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Programming Software Linux IT Technology

It's Not the 15th Birthday of Linux 261

Glyn Moody writes "There's been a spate of celebrations of Linux's 15th birthday recently. What they're really marking is the 15th anniversary of version 1.0. But do version numbers matter for free software? The 'release early, release often' approach means there's generally little difference between version 0.99.14z, say, and version 1.0. In fact, drawing attention to such anniversaries is misguided, because it gives the impression that free software is created in the same way as traditional proprietary code, working towards a predetermined end-point according to a top-down plan. So how should we be choosing and celebrating free software's past achievements?"
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It's Not the 15th Birthday of Linux

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  • Who cares? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Probie ( 1353495 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:49AM (#27254095) Homepage
    It's an excuse for a party! I celebrate Christmas to but I don't believe in santa.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Or Jesus for that matter.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Mikkeles ( 698461 )

      'So how should we be choosing and celebrating free software's past achievements?'

      Well, there are enough projects so that, like saints' days, there is something to celebrate every day. For, celebration involves tasty alcoholic beverages and comfy women (well, woman really; my wife).

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:07AM (#27254329) Homepage Journal

      You better believe in Santa or the Coca-Cola guys are gonna come to your house and make you believe.

      • by bytesex ( 112972 )

        Yeah what's up with that ? I mean, I could imagine that if you lived in Australia, then associating a midsummer's feast with a cool beverage would not be so strange, but Christmas in the northern hemisphere ? What completely retarded marketing twat thought that up ?!

    • Jesus Christ!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I celebrate Linux everyday of all the years.
  • Yeah Yeah Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:49AM (#27254099) Homepage Journal

    Free software isn't developed according to the same models as proprietary software. We get that. It's just backwards to complain about how people take the time to celebrate the achievements of free software developers.


  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:50AM (#27254113)

    I've always thought "release early, release often" is a terrible idea. That just means all your end-users will see the crap you're working on before you do the testing, and get a bad impression of your software right from the get-go. It makes sense to do that *after* you hit 1.0 and have a pretty clean product, but why would you want people forming their first impression of your software from untested development releases?

    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:56AM (#27254177) Journal

      Because waiting YEARS for Vista sucked, and the end product sucked even harder after all that wait... that's why.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The OP obviosuly wishes more software projects were like Vista.

        You know, announced before it was begun, released before it was stable, out of date before it was fixed, over-priced, under-supported, and just plain crap !

        Me, I'll choose evolution over revolution because it seems to work well for other complex systems too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )

        At least it worked. That's better than most "released early" open source software I've tried.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by yelvington ( 8169 )

          Parent item is an uninformed Microsoft troll.

          "Release early, release often" doesn't mean you push non-working software into production channels.

          The point of "release early, release often" is that a wide and open circle of potential users can become collaborators in the development process.

          That doesn't mean they write code or even follow good formal test practices. Even without technical skills, users can contribute materially to the development of a well-run open-source project.

          If you won't want to sign up

    • by Directrix1 ( 157787 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:59AM (#27254227)

      Release early, release often, release statements of current functionality. Seriously, no non-geek is going to be installing software that isn't test by some bff geek anyway. So release early and often so the geeks can help guide its direction and give feedback.

    • by Jimmy King ( 828214 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:01AM (#27254263) Homepage Journal

      I've always thought "release early, release often" is a terrible idea.

      My wife tells me the same thing.

    • I don't seem to remember many people complaining about Mozilla Phoenix/Firebird, not-so-many years ago when it hadn't even reached 1.0 ...

    • by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:14AM (#27254415) Homepage
      I personally would not argue with Linus on how to run a successful open source project. You, of course, can do what you want.
    • by mqduck ( 232646 )

      How exactly do you plan on having an open-source project if you don't release it?

    • The point about "release early, release often" is that you do it to people who are aware that it is not the final version, and who will give you constructive feedback....

      Ordinary users who will at best say "It didn't work" are not your target audience....they are the people who you give v1.01 Stable release to ....

      The reason Vista is hated so much is it's usability, which beta releases should have found and corrected, but the Beta testers seemed to all be people who didn't complain enough?

    • by skeeto ( 1138903 )

      The people seeing these fast releases aren't the end-users, but rather people that will be actively involved in the project and contributing back (coding, testing, etc.). This creates a fast feedback cycle. It's the core of running the development "bazaar", if you will.

      After OpenBSD opened up their code repositories for anyone to read, everyone else started doing it. This pushed even further, so that anyone could access the exact state of a project at any time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >release early, release often" is a terrible idea.

      Err. Not to the non-computer-savvy end users.

      That's why the first release is 0.1. If you give a 0.1 release to a non-computer-savvy end user, you're insane. On the other hand, that early is the best time for other computer-savvy users (=programmers) to see it and still be able to change fundamental stuff.

      >That just means all your end-users will see the crap you're working on before you do the testing, and get a bad impression of your software right fro

    • Well the case of Birthday for things that were note born is always a fuzzy idea.
      Just like the Abortion debate of when does human life begin.
      Conception when you just a couple of cells, or in terms of software when you started coding
      1st trimester when it is starting to grow and become more then a bunch of cells however indistinguishable for all other vertebrates. or in terms of code, it doesn't work but you got the data layouts sets and some proof of concepts sections working.
      2nt trimester When Human disting

  • by Samschnooks ( 1415697 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:50AM (#27254119)
    when Linus says it is. He has final approval on any birth date.
  • by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:51AM (#27254125)
    Start celebrating the years when someone says, "This will be the year that Linux will take over the desktop."
  • Ummm yes... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:53AM (#27254149)

    But do version numbers matter for free software?

    Version numbers matter to the average user. If you have a product that takes years to break version 1.0, the uninitiated will wonder why it took you so long to "get it working." This question is another example of how many FOSS developers and advocates don't understand the basic psychology of the masses.

    • Re:Ummm yes... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Directrix1 ( 157787 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:03AM (#27254293)

      Right... the masses... Lets perform a psychology "experiment" here. Ask any non-geek what version number of any piece of software they are running. Hell, ask them for the name of that software. Most cannot answer either. Generally, "the masses" only know a couple things "this is my internet", "this is how I type stuff", "this is how I email", etc.

  • Usenet post? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday March 19, 2009 @08:55AM (#27254165) Homepage

    Isn't the most logical Linux birthday when Linus first posted his code for others to improve upon? If memory serves me correctly it was a Usenet post?

    • No I think I would stay at the version 1 release.

      As after version 1.0 was released it was actually started to be used as a real OS for non-kernel developers. Other apps may be different. I have been using the text editor jed for nearly 15 years as well and it is still not version 1.0.

      However Linux has a more sane Version Number system, so it is fair to use 1.0 for its birth date. Other systems not so much.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )

        As after version 1.0 was released it was actually started to be used as a real OS for non-kernel developers.

        My company was running its corporate mailserver on a Slackware distro using kernel 0.9 something in 1993. Compiling your own kernel was compulsory in those days - I think Slackware came with a minimal kernel to get you bootstrapped.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        No, I would start with when linux was first released.
    • by physicsphairy ( 720718 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:18AM (#27254457) Homepage
      I believe the most logical choice for the Linux birthday is to take whatever date is median to Linus Torvald's birthday and UNIX's birthday.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Witch would be:

      Aug 26 1991, 7:12 am, when Linus revealed his intentions [google.com]


      Oct 5 1991, 4:53 pm, when he announced the availability of Linux [google.com].

      Either way, Linux would 20 in two years time and 18 later this year.

    • That post is more akin to Linus announcing he was pregnant. I would regard the 1.0 release as the birth, with initial coding of the 0.x releases akin to baby showers and painting nurseries.

      The conception, like most, was the result of a drunken night in front of a computer terminal, filled with unwise and hasty decisions. When Linus woke the next morning, with the most schocking hangover, he saw before him the beginnings of an x86 OS kernel, with drunken documentation and to do lists, and no memory of how any of it came to be on his hard drive. He took it from there.

      I mean, no one honestly decides to write a kernel when they're sober, do they?

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      What if the maker of software has not yet posted the code, but already worked on it for a year. That would make the software a year older.

  • Who gives a shit?!

    To be honest, I think that this might be part of the reason half the world is having trouble adopting to open source software. It's like a freshman trying to date a senior. GROW UP!
  • As long as the developer still has the human trait of assigning meanings to numbers, any major version X will have a gravity that version X-1.9.Z does not. Barring minor versions that happen to match up to pi, prime numbers, fibonacci sequences, etc.

    Consciously or subconsciously, someone is saying "what happens next is different", otherwise they'd just make it a point release, or pick a different versioning system.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:02AM (#27254265)
    After about the 100th anal-retentive jackass to smugly point out "2001 is the ACTUAL start of the millennium, you know!" I just started punching them.
  • So how should we be choosing and celebrating free software's past achievements?"

    Booze. Lots and lots of Booze. And strippers. Lots of strippers. And pie. Gotta have some pie.

  • When going from #.99 to a whole number (version 1, 2, 3, 4, etc) it is a BIG deal actually. Even going from 0.99zzz to 1.0 is a big milestone. The changes are fairly significant and the software has reached a maturity the developer(s) believe warrant that. Now I am speaking in the traditional/ideology sense...I am sure some people put out version 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, n+1, where N>0 but in a traditional sense...version 1 = big milestone. I wouldn't celebrate it as it's birthday. Getting to version 1.0 is l
  • by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:10AM (#27254363) Homepage
    Yea this is an annoying trend. I used Linux for a year or two before it hit the 1.0 kernel. The 0.99 releases were very useful at the time, and in many ways better than the SCO release that cost BIG money for a PC unix.
    • Ya, me too. I remember compiling those kernels on a 386DX40 (with math coprocessor! lol). I had 4 MB of RAM which cost more than $300 back then due to the shortages, what a ripoff (but necessary to play Doom). It took about 45 minutes to compile even though the source base was tiny compared to what it is now. I also ran X11 just fine even though the "minimum" RAM was 8 MB.

      I don't have that computer any more but I still use the monitor in my server room and the 345 MB Maxtor HD from that machine still wo

  • Maybe Linus' birthday would be a clear cut milestone?

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:20AM (#27254483)

    So how should we be choosing and celebrating free software's past achievements?"

    Declare it must be 5-o'clock somewhere, start drinking.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:23AM (#27254533)

    We all know that Linux was made in 1979 [wikipedia.org].

    [yes this is a joke post]

  • That release of linux bears as much resemblance to the stuff running today as W3.1 does to Vista. There's nothing to be gained from drawing parallels between the two, so celebrating v1.0 as the "birth" of Linux, as people understand Linux today, is bogus.

    Anyhow, the first usable releases, such as the one I started on: 0.96 came out a couple of years earlier

  • In Korea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psnyder ( 1326089 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:25AM (#27254551)
    In Korea, you are 1 year old the minute you are born. In most other countries you are considered 0 years old until your first birthday.
    It's a different way of counting.

    You can consider software (such as Linux) beginning as the first line of code is written, or when the idea was first conceived, or when it was first on the internet, etc. Most people consider version 1.0 to be more of the official "birth" of software.
    It's a different way of counting.

    Both are correct when thinking of them from different perspectives. To understand this requires mental flexibility in your ways of thinking.

    As a further illustration:
    The argument presented in both the article and summary:

    there's generally little difference between version 0.99.14z, say, and version 1.0

    There's generally little difference between a fetus the day before it's born and the day after it's born. But culture generally starts counting after it's born and not at conception. Computer culture often starts counting at v1.0

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jayspec462 ( 609781 )
      Huh. Apparently, in Korea, email is for people who are one year less old than I thought they were. Who knew?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by digitig ( 1056110 )

      In Korea, you are 1 year old the minute you are born.

      China too, but it might be better to translate it as "in your 1st year".

  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:26AM (#27254565) Journal

    Despite the quite correct statement by a few people that the millenium changed Jan 1 2001, the vast majority of people ignored that and celebrated the arrival of 2000 as the new millenium. No matter how right you are about Linux's age etc., the vast majority will completely fail to notice you and your dogmatic assertions, and will enjoy themselves in spite of you.

  • by joeyblades ( 785896 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:46AM (#27254831)

    I, for one, do not plan to attend the parade, now that I know it's all a misguided sham...

  • Well if it's *not* the birthday of Linux who cares? It just happens to be one of 363 other UNbirthdays, all of which require celebration in a manner of your choice. "A very merry unbirthday, to you!"
  • by HikingStick ( 878216 ) <z01riemer@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday March 19, 2009 @09:57AM (#27254999)
    If you think about birthdays among people, they don't simply grow on the date of their birth. They are constantly growing and learning and developing. Birthdays are commemmorative events that celebrate when someone joined a specific family (or the human family in general). That's really not that different than what you described regarding open sources software.

    Perhaps "anniversary" would be a better term. A marriage rarely has its beginnings at the altar or in front of the justice of the peace. The persons involved typically began interacting with each other, learning, and growing together before the date of the actual ceremony, yet we celebrate their anniversary on the date they made their public vows in front of witnesses. I can see a parallel between pre-release and beta editions culminating with a public 1.0 release (or whatever the given name or number of a product may be). I don't see it as a disservice to the open source community to mark such milestones. In fact, if they were to describe the development process similarly to how I described it here--as an ongoing, growing, developing thing--it might actually mean more to some people.

    In any case, observing a birthday or anniversary holds powerful meaning regardless of the context (human or inanimate): it means the person or the thing survived the test of time. That's why so many businesses are quick to proclaim "...since 1933", "...established 2006", or similar sentiments that convey age. They understand that people tend to trust established brands, thinking (consciously or subconsciously), "if they've been around that long, they can't be too bad," or, "if they've been around that long, there's a good chance they'll still be around in a few years if I need to exercise my warranty rights."

    So, for me, I'll say happy anniversary Linux. You've had a good start. I'm looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring.
    • by Joe U ( 443617 )

      I think you're analyzing it too much

      Over analyzing on SLASHDOT? You're kidding.

      (What we need is a roast)

      Now, all of the 300 or so Linux users should get together to celebrate this anniversary of a rewrite of a clone of a rewrite of Multics.

      Happy anniversary Linux, thank you for bringing much needed over complexity to mainstream computing!

  • I can remember having Linux on my old Atari ST way more than 15 years ago. Of course back then there wasn't much to run on it :)
  • I love open source, I really do. But the proponents by and large tend to lack a sense of pragmatism or a sensitivity to psychology (which explains the terrible UIs of many open source programs).

    Just pick a date and give people their freaking anniversary. It's not going to hurt anything and gives people a chance to have a little fun and acknowledge the progress of the project.

  • A lack of planning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @10:14AM (#27255255)

    A lack of planning and having defined goals is not the same as working in a new and different way. If a survey of the most successful open source project was to be done I would put money on every single one having a strong plan and good leadership. Fair enough that leadership might be technical rather than the typical management type but it would be there.

    This whole "we won't call it 1.0 till it does everything perfectly" thinking smacks of childishness to me. Set some goals and publish them along with version numbers so that people know what to expect when. FFmpeg is a prime example of a project that should be 5.0 not 0.5. It's a mature, feature rich and stable lump of code that is in widespread use. Give it a version number that reflect that.

  • What's so special? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @10:16AM (#27255281)
    What's so special about the 0xFth anniversary anyway? Shouldn't we be waiting for next year and celebrating the 0x10th anniversary?
  • The two actually have nothing to do with each other. Many "proprietary" software projects are done in an incremental, release-often mode. Many "free" software projects are done in a waterfall, plan-design-code-test-release mode.

    By promulgating this myth, you are actually doing free software a big disservice, by limiting it to a certain style of development.

    Go away, ponder, then come back and repent.

  • Wouldn't it be more like being born when Linux was first able to self-host?

  • by steak ( 145650 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @11:29AM (#27256469) Homepage Journal

    the first time a slacker sneered derisively at a red hat user. a.k.a. the beginning of the distro wars.

  • by ChrisA90278 ( 905188 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @12:26PM (#27257365)

    For Linux using the release of 1.0 was something that happened late. the .9 series was long lived and mature. I'd been using Linux for a long time before 1.0 was released.

    In people years, Linux 1.0 was more like a high school graduation than a birth. It meant that Linux was mostly grown up,

    For Linux we do have a very good and well defined "birthday". The day Linux posted on usnet. Use that.

  • by Greg_D ( 138979 ) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @12:53PM (#27257785)

    Linux: 15 years of being 5 years away from taking over the desktop!

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant