The Future of Linux
14 July 1998
Selected Audience Questions and Answers
These are somewhat paraphrased, either because I couldn't hear the exact
question or couldn't write fast enough.
I've got 1000 Suns used for CAD and would like to start moving to Linux,
but I have to have high-end CAD support. When can I expect it?
- Larry Augustin mentioned a recent (June 1998?) Design Automation Conference in which the
500-member audience was asked if they would like to see Linux ports
of Cadence tools, Synopsys, etc. ``Everyone in the
audience raised their hands.'' He noted that the vendors seemed
surprised and emphasized that Linux users have to let them know that
Linux ports are wanted.
What can an average person gain by installing Linux?
- I'm not sure who answered this, but the response was basically, ``more
stability'' [to which I would add, ``way more
performance'']. I think he also related a horror story about
trying to guide his mother (the 75-year-old?) through a Win95 reinstall,
all via a trans-Atlantic phone call. This led nicely into the next
Why isn't Linux appropriate for your 75-year-old mother? If she can do
complex recipes, why not Linux?
- One of the panelists (Jeremy?) won a round of applause: ``My mother
is running Linux and did a Red Hat upgrade over the phone.''
[A few months later, columnist Robin Miller
wrote an excellent article on just how easy Linux can be.]
Intel wants to support Linux, but what about Intel's non-disclosure
agreement on Merced (IA-64) and the proprietary
[encumbered] I2O spec?
- Sunil Saxena mentioned that there are already preliminary
discussions underway regarding Merced, but he agreed that it's a problem
and had no further comment for now. (I think Michael Masterson
mentioned that Intel gave them the choice of a marketing guy, a lawyer
or an engineer; they chose the latter.)
- Linus Torvalds flatly stated, ``Don't worry about Merced'' and
``It's a done deal--just a question of time.'' He said the kernel would
be no problem; the development tools will be tricky, but that just
means the Linux port will show up maybe two months after Merced is
released. He noted that most other vendors (especially Microsoft) still
have to deal with 64-bit issues, which is a much bigger problem; Linux
has had 64-bit support for a couple of years now
[on Alpha AXP; a 64-bit UltraSPARC port
(``UltraPenguin'') is not too far behind and, in fact, was available to
developers long before any 64-bit Solaris 2.7 betas showed up].
Is there any plan to guide the GUI and/or widget set for Linux?
- Robert Hart noted that Red Hat is helping the GNOME (GUI) project and also supporting work
on the GTK widget set, but more via ``resource allocation,'' not so much
guidance, per se. There's also KDE (a
nice-looking GUI based on the non-free Qt widget set; version 1.0 was
just released this week).
- Jeremy may have noted that one of the strengths of Linux is its freedom
of choice; users aren't locked into one relatively limited (and ugly?)
``look and feel'' and can even switch between several on the fly.
What are the differences between Linux and FreeBSD?
- Linus Torvalds answered first, noting that the differences aren't
all that big--mostly a matter of design philosophy and ``time to market.''
FreeBSD is based on BSD, which is a stable, proven base (and its
supporters view that as a strength). On the other hand, Linux has the
advantage that it was able to ``throw out the crap''--for example, some
things no longer make sense on modern hardware. Also, ``I get to call
the shots in the Linux kernel, and very few people have the balls to
complain. [considerable laughter]
There's no committee--I just say, `Let's do it,' and it's done.''
FreeBSD, of course, is largely guided by the consensus of a group of
people; moreover, none of the original BSD crowd is currently developing
- Jeremy Allison noted that FreeBSD can run Linux apps.
- Larry Augustin said that he was an old BSD guy; he switched
to Linux because it felt much faster and lighter, and its development
pace was much more rapid. FreeBSD's SMP support, for example, is ``still
very early. (That's being generous.)'' So one might as well learn Linux.
[FreeBSD's networking code, on the other hand,
is considerably better than Linux's, at least as of kernel 2.0.x; that's
one reason why Walnut Creek's monster servers run FreeBSD (and set a new
bandwidth record: 759 GB in one day). But as
David S. Miller recently reported, networking is one of the areas
of major improvement in the Linux 2.1 development series, and there are
indications that Linux 2.2 will have caught up to or even surpassed
FreeBSD by the time it is released.]
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