% fortune -ae paul murphy

Shadows over Linux

Do you know what NexentaOS is? It's an example of things to come, things that scare IBM and Red Hat: a complete ZFS bootable openSolaris distribution combining the Gnu and other open source utilities with a Solaris kernel -and it's downloadable free of charge from opensolaris.org.

Right now it's an early beta (ISO here ) but it's a harbinger of things to come: multiple special purpose Solaris distributions, apparently including a PPC product set that should eventually run on Power6!

In an ideal world the Linux community would greet this kind of thing with enthusiasm because we're all pushing the same interests, we're all up against market indifference, ignorance, and the power of Microsoft's checkbook, and the multiplicity of Unix variants naturally reflects both the power of diversity and the complexity of the market.

That's why I consider myself a Unix bigot, not a Linux, Solaris, or BSD/MacOS X bigot: the enemy outside the Unix tent is cost, complexity, ignorance, and mob rule - all the things Microsoft makes money on - not people pursuing other versions of Unix.

Sadly that's not how a lot of my Linux enthusiast friends see things: to them, I'm outside their tent - and they get very unhappy when I tell them that, from here, it's easy to see some oversize shadows pulling the strings they're dancing too.

That anti-Sun thing they've got going? Sure some of the heat is a natural response to seeing stuff like nexentaCP hitting the market - but it's all based on the mistaken perception that market competition equals technical and personal competition. That's simply not true - and in fact it's possible to trace one of the many roots of the Torvalds rant I quoted on Monday to a deliberate Red Hat marketing strategy. Here's something Red Hat's Mark de Visser said during a 2003 interview with newsfactor's Joe Brockmeier:

"Our CEO has said that the path to Redmond is through Mountain View. We focus on Unix now, and once we gain the upper hand ... we believe we can ultimately displace Microsoft, even on the desktop.

So you know what's going on? It's the same strategy sports teams use to sell more seats: create an Us Vs Them worldview and pretend that somehow a bunch of jocks with no loyalties beyond dollars and careers represent a community - it's pure marketing manipulation and when they get someone like Torvalds to spout off an anti-Unix rant it diminishes him while profiting companies like IBM and Red Hat; because don't kid yourself, this stuff is in their interest - not yours, not the product's, not the community's, and certainly not that of the players involved.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.