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The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 22, by Dr. Peter Salus
Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 11:55 AM EST

Here's the next installment of The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Chapter 22, "Yet More Peguins," by Dr. Peter Salus. It is the last for about a month, after which Dr. Salus will begin again. Earlier chapters can be found here.


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin

~ by Dr. Peter H. Salus

Chapter 22: Yet More Penguins

Debian Linux, as I stated in Chapter 20, was created by Ian Murdock. He officially founded the "Project" on August 16, 1993. From November 1994 to November 1995, the Debian Project was sponsored by the FSF.

In November 1995, Infomagic released an experimental version of Debian which was only partially in ELF format as "Debian 1.0." On December 11, Debian and Infomagic jointly announced that this release "was screwed." Bruce Perens, who had succeeded Murdock as "leader," said that the data placed on the 5-CD set would most likely not even boot possibly.

The real result was that the "real" release, Buzz, was 1.1 (June 17, 1996), with 474 packages. Bruce was employed by Pixar and so all Debian releases are named after characters in Toy Story (1995).

  • 1.2 Rex, December 12, 1996 (848 packages)
  • 1.3 Bo, June 5, 1997 (974 packages)
  • 2.0 Hamm, July 24, 1998 ("over 1500 packages")
  • 2.1 Slink, March 9, 1999 ("about 2250 packages")
  • 2.2 Potato, August 15, 2000 ("more than 3900 binary packages")
  • 3.0 Woody, July 19, 2002 (8500 binary packages)
  • 3.1 Sarge, June 6, 2005 (15,400 packages)
Buzz fit on one CD. Slink went to two. Sarge is on 14 CDs in the official set. It was released fully translated to over 30 languages and contains a new debian-installer. Slink had also introduced ports to the Alpha and Sparc. In 1999, Debian also began a Hurd port.

Though Debian carried the burden of being tough to install for several years, Sarge has changed that. The new installer with automatic hardware detection is quite remarkable.

I introduced Red Hat in Chapter 19, and I will return to the company again, but at this point I'd like to introduce Mandrake, a Linux distribution based on Red Hat 5.1 and KDE. It was created by Gael Duval, a graduate of Caen University, in July 1998. From 1998 to early 2004, Mandrake was reasonably successful, notable for its high degree of internationalization as well as the variety of chips it would run on. However, in February 2004 MandrakeSoft lost a suit filed by the Hearst Syndicate which claimed invasion of their trademarked "Mandrake the Magician." Starting with 10.0, there was a minor name change. Then, in April 2005, Mandrakesoft announced that there was a merger with Conectiva, and that the new name would be Mandriva.

Joseph Cheek founded Redmond Linux in 2000. In 2001 it merged with DeepLinux. In January 2002 the company was renamed Lycoris and its Desktop/LX was based on Caldera's Workstation 3.1. In June 2005, Lycoris was acquired by Mandriva.

I've gone through all this to show just how complex the tale of Linux distributions can be. And, as of this writing, there appear to be well over 100 distributions. I will neither enumerate nor elaborate on most of them. However, the most "popular" appear to be:

  • Red Hat
  • Fedora
  • Debian
  • Gentoo
  • Knoppix
  • SuSE/SUSE (Novell)
  • Slackware
  • TSL
  • Yellow Dog
  • Mandriva
  • College Linux
  • Ubuntu
  • Kubuntu
  • Puppy

It might be a full-time job to track all the distributions and their origins. For instance, Kanotix is a Debian derivative. It is also a Knoppix derivative, as it is a live CD. And it is solid as a rock.

Knoppix was created by Klaus Knopper, a freelance IT/Linux consultant. It has achieved popularity because it is easily run from the CD, without installation and because it can be readily employed to fix corrupted file systems, etc. It was the first Linux on a live CD.

In 1996, Bob Young and Red Hat moved corporate headquarters to North Carolina. In January 1997, Greylock and August Capital invested $6.25 million in Cygnus Solutions, becoming the first VCs to invest in a free software business. In July, Red Hat 4.2 was released and in December, 5.0 was announced.

These are important events, as could be seen in November 1998 when a Microsoft lawyer waved a Red Hat box in the air to "refute" the US Justice Department charge that Microsoft has a monopoly on the desktop operating system market.

While Red Hat may not have been the most innovative company, they had already become the iconic Linux enterprise.

In August of 1999, Red Hat had its IPO, the eighth largest first day gain in Wall Street history. (On 9 December 1999, VA Linux had its IPO.) And in November 1999, Red Hat acquired Cygnus, creating the largest "open source" company in the world.

Just how successful Linux and some Linux companies had become was made obvious at the outset of the new millennium:

  • In January 2001 Scott McNealy said that Linux is a "better NT than NT"; and
  • In February 2001 Steve Ballmer called Linux "a cancer" and "an intellectual property destroyer."

Oh, boy!

Dr. Salus is the author of "A Quarter Century of UNIX" and several other books, including "HPL: Little Languages and Tools", "Big Book of Ipv6 Addressing Rfcs", "Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Imperative Programming Languages", "Casting the Net: From ARPANET to INTERNET and Beyond", and "The Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Functional, Concurrent and Logic Programming Languages". There is an interview with him, audio and video,"codebytes: A History of UNIX and UNIX Licences" which was done in 2001 at a USENIX conference. Dr. Salus has served as Executive Director of the USENIX Association.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 22, by Dr. Peter Salus | 139 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 22, by Dr. Peter Salus
Authored by: ebeese on Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 12:14 PM EST
I like the juxtaposition of Microsoft referring to linux as a cancer and then
waving a box in the air to refute claims. It makes one forget how far linux has
to go to be recognised as a threat on the desktop. I'm a linux fan but as i sit
and type this I'm on a windows box which I have no intention of switching to
linux at any point in the near future because linux (GASP!) doesn't do what I
want (or rather need) this computer to do without getting pretty messy in the


[ Reply to This | # ]

OT Here
Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 12:29 PM EST
Please post any links in HTML.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Correct ions here Please
Authored by: jacks4u on Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 12:39 PM EST
So that the good Doctor can find them!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some trivia
Authored by: Nick_UK on Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 02:18 PM EST
Believe it or not, Ian Murdocks' wife is named is Deborah. Hence Deb/ian as the distro name :-)

I started with Mandrake 6.5 in 1999. This is my post to the Linux kernel mailing list on July 10th 2004

My post to LKML

Today (/me logs in):


[nick@486Linux nick]$ uname -a  
Linux 486Linux 2.2.13-7mdk #1 Wed Sep 15
18:02:18 CEST 
1999 i486 unknown  
[nick@486Linux nick]$ last -xf
/var/run/utmp runlevel  
runlevel (to lvl 3)                    Sun Oct 14 16:07
19:15 (1502+04:07) 

Still going! This box still delivers my web pages - about 200 hits a day...


[ Reply to This | # ]

The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin - Ch. 22, by Dr. Peter Salus
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 02:21 PM EST
These "chapters" are all so darn short, I don't know if
"chapter" is really the right
word for them. Can't see for the life of me how all of this is going to add up
to a
"book". "Booklet", perhaps, but not "book".

[ Reply to This | # ]

The First Live Distro ...
Authored by: iceworm on Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 06:24 PM EST

I remember, indistinctly, seeing an advertisement in a magazine (I don't remember the name of the magazine) for a "live cd" distribution of linux from "Red Hat". This was in the days before bootable cd's (and the BIOS that would do the job), so I think "live" meant one could boot from a floppy (maybe a 5.25 inch) and run Linux from the CD-ROM. I think it was about 1994 or 1995. I couldn't afford the pittance to send off for the CD (I didn't get on the Internet until mid-1995 or so). Alas!

I understand "live" as used now means bootable from the media and runable from the media without installing on the harddrive. I do wonder if anyone remembers this.

iceworm (old curmudgeon in training)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Red Hat
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 25 2005 @ 05:25 AM EST
> While Red Hat may not have been the most innovative company, they had
already become the iconic Linux enterprise.

I'm sorry, this is just nonsense. RPM, NPTL, O(1) kernel scheduler, exec-shield,
Anaconda, a lot of GCJ/classpath work and heaps of other stuff all come from Red

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 28 2005 @ 09:41 PM EST
For those looking for more information on the various distributions see url:

Note: this also includes a few BSD distros.


[ Reply to This | # ]

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