Old hands: what are some major noticable differences between 'eras' of Linux? What would stand out to a modern Linux user who tried out 2.x? 1.x?

@sir Configuring XFree86 was the first thing I thought of. Also recompiling the kernel was a common thing to do. A lack of any DE (just a bare WM, so no fancy clipboard or anything).

@ethicsperoxide @sir I still have somewhere a picture of my screen with a graphical interface (I think it was already some old KDE, however) and the clock showing something like 2 in the night.

And I took that picture to celebrate the fact that XFree86 was finally working, after at least one evening of efforts (I don't remember at what time I had started the installation) :)
@sir 2.2 to 2.4 substantially improved X responsiveness.

@sir I remember using the 2.6.x kernels, how it was a hassle to set up X, and to rebuild packages for certain GPUs. Heck, I faintly remember using Xfree86 and changing the configuration files.

if this is just the kernel, i guess amd drivers?
if this includes distributions: gnome isn't dogshit anymore, wayland, systemd everywhere, abundance of graphical "app stores", more filesystems to choose from, much easier to setup wine through lutris/pol

@sir no iptables pre 2.4, handling of /dev, no /sys

what i learned (from the academic side.. mind you)
was the scheduler was changed dramatically in these versions
from a practically round robin scheduler in 1.x eventually culminating in cfs

@sir Looking at systems as a whole:

- There was the pre-distro stage.

- First distros, notably SLS and Yggdrasil. I've heard SLS ("Soft-Landing Software") was called that "because it was a pile of shit". It worked, but barely.

- The packaging formats. Slackware, Red Hat, and Debian, each organised around a specific packaging format and philosophy, emerged at nearly the same time, about 1994.

- XFree86. Having an X11 impleentation made a huge difference and impact.


@sir - CD distribution. This is where I came aboard in about 1997. I'd been hearing about Linux and had a Unix background. Being able to buy an install disk (included in the published RH manual) made a huge difference.

- Discovering Debian. Shortly after my first RH install. apt and dpkg solved RPM hell. More a personal transition than general one, but it Made A Difference.

- Slashdot & LWN: having online discussion points made a big difference in community.


@sir - GNOME vs. KDE wars. Interesting to watch, ongoing, and still ... irrelevant? I never ran one of the principle desktops as my primary (though I've used them), and still find the attraction/notion ... uncompelling? So much wasted angst and effort IMO.

- The 2.2 and 2.4 kernels stick in mind as major watersheds. USB support, CD and CDW support, various iterations of firewall systems.

- Audio wars.

- WiFi support. Still occasionally problematic, but mostly fixed around 2008?


@sir - My general sense is that Time Mostly Stopped around 2010 or so, though that may be a personal read. The big exception being

- Systemd and init wars. I'm not happy with present direction, and the conflict's chilled much of my enthusiasm, though Linux remains my preferred OS, and Debian my preferred distro.


@sir Backtracking a bit, I'd say major transitions were:

- Linux existing: 1991
- GUI existing: ~1992
- Accessible media installs: ~1996
- Over-the-net installs (Debian/APT): ~1998 (broadband helped)
- Usable laptops: ~1999-2000
- Driver support: 2000-2010 generally.
- Media and WiFi support: 2000-2010 generally.

Systemd and Wayland are somewhat ongoing.

@dredmorbius @sir I left SRE behind for standard development gigs. systemd killed my love of Debian that started in 1998. I wouldn't have cared if it didn't touch logging or network.

@alrs Interesting as regards systemd, I've similar sentiments.

What are you running if not Debian?


@dredmorbius @sir Still running it, but without joy. Focusing on Go means I'm free to use whatever distro I want now. My blacklist is Slackware, Gentoo, Arch, Alpine, and pointless Debian forks.

@alrs Blacklist as in "avoid"?

Any reasons you've got for those (prev. written if available).


@dredmorbius @sir Keeping Slackware up-to-date is a full-time job. Gentoo was always goofy. Rolling-release distros are not fit for prod. Alpine gets extra-demerit points for being both super-systemd-ey and using musl.

@alrs All good points.

I still think I should give Gentoo a solid looking at -- the self-compiled route ... is complicated but offers some benefits.


@stick @dredmorbius @sir Maybe? The time I used it it seemed pretty married to networkmanager, which I assumed meant systemd. I didn't stick around long. Mea culpa! Still, Do Not Want.

@alrs Systemd in particular strikes me as a classic battle between dev and ops.

For all the usual reasons, dev tends to win.

Ops *wants* configs to be somewhat sticky, and right. Dev wants to be able to throw shit over the fence and not think about it.

Dev is short-term thinking, Ops is long. Manifest vs. latent functions.


I remember being excited about having a #LiveCD of #Knoppix, which booted straight into the #openMSX emulator.
Being able to try out a graphical #Linux distro without installing it was quite neat.

@FiXato Live distros were a world-changer.

They existed before Knoppix, notably:

- tomsrtbt: Linux on a single superformatted floppy disk
- Trinux: Multi-floppy system, running in RAM, with extended (mostly forensics) capabilities.
- lnx-bbc: the LinuxCare Bootable Business Card

Knoppix finally put a full desktop capability on a single CD.

I've used all to very positive effect.


@dredmorbius @sir Manual mknod instead of udev stands out. Everything was either in the distro or on Handcoding XFree86.conf. Pirating MetroX or commercial OSS when all else failed. A boot floppy image to work with your brand of cdrom drive, most likely attached to your soundcard. Using modprobe with arguments for interrupt and ioport of your pre-pnp ne2000 clone. The days in 2.0 when the DEC Tulip PCI fast-ethernet cards became he go-to NICs.

@dredmorbius @sir That sounds right, he was building some of the first HPC Linux clusters iirc.

@dredmorbius @sir I think you could install Slackware over NFS in '95 or earlier.

@alrs On over-the-net installs, there's a distinction between _within your LAN_ and _over the Internet_, espeically for home users.

Before broadband (>56kbps networks) OTI installs were all but impossible. With DSL and cable, it's easy-peasy. The fact that _no_ major OS vendor relies primarily on shipped media is a significant development, and recent. Post 2010 AFAIR.



Before 1.2, there were no run-time loadable drivers. Before then, you had to rebuild your kernel from source (or at least object files, but IIRC everyone just used source) to get all of the drivers you needed and/or remove the ones you didn't.

@sir Graphical installers; you don't need to do much at all these days during install.
Rare to need to hand configure X, as opposed to the first 10 years+ of editing X conf.
Hotplug everything - so hand configuring mice/keyboard/displays makes little sense.
Hotplug storage just working.
Fonts and languages just working - unicode+fonts meaning everything renders.
NetworkManager - wifi/vpn etc just works.
Modern Initramfs's larger than the hard disks I used to install whole systems on 😞

@sir @codesections Having been around since Linux 1.2-ish, I found this intriguing to ponder. And actually, the only massive singular change I can recall is the move from a.out to ELF binary format. Maybe the iptables introduction and farewell could count, too. Everything else went really gradually... at least that's how I remember it. Userland had much more step changes.

@sir I'm spacing the revisions where they appeared, but the introduction of /proc was a pretty big deal, as was having a dynamic /dev. I would also argue that namespacing as a first-class citizen would be another major change, but some little bits of that go way back to pre-1.X for chroot, so that one is a bit trickier to cleanly define.

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