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-   -   Linux vs commercial Unix for workstations (http://www.cfd-online.com/Forums/hardware/88400-linux-vs-commercial-unix-workstations.html)

wenp May 16, 2011 23:31

Linux vs commercial Unix for workstations
 
I work on Linux but have often wished for a more stable and consistent platform. The obvious alternative (to me) would be one of the commercial Unixes, but the high cost of those systems is what prompted the exodus from Unix to Linux in the 1990s. Recently, I have noticed quite a lot of workstation hardware going second-hand for reasonable prices and see that once expensive software is now free or at least cheap for personal use.

How do current Unixes and Linuxes compare on the workstation? Everything I can find on Linux vs. Unix these days is about use on large servers. It seems that active discussion of Unix for workstations died at the millenium.

I'm trying to get an idea of whether the effort to set up a Unix system would be adequately rewarded with a nicer environment. I guess I should mention that I work mostly at the command line and don't even install a heavy desktop environment like KDE/GNOME.

Points to mention might be:
Conceptual unity of the system
Process isolation (can an app hang the system)
Scalability (cores and memory)
File system reliability
Shell scripting gotchas
Ease of building POSIX compliant apps
Quality of the compilers vs. gcc
Community support
Documentation
Longevity of required hardware (if discontinued)
Ability to handle newer hardware (e.g. SSDs, USB storage, NICs)
Ease and cost of getting media and licenses

Ahmed May 17, 2011 02:09

I work on Linux but have often wished for a more stable and consistent platform

just a question, is that statement based on free Linux or commercially supported Linux?
just an example, there is Open Suse (Free product) and Suse (paid product), Open Solaris and Solaris and etc.....

Pauli May 17, 2011 10:20

Can you elaborate on the stability issues you experience. I am one of the people who migrated from Unix workstations to Linux. I do not perceive a significant stability difference. I had occasional Unix crashes/hangs & I have the same with Linux.

One potential problem to be considered is software support. Some software vendors are dropping support for older workstation hardware/OS.

rwryne May 17, 2011 12:44

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ahmed (Post 307889)
I work on Linux but have often wished for a more stable and consistent platform

just a question, is that statement based on free Linux or commercially supported Linux?
just an example, there is Open Suse (Free product) and Suse (paid product), Open Solaris and Solaris and etc.....

Which distro are you using?

wenp May 17, 2011 20:40

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pauli (Post 307975)
I had occasional Unix crashes/hangs & I have the same with Linux.

Right, no general operating platform has ever achieved perfect stability. I've read the lamentations of OpenVMS users who were dragged kicking and screaming into Unix. What I'm trying to assess is whether any of the commercial Unixes are enough better than current Linux to be worth trying, given the lowered cost barrier. I've been using Debian Stable, by the way.

My biggest problem with Linux is probably the fragility of the file system. For example, I use a USB hard drive with ext2 for transporting files. The other day, I connected it with what I later identified as an inadequately shielded USB cable. The noise on the line caused a failed file transfer. In the course of dealing with the transfer failure, Linux corrupted the entire directory structure on the external drive and no amount of fiddling with fsck could restore it. I have had similar cases with both ext2 and ext3 with various storage devices. I've just converted two machines to ext4 and it's faster than ext3 and seems more stable than either, though I'm not too happy about the amount of drive space it reserves for administrative tasks.

In another recent case, I was using Midnight Commander to manage some files. I transferred several files to a directory, waited for activity to cease, then navigated to another directory and opened a file. The directory I had just left became inaccessible and I was unable to recover the files in it. I'm speculating this event was caused by the cacheing mechanism. Working on Linux has caused me to become very conscientious about keeping multiple backups of everything.

My second biggest issue with Linux is the degree of process isolation. There will always be apps that hang, but I get frustrated with how easily one app can hang the entire system. Some of the worst offenders are supposedly mature apps like Emacs and Firefox. Also, there should be better management of child processes. Even when I can C+A+Fn to another terminal to kill a hung process, there are still the zombies.

To work around this problem, I have started doing many things in a separate OS instance on VirtualBox. It works, but is a heavy solution. I did look at all the other virtualization options for Linux, but VBox was the most convenient and stable. If I have to resort to virtualization, I'd like it to be more lightweight, stable, and integrated with the OS.

As for other things, I've often heard that certain commercial systems had better design coherency, management utilities, documentation, compilers, and what-have-you. I'd like to hear whether and in what cases this is still true.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pauli (Post 307975)
I do not perceive a significant stability difference.

Ahhh. Short but useful answer. I hope to hear more from people who can comment on specific systems.

Ahmed May 17, 2011 22:16

Quote:

Originally Posted by rwryne (Post 308000)
Which distro are you using?

Do not see the relevance of this to the subject being discussed, anyway I will tell you, I have a Debian Lenny distro on one computer, happy with it, on a second computer, I have my own distro, google for (Linux from scratch) a free downloadable book, and enjoy reading it

rwryne May 18, 2011 08:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ahmed (Post 308060)
Do not see the relevance of this to the subject being discussed, anyway I will tell you, I have a Debian Lenny distro on one computer, happy with it, on a second computer, I have my own distro, google for (Linux from scratch) a free downloadable book, and enjoy reading it


Sorry for prying, was just curious because I have never had an issue with Linux being unstable as you mentioned.


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