The logic angle

Story: Linux is a better Linux than Sun Solaris10Total Replies: 12
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Mar 01, 2006
5:41 AM EDT
I don't use Solaris, so I can't verify or dispute any of the claims made with regard to the actual technology involved (I actually came to the article to find a little more out about it). However, there is the minor point of the logic of the phrase "Sun is a better Linux than Linux"...

You're right that, taken literally, of course it doesn't make logical sense. There's the rule of identity, and nothing can be more like something than that something itself is. In reality, though, given that you know that's the case, you should realize that it's a nuance of the language that the term "Linux" is just used in two different ways there. The first Linux represents the embodiment of the OS, the spirit of it, its greatest benefits, the reasons people are drawn to it. The second Linux is the literal Linux that you can download and install.

In other words, if you were to say that you love cats because they're loyal and give you companionship, someone could certainly make the statement that, given that context, dogs are better cats than cats. Whether it's true is up to you to decide, but it's not an illogical statement.


Mar 01, 2006
6:48 AM EDT
Prophasi: Hey! Another logic buff. I appreciate your perspective, it's refreshing to say the least. Thank you.

Context, I love it. Programmers call it name space. In physics we call it an universe.

I'll use the later. In a universe of particles when one particle becomes stable, we once called that a stable datum. (I'm dating myself, eh.) Regardless, it becomes the referent for the other particles and taken to the extreme, we can wind up with magnitude and velocity and a vector.

I'm at a loss to see how Sun's marketing statement functions in a context to create a vector. I'm willing to discover another point of view.

I agree with the rule of linguistical nuances where Linux is used in two different ways. I just don't see how it provides magnitude and velocity in their message. Now, I'm looking at it from the functional perspective of nuance.

I'm pretty coachable, so I'd like your perspective on that.

Thank you!

Mar 01, 2006
10:34 AM EDT
Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics buff huh?

Your a Texan, if you stayed in state it would have probably been Rice or A&M.

The vector they are trying to create is pointing towards Sun. Sun is trying to keep third party and independent developers on their platform.

Linux is the de facto platform for independent developers nowadays.

Sun depended on developers outside of Sun more than MS, Apple, HP, or sgi ever did. Windows developers pretty much live in their own universe, or move to another platform. They may still work in Windows for pay, but their heart is always elsewhere.

Sun's developers are abandoning Sun for Linux and the brain drain shows.

Sun, like many Unix shops, has a strong anti-Linux bias. Right or wrong, its true. Its part jealousy, part envy, and part truly justified. They think most other people should have this bias too, and actually believe the things they say about Linux.

They see the world from their biased gravity well, and believe the planets all revolve around them. They can't conceive of a force other than their own gravity.

They still don't understand that Linux is not controlled by gravity, but supplies its own motive force. It respects the laws of gravity, but can leave the solar system and travel where it wants.

(Ok I was and astro major at New Mexico Tech, so there's my bias)

Mar 01, 2006
11:23 AM EDT
number6x: Astro major huh?

I worked with them for more than a year. Your post is right on! The Linux developers there would not use Sun Linux JDS. They claimed they didn't know how (big endian / little endian). The attitude inside: Hate Linux. Avoid having to work on it. Yuk on Linux. On the OpenSolaris mailing list they said they wanted to start a holy war. They bad mouthed Linux and then wrote: we should go get some of Linus' kernel developers to work on this. HUH?

You don't need a referant for that!


Mar 01, 2006
11:25 AM EDT
I had an insight: Sun is a misnomer. Hence, the astrophysics analogy fails. The so called social sciences also fail to adequately describe Sun's behaviour. Psychology is a bust - I saw the term schizophrenic used and while seemingly appropriate, I think to this was a misapprehension of the fundamental driving force.

I must admit, however, I am torn between two descriptions that are equally scientifically valid and describe Sun's behaviour all too well. Both involve the microscopic dimensions where behaviours unlike those we expect in the "real" macroscopic world rule. That is, the contradictory, spasmodic out pourings are simply the superposition of probabilities that when confined to a specific definition results in a single result that differs from most others when repeated, thus, the seeming discordance. You reduced it to one answer, keep the process up and you at best get a weighted average of the entire set of probabilities, but that's just statistical mechanics. I prefer the quantum picture.

Or we could take the theory of everything approach, still trying to tie the microscopic to the macro. If we use string theory, the twists and turns by Sun are perfectly reasonable solutions and we have many more to go.

So simply: Sun does not sit at even the center of this solar system, let alone the universe. It behaviour is more of a speck blown about by the forces of molecular collisions, forces of attraction and repulsion and the fields that rule those micro spaces. As it shrinks its behaviour grows only more bizarre

Are you all with me, sit down, relax and watch the show.

Mar 01, 2006
12:33 PM EDT
Herschel, I tend to agree that Sun is not the referent. As stated earlier, I consider Linux the stable datum in a limited universe where particles in motion tend to begin their orbits. I don't want to write the formula because my keyboard doesn't begin to have the symbols available.

Given that, in the theory of everything/nothing you have to account for the existential Macro/meta universe and if Sun was the only company, then they would disappear which is what I want them to do anyway.

I doubt we could arrange for all the beings in the universe to agree to return to an existential state of everything, but then for Sun, maybe we could get an instance.

Mar 03, 2006
6:29 PM EDT
I majored in survival without the benefits of statistical, quantum, logical or auto mechanics and though the inside jokes are lost on me I sure did enjoy reading that back and forth banter. Just one complaint. My brain hurts now ....

Mar 03, 2006
8:13 PM EDT
Your brain hurts? After reading all these comments, I dumber now.

Go figure (-:

Mar 04, 2006
6:11 AM EDT
I just think about how much I don't remember!


Mar 04, 2006
8:42 AM EDT
I just read this whole thing top to bottom and because of it now I have a Bertrand Russell book I cannot put down.

Its all your faults for making me brush up on my Logic.


Mar 04, 2006
11:38 AM EDT
tadelste -

I take that statement ("Solaris is a better Linux than Linux") as follows. I'll call the first Linux usage "Linux A," and the second "Linux B."

Linux B, as I mentioned above, is the concrete, downloadable software package -- the "Linux" concept made flesh. We'll assume the reader doesn't have any idea of what Solaris is, or why he might want it. Linux B, then, is the referent through which he can determine both the general nature and the absolute "value" of Solaris.

Linux A is the conceptual Linux, the vague notion of an operating system that is similar to Linux in all the definitive ways (open source, secure, flexible, low maintenance, or anything else the reader may assume -- vagueness is good for marketing). Any concrete product that lives within the context/universe of Linux A is "a Linux" -- Linux is a Linux, Solaris is a Linux, BSD is a Linux.

Now the reader knows that Solaris exists in the Linux A context, and therefore IS "a Linux," meaning that it's similar to Linux B in the most important ways (as determined by the reader). So we've defined Solaris' general nature. But what does it mean to be "a BETTER Linux than Linux (B)"?

That's also left intentionally vague, of course. In physics you would use your referent to determine quantitative measurements like velocity and magnitude. In this case, without any mention of what it means to be a better Linux, the most obvious measurements are the qualitative ones that define the context (Linux A) in the first place -- security, open source, etc. There's a threshold that must be met on the absolute qualitative spectrum for each of these criteria, to attain membership in the Linux A context; likewise, there exist corresponding relative qualitative spectra WITHIN the context. The implication is that Solaris lies farther along the relative spectra (whether in all areas, in the most important ones, or by some aggregate score) than does Linux B.

Really, I think it's about the most concise way of getting that point across, without having to make false claims or blabber on about specifics. It hits Linux B as the touchstone of the genre, to appeal to the target market (everyone who likes Linux already, or is thinking about using Linux in the future). By using Linux A as the context, it acknowledges Linux B as the prototypical "Linux," but establishes that Linux B is by no means the only (or the best) "Linux" out there. Linux A is the most efficient way to capture the essence of Linux B -- example, rather than definition ("open-source operating system with powerful command shell, blah blah blah"). Plus, it's reader-relative, since each person has his own notion of what makes Linux Linux.


Mar 04, 2006
1:32 PM EDT
Jeremy: It's like another post where the same rationalization was used. As Einstein implied, all frames of reference are equally valid. And if people take LSD, that's certainly a valid frame of reference until they jump off the balcony of the 26th floor of the Hilton. Then gravity intrudes on their dream-based frame of reference.

Linux isn't a concept and a way to put things. That's something in Texas you find in an outhouse. Linux is a kernel and the OS uses GNU in userland for the most part.

The Solaris crowd would like to think a concept exists called Linux that doesn't apply to Linux, but don't try to sell it to me, cause I ain't buying. If McNeally was in the driver's seat, he would go back to his original premise that Linux sucks, is inferior, we're all a bunch of punks, it's not ready, etc.

But, I will say you have a nice way of putting forth the argument. ;-)


Mar 04, 2006
7:25 PM EDT
tadelste -

I don't particularly follow/know/trust McNealy, and I don't have any reason to believe the line's actually true. Given Sun's failings in many other areas, along with a no doubt growing desperation arising therefrom, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I understand what you're saying with regards to the personal perspective being "valid" until it conflicts with reality. In the case of the identity and truth of Linux A, however, it's impossible for it to conflict with reality, and it will always hold true, since its truth isn't subject to external arbitration. Sun is implicitly defining Linux A to be what I described, the essence and benefits of the real product (Linux B), and then invoking the defined term within the same sentence. They're using it correctly *by definition*, since it's the usage itself that defines it.

At most, I think, you could argue that "Linux" ought not be used that way because either confusing or a misappropriation of a specific brand term. I believe that would be a little draconian, though, since it's meant only as a succinct, tongue-in-cheek way to catch attention. I also don't think it's confusing, even on an immediate first read.

Lastly, I'd just say that while there is, as you point out, a strict definition of Linux, that's already not the common usage for virtually anyone, outside of technical discussions (like this one), where the author implicitly switches to the strict definition. The rest of the time, we're using a broader, personalized, more holistic definition. When we're considering Linux vs. Windows, we're thinking not of the kernel, but of the kernel with all the standard utilities, X, KDE, Bash, etc. that actually allow Linux to compete with Windows on the desktop. If we were to advise Mom to download strict Linux, absent the niceties on top, it'd never be adopted. There is an official Linux kernel, but once someone installs custom kernel patches and recompiles, is he no longer running Linux, by that strict definition? "Linux is better than Windows" likewise speaks of the Linux "platform," including all the top-level stuff. Same with "Linux has become a mature OS" or similar statements from pro-Linux folks -- they're concerned not with the kernel, which was already good, but with the gaps in the overall OS platform that are finally being filled, to become a viable solution in the real world. Sun's usage is no less realistic than these; they're all just useful and accessible abstractions of otherwise lengthy topics.

Although, at this point I have to say that we (and particularly I) have killed any gains in conciseness achieved by the original statement. :)


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