[DISCUSS] unix and linux

Craig Buchek craig at buchek.com
Sat Jan 26 14:42:18 CST 2002

> what makes Linux "better" than Unix?
> (besides that some Unices cost money)

Well, you've identified the "free as in beer" part. That is a fairly 
decent advantage of Linux (and the BSDs) over proprietary UNIX flavors.

But the biggest advantage of Linux over proprietary UNIX is that Linux is 
"Free as in Free speech". This means that you have the right to do with it 
as you wish. (As long as you don't take away anyone else's right to do 
with it as they please.) You can modify the source code, you can sell it, 
you can study it, you can give it to your friends, you can show it to 
other people so that they can support it for you, etc. Due to this 
freedom, thousands of developers have taken existing programs and improved 
them, with bug fixes, new features, complete re-writes (i.e. borrowing 
ideas), performance enhancements, security patches, etc. This in turn led 
to a Linux community, in which people provide support, bug reports, 
documentation, user groups, etc.

The result is that Linux also has a lot of technical advantages. From 
personal use, I find Linux to be *extremely* more modern and user- 
friendly. And I'm just talking about the command-line. The GUI isn't used 
all that much in the server environments that IBM is targetting. At the 
command line, there is tab completion, a lot more options to commands, and 
just a lot more power.

Be aware that there are a few down-sides to Linux. Primarily, it is harder 
to find support for Linux. That is changing, as is the view of businesses 
that Linux is just a toy. Also, Linux changes more quickly than any other 
UNIX, so you may have to upgrade more often to maintain a secure system 
that is well-supported. Finally, while Linux has lower initial costs, the 
support costs are more difficult to calculate. While the more modern 
features make it easier to manage the system, there may be cases where you 
will need to pay for source code changes yourself. That's a bit of an 
unknown, but often the changes will be made by members of your own 
exisiting support staff.

> i always assumed that you picked the tool for the job, but this article
> suggests that its preferable to switch to Linux ??

Preferable for whom? IBM or their customers? Maybe it's better for their 
customers, but more likely, you are correct that it is a matter of the 
right tool for the job. But for IBM, they would benefit by reducing 
support costs by switching to Linux and getting rid of their proprietary 
OSes. It's a lot like the reason the PC took off -- the open architecture 
allowed hardware components to become commodities. Here the commodity is 
the OS and related software. By porting everything that existed on their 
proprietary OSes, IBM can actually come pretty close to making Linux the 
better choice for their customers as well.

St. Louis Unix Users Group - http://www.sluug.org/
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