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If UNIX Were a Religion 392

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the gnu-slash-heretic dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Charles Stross has written a very clever article where he describes the religious metaphor he uses with non-technical folks to explain the relationship between Mac OS X and UNIX. There is one true religion in operating systems says Stross and it is UNIX although there's also an earlier, older, more arcane religion with far fewer followers, MULTICS, from which UNIX sprang as a stripped-down rules-deficient heresy. If MULTICS is Judaism then UNIX is Christianity. By the mid-1970s there were two main sects: AT&T UNIX, which we may liken unto the Roman Catholic Church, and BSD UNIX, which we may approximate to the Orthodox Churches. In an attempt to control the schisms, the faithful defined a common interoperating subset of the one true religion that all could agree on—the Nicene Creed of UNIX which is probably POSIX. Stross says that today the biggest church in the whole of UNIX is Mac OS X, which rests on the bedrock of Orthodox BSD but "has added an incredible, towering superstructure of fiercely guarded APIs and proprietary user interface stuff that renders it all but unrecognizable to followers of the Catholic AT&T path." But lo, in the late 1980s, UNIX succumbed to the sins of venality, demanding too much money from the faithful and so, in 1991 Linus Torvalds nailed his famous source code release to the cathedral door and kicked off the Reformation. 'The Linux wars were brutal and unforgiving and Linux itself splintered into a myriad of fractious Protestant churches, from the Red Hat wearing Lutherans to the Ubuntu Baptists.' More recently, a deviant faith has sprung from Linux. 'Android is the Church of Latter Day Saints of UNIX: hard-working, sober, evangelizing the public, and growing at a ferocious rate. There are some strange fundamentalist Mormon Android churches living in walled communities under the banners of Samsung and Amazon, but for the most part the prosperous worship at the Church of Google.' Stross notes that as with all religion, those sects with most in common are the ones who hold the most vicious grudges against one another. 'Is that clear?'"
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If UNIX Were a Religion

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  • why ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @06:46AM (#45827337) Homepage Journal

    Ok, what's the point of this stressed metaphor? It doesn't make it easier to remember anything, it doesn't help in understanding anything (largely because the various splits, etc. happened for entirely different reasons), it adds a completely unnecessary layer of indirection and, quite honestly, I find the comparison insulting.

    So the point is? Aside from "because we can"? What am I missing that makes this blog-level nonsense frontpage-worthy?

  • by Attila the Bun (952109) on Tuesday December 31, 2013 @08:21AM (#45827711)

    It's only a metaphor, but holds surprisingly well. Worryingly well. So well that we, if we claim to be modern enlightened people, should have some kind of response.

    But what? Switching operating systems - like switching religions - involves a lot of work if you do it properly. Unlike religion it is possible to "worship" two or more OSes, but many people find that an inefficient way to work. So how can we avoid unwarranted faith in our way of doing things, fighting between neighbouring factions, and all the other destructive forces that religions suffer from?

    The Linux kernel does a good job of holding all the myriad Linuxes together: all need the kernel to evolve and improve, but none can afford to implement those changes alone. Android and iOS have opened peoples eyes to other ways of interacting with computers and rendered the Windows-Mac conflict less important.

    Technology evolves, preventing us from stagnating and developing unchangeable "holy" rules. It's a natural human tendency to break into tribal factions, but it seems that technological progress puts a damper on this, forcing us to widen our horizons and helping us to work together. Suddenly progress seems more important than ever.

"Card readers? We don't need no stinking card readers." -- Peter da Silva (at the National Academy of Sciencies, 1965, in a particularly vivid fantasy)

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