Gwnewch y pethau bychain

You’ve come a long way, baby

There’s nothing quite like spending your day working on a ten-year-old OS to really make you appreciate how far Linux has come.

We have a couple of legacy apps running under Solaris 7. While there’s active development of the next generation of these systems, which will be on a more modern platform, I meanwhile have to do my best to keep these systems healthy and happy. To this end, we’ve acquired a couple of identical servers, on which I am doing various recovery tests and preparing them to be hot-standbys.

Now, Solaris 7 was a fine, fine operating system. In 1998, when it was released. It had lots of cool stuff like support for 64-bit architectures and all that jazz. And back when it came out, there really were only a few “serious” Unix platforms to choose from. If you were an enterprise-level project, you were either going to be on Solaris, HP-UX, or AIX (or, heaven forbid, Windows NT). You could use a BSD variant if you were a purist or working in an academic setting, but the corporate use of it was pretty small. And then there was Linux…

I distinctly remember a guy we hired for tech support back around this time, who fancied himself a bit of a “leet hacker dood”. He complained bitterly to me that we *ought* to be using Linux instead of Solaris, and I said, “Linux is a toy. It’s interesting to play with, but it’s nowhere near ready for commercial use.”

Looking back, I stand by that statement. At the time, Linux *was* a toy OS, and it lacked both the tools and the support necessary to make it a viable option for business use. And it’s sobering to realise how far we’ve come in such a short time. Today, $EMPLOYER is primarily a Linux shop, with only a handful of Sun servers remaining, and those are being aggressively phased out. We rely heavily on Open Source software, something that would have been dreamt of just 10 years ago.

Of course, the commercial Internet itself is only 15 years or so old at this time. (You can’t really pin a precise date on when the Internet shifted from a mostly-educational network to a mostly-commercial network, but I recall things really starting to explode in late 1994 to early 1995, when commercial ISPs started to really proliferate and national media attention began to run countless stories on it. So 1995 is generally the year I consider the modern Internet to have been born.)

Working on this project this morning does remind me that I wouldn’t want to go back to this level of tech on a regular basis. The tools really *have* improved that much, but I admit I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the early days, when everything seemed possible and it was all so new and exciting.

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12 Comments

  1. Windows NT. When there wasn’t anything called ‘Windows’ that was as stable. Damn. Haven’t thought about that in years….

  2. I was once hired, in part, to port a Windows server application to Solaris. My main qualifications were that I’d seen SunOS, played with Linux, and knew a fair amount about the C standard library. Trying to place when that might have been, I came across something that happened not long before I started the job:

    CodeWarrior for Solaris Released
    CodeWarrior Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and Java development tools is now available for Sun Microsystems’ Solaris operating system.
    October 23, 1998

  3. Yup. I remember trying to install Slackware Linux around 1996, from about 40 floppy disks (several of which failed and had to be rewritten). It was painful, and at the end of it I had a system which was barely usable as long as I didn’t want to do anything useful (like actually get email from my ISP). It wasn’t until I got a Debian CD a couple of years later that it became even minimally friendly (even to a hard geek like me).

    Solaris wasn’t bad at all (well, at least not by then; version 1 and 2 were pretty flaky). But these days I’d mostly put Linux on the Sun machines as well…

    • From all I hear, Solaris 10 doesn’t suck[1], but by the time they decided that charging giant sums of money for every OS license wasn’t the way to go, we’d already abandoned Sun and built our strategy around a new direction.

      [1] ObASR: All operating systems suck.

      • Solaris 9 wasn’t bad, I haven’t tried 10. My main problem with Solaris was trying to work out where they put stuff in the filesystem (RedHat-derived systems have a similar problem).

        I haven’t looked at the Monastery for a long time (I’m behind on RISKS as well)…

        • I haven’t been in the Monastery in some time, but I have not forgotten all I learned there. 🙂

          One thing I actually liked about Solaris’s filesystem schema that I wish was true on other systems was its tendency to put anything that wasn’t part of the base OS in /usr/local. Made it very easy to sort out what was part of the distribution vs. what you put there afterwards.

  4. Today, $EMPLOYER is primarily a Linux shop, with only a handful of Sun servers remaining, and those are being aggressively phased out.

    True also in my local binding.

  5. i remember the good old days of the root floppy and the boot floppy 🙂 linux may not have been *polished* way back then, but it was still a hell of a lot of fun to use.

    • And I never said otherwise. But it wasn’t something you really wanted to build a business around, at least once you’d grown to a certain size. 🙂

  6. Never did anything with Linux, but I miss my old Amiga days.

    (Well I do still have a 3000T and I turn it on from time to time to remember what it was like to use a nice computer. 8-).

    • I loved my Amiga. In fact, the first work I ever did for $EMPLOYER was freelance tech support. They forwarded me all the Amiga questions they got in email, and I answered them, and then eventually took over triage for all the incoming e-mail support queries.

      A year later, I went to work for them full-time, and I’ve been there ever since.

  7. Heh. At some of the computer shows I went to in the mid-to-late ’90s, I picked up some early Linux discs (InfoMagic and Slackware), but never installed the software. Wonder how much they’d be worth to a collector.

    At the place I worked from 1977-2000, we had a Linux server that served mostly files (via Samba) and printers. We had both Sun and SGI workstations in the lab, and Windows 9x boxes in the cubicles.

    A few years ago, I tried Mandrake 8.2, but hated the KDE user interface.

    Now I have Ubuntu running on my laptop, and I’m happy with it.

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