Re: [dev] Suckless operating system

From: Ethan Grammatikidis <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2010 14:23:46 +0100

On 14 Jun 2010, at 00:16, David Tweed wrote:

> On Sun, Jun 13, 2010 at 11:09 PM, Martin Kopta <>
> wrote:
>> Some philosophical questions..
>> What does it mean for an operating system to be suckless?
>> What features should (or should not) an OS have in order to be
>> suckless?
>> Are there suckless or close-to-be-suckless operating systems out
>> there?
>> What does suckless thinks about Plan9, *BSD, GNU/Linux, MS
>> Windows, ..?
>> Is it possible to have an OS for desktop/laptop everyday use
>> (multimedia, web,
>> programming, research, ..) which is actualy usable, not rotten
>> inside and alive?
> One of the issues to consider is that what computers are used for
> changes with time, and decisions that one may classify as "the
> suckless way of doing things" at one point in time may mean that it's
> not effectively useable in some future situations. For instance,
> around about 20 years ago you wouldn't have considered multimedia as
> something you need on a computer, so the complexity required for
> reliable low-latency scheduling might be regarded as being needlessly
> complex 20 years ago, by now it's pretty essential for audio
> processing.

A curious example, in the sense that there was a market for multimedia
on PCs 20 years ago, there was suitable technology, but the two never
came together.

Multimedia on PCs was the upcoming thing 20 years ago. It wasn't just
expected to happen, it was starting to happen. In about 88 I was wowed
by video on a PC screen, but several yeas later ('maybe 94 or 95) I
gave an Atari ST to a musician because "Pentiums" as she called them
couldn't really produce accurate enough timing. The big surprise here
is the timing required was for MIDI; 1/64-beat resolution at a rarely-
used maximum of 250 beats per minute comes to less than 270Hz. The
90MHz+ Pentiums of the time couldn't handle that, where the 8MHz ST

Oh and I almost forgot, the ST had shared video memory. In the high
resolution display mode used by all the top-notch MIDI sequencer
software, the ST's CPU spent more than 50% of it's time halted while
the display circuitry read from the RAM. To re-phrase my statement,
the 90MHz+ Pentiums of the time couldn't handle accurately producing a
270Hz signal, where the 8MHz ST not only could, but did it with one
arm metaphorically tied behind its back by its own display system.
Something sucked all right.

It would be easy to say the ST didn't suck because it didn't
multitask, but at that point OS/9 must have been around for about 2
decades with real-time multi-tasking and multi-user capabilities. OS/9
started life on the 6809 so it couldn't have been complex.

There's more. There's fucking more, but thinking about what computers
have lost in the last 20 years upsets me too much to write about. Home
computers have LOST a lot in the past 20 years while hardware power
has grown by orders of magnitude. It's phenomenal, it's staggering.

Do not specify what the computer should do for you, ask what the  
computer can do for you.
Received on Mon Jun 14 2010 - 13:23:46 UTC

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