a selling feature, and I actively seek it out and choose it when there's similar programs available, that differ in license.
If the code was truly given freely then he's he's not telling you to do anything, he's simply using the code under the licensing terms you've provided. If you GPL them and he does that, then he's obviously breaking the license and you can take legal action to correct that. Using something like the GPL as a hammer simply breeds contempt for it, just look at all of the people calling it viral because it "infects" their projects. No other license has gotten that level of vitriol by other developers as far as I'm aware.

I think that the GPL is very useful and I don't think the Linux kernel would be where it is today without it early on, but I'm also sure that it has hindered its use in commercial projects because of the restrictions and risk associated with it.

Your code is your code and I can't tell you how to license and distribute it, but please show me the same courtesy and don't lecture me on how I should handle mine. Any kind of freedom needs to go both ways.
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Old 02-17-2013, 11:26 AM   #20
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When a dev takes code given freely...
I think this is exactly what the difference between the BSD license and GPL is. There are clearly different ideas of what it means for something to be "free".
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Old 02-17-2013, 11:30 AM   #21
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I think this is exactly what the difference between the BSD license and GPL is. There are clearly different ideas of what it means for something to be "free".
The GPL favors the user, and BSD favors the devs. I care more about the users because I'm a user. Someone's gonna get "screwed" with either license, but I think there's less general harm with the GPL.
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Old 02-17-2013, 11:48 AM   #22
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The GPL favors the user, and BSD favors the devs. I care more about the users because I'm a user. Someone's gonna get "screwed" with either license, but I think there's less general harm with the GPL.
I think part of the idea of the BSD license is that it's attempting to take "screwed" out of the equation. I would say by adopting a BSD license for something, I'm (directly or indirectly) asking for others to use my ideas, without any expectation of what the benefit or consequence would be to myself or other people. I can't be screwed, because what happened was what I wanted.

If I wanted to write [cool new software] and make money off it, I'd probably make it closed source.

If I had a marketable skill, and having my software available for others provided a route to capitalize on my skill, then I'd probably choose the GPL.

If it was important for me to have my code everywhere, and that was just a means of accomplishing something else down the road, I might choose the BSD license.
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Old 02-17-2013, 01:22 PM   #23
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If I wanted to write [cool new software] and make money off it, I'd probably make it closed source.
Logical. It is equally logical to use existing, tested-and-true libraries / components / code to save effort, while writing the [cool new software]. Hmm, do I make use of a GPL or BSD package for my closed source binary before shrink-wrapping and selling? They both offer useful features.

The GPL thinking is that if someone invents a silver lining to [cool old software], then everyone can potentially enjoy it and someone else can actually come up with nice pink shading for [silver lined cool software] without repeating the "create silver" routine.

An understandable ideal. Then again, science is supposed to be like that too. Everybody publishes their results so that the others can continue forward from "everything that is already known". That, sadly, does not pay.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:10 PM   #24
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For sure the license played the biggest part. From everything I have read BSDs were technically quiet ahead of linux kernel in many areas for a long time. It is only in the last 5-10 years that Torvalds' kernel caught up to BSDs in all these areas, and then surpassed them.

Problem with BSD license is there is no incentive or legal stipulation to contribute anything back. So -as Apple demonstrated- companies can take whatever they want whenever they want and never contribute back other than make some token gestures.

This license requirement to contribute back is what keeps major companies want to contribute to linux kernel over BSD, it gives them peace of mind that if anyone else improves on "their" code they will benefit too. Everyone profits, well more or less, depends on who sells their services better.

So GPL played the biggest part in making the linux 'ecosystem' possible.

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The GPL favors the user, and BSD favors the devs.
No. BSD license helps anyone who wants to just pick up already developed code / programs and never want to contribute back a single improvement. How does that help the poor developer(s) who originally spent many months and years to make the program?

GPL does not favor the end user, it favors the original developer(s) so that any improvements made to his / her code eventually make their way back to original source. This can be construed to say that GPL favors the software released under GPL.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:18 PM   #25
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No. BSD license helps anyone who wants to just pick up already developed code / programs and never want to contribute back a single improvement. How does that help the poor developer(s) who originally spent many months and years to make the program?

GPL does not favor the end user, it favors the original developer(s) so that any improvements made to his / her code eventually make their way back to original source. This can be construed to say that GPL favors the software released under GPL.
BSD favors the dev because he can take the code, lock it up in a proprietary wrapper, and not give it to anyone else. The GPL favors the user because it prevents the dev from locking up the code in a proprietary wrapper, and keeping him from using it.
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