Open Source on my mind

Last week was cropped with topics around Open Source software. I want to voice my opinions here (with a bit of ranting) and hoping not to rouse many abhorrent comments from different parties and views. This blog is to create conversations, even controversial ones, but we must first agree that there will be disagreements. We must accept disagreements as part of this conversation.

In my 30 years career, Open Source has been a big part of my development and progress. The ideas of freely using (certain) software without any licensing implications and these software being openly available were not always welcomed, as they are now. I think the Open Source revolution has created an innovation movement that is still going strong, and it has not only permeated completely into the IT industry, Open Source has also now in almost every part of the technology-based industries as well. The Open Source influence is massive.

Open Source word cloud

In the beginning

In the beginning, in my beginning in 1992, the availability of software and its source codes was a closed one. Coming from a VAX/VMS background (I was a system admin in my mathematics department’s mini computers), Unix liberated my thinking. The final 6 months in the university was systems programming in C, and it completely changed how I wanted my career to shape. The mantra of “Free as in Freedom” in General Public License GPL (which I got know of much later) boded well with my own tenets in life.

If closed source development models led to proprietary software and a centralized way to distributing software with license, I would count the Open Source development models as one of the earliest decentralized technology frameworks. Down with the capitalistic corporations (aka Evil Empires)!

It was certainly a wonderful and generous way to make the world that it is today. It is a better world now.

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A Paean to NFS

It is certainly encouraging to see both NAS protocols, NFS and SMB, featured well in the latest VMware® vSAN 7 Update 1 release. The NFS v3 and v4.1 support was already in vSAN 7.0 when it was earlier announced as part of its Native File Services for vSAN. But some years ago, NFS was not always the primary storage protocol of choice. SAN protocols, Fibre Channel and iSCSI, were almost always designated to serve enterprise applications. At the client side, Windows became prominent, and the SMB/CIFS protocol dominated the landscape of the desktop. This further pushed NFS into the back closet.

NFS or Network File System has its naysayers. The venerable, but often maligned distributed network file protocol is 36 years today. In storage vendors such as NetApp®, VAST Data, Pure Storage FlashBlade, and Dell EMC Isilon, NFS is still positioned as the primary file protocol for manufacturing testers on the shop floor, EDA/eCAD applications, seismic and subsurface applications in Oil & Gas and many more. In another development, just like its presence in the vSAN Native Services,, NFS has also quietly embedded itself into many storage platforms to serve the data platform services within the respective framework itself.

And I have experienced NFS from the client side to the enterprise applications and more, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute.

NFS (Network File System) client server network

NFS (Network File System) client server network

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A great has passed on – Dennis Ritchie

We pay tribute to another great and perhaps even greater than Steve Jobs in his contribution to the computer industry. Dennis Ritchie, the creator of the C Programming Language and co-developer of the Unix Operating Systems, has passed away at 70.

If you think about how his work has influenced and spawn the birth of other programming languages such as C++, Java, and other C variants as well as the ideas and the foundation of Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, FreeBSD and so on, that’s massive.

It was him that made me a Unix bigot, a true believer that technology should be shared because sharing means giving life to ideas and innovations.

In my books collection, these are 2 of my most coveted books and Dennis Ritchie was very much part of the contents and ideas in the books.


I would like to share a few excerpts from the book, ” A Quarter Century of Unix” by Peter H. Salus (ISBN #: 0-201-54777-5). In page 48,

Mike Mahoney asked Dennis Ritchie about designing C:

“It was an adaptation of B that was pretty much Ken’s. B actually started out as system FORTRAN… Anyway, it took him about a day to realize that he didn’t want to do a FORTRAN compiler after all. So he did this very simple language called B and got it going on the PDP-7.  …”

“The basic construction of the compiler – of the code generator of the compiler – was based on an idea I’d heard about; some at the [Bell] Labs at Indian Hill. I never actually did find or read the thesis, but I had the ideas in it explained to me, and some of the code generator for NB, which became C, was based on this Ph.D thesis. It was also the technique used in the language called EPL, which was used for switching systems  and ESS machines;it stood for ESS Programming Language. So that the first phase of C was really these two phases in short succession of, first, some language changes from B, really, adding the type syntax structure without too much change in the syntax and doing the compiler”

“The combination of things caused Ken to give up that summer. Over the year, I added structures and probably made the compiler somewhat better – better code – and so over the next summer, we made the concerted effort and actually did redo the whole operating system in C”

This was from 1971-1973, at Bell Telephone Labs (BTL), where some of the most important chain of event happened. In the summer of 1972, the hardware arrived:

DEC PDP-11/20 processor
56 Kbytes of core memory
High-speed paper tape reader/puch
ASR-33 Teletype - console
DECtape - twin drive
RK11/RK05 disk (2) - 2.4 Mbytes
RF11 fixed head disk (2 at first, 3 more added later)
DC11 (6 lines) for local terminals
DM11 16-line multiplexers (3)

This was the machine that wrote the history on Unix. This was the machine that ran the Unix that was completely rewritten in C. Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Joe Ossanna, were all part of Unix history.

Earlier in 1970, Dennis Ritchie recounts the history of Unix:

“Unix came up in two stages. Ken got it going before there was a disk, he divided the memory up into two chunks and got the operating system going in one piece and use the other piece for a sort of RAM disc. To try it out, you’d first load this paper tape that initialized the disk and then load the operating system. So there was a cp [copy file], a cat [catenate files] , and an ls [list files] actually running before there was a disc”. 

Classic stuff!

My last bow of respect to Dr. Dennis Ritchie, the creator of the C Programming Language and co-developer of the Unix Operating System (with Dr. Ken Thompson).