[rescue] SGI Indigo2 & IRIX 6.5

Patrick Finnegan pat at computer-refuge.org
Sun Nov 30 12:54:37 CST 2008

I'm glad I put on my Nomex suit before I wrote this. :)  I was going to 
leave it as flaimbait, but since you did write a thoughtful response, I 
guess I'll respond.

On Sunday 30 November 2008, Jonathan C. Patschke wrote:
> On Sun, 30 Nov 2008, Patrick Finnegan wrote:
> >> Anyone thinking of running a common, hackish, OS instead of the
> >> amazingly wonderful, snappy, well-optimized and all-around cool
> >
> > Yeah, why would anyone want to run Irix instead of Linux?
> Superior native hardware support, better interactive performance, an
> X server that actually works (with hardware-acceleration),

I'll give you those, for running Linux on an OS.  I was more speaking 
towards Linux vs Irix in general.

In general, I find that Linux has a better selection of hardware support 
than any proprietary UNIX does.  There are some cards that won't work 
with it that the proprietary UNIX does support, but there's usually 
many more things (especially on PCI-bus machines) that Linux supports 
and the native UNIX doesn't.  Generic USB2 card on an Ultra 60 with a 
CD writer attached?  No problem!  802.11g card too? Sure!  Try that 
under Solaris, good luck!  Those are things I've actually done, 
probably about 5 years ago on Linux.

> one 
> well-integrated journaled FS with GRIO instead of 20-something
> bag-on-the-side filesystems with patented "LOL, WTF, whenever" IO
> scheduling, 

I've generally never had a problem with ext2/ext3 on linux, unless I did 
something unholy to the RAID or disks underneath.  Even at work, with 
many (just now, counted 1920 from our CMDB, plus probably a couple 
dozen that aren't in there) Linux machines, I've we've never had a 
ext2/3 filesystem problem that wasn't caused by the disks underneath.  
XFS on Linux is another matter though that has caused us many problems, 
and occasional data loss.  I'm not saying that XFS itself is bad, and 
it probably works great on IRIX, but its Linux port has major issues 
(and there's some well known reasons why that I won't get into).

> context-sensitive help facilities that are actually 
> relevant, accurate man pages

I generally don't use/care about context-sensitive help, so I can't 
comment on that, but I've never had a problem with the accuracy of man 
pages on Linux.

> support for possibly the best optimizing compiler ever written

Intel does a really good job at writing an optimizing compiler, as much 
as I don't want to admit it.  Gcc works, but is slow sometimes.  I've 
had a much harder time getting most code to just _compile_ under 
proprietary UNIXes (or compilers) in general because they all seem to 
have different headers, and in different locations, or support 
different subsets/supersets of library functions in their system 
libraries, or interpret some part of the C standard differently.

> , ONE snappy interactive desktop 
> environment instead of eleventy competing ones that share neither
> config data nor system resources very well

You still have a large choice of desktop manageres on IRIX, you just 
have the inconvenience of (usually) having to compile the one which you 
actually like.  What's wrong with choice, anyways?  I mean, you rather 
chose IRIX, and I rather chose Linux (NetBSD being my preferred choice 
for anything with poor/non-existant Linux support), what's wrong with 
that? ;)

> solid System V and UNIX 
> 95 API support, and I/O throughput Linux could only dream of?

All I can say is "show me the numbers."  Also, is seems like few people 
are writing any software these days that's meant for proprietary UNIXes 
vs the open-source things.  They're out there, but getting fewer each 

> Plenty of performance-enhancing features that other OSes are just
> -finally- starting to implement were in IRIX years ago;
> "quickstarting" comes to mind.  OS X does it, and I seem to recall
> that AIX does it in v6. Whatever the current ld.so that Linux uses
> might finally have support for it; who knows?

I'm not familiar with this, but if this is what the Wikipedia 
page "QuickStart" describes, it doesn't sound like something I'd want.

> >> Irix on a vintage SGI deserves to be drawn and quartered.

FWIW, your editing mangled this a bit.. it said ".. instead of .. Irix"

> > Oh, wait, you're trying to say that _Irix_ isn't the "hack".
> One could ask for no better example of "more is less" than your
> typical Linux distribution.  Want 17 different print-queue managers? 
> There you go!  Want -one- that does what you need and is
> well-supported by the entire rest of the system?  Well, err....you
> can't have -everything-, but there's probably a tarball of shell
> scripts on some web forum that will fake out your system into
> printing consistently using an unholy toolchain made of ghostscript,
> netpbm, groff, and transfig.

Ahh, you mean "CUPS".  I hear that lprng works fine too..

> Linux will always be a hack.  It's always been one, and it used to be
> content with being a hack.  Nowadays, it goes around in a sandwich
> board reading "I am not a hack" passing out business cards saying
> "Linux, like Windows, only better!" on one side and
> "2005^W2006^W2007^W2008^W2009 will be the year of Linux on the
> desktop!" on the back.

I guess that technically, it is a hack, and that's what I like about it.  
It seems to work better as a hack than many pieces of software that 
were carefully planned and designed from the start.  However, this 
helps it grow over time, in the ways that people want it to go.

My biggest problem with IRIX is its traditional minimal-security 
mentality, and bass-ackwards ways it does things.  (Like chosing what 
init scripts to run at startup, and the fact that SGI still says in 
their training material for SuSE on an Altix that changing passwords 
is "optional".)  

My other reason for not caring about IRIX's graphical stuff, I guess, is 
that I spend 80% of my time while I'm working at a computer either 
staring at a command line or looking at fixed-point text in a simple 
GUI, like this message I'm writing in kmail. :)

Anyways, with graphics acceleration, I shouldn't need it unless I'm 
doing 3D video stuff, or video games.  I certainly shouldn't need it on 
a "typical office desktop".

And, getting back to what Ian said about running anything other than 
IRIX on a vintage SGI box... If I were preserving it as a collectable, 
I'd probably have Irix on it.  It's interesting to me to play with 
other OSes.  If I wanted to get work done, I wouldn't use IRIX, but 
then again I probably wouldn't use an O2 either.  If I felt like 
hacking together better support for Linux, NetBSD, or something else on 
an O2, why not?  It's not like running the "wrong" OS on the machine 
will destroy it or its value, and you can't go back to IRIX on it.  I 
guess I'm trying to say that I think there's no reason to be angry at 
someone for running a different OS on a machine than what you think it 
should run.

> It's really quite sad, because, as hacks go, it's a good one.  But,
> don't try to confuse it with a coherent operating system product.

I won't; that's a different clone of UNIX:


Purdue University Research Computing ---  http://www.rcac.purdue.edu/
The Computer Refuge                  ---  http://computer-refuge.org

More information about the rescue mailing list