[linux-elitists] Re: Linux ports

Jonathan Corbet corbet-elite@lwn.net
Thu Oct 23 08:41:45 PDT 2003

>   (I'd be surprised to find a bunch of OpenVMS-elitists on the
>   Linux-elitists list ... but those people are out there!)

I managed VMS systems for much of the 80's, and did driver work on them as
well.  I still have a good deal of respect for that system, even though I
spent much of that time pushing (successfully, eventually) for a transition
to Unix.

Linux still hasn't really caught up to the VMS privilege and resource
control models.  Linux capabilities are a low-res version of privileges,
but they haven't ever been pushed through to user space.  You never had to
search your disk for setuid programs, since "privileged images" were
tracked internally by the kernel itself.  Want to know what's privileged?
Just ask.

VMS I/O was inherently asynchronous and direct; Linux is still trying to
figure out how to do that right.  On the other hand, I resent the fact that
I still can list off all twelve sys$qio() parameters.

Then again, the DCL "shell" was awful, the RMS ("record manager services")
layer turned the simple act of reading a file into a complicated mess, and
you wouldn't believe what I had to go through to retrofit a simple,
home-written SMTP implementation into the VMS mail utility.  I ported an
early version of vi over as soon as VMS got a C compiler, and never looked
at EDT again.  Etc.

I don't miss VMS, but it was a well-done and successful OS in its time.


P.S.  The original 11/780 that I managed is still around at the government- 
      funded lab where I worked.  By their dilbertesque rules, you can't
      surplus a piece of equipment until everything listed on the original
      PR has been accounted for.  Buying a Vax was a complicated business,
      and nobody will ever find all the DZ11 cards, MASSBUS cables, manual
      sets, etc. that were called out as specific line items.  That 11/780
      will exist forever as a piece of active equipment, even though its
      (three-phase) power plug was pulled for the last time some 15 years

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