Responding to OSNews

27 Jan '05 - 01:10 by benr

So Tamarah is at a meeting tonight and won't be back for about an hour and Nova crashed out early on me so I thought I'd run through some of the comments out there. The /. comments were pretty cut and dry, predominately positive, and because comments are threaded anything that was just plain wrong was quickly corrected. OSNews isn't quite so threaded, so I thought I'd reply to some of the interesting and/or negative comments to correct them or at least provide some feedback, at least from one community member. Remember, I don't work for Sun, I'm just a pilot member, which means I have some but not all of the inside scoop and all these opinions are my own. On with the comments:

solaris strength's are in the Kernel. ZFS, Dtrace, TCP/IP stack, etc.

The rest of the OS is playing catchup to linux. The tools? why the GNU tools for the most part are being ported to Solaris to improve those. Servers, interface? etc, are in general ports of standard F/OSS software. Maybe their version of X will be nice, but don't expect much else.

As for kernel toys, Dtrace is slowly being created by kprobes(which are now dynamic if you actually look),

The big thing is ZFS, which might get a GPL port.

As for developers, there are 100 of them now on 'Open Solaris' Geez how many developers did Sun have working on Solaris? It's not to hard to see where those first 100 came from. Also Sun said they would release the entire OS this month, now it's June. Let me Guess June will turn into August? [peragrin]

Okey, so thanks for pointing out the strengths of Solaris10. I'd add to that SMF (Service Management Facility, part of the Self Healing stuff) which is the first real major change to give us something better than the old RC Init system we've had, Janus for running Linux binaries (personally I don't think it's a big deal, almost all of these apps will recompile cleanly on Solaris anyway, so only closed source apps are really an issue), and my personal favorite: Zones (if you want to compare Zones, aka Grid Containers, with User-Mode Linux, Xen, or even Linux VServers, you just haven't seen Zones in action yet).

As for the tools, where talking about the base OS here, so the tools will be the standard *NIX toolset we all know and love. Has GNU really made superior tools to whats in Solaris? Not really. Is GNU Tar better than Solaris Tar? We'd all say yes, but only because some nice features like integrated decompression (-z or -j) are built in. So, the GNU replacement tools are nifty but really just add alot of neat features to the same tools we all know and love on just about any platform. Some things are speed up and stuff, but cat is cat. And, when it comes to OpenSolaris it frankly doesn't matter anyway. I can guarrentee you that one of the first things that'll happen post-release is that someone will build a GNU-ized distribution (this isn't a license issue because your not merging code), where you have GNU binutils, etc, ontop of a Solaris kernel. I imagine people will probly write in GNU like option handling to Solaris tools over time, they just won't look at GNU code when they do it.

KProbes? Please. Bryan Cantrill would like nothing more than to see every *NIX OS on the planet have a DTrace like functionality built in. And, I'd imagine he's hoping that it'll happen. He knows that people can and will try to do it, and he's commented on the KProbes progress for awhile. Will it be as solid as DTrace? So far it doesn't look like it, but it'd be kool if it was. I'm all behind KProbes really taking off and those guys are working hard.

ZFS won't port due to license restrictions, so thats out. GNU or someone else might try to build a filesystem to compete with ZFS, and if so, kool. Besides, I think the idea that kernel code can be ported back and forth has been overblown. It's just not that easy to yank out kernel bits and plug them in elsewhere. Can you port DTrace? Probly not, but even if you could, it would sure as hell be easier to take the idea behind DTrace and reimplement it from scratch, making the only place interesting to borrow code the D-language parsers.

But as for the number of developers and the release date. A lot of people are saying the same thing, that no one should trust that Sun will get OpenSolaris's buildable source out the door on time. But there is something to remember, there are (at last public say) 60+ pilot members external to Sun, which means if they are late on delivering the code one of the following is true: 1) 60+ developers are screaming bloody hell trying to figure out what the holdup is, or 2) There is something that needs serious fixing before it goes wide open that is a major show stopping issue. In either cases, you'll have a ton of us blogging about it. Solaris FCS releases are a diffrent beast than most because Sun realizes that it's not just geeks that run the OS or small companies, but banks, and governments, and hospitals. In a very real sense peoples lives depend on systems running Solaris and they take that dead (no pun) seriuosly, which is why Sun has absolutely no problem holding a release for acouple weeks to get it right.

Anyway, peragrin isn't a believer, but thats kool. I thought he made some good points. On to the next!

Anyone know what compilers are used to compile Solaris for x86? Intel compilers? SUN proprietary? [HIRE ME!]

Jonathan Adams pointed out that GCC 3.4.3 ships with Solaris10 and can build AMD64 today, but he didn't know about the SPARC side. Hireme continues...

Was just wondering since SUN sells a C compiler as a seperate product It seems to me that the SUN C compiler would be the prefered way to compile any OpenSolaris source code. Perhaps i am confusing the Sparc side of things with the x86 side but the source is supposed to be the same for both platforms. This opens up a whole new realm of porting. Imagine Solaris running on Power 5 or PA-RISC... [HIRE ME!]

I bring this up only because several people have really worried about it. Some people have even screamed "Well, it's not really free is it if you can't compile it!!!". I can not disclose plans, or direction, but I'll say this: Sun writes a lot of software, has hundreds of engineers and some of the smartest minds in the industry... do you really think they'd open the codebase, spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and more than 10 years on this effort and then just sorta forget that you can't compile it?!? Come on... there is a plan.

On a side note, Sun Studio 10 was just released which is an upgrade containing primarily X86 and AMD64 optimizations and performance improvements that (Sun says) produces much faster binaries than GCC. You can download a free trial for Solaris (X86, AMD64 and SPARC) and Linux (32 and 64bit).

Ok, last one.

Everytime there's a Sun thread, people are comparing Linux to Solaris and vice versa. Is there a particular reason why the BSDs are never compared to Solaris in these threads? [Salacious]

There were lots of other good comments to respond too, but this one really really interests me. He makes a really great point, why does everyone forget that the *BSD's exist? When I've been talking to the press (or even some people within Sun - you know who you are) they talk about how "Linux has more applications than Solaris!" or "Linux has more developers than Solaris!". Well, there are two major problems with this ancient bullshit old skool thinking, something that us little hacker people know but apparently industry analysts haven't figured out, how many "Linux developers" are working on the kernel? Not that many, I recently heard that by Linus' count it's about 200. Ok, so the rest of the "Linux developers" are working on libraries and applications, and all those goodies. Are the Xorg guys "Linux developers"? Are the Apache guys "Linux Developers"? No, they aren't writting Linux kernel code and their applications don't have to run on Linux. All these apps have been running on FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, IRIX, QNX and more for ages. In the open source community (not the "Linux community") developers on BSD and Linux often work in lock step. For instance, in the Enlightenment Project of which I am a part we have one developer who only works on PPC and very often OSX, another who only works on BSD, another (me) who does most work on Solaris, and a large number of people that run our applications on these platforms and more (IRIX, HP-UX, AIX, Tru64).

During the press interviews I've done in the last week each time a reporter has said "But what do you say to those who think that Solaris will never have the number of developers that Linux has?" I can't help but think to myself "Those poor BSD guys". Because the BSD guys work their frickin' asses off!!! I can't tell you how much respect I have for all the BSD guys (and gals) out there, because they are so massively commited and there are so many bad ass skilled people working on the BSDs that it's just unbelievable... but do they get any glory? Hell no. The question is an obvious, "WTF!?!?". And sadly I don't have an answer, but what I've found out during the last couple weeks is that almost all of the battles we're fighting with OpenSolaris is a battle that the BSD guys have been fighting for a long long time. And look at the legacy of FreeBSD, for instance; FreeBSD 1.0 released in December of 1993! In contrast Linux 1.0 released in March of 1994 and was pretty scary but moving along, BSD had stability galore. You call Solaris a toy and a joke, you forget that Linux was a disaster for a long time. But lets be honest, it was messy and nasty and bad by todays standards, but it was in it's infancy at the time and a remarkable achievement, and even with it's faults we loved it and held it and worked on it together to make it was it has become. For years and years Linux was just laughable when put side by side with BSD, but did that stop anyone or did that slow developement? Hell no, they worked harder (and ported the best bits) and puffed out there chests a bit and then worked some more. Arguably both FreeBSD and particularlly now OpenBSD have some things up their sleeves that really let them point and laugh at Linux, but for some reason it's just not that big a deal. Why the BSD guys don't throw a tantrum I dunno... I think they are just too kool and mature to scream like angry children about it (but I'm not). But everything aside it comes down to this, everything that the "Linux community" wants to take credit for and be proud about the BSD guys did first, and not just first but years ahead. When you look at the major movements lining up now, you can see that BSD and GNU both were light years ahead of the upstart Linux and Solaris has built heavily on BSD's lineage (which Scott points out frequently... maybe too frequently).

Okey, I don't really wanna start a flame war... I love Linux, I've defended Linux, and I run Linux as a desktop system because the driver support is just unbeatable right now and Solaris/X86 isn't a good Quake3 system for nVidia 6660GT AGP cards fully accellerated. I went to Linux10 and subsiquent events, I went to the first ever LinuxWorld, I have many friends who worked for VA, I pushed companies and all of my employeers to consider running Linux when Solaris/SPARC wasn't a good fit, etc, etc, etc. I've loved Linux as much as anyone else can and still do, but to make a bad analogy:

*** Welcome to #fakeroom
Linux: open source rules! freedom baby!
*** OpenSolaris Enters #fakeroom
OpenSolaris: y0. this open source thing is sw33t. I hope people will like me, I've got some kool stuff.
Linux: I thought you were priopriatary! Damned wannabe!
OpenSolaris: But freedom rules, right? I wanna be free too, and all these people think my features are kinda sweet but think they can help me be even kooler.. I just wanna let them hack on me if they wanna.
Linux: Fine, whatever, everyone knows your just cashin' in.. HP, IBM, RedHat, they know that I'm the only way, everyone else just is a wannabe trying to copy my success, l00ser.
OpenSolaris: everyone? but what about that guy?
* OpenSolaris points into dark corner, long grey haired geek appears
BSD: Ya, I was wondering when someone would notice me... but Linux here never bothers to look around untill he needs something!

Oh man, I can see the hate mail now.... I better setup a new procmail filter tonight. But I hope maybe some of my point gets through... BSD, Linux, OpenSolaris, GNU, whatever, there are lots and lots of kernels and operating systems out there, especially in our space, the open source space, just because the snazzy catch phrase "open source" (personally I prefer free software) got tagged and slapped on Linux doesn't mean that everything else is inferior or somehow unblessed. A lot of people bust their asses on projects that don't have any direct correlation to Linux beyond the fact that the developer themselves and the bulk of the users probly are running Linux too. If someone called Apache a "Linux Application" and I were a FreeBSD user I'd be pissed off! If someone called KDE a "Linux Application" I'd be upset. We can all understand why people would say that, sure, because most of the users are gonna be on Linux, but we forget that to the larger old-skool world "Linux Application" means something completely diffrent! When the press hear "Linux App" they think of it like "Windows App". Remember when the reason people bought Windows over MacOS was the fact that "no software exists for Mac"? And so this war started between Microsoft and Apple to plead, beg, and bribe developers to come to their side of the table... well, sadly, in the modern world many people still think like that! They say "open source everything" out of one side and "Linux has more application than any other *NIX platform" on the other. Most open source apps can run on FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, HP-UX, Tru64, AIX, IRIX, or whatever with little to no porting needed, and most of that porting is actually only needed if your not willing to use GNU LibC on the other platform. Maybe I'm not the only person to point this out, but now trying to talk to people about OpenSolaris and where we're going I feel closer to the BSD guys than ever before.

Okey, so those are just my personal thoughts and no one else is responsable for them. Again, I don't work for Sun so don't flame mail them. Comments are welcome, if your really pissed and don't want to comment you can email me, but I think alot of us can admit that what we little people (coders, admins, g33ks) understand as "how things are" and what the tech press and businesses and managers and CIOs and folks understand are often not so similar as we want to think. In alot of ways they still jsut don't get it. It's like that famous line from the Simpson's when Bart goes to Australia to get booted and in the pub Marge says "COF-FEE" and the barkeep repeats "BE-ER", you know the one. In the end, at least at the bottom, we're all one big happy disfunctional family changing the world one subroutine at a time... we just stop occasionally to beat each other up. :)

- - C O M M E N T S - -

“ZFS won’t port due to license restrictions”

I know other OS projects can’t copy code, but what about clean room implementations (ie doing it from scratch)? Are there patents that sun has on ZFS that they are willing to defend?

Thomas Cort (Email) (URL) - 27 January '05 - 06:43

ďI can guarrentee you that one of the first things thatíll happen post-release is that someone will build a GNU-ized distribution (this isnít a license issue because your not merging code), where you have GNU binutils, etc, ontop of a Solaris kernel.Ē

The FSF would claim that it is a license issue. According to the FSF (thereís some more general support for this, but itís vaguely dodgy and has never been tested), a compiled binary is a derived work of both the source code and any libraries that itís linked against. If the source code is GPLed, then the license of the libraries must be GPL-compatible. The license of Opensolarisís C library wonít be GPL compatible, and so it wonít be legal to distribute the GNU userland with it.

(Thereís an exemption in the GPL to allow things like gcc to be run on non-GPL compatible OSs Ė something like ďIf the library is distributed with the OS, it doesnít need to be GPL compatibleĒ. But this only applies if the binary isnít distributed with the OS. So Sun can provide gcc, but not on the same CD as Solaris. Someone can produce a GNU userland for Opensolaris, but it canít be distributed with it.)

Matthew Garrett (Email) - 27 January '05 - 07:18

I would be very surprised (and dismayed) if the Solaris code was written in a way that the GCC developers would not be able to adjust GCC (assuming said “adjustment” was even needed) to compile the OpenSolaris OS. Simply put, Sun Studio is way out of the price range of the average Schmoe, and Sun would be shooting itself in the foot. This would be an a priori limitation put on the number of future OpenSolaris developers (and a contradiction in terms). Sun makes some silly mistakes; I don’t see this as becoming one of them.

signed: Someone who will never be able to afford Studio, especially for the limited tinkering he does.

Rainer Heilke - 27 January '05 - 12:28

I like the IRC script. BSD guys on average, *cough*theo*cough, are fairly good about the whole Linux thing. I have been a FreeBSD/Slackware guy for quite awhile and nobody cares that I am not a “true believer.” It would be nice if people who put all their energy into fighting for one platform or another would use their time on making all the platforms work well together.

Anyway, I have been following these blogs because I am one of the reviewers for Solaris 10 and this one was a nice breath of fresh air.

Ryan - 27 January '05 - 14:47

Rainer: Like I said… heheh… it’s allllll been figured out. Sun ain’t gonna leave you hangin’. There are plenty of ways they can solve this, but trust me, you’ll be happy.

Ryan: Hah, kool, I’m glad the post didn’t make you upset. I agree, some people seem to miss the old Win-vs-Mac or Win-vs-UNIX days and just have to fight. Its like the bulk of the Linux zealots forget that the things they are spewing at OpenSolaris (no developer, lost cause, no one will use it) are EXACTLY the sorts of these they fought tooth and nail! This is why negative comments from Bruce Parens and those old time hardcore people who faught so hard to legitamize Linux are now doing the same things Microsoft and IBM did to them. But whatever, short memories I guess.

Matthew: I don’t think so. Just so long as no code mingles I think we’re ok. Obviously binary distribution isn’t a problem at all, Solaris today (9 and 10) and other proprietary UNIX’ ship with GNU binaries onboard. I don’t think you’d ever see GNU code shipped with OpenSolaris code, why would you, the only reason the code itself might get close to eachother would be in metadistros like Gentoo where your building OpenSolaris and GNU tools from source, but you wouldn’t get the together, you’d still FTP the GNU code from a GNU mirror and the OpenSolaris code from an OpenSolaris mirror (or rsync, or whatever) and build away. I don’t think there is any reason we’d get into a place where it became a big issue. Obviously, however, you raise an interesting point and maybe I should sit down and study the impact of all possibilties of GPL stuff in any form on a CDDL base OS to see what comes up… I don’t think it’s a problem but I’ll admit to not sitting with a laywer and considering every possible outcome. (People at Sun have however, wish I had an internal reports or something if it existed. :))

benr - 27 January '05 - 19:46

No point in sweating the nonsense about Linux and OpenSolaris. Both will now be peer reviewed and under essentially coded under meritocracies. Hopefully, there will be cross fertilization. Everyone has DNA , but not everyone has the same DNA. Likewise with OSes. Each fills it’s niche and is good at what it does. We surely don’t need a monoculture, especially a Microsoft one! You’ve been getting a lot of press today. Possibly, you’ll be hired soon.

John Moore (Email) (URL) - 27 January '05 - 22:35

I’ve sampled some of the responses to the announcement, and Ben’s comments are the best so far. Another free (as in freedom) operating system can only be a positive development. Linux and BSD have coexisted for years; why do some journalists
and other commentators feel the need to read the opensolaris announcement as an attack on Linux, rather than as a major contribution to the free software (or pen-source world? As a supporter of free software (both for the reasons of RMS and those of ESR) I don’t regard this as an attempt to undermine the community.
On the compiler question, Sun could require the use of a binary-only compiler, but that would also be an effective way of annoying potential developers, or encouraging them to circumvent the problem by extending a free compiler (barring patent issues, that is). I think the calculation on Sun’s part would be not to go down that path unless there were an enormous cost saving to be made or preventing ports to new rachitectures were considered a priority – so I don’t think the project will be saddled with anon-free compiler at least in the long term.
We should also consider the legal issues. Actually, the first hint that Sun might be serious about opening up a free software option for Solaris came when it was announced that they had bought a licence from SCO. The obvious question at the time was this: what were they licencing? Without going into the details, I thought they were most likely acquiring a more liberal licence to the System V code in Solaris, and the clearest motive would be to enable the free software path as an option which could be taken in the future.
As to building a community around the code, Sun already has experience of this with The key question to ask is what motivations potential developers might have to work with Opensolaris sources – some might be attracted by the features of the system, some by having jobs involving Solaris (needing to add that new feature or fix that bug), and others by the desire to gain experience with another os. Surely there are other motivations I haven’t listed. As Ben notes, authors of free software will have another free platform on which to compile and test their code – most packages are written to compile on Solaris anyway. I don’t know how much of a community this creates around the code but there are clear opportunities to foster it.

Jason - 28 January '05 - 01:19

Perhaps Sun will liberalise Sun Studio licensing a bit…am I too far out in hoping that the will put it under CDDL?

True about the BSD’s, personally I am warming to FreeBSD the more that I use it, especially on my lower-end machines.

Ché Kristo (Email) (URL) - 29 January '05 - 19:49

Re: Jason—IIRC the press release mentioned a sum of
only a few (less than 10) million USD. That’s hardly like to
be an extended or more liberal SVR4 license. In fact, I
know read somewhere that it was for device drivers.
I don’t care what /. or osnews posters believe
they have a woeful record with actual facts.

Re: Matthew—gcc is now “integrated” with Solaris and
comes in the SUNWgcc package. It is very definitely
distributed on the same cdrom as Solaris.

James - 30 January '05 - 20:19

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