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Sun Microsystems

Would Linux Survive if Solaris Was Free? 316

"If you look at what the Linux community is doing now, it has already been done by Sun. Solaris can do everything Linux can do, but better." This article at OsOpinion asks: "Would Linux survive if Solaris was free?" I wonder if Scott McNealy has ever asked himself that question - or if he will after reading this. An interesting thought, eh?
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Would Linux Survive if Solaris Was Free?

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  • But Sun Microsystems wouldn't be where they are today.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is more to Linux than it just being free.
  • IIRC you can get an educational/home-use version of Solaris for merely the cost of shipping, at Sun's webpage. Granted, that's doesn't do any good for people looking for Enterprise Servers for their company, but it is free.
  • by hoover ( 3292 )
    Sure it would, Linux hw support is far
    superior, at least in the commodity area.


  • ... if solaris was free.

    Noone would have needed it. The only downside to Solaris would have been its massive footprint (by 1992 standards), and that would have been fixed once someone saw the need.

  • by SimonK ( 7722 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @02:23AM (#1649081)
    Only free beer. You don't have the source, and you can't redistribute it.
  • Of course not! Don't forget, the reason Linus ever created this was due to not having a x86 free unix to fool around in at the time. Even solaris's student license was bloody expensive at the time and *bsd wasn't completly free yet...
    Besides it's a very good Unix so if it was free in the GPL/BSD way (either would do) I sure as hell would use it.
    No, I can't spell!
    -"Run to that wall until I tell you to stop"
    (tagadum,tagadum,tagadum .... *CRUNCH*)
  • by jem ( 78392 )
    If Solaris became free? Then some people might go over to it. That's it. We're talking flavours here...

    If Solaris had always been free? The world would be a completely different place and Linux may never have come about.

    Think about it. Would you use Windows if it became free and/or open source? I think Linux has enough merits in itself to survive if *all* other o/s' became free.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there already a free/almost free version of Solaris for i386 for personal use. This is a major area for linux, and Solaris hasn't taken over yet. I know this is free as in price, not code, but many users have never even seen the linux source code, so they wouldn't care.
  • If you take the Amiga as an example: It had a huge following, and still does even though it is no longer being produced (Ok, it is, albeit in very small quantities by clone manufacturers). If Solaris was to suddenly be made free, I think something similar would happen - people would still flock around Linux because of it's almost cultish following. And the advantage here over the Amiga is that Linux would still be produced, and would be updated.

    Linux is a very very strong contender in the Unix marketplace, and I really don't see it slipping if Solaris was free.

    Just my 2p.
  • This was the same argument M$ used about linux a couple of years ago....
    Besides if it was free, all the linux Driver hackers would be doing Solaris drivers...
    No, I can't spell!
    -"Run to that wall until I tell you to stop"
    (tagadum,tagadum,tagadum .... *CRUNCH*)
  • Micheal Whitmore doesn't say whether, by free, he means no-cost binaries or open source. Linux's key strength is not it's lack of cost to download, but rather the availablility of its source code. Without this key distinction the article is meaningless.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    As a culture yes...but as a product, at least in this case...more is less.
  • What if Solaris were Open-Source?

    What if, in five years time, we could run a hybrid called 'Solinux' or 'Linaris'?

    Free won't cut, but OSS might..
  • The article talks about what would happen if Solaris was "free". Does he mean "free" as in open source or free as in "you wouldn't have to pay for it"?

    If we're talking about free as in open source, I guess Solaris' success would to a great extent depend on how maintainable the code was. After all, one of Linux' strengths is it's well documented source code that more or less anyone can hack into. If Solaris is less documented, or simply not as well laid-out codewise as Linux, I think that the majority of Linux hackers would stay with Linux.

    But what the market would do is probably another question. Perhaps the "backed by a major corporation" bit is enough to make companies choose Solaris, but I'm not sure. I believe that, after all, many corporations switch because they've heard so much about this "Linux"-thingy, not because they believe Linux to be the best UNIX flavour.

    So Linux would probably have quite a head-start, and I don't think the outcome is as clear as the article's author implies.

    But it _would_ be great if Solaris was truly Open Source, with documentation and all. If not else, there would probably be a whole heap of security holes that would quickly be patched (and exploited). After all, there are still plenty of simple buffer-overruns in Solaris programs.

    -- Soon we'll be sliding down the razorblade of life...

  • ...but now we dont need it.

    To echo some other comments: If solaris had been free (on x86), we wouldnt have needed Linux. But, now that there is Linux, there is no niche for a free Solaris to fill. Linux rocks on comparativly low-end hardware. I dont see anyone, even the biggest Linux-advocate, advocating running linux on the big iron (>4 processors, etc).

    Sun makes great boxes to run your enterprise on. The hardware/software combo is great. But on a workstation? Solaris on a workstation may not be overkill, but it is certainly not that much different than linux.

  • The author seems to dismiss the possibility that Linux can do some things better than Solaris. If Solaris were free beer, it might replace Linux on some servers, but would it really be useful on the desktop? Would Sun try to make money off of support? Would other companies be allowed commercial exploitation rights (ISVs, resellers, etc.)? Is Solaris's i386 hardware support as good as Linux's?

    These articles ("Linux would die if foo happened") all seem to miss an important point: Linux is not a finished product. It never will be. Linux is continuing to improve, and it will continually improve. There's no single critical company that can drop their support of the product when they want it to die. Linux will remain FS/OSS and it's hardly going to disappear overnight because a closed-source, closed-development OS from Sun is made freely availalbe.

  • I've heard it said (and see some general usage reasoning why) that the main reason for running Solaris is to use the Sparc chip & Sun hardware, not the other way round. This lends itself to being more scalable for heavy server applications to use (eg RDBMSs, etc).

    It's all very well being 'able to run the same stuff' but bear in mind it's the Linux end of things where the open-source movement has blossomed, not on the commercial unixen. And frankly, configuring a linux box is a dream compared to screwing around with networking under any version of Solaris I've seen.

    * is proven at home & in the "unofficial" workstation / light-usage server end of the market
    * has the backing of the entire 'Net for support at the touch of a button
    * Runs everything solaris does, and more
    * Has masses of stuff ported to it
    * ...including star office

    So if Solaris had been free, sure we might not've needed Linux; that doesn't really sway the fact that it's not free, nor has it been, nor do we expect it to be.
  • Surely, part of the appeal of Linux is that you can tinker with the source code?
    This "tinker factor" won't sway the drooling desktop users, but I'm sure it's a big pull for us geeks...
  • The answer to his question very much depends on your particular definition of free. Using the 'free beer' concept, the answer would definitely be No. How could Sun continue to spend millions of dollars maintaining a huge operating system if they weren't receiving any revenue in return?

    But if it was 'free speech' free software (truly open source - none of this Community License rubbish) I doubt Linux would survive at all. Why struggle with adding features to Linux when they're already implemented in Solaris? There would initially be a problem of attracting outside developers to such a huge existing codebase, but it wouldn't take too long.

    Theoretically, there would be enormous benefits to Sun if they GPLed Solaris and really encouraged the kind of lightning-paced development that Linux has enjoyed. They could still make money off their SPARC hardware, and gain a foothold in the low-end Intel market as well. But since Sun currently has more or less the same 'take-over-the-world' mentality that Microsoft has, this is unlikely to happen.

    Brian Blackwell
  • This is very true.

    One of the strengths of Linux is that there is a huge developer base - it can evolve in hundreds of different ways as seen fit by the whim of a single developer. This is a strength and one that cannot be matched by a solitary vendor.

    However, this amazing diversity also has a downside and that is that no-one can exert a unifying pressure on the development. If you compare Linux to FreeBSD, you will find BSD tends to have very good help files, it's packages are conveniently located at a central location and well categorised and listed, and the OS as a whole is consistent with it's layout, help files, and program defaults.

    In my experience, Linux tends to be less well organised, less documented and less consistent than most other versions of *nix.

    This is not to say one is better than the other, all I'm pointing out is that each has strengths that are opposites and that the money factor, while a component, is not by any means the key factor in determining which will survive.

  • by FooBarSmith ( 85970 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @02:36AM (#1649099)
    Solaris is a pretty good OS and we use solaris i386 to develop stuff that targets actual Sun boxes. However, I don't rate the i386 version that highly, the cool thing about Linux is that it runs well on commodity hardware, and has large amounts of support for esoteric bits & pieces - ie the perfect hobbyists machine & good for a cheap server. Now solaris on the other hand is designed for and works best on Sun's own hardware, and is rock solid in this guise. Unfortunately the hardware is more expensive than commodity pc stuff, (it is built a lot better) - which makes it a lot less useful for hobbyists / people saving cash.
  • Except that:
    A) Linux driver hackers aren't just going to give up and jump ship.
    B) The odds of Solaris making a serious commitment to an open source development model are even smaller than the odds of them giving away Solaris.
  • Ok.. Free Solaris would have been a bad thing for Linux, but free doesn't neccessarily mean that you get the sourcecode..

    People want the sourcecode so they can hack the kernel!
    Get it?

  • Solaris has its place. I still wouldn't run mission critical ECAD software on Linux but I would consider arming engineers with Linux boxes to log into the N processor Sun server running Solaris.

    If Sun were to release Solaris under the GPL or BSD license tomorrow I think for the most part it would generate a big yawn in the community. Consider it this way: right now Solaris more or less is made for workstations running on SPARC processors. Intel processor support, at least the last time I looked, was just a best effort basis. A lot of the interesting features aren't even supported on Intel. The community would have to port these features into Solaris X86. Not everybody runs on Intel like processors though, some of us use DEC Alpha's, or PowerPC and so on.

    The most economical thing to do, and the thing that would be most accepted in this community, would be to pillage the Solaris code base for its industrial strength features and roll them into Linux.

    I think there was a golden opportunity to totally dominate the market about 5 years ago or so if all of the commercial UNIX vendors would've been willing to bury their collective hatchets in Microsoft's back. That opportunity was to improve Linux to support their best large system features and concentrating on designing hardware that best exploits those features. Of course any time I mentioned this to anybody from Sun at the time they basically laughed. Linux was and always will be a toy OS that hackers occasionaly boot into.

    I think this move would've totally killed Windows NT and a lot of Microsofts credibility as well. SGI is realizing this now and so they're trying to go down this path now. Sun isn't in as precarious a position as SGI is and so they don't need to go down that path (yet)
  • Solaris itself may be more solid than Linux, but the standard tools that come with it suck. The GNU tools that come with all Linux distros are far better. Once you'd replaced all those, there would be little difference to the end user. I believe a selling point of Solaris 7 is that it now comes with traceroute. Wow! Wish we had that for Linux ;)
  • by haucanb ( 68375 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @02:44AM (#1649106) Homepage
    It's shallow as it stand.

    There is much more to the equation after all.

    Is he also preaching the pros of close-source development associated with Solaris? (many still believe in this model)

    The pros of old school many flavor of unix reflected by Sun and other unix vendors? (I assume safely there are a few pros left in this, though not likely)

    The pros of having a mature unix that supports more high-end hardware perhaps?

    And then he has to worry about the many pros associated with the polar opposite of unix diversity, or high-end hardware compatibility, or close-sourced development.

    It's not an easy evaluation.

    I would personally not try to answer all these questions myself. Since GNU/Linux is truely a moving target in many senses. If you have a raid card that works only with proprietary unixes, nt, and novell today--it could be accompanied by a GPLed device driver or great specification documentations tomorrow. And if this raid card is popular enough. Over-night it would see to those who use this card Linux is equivalent to a Sun box using the same raid card. Over-night. For many many diverse hardware--truely a moving target no one can track. If one even dares to claim it one should take their words with a grain of salt.

    The best one can do is to ask a GNU/Linux vet (one who attempted to run production linux boxes since 1995), and ask her very specific questions (say specific to your computational needs or business problems) about what you are trying to do, where you want to go tomorrow, and the day after that. And try to catch up yourself to their level of expertises--which means patience and dedication.

    Until then, my feeling is Solaris holds its own ground for certain customers. But it also holds back certain computer users (who use Solaris) at the same time. It depends on your circumstances.
  • by tilly ( 7530 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @02:44AM (#1649110)
    If Solaris were free, I would ask what the catch is. Don't get me wrong, they (unlike the Redmond folks) do quality work. However if Sun had the same opportunities as Microsoft, they would be just as bad.

    For instance look at Java. When Sun came out with Java they had a simple threading model that they wanted people to use. You want to wait for some IO? Spawn a thread to make a blocking call for the IO. In some ways good, for instance this architecture removes the possibility of writing a lot of possible race conditions. However was it coincidence that it also uses lots of threads, and all of the other forms of Unix out there at the time could not handle large numbers of threads efficiently? How convenient to have a cross-platform language that coincidentally cannot be made to run as well on your main competitor's platforms without major modifications to the OS!

    Sun has a history of these games. The current one is Java3D. They have a pretty nice spec for 3D graphics and vector math. There are two possible implementations - one is native (using the video card, etc for extremely good performance) and the other is in pure Java (for the molasses effect). Of course to get permission to even try and implement the native version for a platform you need Sun's permission - and they refuse to give it for Linux.

    So if Solaris was made free, here is what I would open up that gift-horse's mouth and look for:
    1. What is the license? Have they tried to retain absolute control with that horrible pseudo-free PoS called the Sun Community licence?
    2. What games are they playing with support? Sun is a hardware vendor. Presumably the aim would be to sell more hardware. One way to do that is guarantee that other people's hardware does not run as well...
    3. What games are they playing with the APIs? Take a look at Java with its API of the day for more on that...

    So yes, if Sun released Solaris free, I would almost certainly just stick with my Debian system. Yes, they do quality work. But Sun doesn't do anything that Sun is not the main beneficiary of, which is not unreasonable in and of itself but is unlikely to match my long-term road map. Linux (by a pleasant contrast) has no such hidden agenda to watch out for.

    Ben Tilly
  • The guy has as one of his points in favour of Solaris "runs on 64 bit SPARC platform (Intel doesn't even have a 64 bit platform yet)", implying that Intel's failure is Linux's failure. Obviously the guy hasn't done his homework, and he doesn't realize that Linux runs on at least two different 64 bit platforms, SPARC and Alpha. And correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Linux running on 64 bit Alphas before the 64 bit SPARC even came out?
  • by RNG ( 35225 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @02:45AM (#1649112)
    I think this question is sort of funny as we recently received a Sun Solaris (SPARC) box and found the (factory pre-installed) software setup to basially blow chunks. Yes, Solaris may have better top-of-the-line performance and scalability for huge database servers, but the default software installation they deliver is (at least when compared to Linux) is incomplete and butt ugly. Let's see:

    - no compilers shipped. This in my book is a cardinal sin for a UNIX environment
    - default graphical environment is CDE. Yes, it's a standard but it's butt ugly and feels very slow.
    - default graphical setup is very 80s looking (then again, plain X and Motif never were very pretty). Comprared to KDE or GNOME it looks pretty pathetic. Maybe it can be made to look better, but the default configuration is boring/ugly. For a desktop environment this will make or break your distribution/system.
    - limited tool set. You really start to appreciate GNU/Linux once you're used to having nice little things like locate, perl, apache, PHP and other stuff installed by default.
    - try running Intel Solaris on the same box you run Linux on. It is sssllloooowwww.

    Solaris has it's place in the high-end server space. In terms of the desktop though, I don't think there's much of a contest anymore. After a few years of endless tinkering by the Linux hordes, Linux shines in this respect while Solaris increasingly seems like an example of how NOT to build a desktop machine. Sure, you could download and compile all the GNOME stuff, perl, the GNU utilities and make your solaris box a bit nicer to work with. But why bother when you can get a $2 Linux CD (or a free download) that outshines Solaris by far in a desktop environment. Comments like this make me wonder if McNealy actually ever sat behind a properly configured (modern) Linux distribution such as Red Hat, Mandrake or Suse (those being the ones I tried over the past year). I would choose a modern Linux distro over Solaris any day (for the desktop); not for ideological reasons (although those also come into play) but simply because Linux is such a nicer desktop environment and comes with a complete set of software.
  • The article doesn't consider a key aspect of the Linux success - all the people who are interested in tweeking and playing with modifying it, and so form a base of dedication and support. WHY are their such efforts at porting as he describes? Both because it's free (money sense) AND free (open source sense). Thus, there's no barrier for dedicated hobbyists to go wild, seeing if they can port Linux to everything from their wristwatches to their refrigerators,

    Could Solaris have done this? Yes, perhaps, at the start. But I don't think it could catch up now because there isn't the same sort of "fan" base for it. (no offense meant to any Solaris fans in the audience)

    - Seth Finkelstein

  • The key word with Linux is community. You know that if you have problem Joe Bloggs on the other side of the globe has already had the same problem and probably made a note on a website or newsgroup about it.

    If not people with years of experience and a wealth of knowledge are willing to offer advice online or at a local LUG meeting.

    How could Sun organise something to match the scale of what Linux has going for it at the moment.

    Everything always comes back to community... ask a Mac user, an Amiga user, a BeBoxer...

    ...and even if Solaris was free, could we afford the hardware to make use of what it has that Linux hasn't.


    My $0.50 (adjusted for the rise in the price of gold)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Linux is so hyped right now, it will kill itself.
  • I wondered what the world would have been like if solaris had been free. However during the time that it mattered (5 years ago). It was not, and linux was, and you can't change what has happened.

    Solaris comparied to linux (Use both), feels more finished, working with linux is more like trying to hit a moving target.

    Solaris hardware support is terrible, and is going to get worse as Sun is interested in the high end market.

    As to stating that solaris does everthing linux does. Correct and also wrong. Who here uses ip masq? You have to buy solstice firewall for that one! How about software raid or striping? Soltice metadisk. Join two partition together to make one big one over 2 disks really is core functionality these days!

    In my oppion solaris might implement the core OS functionality better and APIs are more stable, however linux offers far more added value software (for free), and driver support is on a different level entirely.

    Linux is also open source, so if you don't like something you can change it, and if your way is better it will probably be adopted... I don;t think sun is about to do that.

  • by Kitsune Sushi ( 87987 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @02:49AM (#1649120)

    Warning: Those used to my style of commenting on nearly an entire article in small quoted sections should find this to be nearly the same. What's worse, it's also chalk full of my strong opinions and is quite unedited (this post is way too long to edit.. I don't care if I look like a fool because of it). That said, read at your own risk. ;)

    As we speak, there are various projects to develop software for Linux. Projects for GUI's, Office software and efforts to port Linux to the new Intel 64-bit chip. It seems like everything that has already been done on another OS is being ported or implemented on Linux.

    heh. You'd think that there hasn't been a GUI for Linux all this time after reading this article if you weren't previously in the know. I'm not sure how porting to the Merced can be something considered to have been done previously by every OS or what have you. Besides, if everything that had already been done on another OS (which basically means, if you balled up every feature from every OS, Linux would be just a little bloated, no? Talk about poor wording. What do they pay writers for these days, anyhow?

    As the Anti-Microsoft warriors spread the word about Linux, many businesses are contemplating whether or not to include Linux in their corporate network. Since Linux is free, it's easy to convince management to use Linux. Also, companies such as Linux Care are providing 24/7 support to make those CEO's sleep at night.

    Sad to say, I don't consider myself an "Anti-Microsoft warrior". That's paramount to saying, "Once Microsoft is gone, Linux will have served its purpose and we can junk it in light of something that's actually good. We only need it for media hype to slay Microsoft and allow for a real OS to rise up." Being a proponent of Linux doesn't mean that your sole goal is wiping Microsoft off the face of the earth (it might not be a goal at all for many). It just means you like Linux, and enjoy using it. Perhaps others should check it out? If they don't like it, it's their loss. And whoever thinks it's easy to convince management to drop whatever they've got and use Linux is living in a lush living in a fantasy world where free beer flows quite freely.

    The Linux movement as a whole attracts people to it. It's that feeling of rebelling, of being the first guy on the block to have an FTP server in your basement. Call it a movement; call it a revolution, Linux is here.

    Soo.. how many people here who use Linux do so because it's reliable and suits their needs, or because they want to be "cool"? Besides, why the hell would I want to stick my box in the basement ? (well, besides the simple fact that most houses in Texas don't even have a basement.. the ground isn't exactly all that.. soft.. around these parts)

    Next comes those Solaris highlights..

    Highly scalable (64 processors)

    Do I really need 64 processors? I mean, honestly? :) Sure, there are people who do, but I'm sure they could afford to pay for an expensive OS (I'm thinking they'd pay a lot more just for the hardware involved)

    Already runs on 64-bit SPARC chip (Intel doesn't even have one yet)

    Um, I hope Intel never has a 64-bit SPARC. It would be rather unseemly to steal the trademark and architecture from another company. That seems to be more of a SPARC vs. Intel thing than a Solaris vs. Linux thing. Besides, aren't there already ports of Linux for SPARC? (and a wide variety of other architectures? do they just think we're stuck with Intel, or what?)

    Has been proven in the industry

    Linux, proud babysitter of the phone lines in two whole U.S. states. What, that kind of thing doesn't count?

    Has the support backing of a major company (Sun)

    Linux: has the support and backing of several major companies, and not all of them hype not yet mature technologies like Java when they first come out in order to make a buck based on media exposure alone.

    Runs everything Linux does (Mail, DNS, FTP etc...)

    Wow. I'm switching right now.

    Already has many software packages ported to it.

    Um, and Linux doesn't have any software for it yet, right? heh.

    Now has Star Office

    I'm not sure, but didn't I read something about a port for Linux as well? Not that I keep up on office software.. That ends our Solaris highlights section..

    If you look at what the Linux community is doing now, it has already been done by Sun. Solaris can do everything Linux can do, but better. You have the backing of a major corporation, which is also in competition with Microsoft (Linux people should like that.)

    Sun is about the last company I'd trust. Just because they want to carve up Microsoft's market share doesn't make them cool. I don't "like" that, I just think it's nifty that the vultures will continue to peck at one another while the real competition steams right on ahead. I can't get over how short-sighted that comment is. "Linux people should like that". Let me elaborate how much I "like" that: F@#$ Sun. Grr. ;)

    How about these questions: Could Linux survive as a UNIX alternative?
    The answer is no. Why re-invent the wheel? Solaris is a fully operational, scalable and reliable OS. Linux would have no place in a world were Solaris was free. Sorry, that's the truth. (The only place left would be embedded systems)

    NetBSD has been fully operational for quite some damn time (even when the Linux kernel was just an "infant"). And it's free. And it's still around. And Linux is still the one grabbing all of the media attention. By the way, someone care to remind me what Solaris is derived from? I seem to have forgotten.. =P

  • A major problem with SunOS is the fact that you have to spend hours installing the GNU packages that we all know and love before you have a usuable box. With linux you just install a distribution, tweak a few settings and you are done.

  • If Solaris were GPL'd, it would not compete with Linux. It would merge with it.

    Sun might increase profits on hardware if they do it, so it's not that far-fetched.
  • I've never had problems with SCSI support in Linux..
    You did read the SCSI-howto and recompile your kernel, right?
  • The question is what if solais was free speech (perhaps even GPL), would linux survive?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The corporate workplace doesn't trust Linux in the enterprise (for several reasons) why would it throw out NT in favor of Solaris. I like Solaris but it is not as easy to use as NT and doesn't have anywhere near the industry support in terms of hardware and software. The best software, development tools, and hardware are all available when you are running NT. Personally, I would like to see more Solaris on the servers and BeOS on the clients but it ain't going to happen.
  • I believe one of the major reasons behind Linus writing the first linux kernel is the same motivation behind a lot of open/free development today ... 'to see if I can'. In fact, ha has ststed that it started as a little project to learn i386 assembly code.
    This is the driving force behind all software development (the learning experience) and this is the reason why there are so many projects that seem to be aiming at similar goals.
    Unfortunately, many people see this as a bad thing because it presentsthe image of a fragmented community.
    However, I can only see it as a good thing. It builds onfidence and a sense of achievement in the individual developer and, equally importantly, different developers have different ideas of how things should be done. These differences can make two 'similar' programs have radially different designs and features. These differences, in turn, can be analysed by another developer looking for inspiration to produce an even better program.

    If Solaris had been free, then Linux would have still been written. It might have not snowballed as much as it did and we might al be using Solaris. OTOH, Linus might have used some of the design ideas from Solaris to produce a kernel that far outshines both today.

  • I've got a free copy of Solaris that sun give away free for non comercial use. Yeah, it's cool to have a Solaris box at home, but after a week I removed it coz there just isn't that much you can do with it.

    Linux has a massive number of apps for it and while some will compile on Solaris it's just too much hassle and there's no really benifit to doing it.

  • ..so be gentle. It's too early to bother with being flamed. ;)

    Wasn't the GNU Project started in like 1984 or some such? Even if Linus Torvalds had never written the Linux kernel, the Hurd would have been done by now (probably long before now since there would have been more of a point to developing the Hurd if we didn't already have Linux.. now the Hurd is pretty much just a pet project of the FSF that they started and since they started it, figure they might as well finish it).

    And wasn't the original Linux kernel written around 1991? =P

  • One major reason why free solaris wouldn't pose a serious threat to linux is the issue of hardware support.

    Solaris x86 runs on very limited hardware and unless sun hired an army of developers they wouldn't be able to catch up to linux in terms of hardware support, assuming of course that solaris is "free" as in "free beer" Even if it they released the source, they'd still have trouble wooing the linux device driver developers away from their current projects.

    One of the beauties of the intel hardware platform is that there are so many different choices in individual components. Solaris isn't designed with this in mind. It's designed to run on specific hardware components and combinations.

    Linux is too far ahead, and it's too late in the game

  • Besides I wouldn't want to wait some more 2-4 years to have Loki or someone new start porting civ to solaris...

    Its not about features.
    Its not a social-market matter, if you don't pay to get an OS. Its your personal choice.

    Its about the development and growth model!

    I'm not talking about kernel hacking (which is good.) and obviously not about the possibility my father finally has of reading the source code of his OS. (He usually dosn't do peer reviewing on the crypto code of his programs anyway ...)

    We have seen still very little about the REAL REVOLUTION (tm) which is not in technology, but in the IT growth model.
    "Open source"/"Free Software"/"whatever" leaves businesses more in control when developing their products. And quality of development a possibility to grow thanks to open standards (which give small investors and single developers a bigger chance on where they are putting their training money).
    Its not by chance that in the last years revenue for big IT firm has steadily moved prom products to consulting , services and support. Products are steadily becoming less the focus (and to do this you need scale economies at which OSS and open standards perform well). TCO and what I ACTUALLY get to using the box is the point.

    Right now there are projects on what other OSes have already, just because thats what is still missing.

    I don't think that when in a year or two this job is done, the community will just vanish.
    Au contraire, the investment put in all these years of development and even more in what is happening this year and in the next 2, will produce its most spectaculr results AFTER we have finished with word processing and desktop GUI.

    When competition on R&D will re-start.
    (That's where MS stopped us all some 10 years ago...)
  • 'Solinux' or 'Linaris'?

    Sounds about as likely as my installing a Linux distro with a silly ass name like Jesux. =P

  • GNU hurd: Well, maybe this one really is dead ;-)

    It's not smelling funny: there's a Debian GNU/Hurd [debian.org] port in progress; see Kernel Cousin debian-hurd [linuxtoday.com] for progress info.

    The Hurd still has some very neat ideas [gnu.org] that appeal to kernel hackers. I really don't know if it will be successful, it's still in early development. If it picks up enough steam, it may well make it, as it can run just about everything Linux runs.

  • Wondering how the world _would_ have been, if this or that had happened, is a total waste of time. Period.

    Let's not waste any more time on it, and get on with changing the world to what we want it to become, making it a better place for every computer user.

  • assuming that the author means free as in speech, and sun would GPL/insertappropriatelicensehere, i rather think the outcome would be quite the opposite.

    while i'm sure there'd be a number of folks running Linux/BSD that would switch production boxes over to Solaris initially, i don't think anything will wipe Linux off of people's desktops (until Something Better (TM) comes along. too many people enjoy tinkering with it. too many people have sent too many keyboards to the dump over it.

    after an initial hit, i think that linux developers would pillage the Solaris source code, and end up leaving Sun in the dust after a year or two. there is alot in there which linux could use, but the about the only thing Sun has to gain from linux is a user base. how many active linux developers would switch immediately? not many, i'd wager. politics, if nothing else, would keep them where they are.
  • Not to say that it's any different with Solaris, but the OS in question was not ScumOS, it was Solaris. ;)

  • none of your points prove it's not free. you're just saying it's not open source.

  • Um, I hope Intel never has a 64-bit SPARC. It would be rather unseemly to steal the trademark and architecture from another company.

    Intel could quite legitimately produce a SPARC chip, and call it a SPARC chip (subject to conformance testing.)

    Check out SPARC International [sparc.com]
  • > 2) its still sun that choose whats going in into os

    It's also Linus who chooses what's going into the Linux kernel (just look at KGI) so what's your point? Everyone can also create kernel modules for Solaris, or how do you think that drivers for various add-on cards are created?
  • Hasn't the price of gold been falling recently though!?
  • Probably Linux would not see the widespread use it does, but I think some people will always want to tweak and twiddle with their own project just for the fun and learning experience. Writing a real OS kernel from scratch is Way Cool[tm].
    On the other hand, maybe they would all have started working on the Hurd in a Solaris cross-compilation environment :-P

  • In what way..? Kernel merge? Doubtful. Real doubtful. Base tool set merge? Again, highly unlikely. Why don't we have a single distro, instead of several? There are many forks in the overall OS development of GNU/Linux (as opposed to forks in kernel development, since the "official" kernel implementation is overseen by Linus and co.). Complete OS merge? The most unlikely of all possible scenarios. I just don't see this happening.

    Though perhaps you mean Solaris would try to embrace and extend Linux? That just seems weird. One thing I'll agree on, they wouldn't compete.. ;)

  • I'd like to comment on the Solaris x86 support for hardware. I work in a rather large IT shop that uses x86 on quite a number of boxen. There seems to be some misunderstandings about x86 hardware support. It's been my experience that Linux support a considerably larger variety of hardware that Solaris x86 does. Even down to simple things as CD-ROM drives. On multiple ocassionas I've had x86 not "see" an ATAPI CD-ROM drive that Linux will. I've only had one ATAPI CDROM that Linux didn't recognize. This is doubly so for video cards. Also bear in mind that the package managers for Linux are light years ahead of Solaris' package system. (RPM, etc.) As well as any Linux distro is far more "complete" that Solaris is, at the moment. That's not to say that there aren't benefits to Solaris x86. If you're already a Solaris shop, it's easier for admins to deal with one Unix. Also CDE/Motif are included in the package as well as better support for multiple heads (and a front panel on both!).

    Of course I'm an AIX bigot... but hey. ;-)
  • "I wonder if Scott McNealy has ever asked himself that question - or if he will after reading this. "

    Scott is too busy plotting what he will do when he replaces Bill Gates as the Evil Overlord of the Computer Industry to worry about /.
  • Why bother adding features to Linux when they're already implemented in BSD? In the free version of Plan 9? In {insert free OS here}

    Because different OSes are suited for different things, different hackers enjoy working on different projects. There is room for more than one free UNIX in the world.

  • Not open-source, but free. That is, if you discount the $20 to cover materials & shipping.

    I have a copy of Solaris 7 for x86 at home just begging to be installed. I just haven't had time to get to it. Meanwhile, I'm happily plugging away at both Linux and Windows.

    Meanwhile, I don't see that free Solaris has had a measurable impact on Linux or any of the BSD's.

    D. Keith Higgs
    CWRU. Kelvin Smith Library

  • But that would never happen now, would it? But if Solaris were as completely open and unrestricted (not like Java or Mozilla, but like Linux itself), then I think yes, it would eventually kill off Linux. Remember, Solaris is already dual-platform (Sparc and x86), and further ports would certainly be done. And Solaris has perceptual advantages in the commercial market (it's Sun, it's "supported", it's well-established) that have kept Linux from growing even faster. I think enough people would "defect" from Linux to a truly free Solaris that the commercial focus would shift quickly.

    Now, if you ask me if I'd switch or if people switching is a Good Thing, I'd say no. I'm happy on Linux, and I like what it represents in the computing world. Besides, Sun is in it for the money. Microsoft knows how to fight those kind of companies. That's why they don't know what to do about Linux.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • There are more players in the game than just Solaris and Linux. We have FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD...you name it. Still most people choose Linux. What is this choice based on? I'm not sure. I do think that if Solaris would be available for free, most people would still use Linux, and Solaris would be in the *BSD-corner; it's very good, but nobody knows about it. Most people simply don't consider all options before they choose which OS to use. That's why NT is still used a lot, but it's also the reason for the popularity of Linux.
  • NetBSD, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD are all free, fairly similar, mildly different, yet all thrive. And even though they've been "mature" longer than GNU/Linux, GNU/Linux thrives as well. I'm not so sure I'm all that scared of Solaris closing down the GNU/Linux market any more than I am of *BSD doing so, were it free beer or free speech.

  • I have used Linux since 1992. I only use computers at work. This means that I have never paid a single cent for any of the software I use anyway, nor for the computers. I can basically have any workstation I want. I chose Linux then. I still choose Linux. The only other Unix I can work with without excessive pain is Irix. I can work as much as I want with Solaris, AIX etc. but it's such a pain. It hurts to use those crappy systems.
    I use Linux because Linux is good to work with! I don't pay anyway, I wouldn't have used Solaris if I was paid a dollar an hour to use it.
  • Not since I last looked! A couple of days ago the central banks of Europe made a decision to cap gold sales, which pushed prices up.


  • Every society needs a causa belli or reason to rebel, whether it is feminism, environmentalism, whatever. It's just the nature of human beings that there is always some segment that doesn't like conforming to social norms and the computing industry is no exception, especially when the creativity to push beyond known limits already puts the innovators at the fringe. Now whether you put this trait down to pure human orniness or the fact that in every flock of sheep, there are always a few itching to be the underdogs, is irrelevant.

    The philosophy of "free code" (as in freedom of speech) first mooted by RMS has crystalised around Linux probably due to good timing and some inspired leadership. Also the OpenSource movement has been helped by mainstream sympathisers (both individual and corporate) who have been stomped on quite heavily by the current market gorillas. Now whether Solaris could have played that same role is a little debateable as it could have been perceived as being contaminated by corporate strings (witness the current doubts about Sun's Community License). Would it have the right elements to provoke a similar response if there was no external motivating factors? Like most grassroot social movements, OpenSource requires the right environmental factors (in this case repulsion by existing market leaders, technological changes exposing previous high priests of computing, and new communications medium of the internet to link the individual elements into a more cohensive whole) and a simple rallying standard to invoke the passions of the supporters (despite what people think, greed doesn't create the same motivating force). Solaris might be very well suited as an enterprise computing platform but it would not have the cheap hardware base to attract entry-level Linux hackers, nor the non-profit motive of supporting (to them) fringe hardware and functions. For example, Microsoft wouldn't be interested in a market unless they could sell a million units.

    Given enough time, any piece of software can be recreated (from scratch if necessary, and probably unnecessarily given the number of commercial clones on freshmeat) and the internet allows people with the interest and spare time to band together and create software edfices they could never achieve on their own. Despite what most people feel, probably only a fraction of the OpenSource projects will ever become commercially competitive, much less viable. However, it does allow people to express themselves and gain a feeling of achievement that can not be recreated by running canned applications. In short, I suspect it satisfies more the goals of individual internal mastery in the mental sphere similar in a way atheletes do in winning competitions with nice side effects of producing robust software that doesn't suck. Companies that recognise this and can act as patron and sponsor will probably benefit the most from the OpenSource movement. SGI probably has a clue, IBM has so much tech, they can afford to throw a few fish to encourage Linux supporters. Whether some Solaris/Java manager gets a clue and Sun sees the light is probably a matter of time but they would be starting back in the pack (there are limits to the number of talented Linux hackers in the world, no matter how fast the movement is growing).

    Shold be an interesting decade ahead of us :-).

  • Ho hum. Michael Whitmore subjecting us to his usual banal thinking in the name of filling column pixels.

    Would Linux survive if Solaris was free? Of course it would. To suggest otherwise indicates a very poor understanding of what Linux is, and what it's good at.

    Historically, Linux was the UNIX you could run on your PC - for free. It's ability to provide "serious computing" facilities on commodity hardware won it the hearts and minds battle a long time ago.

    When I was at university we had rooms full of SPARCstations and similar kit. They opened up my eyes to what an open systems environment was capable of. Then there was X - for all it's clunkiness still based on a great architecture. The whole "it's more important to do it right than to do it quickly" philosophy which is found throughout the UNIX world - and which is still completely alien in the Windows world.

    It was a revelation to me. And it came at a time when I was getting more and more frustrated with the limitations and costs of Windows 3.1 on my home PC. It crashed all the time. (Heh. We complain about NT crashing "all the time". Remember when "all the time" really was ALL the time?). You couldn't develop anything on it without spending a lot of money first. And I was a student - where would I get money?

    So, when Linux hit us (in the form of Yggdrasil Linux 0.99pl13) almost every one of us CS students embraced it. Here was a free, cool, capable, stable (even then), platform that we could take home and do the same cool stuff on our home PCs that we had previously been doing on the X-tens-of-thousands-of-pounds SPARCstations. We could write C code for coursework. We could write little TCP servers and clients to our heart's content. We could write Xlib apps. And we could take them all back into university, put them on the Suns, and they would work!

    It's difficult to express how significant that time was. The idea that you could run X at home now seems trivial, but back then it was a Big Thing. We're talking about students here - no money. Sure, UNIX for PCs was around in the form of things like SCO and Solaris 86, but they were expensive (VERY expensive). But Linux was free, and ran on my cheap 386sx20 with 2Mb just great.

    It's no concidence, of course, that the people who discovered Linux at college back then are now graduated and starting to be in decision making positions inside companies just at the time that Linux is being taken more seriously by the commercial world.

    The article's conclusion is based on some assumptions that don't seem to be right to me:

    • That if price is taken out of the equation, the technically better OS will "win".
    • That Solaris is better than Linux.
    • That Solaris isn't free at the moment.
    • That people choose Liunx purely on the basis of cost and don't care about the community aspect.

    Most people would agree that the various BSDs are at least technically as good as Linux. But they are massively, hugely, enourmously less popular. So even if Solaris 86 was better than Linux, that wouldn't necessarily make a difference.

    Not that Solaris 86 is better than Linux. Solaris SPARC is excellent and as robust a platform as you could hope for, but Solaris 86 I wouldn't touch with a bargepole. It simply isn't better than Linux. It has less hardware support, is less robust, has less software, and crashes more often. It is arguably more secure, in the sense that "broken" = "secure". Plus it eats resources like no other OS.

    This all probably explains why people continue to choose Linux despite the fact that Solaris 86 *is* free to hobby users, as is Solaris SPARC. That's a good thing. But there's more to this issue than price.

    There's the community for a start. There's the symbiosis that you get between developers and users. There's the complete lack of "us and them". There's the ever growing list of features that you can pick and choose at your own rate. There's even a healthy competition between distribution makers which is leading to improvements in installation and package support. There are thousands of applications, web pages, mailing lists, and people willing to help.

    Partly, all of this is because Linux is popular. But partly, Linux is popular because of the community support. It works both ways - a nice positive feedback loop. One that just isn't there for Solaris 86.

    So, nice try Michael, but try understanding what you're criticising next time.

  • Solaris supports more hardware that Linux. Read the hardware compatibility list on Suns site
  • A couple of points:

    1. It's a matter of trust. I think, as a group, Open Source and Linux users are fundamentally wary of corporations.

    Corporations are capricious entities; what's "free" today may be an unsupported, abandoned version tomorrow.

    2. If Solaris was free, Linus Torvalds would still not have been able to afford the hardware, so he likely still would have started his project.

    3. The statement "Since Linux is free, it's easy to convince management to use Linux." is patently absurd to anyone who has tried to convince a large corporation to use free software. How long have people been complaining that the exact opposite is true? Sounds like a convenient case of selective memory to me.
  • When I put Solaris on my x86 machine, Netscape and Matlab were not available (the two apps I use constantly). Plus I couldn't get decent video drivers. VGA on a 21 inch monitor is silly.

    The installation tool for Sol x86 at the time was terrible.

    I know about the recent lxrun for running linux binaries on solaris, but is it really worth the trouble?

    It might be nice to run a partially homogeneous (in the OS sense) system. We have ultra 10s and enterprise servers here. Solaris x86 just is not worh the associated problems.

    Too bad Sparc and x86 are not binary compatible. Maybe the Transmeta chip will solve all of our problems... (G3 and Alpha would be nice too!) That could solve tons of problems.

    BTW, there was an article on the OXYGEN project promoting configurable computing. basically letting PDAs change to suit the needs of a certain job. Maybe that relates to Transmeta too...


  • I hate that site. It's navigation is sooo horrible. I went to go look up what SPARC stood for (I'm probably the only fool who didn't know.. let's just say I didn't care too much about what many acronyms stood for until a recent curiosity stole over my brain). Therefore, I didn't bother gleaning anything else off of their site (actually, I didn't even glean that.. not from their site. I picked up an email address to harass, though ;).

    My odd question of the day being: Anyone else out there actually bothered to find out what SPARC stands for? Hee hee..

  • After the sweeping statements made in the first three quarters of this article I really expected a detailed, logical, and elaborate explanation. Instead I get none, but the paltry "Sun can do anything Linux can do better".

    There are obviously monumental reasons people choose Linux and wouldn't choose Solaris even if it were free:

    1) Open Source. Solaris is a great OS, but even IF it were free, it could not expect to match Linux in several important areas. One of the greatest attributes of Open Source software is peer-review. A constant incremental development and revision, always striving for something better. Even if Solaris were "better" now, and released free, Linux, due to its Open Source nature is accelerating rapidly and would in no doubt eclipse it. The open development model also allows for tighter security auditing. Since so many people work on Linux, drivers for the newest whizbang device are usually written very fast.

    2) Support. Since no one own Linux, no one company is responsible. Support is available from many places, and is not limited to one company. Many major companies are jumping on the bandwagon and are supporting Linux in some way, either through tech supp, or documentation, or publishing software, etc.

    3) Choice. If you want it on Linux you can get it. Linux, due to its development model, is a virtual bazaar (pardon the pun) of hardware and software. Linux supports common, and many uncommon hardware devices. Since it is posix compliant, Linux also support the wealth of pre-existing Unix software, as well as the monumental amount of software that has been developed for it since its inception. Anything you want you can have, or failing that, make yourself and give back to the community.

    Freeing solaris would have about the same effect of freeing windows (not to be inflammatory), I think. So it's free...just means you have to pay less to use it.
  • First, Solaris will be free. Sun is moving to make all of its IP free (although some people think its license is not OSD-compatible, I think it is, and I don't care if others don't :), including hardware and software.

    Second, you want the subjunctive. It is not "if Solaris was free," but "if Solaris were free."
  • I will be brief:

    Linux. [kernelnotes.org]
    FreeBSD. [freebsd.org]
    NetBSD. [netbsd.org]
    OpenBSD. [openbsd.org]

    They are all free (beer and speech). They are all Unix-like. Three of them are descended from the same code. Two of them were the same code four years ago. All of them, the last I heard, have growing user bases.

    Stupid article, would probably have been ignored on Usenet, not worth mentioning on Slashdot.
  • Merging Linux with Solaris would be *INCREDIBLY* stupid. Solaris is a rock solid OS with years fine tuning behind it. Linux is an OS written by amateurs. Linux is stepping stone OS.
  • imho Solaris is better than Linux, please don't hate me :)

    Would Solaris knock out Linux if it went free? I seriously doubt that. People really don't use Linux cause it is free do they ? They use it cause it appeals to them and they like it.

    Would Solaris gain a larger user base if is was free ? Sure I think it would gain some users but
    not to the quantity that it would blow Linux or any other unix version for that matter away.

    Isn't Solaris really a sub product at Sun, I can't imagine they really making any money on Solaris in itself compared to the development costs. What they make money on is selling hardware.

    About Slowaris as some people refer to it as. Sure I can agree on that the Intel version of Solaris ain't a very speedy os but that is in my opinion not the "REAL" Solaris.

    So Solaris ain't open source and it is owned by Sun. Linux may be open in all it's glory but big decission are still made by Mr.Torvalds in a more non-democratic fashion. Nothing wrong with that thou.

    I wouldn't mind Solaris being free thou even if it is currently so for Students (ok not really free there is a shipping and handling cost) but you get that if you order Linux to and don't download it from the net.
  • A BMW is to a hand-built swamp buggy as Solaris is to Linux

    Yeah. And you can have a hell of a lot more fun in the swamp buggy!

  • by RPoet ( 20693 )
    If Solaris was all GPL from the beginning, nobody would have thought of making another free Unix.

    If Solaris was freed today, we'd probably see just another fragmentation. Also, both Linux and Solaris would have ended up much richer and better since both could steal code from each other. That's the whole idea of software freedom! There's absolutely no reason why both couldn't have co-existed.

    This is however extremely hypothetical. I doubt they'll ever free Solaris to the extent of GNU, but if they did, it would be infinitely cool!
  • While we're on the topic of spawning threads to do blocking read()s on sockets - this model is extremely inefficient for server processes. It is far more efficient to use non-blocking read()s and either select() or poll() when dealing with IO on a large number of file descriptors. When input is detected on one socket it can then be delegated to a worker thread from a (relatively small) thread pool. Because Java lacks any select() or poll()-like construct their server connections top out at around 1000 socket connections. Threads take up a lot of resources, and should be used sparingly if you want good performance and stability.
  • Free is not the same as Open Source. Open
    Source has made Linux and GNU great, in
    addition to the fact they are free.

    Would Sun support Solaris on Alpha, PPC,
    ARM, etc. or just Sparcs and x86? Since
    Sun sells Sparcs, I think you can guess the
  • by Anonymous Coward
    OK, I never respond to these things, but this one is nuts. Has this guy really used Linux and Solaris? I run Linux on a variety of platforms, MIPS, Alpha, x86, PPC, and have on a few others. Linux strength is in it's OPEN SOURCE, not it being free. Most people I know actually purchased a copy somewhere along the way, and I personally always purchase a copy when I use Linux for business purposes. It's my way of supporting Linux. So, would Solaris just be free, or actually Open Source? Would it be portable to dozens of platforms from Palm Pilots to 64-way SMP (OK, it already does the top end pretty well). Someone mentioned that Linus started writing Linux to have a free x86 OS, and that may be true, but if I remember correctly, it was to have a free x86 OS that would run on MODEST hardware. Linux became popular in it's early days because it made all of those machines that other OS's had long abandoned usable again. Heck, I still have an old 386/25 with 8 Meg running linux 2.0.37 for a diald proxy for a client, I don't think Solaris would work here. Also, Linux has multiple vendors, not just Sun. Linux is a movement about freedom, freedom to choose your platform, your vendor, your GUI, whatever. And even freedom to fix (and create) your own bugs. Anyway, I'm sure Solaris being free would have had some affect on Linux, but I wanted to point out some other parts of the puzzle. I apologize for the rambling here, I scribbled this out quickly, and without thought to proper grammer and organization, but I think it gets my point across. I'll do better next time. Tom
  • Mr. Whitmore makes the point 'What if Solaris was free?' without fully defining what he means. Free as in a full GPL release with all source code or Sun's version of 'free'? If indeed the full source code was GPLed the viability of GNU/Linux might be questioned. At least we would have a interesting choice and a real pro / con evaluation of GNU/Linux vs Solaris can be made. If the free release would be binarys only then it would be only a small blip on the OS screen and most GNU/Linux users won't even notice it.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Solaris 7 is not slow on single processor boxen. I installed it after Debian gave me fits and let me tell you pops, it is fast as hell. Considerably, demonstrably faster than Linux. And guess what: logging file system. And a kernel that adjusts itself to use the amount of memory you need for different buffers, etc. The only downside to the install is that my sound card needed OSS drivers to work - other than that, it has been pretty terrific. If Solaris is free, people should be writing device drivers for it left, right, center. Forget whether or not it's open sourced, it is already far superior on a kernel level to Linux - you can write your own modular device drivers for it now and never need to see a line of the kernel code! Finally, very little of Gnome, KDE and other open sourced software fails to compile on Solaris. I installed KDE, Gnome, Gimp, Xchat, XMMS, Mozilla, and many other packages without fail. What fails is software written for Linux specifically - how open is THAT?
  • Solaris is already free, at least for personal use. You can download it from Sun. Sun did this to stem the tide of Linux -- and it failed miserably.

    Also, on the same hardware Solaris is noticeably slower than Linux. In fact, I recently compared performance of my Ultra 5 (at work) and my K6/2-300 (at home). I did it in a simple minded way: I compiled GCC on both. My K6-2 started later and finished sooner -- I didn't actually measure the times, but it was around twice as fast.

    It costs less than $500, the Ultra 5 costs around $3000. Bottom line is that in the low-end server/desktop market, Sun hardware just doesn't make any sense. Given that Solaris/x86 is not too hot (in my experience it is nowhere near as robust as Solaris/SPARX or Linux) why would we give up Linux?

    Also, a lot of the advantage of Linux is that, instead of having to go out and get all the GNU tools to make a system useful after you load Solaris, it comes with them. Things like bash, GNU find, GNU grep are dramatically better than the equivalent bundled commands.
  • by benmhall ( 9092 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @03:46AM (#1649193) Homepage Journal
    I'm a student.

    I own the free version of Solaris. I rushed out and bought it the first week it was released for free. I also own too many distributions of Linux. I've installed Solaris on about 8 machines at various jobs. Every time I've thought "What a poor imitation of Linux."

    I have my own Web server. It runs Linux or FreeBSD (Which I also bought) depending on my mood. When I installed BSD I thought: "Wow! This is very usable, it reminds me of Linux!"

    Solaris, on low end hardware (any Intel) is very slow compared to Linux. I haven't run Solaris on many Sun Workstations, so I can only hope that it is exponentially faster, but for me, what makes Linux so great is:

    • Open kernel sources
    • The ability to modify the kernel
    • Hardware support (Especially Video, sadly lacking in Solaris)
    • The community spirit
    • The great software:
      • Apache
      • Gnome
      • KDE
      • Vi
      • Emacs
      • Gcc (Gotta have a compiler)
      • Enlightenment
      • The Gimp
      • XFree86 in general
      • PHP/MySQL
    • Telneting
    • A completely customizable OS
    • Text files for modifying EVERYTHING
    • The speed
    • The great multitasking
    • Samba
    Now, it's true that practically everything on that list is doable under Solaris, in fact all of that software will easily compile and install under Solaris (Heck, I've done it!)

    But NONE of it is as nice or as integrated as it is in Linux. To me, Solaris is the NT of Unix, and Sun the Microsoft of Unix.

    I like that Linux is developed by the community for the community. Same as the BSD's. For that reason, I am a total convert who will never give up my cherished platform.

    I have deployed Linux as web servers into two environments, my own server, and one that was previously running IIS. In both cases, we fell under the category of being allowed to run the "Free" Solaris. In both cases we had access to NT, Linux and Solaris. In both cases we chose Linux. It had NOTHING to do with price.

    If Solaris was OpenSource, MAYBE it would be a contender, but I doubt it.


    http://moses.penguinpowered.com [penguinpowered.com]

  • by Gleef ( 86 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @03:58AM (#1649198) Homepage
    In addition to all the other excellent rebuttals and points that others have made better than me, there is a big thing that the original author missed. Sun couldn't make Solaris Free if they wanted to. Does the author think that Sun actually wrote Solaris?

    Sun licensed AT&T's System V Unix code, and incorporated it into their existing SunOS codebase (based on BSD). They then tweaked it a bit for better performance and features on their Sparc systems and called it Solaris. Since a good portion of Solaris code is licensed from AT&T, Sun couldn't Free it without AT&T's permission. Anyone who was working on BSD in the 4.3 days will realize how futile hoping for AT&T's permission to Free their source code is.

  • A BMW is to a hand-built swamp buggy as Solaris is to Linux.

    But you can drive a swamp buggy on roads, try driving a BMW through a swamp...
  • To put it rather bluntly, this article didn't have enough thought behind it to merit mention here. The author fails to address the fact that ideology was (and continues to be) more a driving factor in the development of and for Linux than simple economics. From the GNU toolset, whose developers take issue with existing ideas about intellectual property, to the assorted GUIs developed by those who feel that currently available user interfaces are fundamentally flawed, most Linux projects and components have more to do with doing things one's own way, unbeholden to anyone else's, and little or nothing to do with saving the odd dollar or two.
  • Here at Aberystwyth we have just set-up a room of PIII's running Solaris x86 for the undergrads to use (replacing the Sparc 5's that used to be in that room). Solaris is indeed free, and it was chosen mainly because our support team have plenty of Solaris experience.

    It's pretty quick (but then, these PIII's are only a month old), but compared to Linux it's hugely resource hungry (256 meg RAM required in our machines). It also supports vitually no hardware - we had a job getting monitors and video/sound cards that it supports. It's also pretty unstable. For instance, when the students run Netscape, 4% or so of Web pages crash the machine. I don't just mean crash Netscape - they chuck you out of X and back to the login screen (this amuses the students no end as they lose all their code).

    A lot of staff have Linux on their office machines (like me), and after seeing Solaris I guess it'll end up on the students machines before long too.

    But yes, it's free.. and it's not bad. It was that or NT after all ;)

  • M$ first started out making^H^H^H^H^H^Hcloning software for the microcomputer market in the Stone Age (circa 1981) and that was what the average Joe could afford (ok so not quite). My understanding of their last mission statement is "A computer on every desktop." I interpret this as including that of the home user.

    When Sun first started in '82, they aimed for the high-end workstation market. Now they still do. And they also make enterprise-class software and hardware solutions. I betcha the average Joe has no idea what Sun does.

    Linux was started as a Unix clone for students who couldn't afford the high price tag that came with the Unix solutions offered by Sun/NExT/etc. Now those original students have grown up on Linux and are now working, they have no reason to move to another Unix platform for home/SOHO use even if it was free. The x86 platform IMO still offers the most bang for the buck. Not only that, a layperson can still have the multimedia capabilities of Win/Mac under Linux that Solaris still lacks.

    All of this because Sun never intended to shoot for the home consumer/small-time developer.

    "Microsoft is the epitome of innovation and product quality."

  • by PrimeEnd ( 87747 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @05:03AM (#1649236)
    I am a member of an academic department that has been gradually phasing out Sun products in favor of Linux. The decision to do this had little to do with cost -- those differences aren't major.

    The main factor is ease of maintenance of the software we use. When we bought a Solaris system it came with no compiler. No problem, install gcc. Of course emacs was missing. Install it too. We also need perl, pine, elm, etc. You get the idea. And then there is TeX which is really the reason we have this deparmental network.

    With RedHat Linux once you do an install all these things are just there. These days we tend to buy systems with Linux pre-installed so we don't even have to do that. When we got a Solaris box we actually went out and got a consultant to install all the things above (oh, did I mention the latest updates to bind and sendmail). Keep in mind there are no rpm's here. We're talking compile and and install -- including a rational plan on where everything should go. This is a big job with 30 or 40 packages. Then there is the question of monitoring and installing security updates -- easy with rpms, but a horrible task if you have to track every package at its source.

    The packaging, organization, and integration is what RedHat supplies us. That's why we pay full price for at least one of each of their releases.

    The title of this article brings out the distinction between Linux and GNU/Linux. If Linux was just the kernel then Solaris might replace it. But Solaris doesn't come close to GNU/Linux. Did I mention Gnome and KDE?

    If Sun were smart they would adopt the RedHat Package Manager and port all the standard things mentioned above to rpms for Solaris. Then they would be at least competitive with GNU/Linux.

  • Since a good portion of Solaris code is licensed from AT&T, Sun couldn't Free it without AT&T's permission.

    I thought that Sun paid SCO lots of money for the right to do whatever they want with the code they licensed. This Usenet article [deja.com] talks about this, although the author also thinks that Sun would be prohibited from freeing the code for some reason. I don't know the terms of Sun's agreement, but I'd guess that they have rights to do whatever they want with the code. Otherwise, what would be the point of paying all that money?

  • It also supports vitually no hardware - we had a job getting monitors and video/sound cards that it supports. It's also pretty unstable. For instance, when the students run Netscape, 4% or so of Web pages crash the machine. I don't just mean crash Netscape - they chuck you out of X and back to the login screen (this amuses the students no end as they lose all their code).
    In case you were unaware, XFree86 runs on Solaris x86. I've got it running on one of the machines I use. It's a bit of a maintenance overhead, as you can't just use the Sun installer and get everything up and going in 15 minutes, but I think it's worth it. For instance, on top of the added video support, you can also choose between all the standard bitdepths, not only 8 or 24. If you replace Xsun and CDE, you may notice stability improvements, also. :)
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @06:51AM (#1649301) Homepage Journal

    Wow, you really don't understand Linux or Open Source at all.

    Open Source is the main feature of Linux, whether its users deal with that aspect of it on a day-to-day basis or not. Everything good about Linux -- the stability, the wide hardware support, the easy availability -- is a direct consequence of its openness! If Linux were just Free Beer instead of Free Speech, thn no one would use it, because it would be an unstable, uninstallable, unworkable piece of crap, instead of a parallel-debugged, widely-supported system.

    Have a Sloppy day!
  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Thursday September 30, 1999 @07:36AM (#1649311)
    I think the author should have *said* what they meant. It's not like this is a new source of confusion.

    But granted they meant beer as you think, then yes, Solaris might draw users. But it still would not draw developers any faster, and that's the heart and soul of Linux. I don't think Solaris would draw enough free developers even if it was SCSL with a zero price.

    Anything short of putting Solaris under the BSD or GPL would, in my opinion, set the acceptance of Linux back significantly, but not derail it. People don't want to work on source code completely controlled by others, so eventually Linux still wins.

  • Huh?

    As far as I know, Linux works just fine on not so cheap hardware. http://www.varesearch.com/ sells it, designed especially for Linux. And I believe IBM NetFinity servers are now available with Linux.


  • August 1991 0.01 Linux (first release, not bootable)
    December 1993 0.99pl14 Linux (usable)
    December 1993 FreeBSD 1.0 (patches to encumbered "Net/2" 4.3BSDLite)
    November 1994 FreeBSD 2.0 First truly open source
    (no legal challenges) version

    This according to http://www.freebsd.org/handbook/histor y.html [freebsd.org]
    and http://www.redhat.com/mirrors/L DP/LDP/gs/node3.html [redhat.com]

    So, no, an open source version of BSD was being developed contemperaneously with Linux but not released in unemcumbered form until a little later. The fear of legal challenges probably kept some developers away in the early days, and there was certainly not even a gratis version of BSD for x86 when Linus started developing Linux.
  • Good looking fonts. Ideally, those nice expensive postscript fonts that commercial unices have.

    I HATE the way XFree86 fonts look - it's ugly. It hurts my eyes. It just doesn't look right. In fact, I dual boot BeOS and Linux, and I am running BeOS 90% of the time. The main reason is fonts. PLEASE somebody do something to make X look decent.

  • Or how about, "Now that Windows is so stable, can Linux survive?" Or the old classic, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" This guy is supposed to have been in the computer industry for 12 years, yet he seems to be incapable of posing a simple question in a logically valid form. Anyway, what's the word "survive" doing in the same sentence with an OS that's been growing like yeast these past few years?

    Other posts have already provided excellent technical rebuttals. I'd just like to point out some of the absurdities in this pathetic piece...

    "I myself joined the Linux bandwagon in 1997." And what HAVE you been doing on the bandwagon since then? Sleeping like a baby? I don't believe this guy has ever used Linux for any serious work. "Solaris can do everything Linux can do, but better". Indeed. If you define "better" as "slower and with more pain to the poor SOB saddled with administering the pig", that would be a lot closer to the truth. Sure, there are some specific, mostly high-end, areas where Linux can't touch Solaris (yet!). But since when has that been "everything?" There's as much truth to this claim as "NT a better Unix than Unix"...

    "If you look at what the Linux community is doing now, it has already been done by Sun." Really? Well if the geniuses at Sun had bothered to cover this ground properly in the first place, NT would be a real corpse today, instead of just smelling, tasing and feeling like one [joke courtesy of fortune(1)].

    Some time ago, I had the bad luck to administer Solaris on a few SPARC boxes at a small research institution (astronomers). It was a pretty bleak three years. Quite fortunately, some burglars stole the SPARC 10, just as the other boxes became hopelessly obsolete. It was the best thing that ever happened to my career. I moved all the network services to Linux, and we have never looked back. Suddenly, I was a fraction-time admin, rather than a mostly full-time one, and I could finally write that PhD thesis I'd been putting off. If they hadn't stolen that SPARC, I'd still be locked in an eternal struggle with Slowaris instead of doing science.

    From my involvement with Linux (since the days of 1.0.x) and commercial Unixen (besides Solaris, I have risked prolonged exposure to AIX, HP-UX, and SCO), I have this image in my head of various Unixen as dinosaurs. They're still big, strong and deadly. They also happen to be scaly, ugly (SCO's the ugliest of all!), clumsy, and totally unable to adapt. And there's this bunch of small, quick mammals (mammalian penguins?) scrambling around underfoot, and they seem to be beating the ugly idiots to all the choicy bits of food. And at the rate the penguings have been evolving lately, the dinosaurs may find themselves mounted at the Smithsonian a lot sooner than they ever expected.

    In my other job (nobody makes a living doing science in Russia these days. There's always a second job), I've been doing some serious software development, mostly Air Traffic Control applications. We started with Russian airports, and have recently moved out to Europe. Initially we decided to gamble on Linux. And in the 1.0.x days, it was quite a gamble. ATC meant _very serious_ high-availability. So we set up dual boxes (one as hot-standby), and did the fallback/fallover stuff in the application software. (It worked beautifully. Somewhere out in Siberia, one of our systems is still cheerfully running 1.2.13. It's still the most stable system their airport has got. And the main reason they could afford it in the first place was the "cost" of GNU and Linux.) My boss kept rumbling about "time to move our stuff to a real Unix", but I managed to keep that idea sidetracked until it sort of died on its own somewhere around the time of the Oracle/Informix announcements. During our most recent installation this summer, I had great fun working side by side with some guys from Sweden who were delivering another system at this airport. Theirs was based on AIX. Bizzarely enough, they developed in Visual C++ under NT, then built under AIX. Talk about perversions... They were serfing on this well into the night. We were in and out of the place in two weeks, with all acceptance testing complete, which was a sort of a local record (the testing is very exhaustive and time-consuming); for all I know, the AIX/NT guys are still delivering theirs. Every time I looked over their shoulder, I could see the word "dinosaur" flash in my mind. When they looked over mine and saw DDD, they just went away, shoulders slumped. Compared to them, our Linux development environment (nothing more than a bunch of free software working _real well_ together), was like flying to crawling. But the best part was the look on one guy's face. He was the local engineer placed in charge of the Swedish system, the guy who would be responsible for running it once the developers went home. Here's how the look came about. I had a couple of hours to waste, so I slapped together a nice little "monitoring console" for the sysadmin's workstation. It was not in the customer's requirements, I just did it for fun. Nothing more complex than a few xosviews and xloads swallowed in a button bar. It turned out quite well, in that it looked cool, and was actually useful for keeping track of whether each machine (there were five) was running as intended (i.e., not running out of memory, or burning up CPU when it shouldn't). So just when I was demonstrating this new feature to our contact (the engineer assigned to maintain our system), the sysadmin for the Swedes' system wandered by. He spent some time drooling at the flashing xosview windows, and just then (perfect timing!), someone accidentally pulled the output signal cable in the back of the rack. The system initiated a voice notification (it monitors the signal), in a pleasant female voice. At this point the guy got this amazed/dreamy look on his face, then turned to our contact, and said, "You lucky bastard!"

    Anyway, didn't mean to run on so. Original point was, I've done more than enough work in both environments, and there's few things that Solaris does better by any definition. It's rock solid and sophisticated, but it's also unwieldy and full of cruft. Did somebody compare it to a BMW here? BMWs are a joy to drive. This thing is more like an 18-wheeler. It won't die, but I believe that it will eventually be forced out to habitate exclusively where it really belongs: on high-end SMP SPARCcenters and the like, where Larry Ellison can generate more benchmarks to humiliate micros~1 (the mutant cockroach of my ecosystem concept). And the Whitmore piece is a sorry excuse for an article.
  • What would be really cool is if java had a callback mechanism that allowed for a function to be called when data became ready. This is one of the (few) cool things about NT.


"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson