Eclectic Systems

Unix variants (e.g., HP-UX, Solaris, UnixWare) and their Open Source cousins (e.g., *BSD, Linux) play a major role in the world of computing. In fact, these systems have become part of the infrastructure of enterprises around the world. Thus, their stability is of critical interest to a large number of institutions.

Unlike more proprietary operating systems, however, they are not the monolithic creations of individual corporations. Instead, they are assembled (and customized) by a variety of "integrators" (e.g., Debian, FreeBSD, Red Hat, Sun), using "packages" (e.g., GNU tools, Perl, Sendmail) that have been developed and maintained by a wide-ranging community of users, administrators, and programmers. Thus:

  • Distributions are highly modular at the file level.

    Distributions contain tens or hundreds of thousands of files, generating still more files as they are used. Files can be added, modified, or replaced to customize system behavior. Taking advantage of this, local sites commonly add commands, customize subsystems, etc.

  • The development process is distributed and cooperative.

    Distributions contain elements (programs and complete subsystems) developed by individuals and organizations around the world. No centralized authority mandates engineering practices; voluntary cooperation (i.e., "rough consensus and running code") takes its place.

There is, at present, no collective term which describes the union of Unix and Open Source operating systems. The term "Unixish systems" is memorable, if rather informal, but legal constraints prevent its large-scale use. So, given the extremely eclectic nature of these systems, the Meta notes will refer to them as "Eclectic Systems". If this usage catches on, we can adopt "Eclectix" as the generic name (:-).

Note: The use of "UNIX" as a generic term is now being tested in the US court system, as Apple and The Open Group sue each other over the trademark.

-- Main.RichMorin - 16 Jun 2003
Topic revision: r8 - 08 Jun 2003, WikiGuest
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