[TUHS] [OT?] 1993 'Sourceware' paper anniversary. What was right & any surprises?

Theodore Ts'o tytso at mit.edu
Thu Nov 10 16:14:35 AEST 2022

On Thu, Nov 10, 2022 at 12:28:49PM +1100, David Arnold wrote:
> > On 10 Nov 2022, at 11:47, segaloco via TUHS <tuhs at tuhs.org> wrote:
> > 
> > What I find incredibly interesting any time the concept of
> > fragmentation comes up is how did several versions of UNIX with
> > slightly differing interfaces create such a headache for UNIX
> > vendors and users in the day, but now we've got a Linux/BSD
> > landscape out there with still pretty significant differences
> > between distributions and UNIX's progeny seem to be doing just
> > fine.
> > 
> > Were users looking for different things from their computers in
> > the 90s vs today?  Have folks just gotten more used to variability
> > in computing environments and just accept it as part of the plan?
> Two things, I think:
> a) Today most identifiably Unix software is “sourceware”, and so the
> > differences between Linuxes, *BSD, and macOS are fairly easily
> > taken care of (eg. with autotools).

I'd also argue that (a) the differences between the Linuxes aren't as
big some people would make it out to be --- especially compared to the
differences between AIX and Solaris and HPUX, and (b) *BSD and macOS
has their ports and homebrew systems which also ease any pai that
isn't handled by autoconf and friends.

> b) A lot of Unix software is now distributed (more or less) by the
> OS vendor.  Packaging has hidden the portability problem from the
> end user.

In addition to that, a lot of user-desired functionality is made
available via dynamic web "appliances" (e.g., GMail, Concur for those
people who need to submit travel reports) as opposed to compiled
binaries.  I'm talking about pure web applications, of course, not
Java web apps.

My horror store from when I was working at IBM was that their expense
reporting tool was written in Java, but it only worked with the Sun
JRE.  But if you needed to use to configure an IBM Bladeserver, that
only worked with the IBM JRE.  So if I needed to submit an expense
report, I had to kill the browser, set the environment variables to
point at the Sun JRE, and then restart the browser and do the travel
report.  And then when I needed to go back to messing with a Blade
Server chasis, I had to kill the browser, and reset the environment
variables, and then restart the browser.

Ah, Java.... write once, debug everywhere.  :-)

						- Ted

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