Dump Linux now!

Dump Linux now!


I have always been a fan of fringe operating systems.

Between 1989 and 1992, I learned and used VMS, OS/2 2.0, NeXTStep on those beautiful cubes, GeoWorks, AmigaOS, and probably half-a-dozen others that I don't recall at the moment. I loved the diversity, the differences, the similarities. Booting an unfamiliar operating system for the first time always gave me a rush of geeky machismo, usually accompanied by the irresistible urge to grow a thick mustache and learn to fence with a saber.

Perhaps it's a sickness peculiar to geeks. Or maybe it's just me.

My favorite of the lot was NeXTStep. I couldn't install it at home, though, so my second favorite was OS/2, with the simple and powerful workplace shell, and DOS-like shell.

I knew a little bit about Unix through the NeXT. My curiosity was sharp in those days, insatiable. I fired up WAIS and Gopher and Veronica, and looked around, trying to discover what I could about Unix.

This was September, 1993. My timing couldn't've been better. I found a reference to Linux, a freely-available Unix-like operating system. Archie did the rest.

I spent about two days downloading the twenty or thirty floppy images of the SLS distribution. I used the "rawrite" utility to dump the images to floppy. After just a couple of days, and copious perusal of the comp.os.linux usenet newsgroup, I had X11 running on my 386 with 4M RAM, and 40M hard drive. My favorite thing for the next two days was to watch multiple copies of xgas running simultaneously. It beat working, anyway.

That was my beginning with GNU/Linux, and for the last 13 years, I have used GNU/Linux almost exclusively. I am amused at people who ask, "Is Linux ready for the desktop?" Um, yeah. Only for the last decade.

But now I think it is time to dump GNU/Linux.

Don't get me wrong: I still love GNU/Linux. It's just gotten. . . boring. It's no longer the undiscovered country, the wild west, the final frontier. Forgive my metaphor mix-o-rama. I just want to say, Linux is so ready for the desktop, it's boring. There's really not much left for me to explore. The only reason GNU/Linux has managed to keep my attention this long is that it was born about the same time as the web, and the two have matured together. (A coincidence? Oh, I don't think so.)

There is now only one question. Where do I go from here?

Plan 9

What did Ken Thompson do after he was finished with Unix? He took everything he learned, and he designed a new operating system, Plan 9. Plan 9 is everything Unix wanted to be when it grew up. Plan 9 is also free software, released under the Lucent Public License, which is like the IBM Public License, only with the source-code redistribution requirements stripped off.

Inferno

Inferno is based on Plan 9. Designed as a high-performance operating system for small computers, Inferno has recently been released under a melange of free software licenses (MIT, GPL, LGPL, and Lucent Public Licence).

Menuet

Menuet is an operating system written entirely in assembly language. There are two versions, a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version. The 32-bit version is released under the GPL. The 64-bit version is not. Although it's not under active development, it is truly a wonderful little operating system.

ReactOS

And finally, for those too timid to explore the truly unmapped vistas of the software universe, there is ReactOS, a freely-available operating system designed to be binary-compatible with MS-Windows XP. The ReactOS homepage claims it is only alpha-level software, and not recommended for real use. Right.

Don't try this at home

This isn't a complete list of the Operating Systems for the Adventurous. There's the GNU Hurd, which boldly goes where no mutually-recursive acronym has gone before. There's Syllable, derived from the illustrious AtheOS. For the fans of BeOS, there's Haiku. And though even this list is incomplete, I will add one more: Minix3.

None of these systems are recommended for daily use, at least for little sissy-boys. But, for those of you adventurous enough, brave enough, crazy enough, any one of these operating systems should be able to bring a little something new to your life.

You too can re-live the early days before GNU/Linux became mainstream. Or, you can experience it all for the first time.

Join me. Dump GNU/Linux. Live on the edge once more.

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Comments

maravind's picture
Submitted by maravind on

I don't know but I've been feeling the same for some past 6-8 months. Everything is so pointy-and-clicy in the GNU/Linux world. When I first heard (and dived head first into) Linux world, there was some amount of poking and proding involved.

Some tweaking here, system hangs, ihaling the man pages to find out, what the trouble was, et cetera, et cetera.

Now its so ... boring! (I do agree very much with the author)

I remember taking my laptop (Acer TravelMate 2428) and installing Ubutu 6.06 in it. I had suspected that I'll have at least a week's work to get on WiFi at college. Sadly, the network was detected and I was online before I knew what to do.

Some weenies blabbing about Desktop Linux would argue that Linux is near the mark. But I see it different. I always re-phrase the question "Is Linux ready for Desktop?" to "Are you ready for Desktop Linux?".

Well, maybe the Hurd will become the OS we've always dreamed of. Pray no company hijacks the development and leaves all the geeks stranded looking for an alternative.

So if Linux is dumped, what will we do with Windows? Should we adopt it as an alternative? What will we do with all the converts trying to enlighten their friends with GNU/Linux? What will we..

I guess the author will answer me.

Along the same lines I blame it on all the "commercial" companies that are backing up the Linux hype that's ruining the geek paradise.

"Where we go from here, is a choice I leave to you" -- Neo

Anthony Taylor's picture

I think this is what we do:

We ignore it, just like we do now. Well, mostly we ignore it now. Sort of. Some of us, anyway.

GNU/Linux will be fine for most people. It's perfectly acceptable on the desktop, and in the server, and in your cell phone. (BTW: anyone else anxious to get their hands on one of these Linux cell phones?)

GNU/Linux is a great system. We direct those who aren't OS adventurers to GNU/Linux, and we go play in a new playground, something with new ideas and new code, something that may help us in the future by making hard things simple.

Anyway. I don't know if that's much of an answer, but it's what I have.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You should have installed Slackware on that laptop. It STILL would have detected the wireless... but you wouldn't have any pansy point-n'-click tools to do it for you.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It's true, GNU/Linux is a mature system now. A little boring? yes, but functional and the best thing is that we can make bigger and better systems above this boring and mature base. Computing is not only hardware+OS stuff, we can start to work in things like great VMs with multiple languages & multiple visual & programming paradigms, AI, etc.
There is a whole world of posibilities waiting to be constructed over some good base.
Happy hacking!
Cristian

marienoelleb's picture

This article would be interesing if the author had not claimed that "one of these systems are recommended for daily use, at least for little sissy-boys". such comments have no place on a professional forum.

Marie-Noëlle Baechler
Belmont-sur-lausanne / Suisse

Laurie Langham's picture

I agree. The author definitely should have stated that the systems were for neither, "little sissy-boys or little sissy-girls".

thlinux's picture
Submitted by thlinux on

I agree that Linux has gotten a little boring now that Suse, Ubuntu, and Linspire have taken over the desktop scene. THey have made it so that anyone can use Linus. Wasn't that the plan? Shouldn't the goal have been to make an OS that is open and free and usable. I don't think boring is such a bad thing in this case. It just means that if you want to go beating yourself over the head trying to learn something new, then Linux is probably not the way to go. I like that there are other projects out there that want to grown up like Linux did. We should cherish this time. The moments before Linux begins taking up desktops of Moms, grandparents, children, and Mac users. We are in the beginning of the era of open software. Now to make it really successful you must find a way for companies to profit from it. Otherwise truly profunctary research will go down the drain. As a geek I'm with you. Time to beat ourselves over the head learning something new. Our children will thank us for everything we did to make Linux mainstream.

Open Source is the only way to go.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I think Linus might take offense to that statement you made in your post.

"THey have made it so that anyone can use Linus. Wasn't that the plan?"

I guess we can add a new conspiracy theory in with all the others. Now Suse, Ubuntu, and Linspire conspire to use Linus...lololol...I think it's kinda catchy. But then that's just me...j/k...8P

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You will rediscover Linux, I don't know what distro you used before but it was for sure boring.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I second that recommendation!

I've mainly been using SuSE Linux over the last few years. And yes, it's getting boring. But when my customers have mission-critical needs, that's what I continue to set up for them, because I know it will just work.

And for my own backup server, I continue to run SuSE. But for my main desktop machine, I felt the need for something a little more exciting. That's why it's running Gentoo. It was an adventure to set up, and it continues to be an adventure in day-to-day use. Every time I update something, I can't be sure what's going to stop working. If you want to put some spice into your computing life, I can recommend it. :)

Lawrence D'Oliveiro

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I can understand the author... I thought like that 10 years ago. Exactly the same, but now, I am old enough to have my companies, and make money.
I really do not want my system to crash, nor I have time to endlessly optimize something that I would gain 0.1% of something and be proud of myself.
I want money, I want my system to work, I want to get things done the easiest way possible.
What I do not want is to pay for something that does not do the above.

Conclusion: linux meet my requirements, linux gets the job done, linux is boring and I like it that way

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I feel the same in many ways .. its all getting a bit too easy now, and I cant see too many areas where I can make a big impact on the direction that things are going in.

Suggest you have a look at the Playstation3. Its not too hard to get linux running on there .. which is an adventure in itself .. but the cool factor lies in the Cell processor.

I can see a LOT of uncharted territory ahead in optimising linux apps to run on the cell platform, splitting up existing applications to run in parallel over those lovely SPU's, and squeezing every last bit of horsepower out of that hardware. Its potential is untapped.

Supporting this sort of work will have an impact - imagine a world where a low-cost, high-volume, readily available entertainment console makes a better PC than a PC ... its going to make a difference. Ditto with linux on Wii.

Oh - and windows will never run native on these devices either - one more reason to get excited.

Exciting times ahead.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I even had Xenix on a Tandy 68000, and Sys3v7 on another 68K box. You can get Inferno for Linux, and for a mind blowing treat, try the Cell SDK running under RedHat.
But for something different and exciting in the Linux world, why not try out the latest Live Dyne 2.3 distro that will boot and run off flash memory, has real time extensions on a 2.6.18 kernal, and does wonderous things with realtime media on and off line.
Add to that the ability to add your own squashed modules onto the /opt tree, use the inbuilt SDK to modify initrd and the /usr tree, boot the squashed system off the hard drive or memory stick and you've got a real hackers plaything all over again with the added benefit that you are using the concepts and tools you are familiar with.
Try it. Its the same but very different.

Stomfi, Australia

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Okay Linux is boring because... it's gotten too good? Because it works all the time? Because ordinary people can use it? Linux is starting to really threaten the status quo and is changing the world... and you're BORED by this? Dude, i think you've developed a fairly preverse idea of what constitutes "interesting".

An operating system is a tool that is supposed to facilitate the sharing of information and applications. It's not a puzzle for you to figure out so that you can demonstrate your superiority to others. I mean, if you're into that kind of approach, I guess there's nothing wrong with it, but is sure sounds boring to me.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I am also have oppurtinity to use SunOS (yes, before Solaris came out), Solaris, IRIX, NeXT,*BSD, Amiga, ... but, at last I still in love with GNU/Linux until TODAY. There is an OS that only available in Japan, Sharp Human68k OS + SXWindow which runs on Sharp X68000 series PC (MC68000 + MC68881), that I really missed. But today it resurrected in my GNU/Linux system, by using WINE + emulator (xm6). Most of the OSes that the author mentioned can be run in Virtual Machine (VM). I am using qemu to runs OpenSolaris, Reactos, ... I not getting bored using Linux, it is always a new experience everyday with GNU/Linux.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Those people complaining that Linux has become boring should realise that the problem is actually themselves, not Linux. It's like blaming the TV if you become a couch potato.

More graphical tools are available for Linux. If you want to, you CAN use them. If not, all of the pre-graphical commands are still there. That's what's great about it. You can burn a CD with K3B, or use cdparanoia. I have Linux servers installed without any X11 at all - just console (plain, ugly and low memory footprint). I have one computer which I keep on the bleeding edge - everything compiled from source and with all sorts of tweaks and tuning, 99% beta software, easy to break in new and exciting ways. On the other hand I have my work computer installed with plain Ubuntu edgy - because that is a computer I just want to switch on and work with. There are times when I DON'T want an exciting OS, I just want a functioning, familiar, simple OS where I spend my time working on it, not making it work. In fact, I don't want to be aware of the OS at all.

Some of the OS's you mentioned sound like they're going to be interesting in the future, but at the moment most of them are only interesting to OS developers and the like - the OS becomes the main application rather than a platform for using other, productive, application software.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

since novell sold us out and Ubuntu used proprietary drivers since its inception ive moved on to pcbsd it works for me !!!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Slackware is still rock solid yet highly configurable. You can get first rate info & then get stuck in to make it sit up & beg if you are after a bit of fun.

People criticise slackware for being old school - sounds just up your street.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You guys life my dream!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

My way out of getting bored with Linux is Gentoo, since I find it fun to make things that work to work exactly my way. Unfortunately, this trains my ability to notice flaws and totally ruins my accord with Windows.

fragglet's picture
Submitted by fragglet on

Yeah, because when something becomes popular it's no longer "cool". Give me a break.

Ukubuntu's picture
Submitted by Ukubuntu on

I am glad to hear about how stable you find Linux, and I am sure it is. Newbies to the OS (especially from Windows) generally find it a considerable nightmare to come to learn the new set of rules. And no one is at fault for that.

I feel there are always challenges, and though new to Linux I can see areas that are suitable for development, I also feel that the issue of drivers are still required for many items of hardware, promoting greater user friendliness, developing software that currently is perfectly usable but lacks the usability and functions of some commercial software, teaching new coders in order to prolong and protect the OS, Testing software, simulators and the like.

I am one who starts well tails in the middle and the less said about the end the better. But I am sure challenges will always arise. True The tech community needs forward thinkers, but developing what is already here could benefit even more.

Author information

Anthony Taylor's picture

Biography

Tony Taylor was born, causing his mother great discomfort, and has lived his life ever since. He expects to die some day. Until that day, he hopes to continue writing, and living out his childhood dream of being a geek.