What if Linux never existed?

Also in today’s open source roundup: An introduction to Linux filesystems, and a Mac user considers switching to elementary OS

A world without Linux

Linux has been around for a long time now, and many of us take it for granted as part of our everyday lives. But have you ever paused to consider what life would be like if Linux never existed? A writer at Network World recently explored this question based on some funny social media posts.

Bryan Lunduke reports for Network World:

Ever read a story so depressing, so utterly devoid of happiness, that you wonder why on Earth any fool would take the time to write it down? Just solid sadness beginning to end.

This, right here, is one of those stories.

What if (I think some of you are seeing where this is going) our strapping, young Finnish man was never bitten by a penguin? What if he never contracted penguinitis? And what if—WHAT IF—penguinitis also causes an overwhelming desire to build your own operating system. Without contracting this disease, Linus never even had the notion of building the Linux kernel in the first place.

In fact, he got bored of engineering altogether. He changed majors and became a dental hygienist—for cats.

Linux simply…never was.

More at Network World

Bryan’s article caught the attention of folks on the Linux subreddit and they shared their thoughts about a world without Linux:

MeowMixSong: “Then *BSD would have taken its place. It wouldn’t be too much different. Either *BSD would be default for servers, or the Hurd Kernel would have actually taken off.”

Yatea34: “I only agree if you’re thinking of SunOS 4.x and Ultrix and MacOS (BSD userspace with XNU kernel), etc.

Remember, BSD was way ahead of Linux for quite some time. BSD based SunOS 1.0 from 1983 and BSD based DEC Ultrix from 1984 are perhaps the most famous examples. But since the license didn’t require it, most of the enormous R&D invested in BSD forks wasn’t shared back.

Without competition from Linux, I can easily imagine BSD (in the forms of SunOS and Ultrix) as well as SysV (HPUX, AIX, IRIX, etc) would have continued to go strong – simply because Windows sucked technologically.

But probably strongest in their proprietary forks; and so expensive they wouldn’t have been economical platforms on which to build things like Google or Facebook.”

MeowMixSong: “And maybe without Linux, the Hurd project would have taken off. IIRC, Linus only coded the Linux kernel as a stop-gap until the HURD project was completed. Linux was meant to be a temporary measure only. Maybe if he hadn’t said the equivalent to “#### it" on Hurd, it would be complete by now.”

BigEars431: ““GPL is the reason Linux won” true…”

Mlts22: “We would be likely using Jolitz’s 386BSD or perhaps a fork from that.

If Linus hadn’t been around, what likely would have happened is that people would have started using 386BSD, not really cared about the BSD/GPL license issue because gcc would have been the compiler of choice. Eventually the BSD/GPL schism would have been worked out somehow in order to make 386BSD work and work well.

It makes me wonder how it would have turned out. We wouldn’t have had the one Linux kernel, multiple distribution model as we do now. Instead, we might have had a good number of forks, some adding SVR4 code, others keeping purely with the 4.3 Tahoe BSD.

Would it have been better? Who knows.”

Berobad: “We probably would be using Hurd, BSD, “insert kernel name” instead of the Linux-kernel with GNU.

Or one of the BSDs.”

Funkliford: “I doubt we’d be using HURD cause (at the time at least) it was flawed in a way that manpower wouldn’t fix.

But even if Linux wasn’t created the niche/desire/market/role it filled would still have existed and it would’ve almost certainly been filled with one of the BSDs, which were more polished and functional than Linux at the time and essentially ready to go.

Not only are we covered in this alternate reality, it almost happened in ours too. Hasn’t Torvalds pretty much said if it weren’t for the legal quagmire he wouldn’t have created it?”

Anubis_1993: “I’d still be using Windows. shudder”

More at Reddit

An introduction to Linux filesystems

Many people use Linux everyday for their computing needs without fully understanding how filesystems work. Fortunately, a writer at Opensource.com has a helpful overview of Linux filesystems that will shed some light on an important but often overlooked part of Linux.

David Both reports for Opensource.com:

This article is intended to be a very high-level discussion of Linux filesystem concepts. It is not intended to be a low-level description of how a particular filesystem type, such as EXT4, works, nor is it intended to be a tutorial of filesystem commands.

Every general-purpose computer needs to store data of various types on a hard disk drive (HDD) or some equivalent, such as a USB memory stick. There are a couple reasons for this. First, RAM loses its contents when the computer is switched off. There are non-volatile types of RAM that can maintain the data stored there after power is removed (such as flash RAM that is used in USB memory sticks and solid state drives), but flash RAM is much more expensive than standard, volatile RAM like DDR3 and other, similar types.

The second reason that data needs to be stored on hard drives is that even standard RAM is still more expensive than disk space. Both RAM and disk costs have been dropping rapidly, but RAM still leads the way in terms of cost per byte. A quick calculation of the cost per byte, based on costs for 16GB of RAM vs. a 2TB hard drive, shows that the RAM is about 71 times more expensive per unit than the hard drive. A typical cost for RAM is around $0.0000000043743750 per byte today.

For a quick historical note to put present RAM costs in perspective, in the very early days of computing, one type of memory was based on dots on a CRT screen. This was very expensive at about $1.00 per bit!

More at Opensource.com

A Mac user considers switching to elementary OS

Mac users are often quite…er…passionate about their preferred computing platform. But not all of them blindly follow Apple’s lead. One Mac user recently decided to consider switching to elementary OS for his development needs.

Rui Carmo reports for the Tao of Mac:

I’m not one prone to knee-jerk reactions, but I’m also not one to sit about idly without considering alternatives. So the first thing I did after the Apple keynote was to download a copy of Elementary and burn it to an SD card.

An hour or so later, after checking that my Chromebook would work OK with it1, I installed from the live image to the SSD and began the process of figuring out whether, three years after I first tried it, Elementary is finally good enough for me as a development environment.

Although I can’t switch wholesale just yet, I see no real reason why I can’t use Elementary for around 80% of the stuff I do – probably even more with a few adjustments on my part.

And that, in and by itself, should tell you how much Apple has dropped the ball here. I do know that I will be keeping it on this machine as a daily driver, and that I am much more confident that I can survive on a PC running Elementary.

More at the Tao of Mac

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