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Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 15:41:22 -0500
From: Craig Goodrich <craig@airnet.net>
To: mberman@i84.net
Subject: A doddering UNIX devotee speaks ....

... gratefully of your informative Linux article.  But like
most of us old coots, I have a couple of curmudgeonly grumbles:

> Linux, based loosely on UNIX, is available in two flavors: Red
> Hat Linux 5.1 ($39.95), which is the most popular, and Caldera
> Linux, which seems to be laying fallow despite its being more
> faithful to the original -- a shareware version that was
> fathered by the Internet. 

1) Both the RedHat and Caldera versions are available
without charge via FTP from their respective sites, or
from third-party CDROM vendors like CheapBytes and LinuxMall,
who will sell you a CD containing the contents of the ftp
site for as little as $1.99 plus postage.  Both RedHat and
Caldera sell their own CDs, of course, at a higher price,
accompanied by printed documentation, telephone support, and
other goodies.

2) Linux is available in substantially more than two flavors;
RedHat is indeed the most popular and Caldera the first business-
oriented distributor, but there are also Debian (very popular),
Slackware (the first widespread distribution and still popular),
Stampede (a new performance-oriented distribution, now in late
beta), SuSE (a well-respected German distribution; its maker has
written some of the latest video chip drivers for XFree86, Linux'
windowing system), TurboLinux (extensive Japanese-language support),
and others.  All of these flavors are also available by FTP and on 
cheap CDs as well as in "official" form.

3) If Caldera is "lying fallow", I shudder to think what it
would take to constitute "success"; they seem to be making
money hand over fist.  Their distribution is principally
business-oriented, however: the full package -- which is
pricey for Linux but cheap for UNIX -- includes network
licenses for commercial software such as the Looking Glass
Desktop, a Novell server, and multiuser StarOffice, which 
are more appropriate to an enterprise installation than to 
the engineer's or hobbyist's desktop.  This may be why you 
hear less noise about Caldera from internet advocates.

4) As to "being more faithful to the original", I have absolutely
no idea what you mean.  All of the distributions are available 
without charge over the internet via ftp.  All of them use the
same Linux kernel, give-or-take a patch level depending on when
they froze their current version and burned the CDs.  The "original,"
in Linux terms, would have to refer to the first widely-distributed
kernel, which was 0.99.xx.  We've come a long way since then......
All of the distributions also use recent but typically not 
cutting-edge versions of system utilities and applications.

In one sense, Slackware (the oldest) and Stampede (the newest)
distributions are both more "faithful to the original" than
the others, if by "the original" you mean Unix Version 6, since
these two distributions use an initialization structure (rather
like AUTOEXEC.BAT gone mad) more similar to the Unices of the 
early '80s than to the later Unix System 5.  But this is a 
distinction of little relevance to the user, who rarely has to
fiddle with the initialization files anyway.

5) I've been using shareware for nearly twenty years, sonny, under
CP/M, DOS, Windows 3.1, OS/2, and Windows95.  I've never seen
any shareware that came with complete source code and no request
for money.

I've never seen any version of Linux that *didn't* come with
complete source code.  I've never seen any version of Linux 
that *did* include a license saying that I owed somebody money
after a 30-day evaluation.  Most of Linux is covered by the
GNU Public License, which specifically says the source *must*
be made available and I *cannot* be prevented from redistributing 

Where did you find the shareware version of Linux?

> Although I believe the operating system was developed to give
> old, retired UNIX devotees something to do, there are a few
> software companies that have been willing to spend the bucks to
> develop programs for it. 

Mmmpf.  Gee, it sure was selfless, then, for young Linus Torvalds
to spend all that time writing it when he was barely out of his
teens, just to amuse us old coots.  And brilliant kids like Alan
Cox and The Rasterman -- I'm sure glad you explained this; I 
always thought Raster did the Enlightenment window manager just
so he could make *his own* desktop look like the gas tank on
a gothic customized Harley.  Now I see it was written just
for us seniors no longer able to bend over far enough to pull
on the boots, let alone work the kickstart.....  And they say
the younger generation has no respect for its elders!  I'm *so*
glad I understand now...

Thanks again for the clarification.  Pardon me but I have
to go drink some warm milk and take my nap now.....

Craig Goodrich <craig@airnet.net>
Rural Village Systems
Elkmont, Alabama

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