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May 18, 2007

Strip mining at the FOSS quarry (revisited)

Recently listened to an interesting discussion about MacFUSE on ITConversations. I have been playing around with sshfs/FUSE for a short period of time. While FUSE is nothing new, it is quite compelling, in that it provides an easier means of incorporating a filesystem to user space. The Linux kernel has hooks for all types of interesting userspace filesystems. I have seen implementations of cramfs designed for image graphics and word processors.

What is perhaps most interesting is that the author, Amit Singh has created some slick implementations for OS X desktop. Moreover, he makes mention of a book, that was written in part to dispel some myths about Apple most recent operating system. I must admit that I have always understood Mac OS X to be a BSD based OS. Singh notes that it is actually comprised of two layers, Mach(kernel) and BSD (user space).

I remember reading in the "Just For Fun" book that Steve Jobs suggested that Linus Torvalds, " Since there were only two players M$ and Apple, get into bed with Apple and try to get open source people interested in Mac OS X.. " Something to that affect. Linus dismissed Darwin as a piece of crap because it was based on Mach, microkernel architecture developed at Carnegie Mellon.

Interestingly, Darwin development has withered on the vine. Apple has pretty much abandoned it and the community never really took it seriously. In fact, some people tried to fork the project, and that too has died. Judging from the activity at MacPorts, Apple really holds on tightly to its crown jewels or Jobs's incredible art.. iPhone ring a bell ;)

Perhaps Torvalds had a premonition?

Singh, made the point to dispel the myth that Mach is a microkernel. I would love to see the flame wars that he has probably endured over the years.

He also does not consider OS X to be similar to proprietary UNIX system. I would tend to agree. Nonetheless, I would agree that OS X is certainly more Unix-like than M$ Windows ;)
In fact, it seems that both Windows and Mac OS X have borrowed a fair amount of Unix _glue_ in recent years. It is apparent that OS X owes a debt to Unix.

For instance, the Windows TCP/ IP stack was radically changed to resemble the BSD model for the W2K and WinXP. We know that the earlier TCP/IP stacks in Win 3.11and Win98 were horrible.

I would imagine that the network layer in earlier Macintosh machines were also radically different than the current Mac OS X product. Why is this possible? In one word.. FOSS (Free and Open Source Software). At first glance, the ecosystem works quite well does it not? It just seems that Apple and M$ take far more than they give back to the community. My observation could be totally wrong, but I venture to guess that I'm pretty close. I suppose that the sharing is curtailed greatly, due to the existence of the BSD License.

Just a guess.. It would appear that TCP/IP stack integration(M$), and Darwin (Mac OS X) were made possible with the use of the BSD License. It would be great if everyone shared equally.
I suppose that would be wishful thinking..


Posted by AG at May 18, 2007 7:43 AM