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Re: Re: Re: Which packages should I use?

On Wed, Jul 24, 2002 at 08:52:25PM +0000, THOMAS EDWARD HART wrote:
> > 
> > Yes, but if everyone had a different concept of every
> > word there'd be no way to understand each other. This
> > is why languages are formalised. And there's a formal
> > definition of the word "operating". If you think the
> > Hurd or Mach are operating systems, then we need to
> > find another word to define what FreeBSD, Solaris or
> > GNU are.
> Not if one believes in layering operating systems on top of
> one another. Mach is an operating system that sits on top of
> hardware. Hurd is an operating system that sits on top of
> Mach. The JVM is an operating system that sits on top of
> Windows/Linux/Solaris/whatever else it's been ported to.

Note that there's an essential difference in these examples.
Users (and developers) can't work on top of Mach. They can
just add another layer. If they want to edit files they'll need
a filesystem and an editor, if they want to execute raw
binary code by typing hex from the keyboard, they'll need a driver
that reads the keyboard into memory and calls that segment
on demand. That'd be their operating system.

On the other hand, some of the examples like GNU, GNU/Linux
or Solaris are capable of doing some productive by themselves
(where a productive task can be anything the user considers
productive). Of course you can run a JVM, perl or Bash,
but that doesn't mean Bash is an operating system because
it will always need a lower layer to stay on.

> If
> you look at academic papers on operating systems, I believe
> this is the terminology they use (at least, it's the
> terminology I've seen). FreeBSD and Solaris are operating
> systems that sit on top of hardware; they just provide more
> functionality than Mach.

Academic papers i read include the shell as a component of
the OS, but agree in that the OS functionality is not
clearly defined and may vary in other docs.

You just need to do an etimological study of the word.
Noone with a bit of sense would put for first time together
the words "operating" and "system" to describe a system
which is not necessarily operative but it can just
be a base for some other layer. If they called it OS
it's because it prevented users from grabbing their
code directly into hardware by recieving their input,
and this is how it's always been called: UNIX, BSD,
GNU, MS-DOG, Minix... but students were focusing their
OS study in the kernels. Then someone in 1991 wrote a
kernel and said he was "doing an operating system"

curiously, if you look at references from 1991, everyone
calls the GNU system as "GNU". even linus tordvals does
(and look at my signature btw)

> My point is that, from a technical perspective, and
> operating system manages resources and provides an API.


> But
> that definition is only suited to a programmer. Regular
> users use the terminology fed to them by marketing
> departments; hence an "operating system", from a user's
> point of view, is "the thing that runs my computer and lets
> me install and run my programs."

So to a programmer, an "operating system" is "the thing that
runs my computer and lets me code, compile and create
software. It does that by providing APIs, a text editor
and a compiler". You can't code with just the APIs.

> And I don't think our understanding of each other is
> imparied by any ambiguity in the meaning of the term
> "operating system". If Frank says "my Linux box" and Harry
> says "my GNU/Linux box", I assume they're both using the
> Linux kernel along with the GNU tools, and probably X,
> possibly Apache, OpenOffice, Mozilla, etc.

If Frank says "Linux is hard to understand", i would
think that understanding the Linux code is hard from a
developers perspective. But he could be using a wrong
naming and meaning that GNU/Linux is hard from a users'

> And these little ambiguities in laguage exist in many areas.
> For example, a fundamentalist will likely object to
> referring to Mormons/Jehovah's Witnesses/Jesus Seminar as
> "Christians." More liberal types likely will not. We just
> expect that the word means something different when it's
> used by Jerry Falwell than when it's used by John Shelby Spong.

I don't have a clear idea of what Mormons/Jehovah's Witnesses/
Jesus Seminar are. If they believe in Christ, i'd just call
them "christians" and might engage in discussion with any
fundamentalist that denies it. :)

Robert Millan

"5 years from now everyone will be running
free GNU on their 200 MIPS, 64M SPARCstation-5"

              Andrew S. Tanenbaum, 30 Jan 1992

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