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Old 09-23-2019, 12:11 PM
suretytek is offline
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Why no new operating systems?


UNIX is 50 years old this year. Windows is 33 years old. OSX is 30 years old (if you consider NeXTStep to be proto-OSX). Linux, a derivative of UNIX is 28 years old. IOS is based on NeXTStep, Android is based on Linux.

Why have there been no real new and innovative operating systems for 30+ years? There have been some interesting contenders (BeOS for one) but nothing really broke through.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:24 PM
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People buy operating systems to run applications. It would be a truly huge cost to convert the large mass of applications to run on a new general purpose operating system. So programmers simply change the existing operating systems to meet new needs.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:27 PM
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UNIX is 50 years old this year. Windows is 33 years old. OSX is 30 years old (if you consider NeXTStep to be proto-OSX). Linux, a derivative of UNIX is 28 years old. IOS is based on NeXTStep, Android is based on Linux.

Why have there been no real new and innovative operating systems for 30+ years? There have been some interesting contenders (BeOS for one) but nothing really broke through.
- As they've developed over the years, they've all converged into being more or less the same WIMP (windows, icons, mouse pointer) and the differences are mostly window dressing

- as they've developed over the years they've grown bigger and bigger and added more APIs, libraries, and functionality. anything new would be starting from scratch while the established players have a multi-decade headstart

- any new OS would really have to be something remarkably different in order to even hope to attract users away from the established platforms. Not only that, it would have to be useful as well.

IOW, it would cost you a lot of money with no guarantee you'll attract a user base.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:32 PM
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Software development on any large installed base is almost necessarily evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

It's absurdly expensive to port applications to a new OS, so OS changes almost always keep around the good stuff and add on, and only very slowly drop old compatibility.

Also, honestly, the fact that Android is based on Linux which is based on Unix doesn't mean that they are the same OS. I'd be surprised if as much as 1% of the source code that is used to ship modern Android is in common with Unix from decades ago. It's a ship of Theseus.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:41 PM
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To a certain extent, I think we're seeing a distributed development of the web application operating system. There are common elements that are starting to be used somewhat universally (the icon that looks like a head to click on for user profile, the hamburger icon for configuration, the gear for settings, envelope icon for messages). Maybe we're going from needing an operating system to present to us the common elements of computer use to web developers using derivatives of those common symbols for elements in web apps)?
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:45 PM
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Most of the from scratch OSs are also in embedded system and their numbers greatly outnumber the general purpose computing world.

As those who remember the UNIX wars will attest that calling all of them the same "operating system" is a bit of a stretch too. OS like MINIX, Plan 9, or Window NT are very very different even if they all did have a Posix layer. Every modern Intel CPU runs Minix 3 OS as an example but MINIX 3 was first released in ~2005.

People create novel OSs all the time it is just that they often provide no compelling value to many users except for perhaps the type-1 hypervisor like Xen which could be argued to be as much as an independant os as a kernel like Linux.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:51 PM
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Windows as a brand may be over 30 years old but the most current Windows OS most assuredly is not. I'd be shocked if there is much shared source code at all between whatever is the latest release of Windows 10 and Windows 1.0. Actually, there are already significant changes that have been made in Windows 10 since release.

Likewise, while some parts of the Linux Kernel are probably decades old, much if not most of it has been updated/replaced over the years.

And that's one answer - we can't assume having the same name on the box means the contents are remotely similar.
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:13 PM
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There is also the fact that we have now mostly works most of the time. Where is the incentive to start over from scratch?
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:21 PM
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Windows as a brand may be over 30 years old but the most current Windows OS most assuredly is not. I'd be shocked if there is much shared source code at all between whatever is the latest release of Windows 10 and Windows 1.0. Actually, there are already significant changes that have been made in Windows 10 since release.

Likewise, while some parts of the Linux Kernel are probably decades old, much if not most of it has been updated/replaced over the years.

And that's one answer - we can't assume having the same name on the box means the contents are remotely similar.
Well, there are two "Windows" families of note for desktop/laptop:

1) "Windows on top of DOS" = Windows 1.0-3.11, and the later (less DOS-reliant) Windows 95 to Windows Me, and

2) Windows NT, starting with NT 3.1 (an arbitrary start point to be aligned with the consumer version) all the way up through NT 3.5, NT 4.0, Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8.x, and now 10.

Windows NT is almost 30 years old, but it does share some code still with older strains (e.g. Win32 APIs.)
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Old 09-23-2019, 01:56 PM
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There is also the fact that we have now mostly works most of the time. Where is the incentive to start over from scratch?
You could say that about nearly any innovation in history. Where would we be if the Wright Brothers said, "Well, trains work most of the time. Nobody will want an airplane."

We could use a reliable, easy-to-manage consumer-oriented OS. Windows has good features but is onerous to maintain and hell to troubleshoot. I have not used Linux on a PC but I don't think it's something your grandmother would use.
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  #11  
Old 09-23-2019, 02:00 PM
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You could say that about nearly any innovation in history. Where would we be if the Wright Brothers said, "Well, trains work most of the time. Nobody will want an airplane."

We could use a reliable, easy-to-manage consumer-oriented OS.
we do. it's called iOS.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:08 PM
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Ha ha ha! jz78817 made a funny joke.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:09 PM
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There are new operating systems being developed all the time, as said rat avatar. You have your Inferno OS, Amoeba OS, Fuschia OS, L4 OS, Fluke OS, you name it. Haven't heard of them? There is a difference between an OS written for research purposes, and something proven for decades that you are going to pick to operate your spacecraft or critical infrastructure, or even just on your desktop or laptop computer. For your space shuttle you are not going to pick something completely experimental, and for browsing the web and playing video games Microsoft Windows and Linux work fine, but good luck trying to get your hardware to work with something exotic. Over time, even semi-abruptly, new ones can work their way up the popularity ladder.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:17 PM
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We could use a reliable, easy-to-manage consumer-oriented OS.
Any new system inevitably involves trade-offs: planes, for example, can't carry the volume of material a train can, and they're a lot more expensive per pound of passenger or freight.

What trade-offs would be necessary to get to this "reliable, easy-to manage consumer-oriented OS"? For example, a lot of the complexity of modern consumer-oriented apps is because of all of the plugins and add-ons: a website may use Flash, PDF, and several different audio/video codecs, but managing all of those isn't easy. If your new OS won't run the nifty app that Aunt Susie wants to run (Angry Birds?), then it's not oriented towards her kind of consumer.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:40 PM
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There are plenty of other OS's around but none of have gotten much traction. Everything from Plan9 to Harmony. Harmony will likely be a real player soon in terms of absolute numbers.
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:42 PM
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Quote:
Quoth suretytek:

There are common elements that are starting to be used somewhat universally (the icon that looks like a head to click on for user profile, the hamburger icon for configuration, the gear for settings, envelope icon for messages).
There is a heck of a lot more to an OS than what picture you put on an icon to represent what option. Even if those web applications have similar-looking buttons, they will look very different under the hood, and none of them is anything resembling an "operating system".
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Old 09-23-2019, 02:44 PM
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Oh, and
[Moderating]
Most of the answers to this are going to be matters of opinion, so let's move it over to IMHO.
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:32 PM
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There is also the question of when are different, but related, software stacks different operating systems? Android, ChromeOS, Debian, RedHat, and Archlinux all use the Linux kernel, but are they all the same OS?

Debian, RedHat, and Arch I would all call the same OS. They have different package managers, and do some things a bit differently, but they basically run all the same software at the kernel, library, and user levels. Generally, people just refer to these as Linux distributions, and most people know they're pretty much the same, until you get to the details.

Are Android and ChromeOS just Linux distributions then? They certainly run the Linux kernel, but that's pretty much where the similarity stops. There are goldfish, zygotes, and other strange Android things that never appear on a traditional Linux system. The counter argument is that because they share a kernel, they can even run the same binaries, so of course they're the same OS. But really, are my phone, computer cluster, and car all running the same OS, just because they have the same kernel? (the answer might be yes)

If I remember correctly, iOS and MacOS share a kernel, so are they the same OS, too?

Depending how you judge things, in the last 10-15 years we've had the introduction of Android and iOS. Both of which went from non-existent to running on billions of devices.

The future might see the rise of Google's Fuchsia OS. It might be based on Linux, it might not, it might just be a research project, it might unify and replace Android and ChromeOS, or just fade away to the Google graveyard.
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:41 PM
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There is a heck of a lot more to an OS than what picture you put on an icon to represent what option. Even if those web applications have similar-looking buttons, they will look very different under the hood, and none of them is anything resembling an "operating system".
No, I agree. The OS performs a lot of different functions but one of the big ones is to give the user some consistency in the environment. I'm not saying that web apps are going to replace the OS but some features of web applications are becoming similar to present to users the consistency that used to be performed by the OS.

I have customers that do pretty much all of their work within web applications so the web browser and web apps are performing most of the UI functions for these users. Again, this is not replacing the OS but it is replacing some of the common OS functions. Some functions of the OS are becoming more distributed over workstation OS, browser, web app and server OS.
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Old 09-23-2019, 04:00 PM
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I figure it's because the existing ones do all the functions that OSes do, and are extensible enough to support stuff in the future like VR interfaces, etc... I mean, what's JoeBob's x86 OS going to do that Windows, iOS and Linux don't already do?

And even with the case of Harmony, the only reason it's coming about is because of Chinese concerns about being forbidden from using Android in the future. It's not like it's going to do something Android doesn't.
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Old 09-23-2019, 04:24 PM
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It's too expensive


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Originally Posted by suretytek View Post
UNIX is 50 years old this year. Windows is 33 years old. OSX is 30 years old (if you consider NeXTStep to be proto-OSX). Linux, a derivative of UNIX is 28 years old. IOS is based on NeXTStep, Android is based on Linux.

Why have there been no real new and innovative operating systems for 30+ years? There have been some interesting contenders (BeOS for one) but nothing really broke through.
Video game consoles run their own operating systems. I believe the Nintendo 3DS firmware was written from the ground up in 2011, and the Nintendo Switch is based on the 3DS.

But regarding general purpose household and workplace computing, the not-invented-here attitude gives way to practicality when you go over one million lines of code. I think a modern operating system probably has about a hundred million lines of code. Developing that from the ground up, assuming you can hire divinely inspired masochistic systems programmer savants that write five thousand production lines per 8-hour workday (!) at $50k/yr (!!) without ever messing up production code or needing to refactor/redesign systems (!!!) would cost oh... about $3.8 million.

But Google tells me (and I believe it!) successful programmers write less than 50 production lines of code per day, and systems programmers take home a $70k salary. The cost of a new operating system just shot up to $538.4 million (!!!!), still assuming they make absolutely no mistakes with the production code and the system design is never revisited, which never happens.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 09-23-2019 at 04:26 PM. Reason: divinely inspired masochistic system programmer savants
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Old 09-23-2019, 04:38 PM
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Plus there are a lot of operating systems you interact with here and there you might not recognize. If your car has an infotainment touch screen, that system is very likely running on QNX.
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Old 09-23-2019, 04:59 PM
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Backwards compatibility and technical debt.

It's costly to rewrite software, and it's even more costly to re-implement rewritten software. If the new OS is different such that the software can't run unchanged, then you will have significant resistance to adopting something new.
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:09 PM
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, and systems programmers take home a $70k salary. The cost of a new operating system just shot up to $538.4 million (!!!!), still assuming they make absolutely no mistakes with the production code and the system design is never revisited, which never happens.
$70k, how quaint. That number is at least 20 years out of date. Salaries of people that can really code have gone bonkers this decade. $700k wouldn't be out of the question for a senior person when taking into account total comp.
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:10 PM
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Another reason might just be lack of a need. There are free alternatives that will do the job and there hasn't been too much too justify writing something from scratch. Since all modern operating systems use driver models for almost anything adding new functionality is usually pretty easy. The kernels do have to change but computing hasn't really fundamentally changed much lately.
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:21 PM
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Define "OS" -- it's hard. Is it the kernel? Is it the window server? Is it a combination of both? Is padOS old because it's a Mach derivative, or new because Apple now says it's the new OS for iPads?

Does new and innovative count only if geeks know it's there, or does it have to impact the UX?
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:48 PM
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$70k, how quaint. That number is at least 20 years out of date. Salaries of people that can really code have gone bonkers this decade. $700k wouldn't be out of the question for a senior person when taking into account total comp.
$70K might be quaint but $700K is insane. What coder is getting that?
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:45 PM
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AFAIK, all current OSs go back either to UNIX or to VMS. The Mac OS is based on the former and all versions of Windows NT and later were based on Dave Cutler's port of VMS. Probably an oversimplification but there is a large kernel of truth there. My son worked on Win-NT during the late 90s and got to know Cutler fairly well.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:47 PM
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$70K might be quaint but $700K is insane. What coder is getting that?
Generic coder, probably not. Chief architect at a major firm, I could see that.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:53 PM
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$70k, how quaint. That number is at least 20 years out of date. Salaries of people that can really code have gone bonkers this decade. $700k wouldn't be out of the question for a senior person when taking into account total comp.
Seconded. Do you have a cite? I haven't found numbers (glassdoor, ziprecruiter) much higher than $120k for high-end systems programming. I tried searching based in San Jose, CA and NYC, NY as well as my local area - nothing much above $120k.

Maybe you have insight into landed job salaries as opposed to new hires, but a 583% pay increase as you stay with one company is still pretty high.

~Max
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Old 09-23-2019, 07:00 PM
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Generic coder, probably not. Chief architect at a major firm, I could see that.
Well yeah, people like Raymond Ozzie are C-level and wouldn't be the ones putting in X production lines a day. They are too busy making design decisions and coordinating programming teams. I have not included management in the cost of producing the operating system.

~Max
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Old 09-23-2019, 07:26 PM
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IMHO, operating system is not the focus any more from companies' perspective because applications can be emulated on different operating systems. There is also virtualization.
For example, on Linux, you can setup QEMU KVM and play video games on Windows 10 with native level performance.
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Old 09-23-2019, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Quoth suretytek:

No, I agree. The OS performs a lot of different functions but one of the big ones is to give the user some consistency in the environment. I'm not saying that web apps are going to replace the OS but some features of web applications are becoming similar to present to users the consistency that used to be performed by the OS.
Not only is that not a big function of the OS; it's not a function of the OS at all. It's, at most, a function of the shell, and only barely that: It's a trivial change to a shell to change what images get attached to icons.
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Old 09-23-2019, 07:48 PM
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AFAIK, all current OSs go back either to UNIX or to VMS.
Except for these ones (still in use by large companies):
zOS - os390
iOS - os400

os400 is an interesting one - object based, single level store, capability based security at hardware/pointer level, virtual machine that allowed for programs to run unchanged as the cpu transitioned from 48 bit cisc to 64 bit risc, etc. It was/is a very organized and well designed OS.
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Old 09-23-2019, 07:50 PM
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IMHO, operating system is not the focus any more from companies' perspective because applications can be emulated on different operating systems. There is also virtualization.
For example, on Linux, you can setup QEMU KVM and play video games on Windows 10 with native level performance.
Are you talking about portable code being widespread in application development? I don't understand what you are saying about emulators. There needs to be an operating system to emulate before an emulator can be written.

~Max
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Old 09-23-2019, 07:57 PM
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AFAIK, all current OSs go back either to UNIX or to VMS. The Mac OS is based on the former and all versions of Windows NT and later were based on Dave Cutler's port of VMS. Probably an oversimplification but there is a large kernel of truth there. My son worked on Win-NT during the late 90s and got to know Cutler fairly well.
it gets messy because in Unix-land there's "Unix" and "Unix-like." Linux, minix, and QNX are Unix-like. Their kernels and low-level operations are all different, but they present similar userlands. Windows has been a set of APIs and user interfaces on top of wildly different kernels; Windows has worked more or less the same whether it's been underpinned by DOS, VMM (Win9x,) or the VMS-inspired NT.
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:44 PM
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zOS - os390
Surely you mean OS 360 IBM has done a decent job, as far as was reasonable, of maintaining backwards compatibility.
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:55 PM
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$70k, how quaint. That number is at least 20 years out of date. Salaries of people that can really code have gone bonkers this decade. $700k wouldn't be out of the question for a senior person when taking into account total comp.
I don't think either of those numbers are right. The $700k MAYBE for someone like the Senior VP of Engineering at Amazon or Google or whatever.
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Old 09-24-2019, 06:24 AM
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Seconded. Do you have a cite? I haven't found numbers (glassdoor, ziprecruiter) much higher than $120k for high-end systems programming. I tried searching based in San Jose, CA and NYC, NY as well as my local area - nothing much above $120k.
I don't know what "high-end" systems programming is, but I'm a systems programmer in the Boston area and my total compensation is approaching $200K. Our new hires (college grads) start around $100K. There's nobody doing what I do who makes $700K. Our SVP of Engineering makes that much but he wouldn't know how to use our product, let alone write the code for it.
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Old 09-24-2019, 08:50 AM
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Ha ha ha! jz78817 made a funny joke.
perhaps you could explain why I'm wrong.
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Old 09-24-2019, 08:53 AM
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IMHO, one of h things that killed OS research was Linux. And that was pretty sad.

In a previous life I did real world OS research, I have my name on a few research papers on new OS designs, and have met quite a few of he players in the OS research community. There was a golden time that peered out in the mid '90s. Up until then there was a lot of active work, and a lo of new ideas. In addition to some named above, there was work like Choices, Clouds, V-kernel, Grasshopper and more. A common problem all faced was the difficulty in getting a usable environment up and running on top of the base OS abstractions. There is a massive amount of code needed that isn't research. The usual tactic was to port a big slab of the BSD services, and the Gnu toolset. Which of course was what Linux did. (Despite his faults, I agree with Richard Stallman that Linux is correctly called GNU/Linux. No Gnu, no Linux.)

But things changed, and a lot of the steam left the research community as Linux was just so easy.

There are other things that matter. The nature of an OS is about the abstractions that are provided. A lot of the work in the 90's focussed on variations on the common abstractions. Plan-9 took the Unix name space to is logical conclusion. There was a lot of interest in parallel programming support from the OS. OS400 was perhaps the one that had the legs to deliver something new in its persistent programming paradigm. It is a great shame it has been forgotten. And therein lies the problem. The generally accepted abstractions an OS provides have, for all their faults, pretty much been accepted as the 'right way'. To deliver an OS with abstractions that are actually delivering something truly different faces a massive battle, simply because there are billions of lines of code out there that are written assuming things like 'file systems' as the mechanism of persistence, and monolithic isolated virtual address spaces as the unit of computation. And so on. This is reinforced by a monopoly of computer architecture design. Not just x86, but computer architectures don't provide support for interesting ideas in OS design. Tagged memory? Hardware capabilities? Nothing new in these ideas, but without any hope of changing the dominant blandness new OS ideas are hard to make work in a worthwhile manner. Multix is another name missing from discussion. But it needed some hardware support.

Where interesting things were happening were in the areas of distributed computing. And I would argue that that is still where the interesting stuff is. Sure, people will argue that this is layered over the OS. Well it is if you only look a the individual node's OS, but if you look at the entire distributed system as a single computational resource, you are now looking at the abstractions that control and manage that single resource, and that IMHO is the operating system. I may not need to talk to the individual bits of hardware on each node, although in high performance systems it often will have back-doors to get what it needs done efficiently.

But no matter what, it is pretty thin out there. IMHO there is a lot that could be done, but the way research is done in the modern world does not reward that long game, and that is what is needed here. There are very few companies that have he will and the resources to put into it. IBM were once the big dog here. No more. VMS came out of DEC, which lives on in some tiny corner of HP. So no chance there either. Microsoft are but a pale shadow, and never developed anything new anyway. Google could, but won't. Apple could and should, but I doubt they will. Amazon curiously have contributed more, but again, no value to them to put big effort in.

Remember, Unix got is big boost when DARPA put money into it, and BSD came out. That effort saw companies like Sun and SGI kick started with a base for the OS for their hardware. It needs something like this to really get things going.
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Old 09-24-2019, 09:15 AM
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This is reinforced by a monopoly of computer architecture design. Not just x86, but computer architectures don't provide support for interesting ideas in OS design. Tagged memory? Hardware capabilities? Nothing new in these ideas, but without any hope of changing the dominant blandness new OS ideas are hard to make work in a worthwhile manner.
I think that's just a natural effect of a market having "matured." Look at the minicomputer and game console landscape of the late '70s and early '80s. So many wildly different platforms all built around the 6502 architecture (Atari VCS, Apple II family, Commodore 64, Atari 8 bit, NES, etc.) all of the differentiation came from each computer maker's unique support chips to do the real heavy lifting for sound, graphics, and input. Ditto the Amiga later. That all went away once CPUs became powerful enough to do all of the work.
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Old 09-24-2019, 09:31 AM
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I don't know what "high-end" systems programming is, but I'm a systems programmer in the Boston area and my total compensation is approaching $200K. Our new hires (college grads) start around $100K. There's nobody doing what I do who makes $700K. Our SVP of Engineering makes that much but he wouldn't know how to use our product, let alone write the code for it.
By "high-end" I meant the highest salaries alluded to on job recruitment sites such as ziprecruiter or review sites like glassdoor. Have you been with your company for a long time? What would you say is a good average salary for systems programmers, and how many production lines do you think the average system programmer (with good direction and management) put in over time?

I ask that I may revise the $534.8 million price tag I affixed to a new operating system in post #21.

~Max
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Old 09-24-2019, 10:35 AM
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By "high-end" I meant the highest salaries alluded to on job recruitment sites such as ziprecruiter or review sites like glassdoor. Have you been with your company for a long time? What would you say is a good average salary for systems programmers, and how many production lines do you think the average system programmer (with good direction and management) put in over time?
Lines of code is one of the worst metrics you can use. Another dumb one is bugs per lines of code. They used to track that here. I deleted a file which contained about 2,000 lines of dead code. The next day a QA manager asked me why I deleted it since it increased our bugs/line and the VP would demand an explanation of why our quality had gone down suddenly. Stupid.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:07 AM
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Lines of code is one of the worst metrics you can use. Another dumb one is bugs per lines of code. They used to track that here. I deleted a file which contained about 2,000 lines of dead code. The next day a QA manager asked me why I deleted it since it increased our bugs/line and the VP would demand an explanation of why our quality had gone down suddenly. Stupid.
How would you calculate the cost of developing a new operating system?

~Max
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:33 AM
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How would you calculate the cost of developing a new operating system?
Twenty dollars, same as in town.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:36 AM
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Twenty dollars, same as in town.
I don't understand, sorry.

~Max
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:40 AM
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I don't understand, sorry.
It's the punchline to a very old joke.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by The Joke
The aging head of a secluded Monastary decides he will take a walk into the nearby town for the first time in 30 years. As he's walking down the street he passes a hooker on a corner who says "Hey twenty dollars for a quicky". Confused, he walks past another corner and another hooker says "Hey padre, twenty dollars for a quicky". He has no idea whats going on, so he returns to the monastary and calls the Mother Superior to his office and asks her "Whats a quicky?" She replies "Twenty dollars, same as in town".
..
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:53 AM
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Note that you guys are talking past each other a little on the compensation numbers.

"Total compensation" generally includes things like health benefits, 401k match, stock options, bonuses, etc. Not just salary.

The way you get to total compensation in excess of $300k is generally via stock grants/options/bonuses.

That said, I believe that $70k is way low. Reasonably skilled starting developers got more than that in Silicon Valley a decade ago.

Also, I agree 100% with jz78817 that the easy to use consumer OS is iOS.
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