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GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

Can GNU Ever Be Unix? 217

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the how-much-wood-could-a-woodchuck-chuck dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The question isn't whether Linux can be certified as Unix. At least some distributions no doubt can. But who would pay for it? And is it worth the trouble? Jem Matzan asks these questions on NewsForge, and reminds us that the Open Group, not SCO, owns the Unix trademark,"
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Can GNU Ever Be Unix?

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  • by ggvaidya (747058) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @11:42AM (#9857884) Homepage Journal
    can Unix ever be *nix?

    Seriously, for all practical purposes, GNU + Linux is setting the trend now. Ask IBM, Novell, SCO ...
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lphuberdeau (774176) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @11:44AM (#9857895) Homepage
    Is there really a good reason why would GNU be considered as UNIX officially? GNU has it's own credibility. What is UNIX anyway? Does anyone have a concrete definition of what UNIX is right now (no historical reasons, not the fact that the filesystem starts with /).
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ianoo (711633) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @11:51AM (#9857919) Journal
    If it's "close enough", surely big business are going to do more research than just look at whether it's been certified by The Open Group just so the Linux community can use its trademark?

    The problem, as well, is what to certify. There are so many combinations of kernel, drivers, libc, userspace utilities and windowing systems that any certificate could well be rendered useless.

    For example, if IBM paid for SuSE to get certified, would that apply to RHEL or Debian, if they were using slightly different kernel versions or different kernel patches as is often the case?
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday August 01, 2004 @11:56AM (#9857937) Homepage Journal
    The Unix trademark is allowed on anything that confroms to several standards laid out by the Open Group [opengroup.org] who owns the Unix trademark. Linux on X86 won't comply becuase some of the errno codes are incorrect, being based on Minix, which also uses incorrect values. GNU/Linux for other platforms could qualify as they are, but again, GNU/Linux seems to be evolving as its own standard which seems to be more widely supported because of the freeness and wide availability of Linux.

  • No. And Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T-Ranger (10520) <jeffwNO@SPAMchebucto.ns.ca> on Sunday August 01, 2004 @11:58AM (#9857943) Homepage
    "UNIX" means different things to different people. One definition would be something that contains ATT UNIX code. Another would be something that has a bunch of certifications. Linux has neither.

    But, the BSDs, and I believe even Solaris and AIX have a Linux compatability layer, or at the very least, "the GNU toolset", GCC, glibc, etc. Of course you wont beable to run IA32 binaries on a UltraSPARC, regardless of the compatability layer, but you could run IA32/Linux stuff on IA32/*BSD, or SparcLinux stuff on a Solaris box.

    I guess Im trying to say, given that lots of things can run Linux binaries, can cleanly compile Linux targeted sources, Linux + GCC + glibc may be a better standard to target then POSIX and whatnot. It is definitly more modern. Or to put things another way, UNIX is irrelevent, the question shoud be: can UNIXes ever be Linux?

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:03PM (#9857960) Homepage Journal
    Its just for 'brand recognition' anyway, and Linux has that now.

    If you say 'Linux' to the general IT population, they already know what you are talking about. ( and they also realize the differences beteeen it and 'unix' ) so why muddy the waters?
  • by smartfart (215944) * <joey@j o e y k elly.net> on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:27PM (#9858049) Homepage Journal
    Right... IBM has seen the writing on the wall, putting Linux on every piece of hardware they produce. Sun also sells Linux boxen. While not traditionally a UNIX vendor, Novell has all but dumped their old operating system, switching to Linux instead.

    I don't think UNIX matters much anymore.

  • Re:No. And Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kscguru (551278) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:32PM (#9858071)
    Better standard maybe... but Linux + GCC + glibc is an incredibly difficult thing to standardize upon! Standardization at the industry level takes months if not years ... have you seen any one of those three stay at the same version (exact same API and ABI, no patches, etc) for any fraction of that time? Linux (or GNU/Linux if you prefer) is too much of a moving target for anyone to hit.

    Go out and look at industry certifications - they certify against RHES version X, or whatever else the flavor of the month is. UNIX is a heavy-duty standard, and Linux is still evolving too fast to qualify.

    Actually, I have a more interesting thought: for Linux to qualify as a Unix, development would have to slow down - a lot. Arguably, it is doing so now ... Linus claims there are no really large projects on the horizon that require a 2.7 branch, there haven't been any huge changes to the kernel in quite a while (not since the new VM in late 2.4 / early 2.5, or the O(1) scheduler in 2.5). If Linux sits back at this level for a good long while, I suspect it really will become a UNIX within a year or so. Alas, such a slowdown will leave Linux a long ways behind modern Unices, which is a shame. So... should Linux slow down and become Unix-certified, or should it speed up and catch up to modern Unix?

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by archen (447353) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:46PM (#9858135)
    I think it's less of an issue of who is more like who, as opposed to who makes the right decisions and moves forward. Unix is not the end all pinnacle of operating systems. Posix compliance is a good thing, but Linux needs to move where the community wants it to, not where the Unix standards neccesarily is.
  • A better question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:48PM (#9858147)
    Is what should GNU be. Not to be pedantic but if you have done real work with more than one GNU/Linux distribution you have run into compatibility issues. Its a fact of life and an impediment to the progress of GNU's penetration.

    If standardization is a good thing (I think it is, but your opinion may vary) how should The GNU/Linux world go about it, and what parties should certify. Right now there are the DeFacto standards (Redhat/slackware/Suse/Mandrake) of the big distributions. The problem with these defacto standards is eventually the game collapses. There have been attempts to have multiparty standards (United linux comes to mind) but those for various reasons havent made a big push.

    You can allready see the problems in setting a GNU/linux standard when there are vicious arguments over naming it Linux or GNU/Linux. Just who is going to be able to make decisions on filepaths, naming conventions, and library depencies and then shove it down the throats of the contrarians.

    So before you ask can "GNU be Unix", you need to ask does GNU want to be standard, Who's standard, and does that standard want to be close enough to Unix to comply.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:59PM (#9858195) Homepage Journal
    No Linux distribution has bothered to achieve Unix branding because it's simply not important anymore. People who purchase Unix systems know what Linux is and they know it's the best and fastest growing Unix-like system out there. More importantly, they know that the applications they use have been tested on Linux, probably as a top-tier platform, often as the recommended platform (see Oracle). That being the case, why would a Unix certification from The Open Group make any difference?

    Meanwhile, commercial Unix vendors are going out of their way to achieve Linux compatibility, at either the source or binary level. Linux is quickly becoming the standard to which other Unices are compared. This means two things:
    • The Open Group and its branding are irrelevant
    • Richard Stallman is effectively wrong: GNU is Unix. Except in the real world we don't call it GNU, we call it Linux.
  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by billsf (34378) <billsf@Nospam.cuba.calyx.nl> on Sunday August 01, 2004 @01:01PM (#9858201) Homepage Journal
    This is redundant, but not knowing what its going to cost beforehand is the downfall of Open Group. $45,000 is one thing, half a million is another matter.

    Linux has indeed been repackaged and registered. (To avoid flames from those that don't already know, I won't say which ones.) Linux as in say Gentoo and BSD in say FreeBSD are very successful now and it would be hard to justify the value in risking so much money for a seemingly worthless qualification.

    I'm sure Suse (Novel) and Redhat will actually seek registration as commercial products. If X/Open would agree to fixed priced terms, they would do far more business. (Are you seeing this Open Group?) All things considered, this is like the MSCE scam and might have a negative impact.

    The above mentioned BSD and Linux have treated me very well on a number of hardware platforms. Keep up the good work.

  • Re:It's GNU/Linux! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kbahey (102895) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @01:48PM (#9858427) Homepage

    Hurd is definitely a good idea, but so far it is only that: an idea.

    I have been hearing about Hurd at least since 1992 or so, ever since Linus started his project. This is 12 years now, and nothing concrete has come up yet, that can be adopted by the masses.

    Don't get me wrong, I like many of the ideas and design decisions they have. But my gripe is that their model does not allow hordes of programmers to join in and get things out faster, like the Linux model.

  • UNIX 2003 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by taj (32429) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @02:12PM (#9858556) Homepage


    Is the branding alive or not?

    What Unix passes Unix 2003? OK. Who passed UNIX 98? Get the picture? Its going to cost ~$0.5M when all said and done. What advantage is there? Some of the 'UNIX' systems out there have not passed a checklist in over a decade.

    Linux does not need people who dont code deciding what is right and wrong in expensive ongoing beurocratic processes. Things are decided much faster in open forums which document the process in ample detail.

    Linux does deviate but given a coin toss, it goes with the previous 'standards.' If the legacy means does not make sense, its ignored and documented.

    The UNIX branding made sense with legacy closed source Unix systems. It provided a level of trust that customers could drop to without even (imagine!) seeing the underlying code.

    It was a bandaid on a broken model. The outdated Unix systems deviated but the customer could only read documentation, not code.

    So systems like Solaris, AIX, HP-UX ... have two options. Continue down the documentation/standards/branding route increasing customers costs $100's/install or just open up the developement process/source.

    If they decide to open up the process, they have to decide wether to join open source projects or try to replicate the efforts.

    'UNIX' is dead. Do we need a netcraft survey?

    I know people are going to say that wont work. "Look at all the forks in apache and perl and python. It will be anarchy."

    Thats proven to not be the case. The problem has always been closed source.
  • What's in a name? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cpghost (719344) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @02:32PM (#9858667) Homepage

    My first reaction was: "Why the heck should Linux be Unix-certified? With increasing popularity, Unix will soon have to be Linux-certified if it wants to get any kind of market acceptance."

    Well, as amusing as it may be, this thought is flawed. First of all Linux is merely the kernel; it's not even glibc, nor any other GNU tools, or third party packages. BSDs are Unix-like OS, just like Linux(-distros) are Unix-like. Solaris is also _a_ Unix-like OS, just like HP-UX.

    Actually Unix has become a generic term which refers to all kind of kernels that expose a POSIX (don't remember the exact number) interface to userland applications. Any kernel (or microkernel + servers) that implements this interface, can be justly called Unix (or at least Unix-like; so as to not feed SCOundrel or Open Group lawyers).

    The really interesting thing about the hype around Linux, is when we will move on and replace the Linux kernel with something totally different (be it microkernelized, or whatever). Then, we won't have just a GNU/Linux system anymore, but, say, also a GNU/Hurd/L4, GNU/Hurd/Mach or GNU/BSD, BSD/Linux, BSD/Hurd/*, ... system (terminology being "OS personality"/"OS servers"/"microkernel" or "OS personality"/"monolithic kernel").

    It seems silly to use the kernel name only as a brand for all kind of Unix-oid systems, regardless of them using the Linux kernel or something else; but providing the POSIX Unix interface.

    To wrap it up: it's just a matter of names and brands. As other posters have commented before, Linux has gained enough popularity and visibility. It doesn't need to be certified to be successful!

  • Why bother (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @03:04PM (#9858846) Journal
    Linux and GNU has its on street cred now. I really don't think the people still need to be sold on Linux and GNU being up to the job anymore. Most people wether they will admit it or not *know* Linux and GNU are now as good as the admin or engineer that runs the system, its the support network behind GNU and Linux they still worry about.

    I think whats telling is how often and for how long we have seen Unices shipping with the GNU tools and compiler in the system. GNU is not Unix its something that in most or maybe all cases is inspired by Unix works like Unix but is better then Unix. Getting GNU certified as Unix would in that sense almost be a slap in the face to GNU, although it might still be an endorsement to the Linux kernel. Linux though as stated before does have enough of its own cred that Unix certification will have very little meaning.
  • by mystran (545374) <mystran@gmail.com> on Sunday August 01, 2004 @03:27PM (#9858944) Homepage
    No, the real question is "SHOULD" GNU ever be a Unix. The whole POINT of GNU is that it's not Unix, it's (or aims to be) something better!
  • GNU's Now Unix? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pan T. Hose (707794) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @04:16PM (#9859175) Homepage Journal
    Great, that's what we need! Now the Santa Caldera Operation Group with Darl McBribe and other greedy rednecks from Tarantella, Utah, will want our money! When GNU was NOT Unix the life was simple. Now, everything is going to change, in this up-side-down world when GNU's Now Unix... Frightening perspective
  • by Tony-A (29931) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @09:29PM (#9860540)
    The whole POINT of GNU is that it's not Unix

    Not exactly.
    I'd say the point is to be Unix without being called Unix. By being better it cuts the ground out from under the ownership of the name.

    Vastly oversimplifying, and a lot of this is by association with the hardware it run on.
    Unix 1. AT&T Unix. Very expensive and underpowered hardware by today's standards.
    Unix 2. Berkeley Unix. Amazing what you can do with cheap grad student labor.
    Unix 3. Linux. Triumph of anarchy. Product of the internet.

    The name Unix is applicable to Unix 1 and some variants of Unix 2. GNU utilities make Unix useable. GNU/Linux further undermines the name. Linux on IBM mainframes and supercomputers (and everything else) is a new (GNU if you like puns) generation. Even if it's mostly due to the hardware, you gotta stick a lablel on it.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @09:56PM (#9860665) Homepage
    Why would we want to have Linux be a certified Unix?

    When Saturn came around, or Asian cars came to the US, did they try and advertise themselves as "Ford-compatible" or did they try and make a name for themselves?

    This might have been a good idea a good 3, 4 years ago, but not now. 3, 4 years ago, Linux didn't have a market to speak of, and was not much more than an industry-wide toy. Now, it has major backing from IBM and Novell, and even people like my mom (technophobe nurse) is beginning to hear about Linux as the next-best thing. Linux currently offers, for the most part, much more than the Unix offerings. That couldn't have be said 5 years ago.

    The last thing the Linux community needs now is to have Linux associated with an old, outdated 'standard' that is Unix.

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