Alan Hargreaves' Blog

The ramblings of a former Australian SaND TSC* Principal Field Technologist

Linus, Open Solaris, Sound-Bites and the press

This is probably going to sound a bit strange coming from a Sun engineer and an Open Solaris Advocate, but I seriously think that Linus is being maligned here.

My reading of the article leads me to believe that the interviewer was looking for Linus to say something controversial in order to push the story. What could be better for a journo than a a Solaris vs Linux free for all?

Stephen Shankland does little for his credibility as a jounalist by taking him completely out of context with comments like

But the 34-year-old Finnish programmer isn’t fazed by Solaris. In fact, he’s downright dismissive, calling it a “joke.”

What Linus actually said is quoted further down the article

What do you think about the x86 move and the new Solaris features?

Solaris/x86 is a joke, last I heard. (It has) very little support for any kind of strange hardware. If you thought Linux had issues with driver availability for some things, let’s see you try Solaris/x86.

This is a much more considered statement. There are obviously folks out that that agree and disagree strongly on this; but as a Linux user from pre 0.99, I can certainly say that Linux was there at one time as well. Meanwhile Sun is pulling out all stops to get current hardware certified and working.

It’s also reasonable that he is adopting a wait and see approach. All of the information about what we are doing with regards licensing etc is not yet in the public domain. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to do much in the way of public comment as they either are not aware of the information or under Non-Disclosure.

Another sound bite that is getting quoted out of context all over the place is

When Sun releases Solaris as open-source software, will you take a peek?

Probably not.

The answer actually does not stop at that point. Linus goes on to say

… Not because of any animosity, but simply because I don’t have the time or the interest. Linux has never been about “others,” it’s been about getting better than itself, so I don’t really have any motivation to play around with Solaris. I’m sure that if it does something particularly well, people will be more than happy to tell me all about it.

Again, perfectly reasonable.

What we really have here is a press beatup trying to feed/create a free-for-all between Solaris and Linux Advocates. The truth is that there is room in this space for all players. While I was an SA before coming to Sun, I had been (and still am) a great fan of choosing the right Operating Envronment for the specific job that I’m interested in. At times this means that I’ve run things from DOS and various incarnations of windows through IRIX, RiscOS, SunOS, Solaris, VMS and, yes, even Linux.

I also happen to believe that Solaris 10 has some pretty amazing stuff in it. I’ve worked in Unix since the days of Version 7, with source code to the current day in Solaris. I quite like working in the Solaris codebase, I find it very easy to work with and very logical. I know there are folks out there who will shout me down for that, but just as they are entitled to their preferences, so am I.

In closing on this one, I think we all need to remember that Journalists are looking for a story that will get them read. Some have more integrity than others in chasing it. Taking sound-bites from this interview out of context has caused an amazing flame-fest on various mailing lists, newsgroups and boards. It’s a shame really.


Written by Alan

December 22, 2004 at 1:32 am

2 Responses

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  1. The whole Solaris vs Linux is a set up, although by now it’s near impossible for anyone to believe it as it’s so widespread. The media loves this kind of titanic collision, people love it too.

    The losers in this ‘pointless fight’ is both Sun and Linux.

    The winners are Microsoft, HP, IBM.

    My 2 cent analysis.


    December 22, 2004 at 6:51 pm

  2. Which is exactly the point.
    People will code for whatever either makes them happy or makes them money. We already have an eager community of folk with a great interest in working with Open Solaris. Believe it or not, some of us also use other Operating Environments. There is stuff that each of the communities (and I don’t just mean Solaris and Linux) can learn from each other. Indeed it was Linus who brought up the Newton quote about standing on the shoulders of giants.
    A lot more gets done when folk co-operate as against when they are fighting each other.

    Alan Hargreaves

    December 22, 2004 at 8:31 pm

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