Christopher B. Browne's Home Page

15. Unix Haters

People who hate Unix

There are people who hate Unix. There has been a mailing list, and the book The Unix-Haters Handbook/Book and Barf Bag, which reports is out of print. It is now available online.

This book expresses fiery opinions, opinions that have been obsoleted by later developments, and even some pretty valid criticisms of Unix. Andrew K's review observes that some of the flaws persist on "proprietary" versions of Unix, but are able to be resolved on "free" OSes like Linux and the free BSDs due to the ready availability of source code.


... Your book is a pudding stuffed with apposite observations. Like excrement, it contains enough indigested nuggets of nutrition to sustain life for some...

-- Dennis Ritchie  

In a recent browse, my wide conclusion is that the criticisms presented tend to represent:

It is worth noting that these people haven't come up with any alternative systems that seem to be preferable to Unix (aside, perhaps, from ITS ). They promote certain design points of certain systems, but none represent reasonable replacements for the overall functionality of Unix systems.

Sun NeWS is cited as a technically superior alternative to X; unfortunately, licensing is important, and if X lost out on "quality of design," it won on the basis of being widely usable. NeWS might have been technically better, but if people won't buy it because they are worried about Sun's control, or due to expensive cross-licensing, then it fails, regardless of how good it may be.

The system seemingly considered nearest to the "right thing" is ITS; unfortunately, the last ITS system at MIT was shut down in 1990. The Hackers Dictionary ITS - Jargon Entry indicates that:

ITS worshipers manage somehow to continue believing that an OS maintained by assembly-language hand-hacking that supported only monocase 6-character filenames in one directory per account remains superior to today's state of commercial art (their venom aginst Unix is particularly intense).

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