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Revitalizing the Internet and VMS

CowboyNeal posted more than 11 years ago | from the taste-it-again-for-the-first-time dept.

The Internet 267

Da Beave writes "Similar to the "Going Back to the Past of the Internet" /. post, these guys want to not only revitalize the Internet, but the OpenVMS Operating System (Started by Digital, then to Compaq, now to HP....). They have a cluster of VAXen (32 bit) and Alphas (64 bit) for public (non-commercial) usage.... With more compilers than you can shake a stick at, and it's considered one of the most secure OS's around....." VMS was one of the first operating systems I learned to use. This page really brings back some memories, both good and bad.

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267 comments

cool! (1)

Sk3lt (464645) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176356)

I say we give them all the support they need! If it was stable back then, then revitalizing it can't do any harm can it?

Re:cool! (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176550)

that's a bad idea. VMS DCL commnds are much more cryptic than standard unix (or linux) commands. A revitalized [Opsn]VMS could siphon away 3l1te linux users!

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176358)

FIRST POST SUCKA!

You can't use it anyway (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176363)

You can only use it if you aren't planning on using it in a business setting.

The DeathRow OpenVMS Cluster operates under the hobbyist program. If you intend to use these reasources for commerical reasons (for example: porting commercial code, or running a company web page), you will be removed. This would violate our hobbyist agreement/license, and we can't afford to let that happen.

So, it's useless as a replacement for anything.

Re:You can't use it anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176545)

You seem to misunderstand. You can't use their systems for business. They are there for hobbyists. VMS on the other hand can be used for business. You just have to get your own server.

Re:You can't use it anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176579)

So if you want to have anything to do with this project, you can't use the OpenVMS they are distributing for business. That makes working on the project a counterproductive endeavor.

they aren't distributing it (2)

RatFink100 (189508) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176618)

They aren't distributing OpenVMS - they've just running it on some computers and allowing public access.

Their software license doesn't allow them to let you use it as a business platform.

Maybe you saw 'OpenVMS' and thought it was Open Source? It's not - it's proprietary, commercial software.

Re:they aren't distributing it (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176694)

Maybe you saw 'OpenVMS' and thought it was Open Source?

Can't speak for the AC, but I did. Thanks for pointing that out.

Re:they aren't distributing it (2)

RatFink100 (189508) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176721)

Maybe someone else can tell us exactly but I'm pretty sure that Digital started using OpenVMS instead of VMS. I'm thinking it was back in the days when Unix collectively was often called 'open systems' - describing open operability (i.e. standards) rather than open source.

Re:they aren't distributing it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176835)

> Maybe someone else can tell us exactly but I'm pretty sure that Digital started using OpenVMS instead of VMS. I'm thinking it was back in the days when Unix collectively was often called 'open systems' - describing open operability (i.e. standards) rather than open source.

Almost; "OpenVMS" was first used when VMS was ported to the (then) new Alpha systems; the "open" referred to both the OS's strong POSIX support and it's newly-aquired cross-platform (..well, yes, both of them ;-) abilities. "Open" never referred to the source, VMS has never been open source.

The name wasn't ported to the original VAX flavor at the same time it was used on the Alpha, and that led to some confusion.

A new business-model? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176364)

1: Write free software.
2: ?
3: Revitalizing the Internet and VMS
4: Profit!

VMS is great... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176366)

I loaded up /. and noticed that I was allowed to metamod again. Looks like the $rtbl has been lifted.

In an unrelated vein, doesn't it seem a little strange to anybody that Taco hasn't posted a story in like 24 hours?

The state of VMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176368)

We have multiple OpenVMS machines at work, OpenVMS is very much alive.

Re:The state of VMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176571)

me too. We also sell million dollar software to companies and institurions. It runs on aix, vms, and (ack!) windows 2k advanced datacenter. Almost all our clients buy a new alpha. Compaq even subsidizes our advertisements!

VMS Hacked (1)

CptSkydrop (577286) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176370)

Does this mean that all those l33t hax0r txtz I got nocking arround and make out like it runs every computer system on the net can be put to some purpose?

Re:VMS Hacked (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176481)

When they were written, it did. That's the point of the story at hand. Most of your hacker texts were written in the early to mid 80s.

Stupid Contracts (3, Interesting)

Zack (44) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176380)

I had a job offer from Compaq to work on the OpenVMS kernel. Sounded like a good deal. I got a chance to fly to Nashua, New Hamshire to check out the facilities and meet the people I would potentially be working with. Let me tell you, these guys were incredibly smart.

Then I got the contract. It had a clause stating that any idea I ever had as well as any ideas I had while I worked for them belonged to them. As well as a non-compete clause. They wouldn't budge on it, so I turned down their offer.

Oh well. I really would have liked a chance to work on their OS, but they weren't interested. Really too bad.

Re:Stupid Contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176393)

There are lots of contracts like that out there, don't sign them whatever you do!!!

Re:Stupid Contracts (1)

Zack (44) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176468)

I didn't! Now I've got a job making 50% more than they were offering.

But still.. being a kernel hacker on VMS would have been fun.

Re:Stupid Contracts (2)

cheese_wallet (88279) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176511)

kinda funny that a bunch of "incredibly smart" guys accepted the job, and you didn't.

Re:Stupid Contracts (2, Insightful)

Querty (1128) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176837)

"Incredibly smart" guys at kernel hacking tend to be incredibly stupid/naive when it comes to things like contracts.

I will give it a try atleast (2)

jukal (523582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176381)

..also, I would like to ask everyone to think what would they like to be added/enhanced to/in OpenVMS, and publish these requests at openchallenge [openchallenge.org].

VMS is 1337 (1)

Graspee_Leemoor (302316) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176386)

Whoohoo! Now I can write all them cool apps in VMS Basic like fake logon progs to steal passwords, and leave 'em running on WYSE terminals! Muhahahahah!

Oops, sorry, it's not 1988 anymore, is it ?

graspee

why bother? (1)

SHEENmaster (581283) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176474)

I was able to break from the login shell by hitting ^something, prob. ^C, a bunch of times.

It gave me a prompt, which I assume was like a root or single-user-mode prompt. Too bad I didn't know many VMS directives.

The thing's error message is longer than the DOS one in winshit2k.

I still think the project should go on, but my time will be spend on more pressing matters. UNIX one the OS war by being superior. It didn't do it by blackmailing other companies to include it(M$). It didn't stay alive by forcing it on users of its hardware(Apple, Sun). Linux survived because anyone could get a hold of it. BSD kept up with the best of them, and would still be going strong if Linux didn't have a cooler name.

Re:why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176554)

No, it wasn't a single-used shell.

It was just the cluster interface, anyone can access it, and it has no privs.

Please don't post about things you obviously know nothing about.

Re:VMS is 1337 (2)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176581)

Even in 88 all you have to do was to enable the secure attention logon. You then got the logon prompt with a break key and nothing could intercept that.

Re:VMS is 1337 (1)

Graspee_Leemoor (302316) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176651)

A major feature of my logon faker that I wrote in 1988 was that I logged on as myself, ran the program then went away. If the user hit the break key (whatever that was- it's been so long...) they ended up in my account with a prompt.

Just goes to show how elite I was in 1988!

I did steal some passwords from members of staff who logged on though, and nearly got thrown out of university for it. I was only in my 3rd week as a fresher!

I suppose that's what happens when you meet a multi-user system for the first time when you're used to messing about on ZX-Spectrums- there is a desire to do evil!

graspee

Next on Slashdot... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176389)

Revitalizing BBS's and OS/2

Remember how you could operate your DOS BBS under OS/2 and still format floppy disks? Well, some geeks have setup OS/2 on some old 486's, and are inviting you to run a BBS on it! They've got 4 com ports per machine (mouse is PS/2), so sign up now to reserve one!

Re:Next on Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176398)

Actually, VMS is still very good for some tasks.

It has stability and security like nothing Linux or Windows will ever reach. However, it quite primitive so it's kind of hard to use.

Re:Next on Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176585)

It has stability and security like nothing Linux or Windows will ever reach. However, it quite primitive so it's kind of hard to use

Linux is not primitive!

VMS better than *NIX? (1)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176401)

Can somebody please explain to me (or tell me to RTFM/STFW and point me to the relevant resource) what makes VMS better than *NIX? I hear a lot of 'old timers' say this, but having discovered *NIX only five years ago I have no real idea what they're talking about.

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (0)

Amiga Trombone (592952) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176425)

Can somebody please explain to me (or tell me to RTFM/STFW and point me to the relevant resource) what makes VMS better than *NIX? I hear a lot of 'old timers' say this, but having discovered *NIX only five years ago I have no real idea what they're talking about.

It does seem to have quite a fan club among people who are familiar with it. Considering that, I wonder why no one has attempted an open-source implementation of it. Particularily since it seems to have been neglected by it's last two owners.

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (1)

njm (556768) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176465)

There in fact is an open source effort to recreate it: here [freevms.free.fr]. I was just about to describe the complete lack of activity for the project, but, upon checking the last update for the website, it was only four days ago, so who knows. =)

I would be interested in finding out whether HP is planning on continuing to support OpenVMS; I know that Compaq had been planning to port it to the Itanium. Can anyone comment?

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176472)

There actually are a couple of projects, no one looks like they got very far. Try a google search.

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176480)

A brief Google search reveals this [sympatico.ca] comparison.

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (2)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176540)

Just hunt around for references to VMSclusters and the Distributed Lock Manager. There are attempts at copying both but they really aren't as well implemented. SMP was also very good on VMS. The exec (kernel) of VMS was a nvery neat piece of engineering which was positively anal about parameter checking, so not a lot went wrong that way.

The problem is that although for many years, Digital didn't give sources, but they gave away source listings. Regrettably they stopped after VMS 4.5. However the system was exceptionally well documented and it was possible to write some neat hacks (for example, I did one to fetch somebody elses command line history buffer). It was far from as open as Linux. However, many old VMS people have fallen in love with Linux because it is so accessible.

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176573)


Clustering, high quality SMP, and a fine grained security model.

The security in paricular, was much, much better than that of Unix -- it was a far more secure OS.

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (1)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176715)

I've read it was more secure, but also that its security was harder to implement/modify, so that in real world usage *NIX was actually more secure since it was easier to use and implement. How right is that assertion?

Re:VMS better than *NIX? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176954)

Off the top of my head...

VMS was an engineered solution, by engineers, for engineers. UNIX is a organic one, slanted towards experimentation and diversity. In Unix you have a plethora of high level tools to accomplish the same things, in VMS you had one very well though out generic one. Usually a high fidelity implementation taken directly from the core of Computer Science theory that was hard to find fault with. For example, queue management. In Unix you have a dozen print tools, batch tools, etc. each with their own unique configuration nightmare. In VMS you had Queue Manager, a single thought out queueing management tool that didn't press "printness", "batchness", "uucp polling", or whatever, into the equasion. Some of these included...

Queue Mangement
Distributed Lock Management
Object Access Control and Rights Management
Record Management Services (File structures) (RMS)

Some question the RMS bit, myself included. Although it was one "well thought out tool" the idea of integrating file structure into the OS simple did not return on the promise. Hey, not everything can be perfect.

At a lower level, VMS had a number of nice features too. For example, every system call that could, possibly, be interrupted had the ability to complete by calling a function by name (AST). Sorta like sigio but far more powerful since each and every call specified its own handler and parameter block. Noise like Apache's "wake once" event wakeup problem simply could NEVER have been become an issue under VMS. The design flaw that lead to the "Apache problem" didn't exist.

VMS had some powerful per process management features, which many UNI* types don't even grok, let alone implement, yet. They were, however, complicated -- but most useful when you knew what you were doing and needed to do it. UNI* tries to "just work", but as the VM types in Linux are learning it isn't always that easy.

Unlike UNI*, VMS has a very powerful scheduler, and it let it's owner call the shots. Unlike UNI*, you had priority and runtime quantum and VMS never confused the two. So, something was priority 0 WOULD NOT run, ever, if something at priority 1 could. Lock your resources if you want, it's was your machine. UNI* takes gargantuan steps to save people from themselves.

Then, the VMS scheduler was IO sensitive. If you genererated a keyboard interrupt, your process was temporarally bosted a few priority points for a quick burst of responsiveness. Again, like every tool in VMS there was ONE scheduler and it offered a single, complete, and unified, end-user experience that deftly handled batch, timeshare, and real-time programming.

but VMS lives (3, Troll)

g4dget (579145) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176414)

The same guy who was responsible for VMS is responsible for Windows NT. You can think of NT as an attempt of a next generation VMS, with a DOS-like command line and a Windows GUI.

And the relationship between VMS and UNIX is analogous to the relationship between Windows NT and Linux. VMS was indeed considered very secure--probably because it had lots of "security features". In real life, however, VMS systems were often a lot less secure than UNIX systems because it was nearly impossible to get all the security setting right. More generally, UNIX was built around a small number of simple ideas and paradigms, while VMS attempted to be the all-singing-all-dancing operating system.

So, if you want to get that "old VMS feeling", just fire up a Windows NT or XP machine and type at the command line--it's roughly the same.

Re:but VMS lives (0)

Amiga Trombone (592952) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176451)

The same guy who was responsible for VMS is responsible for Windows NT. You can think of NT as an attempt of a next generation VMS, with a DOS-like command line and a Windows GUI.

Yes, his name is Dave Cutler - and there goes his reputation!

Re:but VMS lives (1)

Ggggeo (163895) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176470)

The same guy who was responsible for VMS is responsible for Windows NT. You can think of NT as an attempt of a next generation VMS, with a DOS-like command line and a Windows GUI.

A computer prof I had pointed out the above fact as well as the letters VMS shifted up one is:
VMS -> WNT (WinNT)
Interesting...Intended...or accidental?

Re:but VMS lives (2)

farrellj (563) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176518)

Sure, the same person may have designed NT, but it was implemented by Microsoft. And that was it's downfall. MS is a production line, like a car production line...with cars, they issue recalls, with MS Operating systems, they issue Service Packs.

ttyl
Farrell

Re:but VMS lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176808)

It was implemented by a bunch of the programmers, lead by a project leader. Now that project leader happened to be the same guy who was responsible for VMS, but it doesn't stop there: also several of the programmers were the same ones that wrote VMS.

Whether their salaries were paid by Digital or by MS can't make too much difference IMO, they were working for a big corporation that wanted them to come up with a good OS in both cases.

MS allowed them to go way over schedule and finish the details before it was shipped, something I doubt would have been true at Digital.

with cars, they issue recalls, with MS Operating systems, they issue Service Packs

MS call it a service pack, and keep the name and version of the OS (or software) the same.

In the *n*x world they call it a new release and bump the version number.

Besides that, I don't see much difference.

Re:but VMS lives (2)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176553)

Actually it was remarkable easy to set up security on VMS. The real issue was monitoring the security alarms.

Most of the hacks were through social engineering. The others were due to imperfect parameter checking. As the system matured, it got even more tight on the hecks and most of the holes disappeared.

Re:but VMS lives (1)

Jack Auf (323064) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176584)

The same guy who was responsible for VMS is responsible for Windows NT

Yes, his name is Dave Cutler. IIRC he quit working for M$ in discust about the time NT 3.5.1 was released (please correct me here).

So, if you want to get that "old VMS feeling", just fire up a Windows NT or XP machine and type at the command line--it's roughly the same.

No. The Win cmd shell is nothing like VMS. Not even close. It's really a glorified DOS shell, and has nothing whatever to do VMS. Ever used a logical under a Win cmd shell? I thought not.

I was a sysadmin on VMS systems for about 1 1/2 years, and right after that I wrote desktop apps that used RDB on VMS as a data source for about 3 years. I have at least a passing familiarity with it. It is without a doubt the most stable OS I've ever used including SunOS, Solaris, Linux, and WinNT*.

It's really too bad that DEC/Compaq continually bled their VMS/Alpha customers dry. Software, hardware, support were all obscenely expensive, and this more than anything else is what killed VMS and DEC in the long run.

Re:but VMS lives (2)

RatFink100 (189508) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176686)

The only real similarity between VMS and NT are the kernels. That's what Dave Cutler worked on.

DOS command line is more like unix that VMS

Re:but VMS lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176988)

The command line shell was out sourced to some other company. It is just a shell that sits on top of the Kernel, such as UNIX, and is not tied to the system. That is why it is called CMD.exe.
Remember when Microsoft stated in some sort of conference that their shell was more "Kornshell than Kornshell" and David Korn told them "NO".

Add a letter to VMS... (2)

bhsx (458600) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176716)

One of the first things I remember ever being told about Windows NT was that it was a direct rip-off of VMS. In fact, if you ever wondered what NT meant (Network Technology?) it supposedly doesn't really mean anything...
Microsoft supposedly named it NT because WNT is simply +1ing the letters VMS.

Re:but VMS lives (1)

Graspee_Leemoor (302316) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176746)

" So, if you want to get that "old VMS feeling", just fire up a Windows NT or XP machine and type at the command line--it's roughly the same."

Beyond 'dir' and 'type' it's very different.

Ha! There's a thought... Maybe all those people who keep on insisting that Linux is not unix should have a go at VMS so they could see exactly how different an OS that's NOT UNIX really is.

Hell, I'd been using it for 5 minutes and managed to 'type' some garbage to the screen, and spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how to reset the terminal...

It's good to see that 'basic' still works, though java looks strangely out of place...

graspee

Re:but VMS lives (1)

DonalGraeme (171589) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176769)

So, if you want to get that "old VMS feeling", just fire up a Windows NT or XP machine and type at the command line--it's roughly the same.


Oh, give me a *break*. VMS had a proper scripting language. NT doesn't. VMS came with a proper queue management subsystem, for both batch and print jobs. NT doesn't. VMS had access to system commands from the command line (if you had the appropriate privileges). NT doesn't.

Re:but VMS lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176853)

> The same guy who was responsible for VMS is responsible for Windows NT. You can think of NT as an attempt of a next generation VMS, with a DOS-like command line and a Windows GUI.

That was Dave Cutler's original intention, but NT mutated considerably from its VMS roots, and now VMS and NT only share the name of the original architect.

And NO, the VMS and NT command lines are considerably different - VMS is comparable in functionality to a Bash shell; I can't make any such comparision for the NT commandline shell except DOS.

Re:but VMS lives (2)

joshki (152061) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176887)

So, if you want to get that "old VMS feeling", just fire up a Windows NT or XP machine and type at the command line--it's roughly the same. uhmm... no. It's not. I worked with VMS for a couple of years learning to program FORTRAN back in the late eighties -- the commands are not even close. The only similarities between VMS and NT are due to the fact that Dave Cutler(I think) worked on both -- the interface for NT is mostly copied from DOS.

Re: but VMS lives (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176974)


> The same guy who was responsible for VMS is responsible for Windows NT. You can think of NT as an attempt of a next generation VMS

Except that Windows clustering still hasn't caught up to where VMS was 15 years ago.

Re:but VMS lives (3, Informative)

quark2universe (38132) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176994)

I disagree about VMS being less secure. In the hands of a novice, ANY system is insecure. VMS is/was one of the most secure operating systems around. That is partially due to the fact that it didn't have a native TCP/IP stack (at least it didn't when I worked with it). How many DECnet hackers are out there, raise your hands. And face it, most security issues now stem from network attacks, not from a file system or process scheduler standpoint. And another thing, compare the authentication mechanism and the options you have with the VMS UAF facility vs. the passwd/shadow files on Unix. VMS wins.

And, no, you can't just fire up CMD and get that "old VMS feeling". Case in point, type help on Windows and compare that to help on VMS. Light years apart buddy!

It makes you wonder... (2, Interesting)

The Original Yama (454111) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176418)

If Windows NT was built by a bunch of VMS people on top of OS/2, using VMS concepts, why does it suck so badly?

Re:It makes you wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176862)

> If Windows NT was built by a bunch of VMS people on top of OS/2, using VMS concepts, why does it suck so badly?

Because Dave Cutler wasn't the only one who had a hand in NT - recall the move of video drivers into the kernel, as if NT was supposed to be a Win98-style gamers platform. Too many marketing-related "requirements" that compromised the engineering.

I thought VMS became WNT (1)

mab (17941) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176420)

Wasn't one or more of the head Engineers of VMS responsible for the mess that is Windows NT/2000?

Maybe there could be a UNI course OS101 how to turn a secure OS into a virus infested shatered [decepticons.org] mess. Bill can hand out the degrees

Re:I thought VMS became WNT (2)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176508)

Yes, Dave Cutler engineered the VMS Kernel and the NT Kernel. He was not responsible for all of VMS so could not bring all the knowhow with him (in the early days, Digital and Microsoft were good friends as NT was also targeted at their Alpha chip). In particular, he didn't bring along the file system or security concepts (Andy Goldstein was responsible for that) and he didn't bring along the distributed lock manager, which was essential to the smooth running of VMS Clusters.

VMS++ = WNT (4, Informative)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176429)

No account of VMS would be complete without acknowledging that Dave Cutler [wikipedia.org] took VMS from DEC to Microsoft to create Windows NT. He acknowledges the acronym WNT was a pun on VMS++ [wikipedia.com] (add one to each leter of VMS ala HAL++ => IBM in 2001 a Space Odyssey.

Re:VMS++ = WNT (1)

Winnipenguin (603571) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176719)

Great article at osopinion written by Adam Barr, found here:

http://www.osopinion.com/perl/printer/17154/

Quote:
"Gordon Bell, who led the development of the VAX architecture at Digital, came to talk to the NT group in April 1994. At the time, I was on the team, working on the second version of NT. Bell warned the troops to forget about OS/2 and Netware. If we beat Unix, Bell told us, we would easily defeat the others in the process."

Fav quote:
'It wasn't always like this. Microsoft used to sell a version of UNIX called XENIX. Consider the following quote from Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, in the 3rd issue of PC Magazine, June/July 1982:

"It's important to realize that MS-DOS is part of a family of operating systems.... Providing the user with a family of operating system capabilities means a clear migration path from MS-DOS to XENIX. That means compatibility for both the terminal end user and the systems programmer.... A standard library for XENIX-86 C will allow compilation of a program on XENIX ... and then execution on MS-DOS.... XENIX systems will be able to function as network file servers." '

I wrote C programs on Xenix (Tandy box) during the early 80's and it was very fine.

Docs, if jumping into the free shell (4, Informative)

inkfox (580440) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176430)

If you dive into the free shell accounts they're offering, you might want to spend a little time here [compaq.com]. It's the master documentation site for all your OpenVMS needs.

This [compaq.com] seems to be the best guide for a user who's never even looked at VMS before.

VMS is dead (2)

Archfeld (6757) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176515)

even at the bank I work at and we milk things for a Loooong time. I've a dually alpha, but I loaded debian on it. That was a huge pain...only got it done thanks to MadHack, but man that thing flies.

VMS Still in Use at RIT (1)

PeekabooCaribou (544905) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176531)

The Rochester Institute of Technology [rit.edu] still uses VMS for a few of it's systems. 100% of class registration runs through the VMS, and students have the option of using VMS for their e-mail. Personally, I think it's one of the most confusing operating systems I've ever had the displeasure of sitting at, but I guess I thought the same thing about Linux at first..

Re:VMS Still in Use at RIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176558)

Most schools still have some VMS systems. A lot of vital records systems are still VMS and many schools still have some public vax servers. They are actually very common still.

Re:VMS Still in Use at RIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176688)

for example, campus email, internet browsing (via lynx) and word processing (wordperfect) was (and is, to some extent) all done on VMS systems (with text-terminals in the dorms) at Interlochen Arts Academy [interlochen.org]

talk about a bunch of high-schoolers being confused when first starting with a text-based interface!

but now that students are able to dial up isps in their rooms, the terminals are becoming less relevant.

I switched from VMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176535)

to LSD.
And I never looked back.

VMS was my first OS too (2, Flamebait)

Baki (72515) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176538)

And this article brings back bad memories, nightmares. I have always hated this unelegant, bulky and heavy operating system.

At the time I didn't know better, but had a vague idea that it must be possible to make something better. Luckily other VAX users had thought so a long time ago, and ported UNIX to VAX.

Then after 1 year of VMS we got our first UNIX machine (a Convex minisuper) and then I saw the light. In my opinion, UNIX and VMS were two opposites in almost any aspect. Using UNIX was a joy, it was elegant, efficient and interesting.

I have never been able to understand how (later) in a single company two such opposite culters could stay together (in DEC, the UNIX and VMS groups) and it turned out, not surprisingly, they could not.

Everyone who likes UNIX and who knows both UNIX and VMS well cannot but hate VMS. I bet many, like me, still wake at night sometimes due to a nightmare about VMS. In that respect, WNT is a worthy VMS++ indeed.

Re:VMS was my first OS too (1)

fallacy (302261) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176670)

I find that odd, saying how UNIX was a joy and VMS brings nightmares. Perhaps it's because I went the other way round (of sorts) in terms of experience: Amiga -> UNIX -> VMS.

Whilst I use and prefer UNIX/Linux, I appreciate that VMS isn't a bad OS at all.
But perhaps it's simply because the first time I did a 'sh log' on an Alpha at work (which we have only recently switched off after 10+ years of use) a smile can across my face as it took me back to the good ol' 'assign' of my beloved Miggy ;-)

Re:VMS was my first OS too (2)

bungo (50628) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176681)

Everyone who likes UNIX and who knows both UNIX and VMS well cannot but hate VMS.

Ok, let me first tell you about my personal collection of computers. I have

HP-9000 J-210 - 2 processor HP/UX
RS/6000 J-40 - 8 processor AIX (run *very* hot)
3 x Sun SS-20 - 2 processor Solaris
1 x SunBlade 100 - single procssor Solaris
2 x Sun LX - singal processor Solaris
2 x Tadpole 3GX - laptops, Solaris
Alpha 2100 - single processor Tru64
intel - single processor SuSE 7.1

I've run Linux since the .99 days, before then I ran Coherent (unix clone, now dead), SCO Unix, SCO Xenix.

I use unix everyday in my job. I love unix, if it weren't for unix, I probably wouldn't be working in the computer industry.

My other remaining box is a VAX 7000/90 running OpenVMS.

I love VMS. It can do everything that unix can do, but it just does it differently. You wouldn't program in lisp the same way you would program in C. You have to think in VMS when using VMS and don't try to apply unix ways of working to it.

My guess is that you just didn't learn enough about how VMS works to really understand it. Not surprising since you only used it for a year. Maybe if you'd learnt it more and had to do system admin tasks in it, you'd appreciate it better.

VMS was ahead of unix in so many way - access control list security, VMS had it way before, clustering, VMS had it way before (and it still is bettter than most versions of unix). VMS was set up from the start to monitor and control users and their cpu usage, for unix, you get vendor-created add-ons which do the job and are no way near integrated.

From a captive end-user perspective, maybe VMS was not so much fun, but from an admin perspective, if was fantastic.

Re:VMS was my first OS too (2)

RatFink100 (189508) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176824)

I have never been able to understand how (later) in a single company two such opposite culters could stay together (in DEC, the UNIX and VMS groups) and it turned out, not surprisingly, they could not.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that but HP now have two Unix groups (HP-UX and Tru64) and a VMS one.

I work for a large software company that sells software on many platforms and I can tell you that there's still a heck of a lot of VMS out there. Until I hear differently I'm assuming HP will be honouring Compaq's commitment to port VMS to Itanium so that VMS users have an upgrade path.

I always hated VMS (2)

SoftwareJanitor (15983) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176567)

I had to use it when I was in college. I found its user interface to be absolutely wretched. Horrid abominations for editors like SOS, EDT and TPU. And the VMS mail client was absolutely bletcherous. A lot of the things other people liked like the versioning file system I found more of an annoyance, if I want version control I'll use something that lets me check things in and out when I want to.

VMS didn't leave (4, Informative)

Sivar (316343) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176569)

VMS didn't go anywhere. Windows NT is based so closely on VMS that some have called it a new version of VMS with a GUI tacked on.
David N. Cutler, the chief software architect of NT, worked for DEC in the 70's. He had designed VMS and worked on releasing newer versions. Cutler became bored doing this so DEC gave him several hundred engineers and computer scientists to work on a next generation CPU and OS.
In 1988, DEC laid many on David N. Cutler's team and nuked both projects. He was fairly ticked off and left Digital only to be hired by Microsoft, bringing quite a few former DEC guys with him.
Cutler designed NT very similarly to how he designed VMS and Microsoft actually licensed several parts of VMS from DEC in a cross-licensing agreement in which DEC got the chance to use some of the Windows API in pure VMS. (How useful this was to DEC is questionable...)

So despite Microsoft marketing that NT is a cutting-end OS and even naming it "New technology," like Unix it is still based 1970's ideas and code.

As for pure VMS, my school uses it for both the C and the Pascal classes.
DirecTV uses it for their billing system called STMS. (How I found this out has plenty to do with /., ironically) }:>

I have found that it is very similar to DOS on steroids. It uses very similar commands, uses forward slashes `/' for parameters, uses extentions for file names (the same ones as DOS; .exe, .obj, etc.) but unlike DOS is very good at having a ton of simultaneous users.
Some differences: Its C compiler sucks, it never overwrites old files but instead makes files of a similar name (foo.c, foo.c;2, foo.c;3 etc.), its memory manager is famous for being fairly slow (though DOS has no memory management to speak of), and it makes a good server OS. Unfortunately if you want to run it, you have the choice between VAX and Alpha, neither of which are particularly common machines.
You can run quite a bit of Unix software on these things just fine if you compile it letting the make script know that the system is VMS.

Re:VMS didn't leave (2)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176663)

VMS didn't go anywhere

This is why the largest electronic derivatives exchange in the world [eurexchange.com] runs on VMS. Many other exchanges also use VMS. They do so for a reason, it takes on a bundle of work and doesn't die. If you have redundant hardware, it will stay up for ever, just failing over between hardware when it craps out.

Incidentally, Cutler started by writing RSX-11M then 11M+, a 16-bit operating system. He then went onto writing VMS and later the Digital PL/1 compiler before he left.

Digital got very little from MS apart from the promise to use their hardware platform for NT. The Windows API definitely has no relation to any of the APIs on VMS although some bits may be similar because of the former Digital engineers.

As the for command language, the original DOS/CPM commands derived from another 16-bit Digital operating system, RSTS/E. Both RSTS/E and M+ eventually started supporting Digital Command Language (DCL) which became fully developed under VMS (much like a Unix shell). The file types go back to the RSTS/E and RSX days.

The version numbers that you complain about are a feature of the VMS file system. They allow you to keep a few old versions of files around easily so you always have the possibility to revert to a previous version.

They memory manager is not particularly slow unless there is a high demand for memory and not enough physical memory available, and even Linux has problems there. The real issue of VMS as a platform is the overhead associated with process creation, now partly circumvented with threads.

Re:VMS didn't leave (3, Insightful)

dhogaza (64507) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176754)

RSTS/E was DEC's 16-bit BASIC operating system. You're probably thinking about RT-11. You could run an RT-11 emulator as an alternative to the BASIC interpreter under RSTS/E, thanks to a group of us in Oregon who made this available in the early 1970s. Perhaps you had the opportunity to do so. But RSTS/E out of the box announced itself as being "Ready", just like any other BASIC interpreter environment at the time (like the one I wrote for the PDP-8). RSTS/E had a relatively modern design, though, with the kernel and shell (if you will) fully separated. This design is what made it possible to dispense with the BASIC interpreter ("shell" in Unix terminology) and replace it with an RT-11 one. It also supported shared read-only executable segments in 8KB chunks (matching the memory mapping hardware of the PDP-11) so one copy of the RT-11 or RSTS/E BASIC "shell" was shared by all users. Not bad for 1970 technology on a 16-bit mini-computer.

All of these owe the basic structure of the CLI and file naming conventions (forward slash for parameters, 3-letter file extensions, etc) to the older PDP-10 operating system which dates back to the 1960s. The same basic CLI and file naming conventions were also supported by OS/8, DEC's PDP-8 operating system written mostly by Richie Lary.

OS/8's sources named it the "*bleep*" operating system, otherwise known as the First Upward Compatible Keyboard Monitor, or FUCK'M, operating system for the PDP-8. When Richie first proposed writing a PDP-8 operating system that was command-level compatible with the 36-bit PDP-10 timesharing operating system (thus the "upward compatible keyboard monitor" moniker), he was told "no" so wrote the first version of OS/8 on the sly. The acronym described his personal feelings towards management at the time, and later it became the standard single-user PDP-8 operating system.

Personally I think all of Dave Cutler's OS's more or less sucked, starting with RSX-11M and still true today with NT.

Re:VMS didn't leave (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176860)

The real issue of VMS as a platform is the overhead associated with process creation, now partly circumvented with threads.

Which is an issue NT inherited... Hence all the fuss made comparing NT and Linux thread handling.

Re:VMS didn't leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176877)

RSX-11M happened to be my first OS, I didn't know Cutler was co-resposible for the torturing I went through there ;-)

But as to "Digital got very little from MS", that depends on whether you call $150 million "very little".

Re:VMS didn't leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176725)

The file.ext;1 are version numbers, if you open a file without specifying a version number it defaults to the largest number after the ';'

foo.c;1 foo.c;2 foo.c;3

gcc -o foo foo.c

will use foo.c;3 as default, but if you screw up, you can always 'delete foo.c;3' and then it will use ;2. version numbers in filenames, a GREAT IDEA. use 'purge' to get rid of the old ones.

Re:VMS didn't leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176743)

Well the reason it's similar to MS-DOS (hak. spit) is because MS-DOS v1 was a poor copy of CP/M which itself was influenced by RSX (also a Dave Cutler OS) one of the ancestors of VMS.
For further reading I'd recommend "Showstopper!" (ISBN 0-7515-1629-5) Full of interesting info on the development of NT and some about VMS too.

Re:VMS didn't leave (2, Interesting)

PinkHeadedBug (521961) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176821)

Umm... in a word, "no".

VMS is not similar to DOS on steroids; maybe DCL looks like a DOS interpreter to you, but the underlying operating system is vastly different from that toy program loader called DOS. Calling them similar is just wrong. Besides, very few people have ever seen the aspects of Windows NT that resembled VMS; it most certainly isn't in the command line.

"It's C compiler sucks" You must be joking. DEC is famous for having some of the best compiler gurus; historically, their compilers have always been among the best, both in speed and code generation. Tartan was the only company I recall that could beat DEC on a VAX, and no one's yet matched them for code generation on Alpha. That VMS would somehow ship with inferior compilers doesn't make sense.

"It never overwrites old files..." Many like this feature: by putting those hooks in at the filesystem level, all commands automatically inherit file versioning. When you're certain you don't need the old versions any longer, you can clean up with a single command. And, finally, if you really don't like it, you can turn it off.

"It's memory manager is famous for being fairly slow..." I don't get this one at all. Are you referring to the system pager? Packet lists and non-dynamic pages? Page files? All of these size parameters are well-known (famous?), but more importantly, all can be tweaked via SYSGEN to your heart's delight. Nobody who can read a manual suffers from a slow memory subsystem on their VMS box.

"You can run quite a bit of Unix software on these things just fine..." It would be better to say that you can get POSIX compatibility under VMS. If you write for POSIX, yeah, you could get your code going under VMS. But many Linux/*BSD hackers these days neither know nor care about POSIX (not without good reason, I might add, POSIX.1 was seriously flawed in some respects), so I really have to question "quite a bit".

I don't like to nitpick, but your post does a real disservice to the VMS folks out there. I haven't seriously used VMS since the 4.x days, and am only marginally aware of the current state of OpenVMS, so I'm quite willing to be corrected. But, even older versions of VMS say otherwise about your comments.

Re:VMS didn't leave (2)

Sivar (316343) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176902)

"VMS is not similar to DOS on steroids; maybe DCL looks like a DOS interpreter to you, but the underlying operating system is vastly different from that toy program loader called DOS. Calling them similar is just wrong."
That is what I was referring to is the CLI. Regarding the underlying architecture being dissimilar to DOS: My post illustrated that itself. I know. Just the fact that VMS is, as I said, a multiuser OS makes it vastly different underneath.
Just as many people see little difference between Windows ME and Windows NT and talk about interface similarities, so too was I talking about interface similarities. The difference being I know the differences are more than skin deep.

"It's C compiler sucks" You must be joking. DEC is famous for having some of the best compiler gurus; historically, their compilers have always been among the best, both in speed and code generation. Tartan was the only company I recall that could beat DEC on a VAX, and no one's yet matched them for code generation on Alpha. That VMS would somehow ship with inferior compilers doesn't make sense."I wasn't referring to the speed of code generated as much as the irritation of using it. Granted, I did not check what version of the C compiler I was using, but it was lacking in some features. It's fflush(); worked erratically (though that has more to do with the libs than the compile I bet) and it didn't even support "//" comments. Granted, "//" was a C++ (not C) standard until C99, but nearly every other compiler I have used supports it perfectly. Looking back these may seem to be very minor but did not leave a good impression about the software. Perhaps saying that the compiler sucks was a bit of an overstatement. :)

"It never overwrites old files..." Many like this feature: by putting those hooks in at the filesystem level, all commands automatically inherit file versioning. Yes some people really like this feature--I am sure it has saved many people from a horrible death, but many people including myself actually find it irritating. This would probably not be the case were I more used to it, but I have become accustomed to my own ways of versioning and do not particularly like the extra step. Additionally, the file names generated for versioning are often difficult to associate unless one keeps close mental track of their saves. My foo() function isn't working now, but it was working three days ago. Was that in bar.c;27 or bar.c;39?
Yes, you can still version yourself, for example simply making copies of files at important points in time and naming them appropriately, but having a default system tends to discourage people from using that, just as a PC coming with Windows 98 discourages use of something better like Win2K or an alternative OS. Human laziness? Probably.

Nobody who can read a manual suffers from a slow memory subsystem on their VMS box.I can't read. Sorry. :)

I'm quite willing to be corrected. But, even older versions of VMS say otherwise about your comments.So am I, and no problem here. You clearly know more about VMS than I, and I appreciate your input.

Re:VMS didn't leave (1)

octalgirl (580949) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176858)

No it didn't. It is still heavily entrenched in DoD and other fed offices. They have moved to Windows OS's mostly for client/business end of things, like office, email and shared files. In one area that I know, they are still used for travel orders and some old-timers still prefer it's DOSsy mail. They also use a very healthy dose of Unix for engineering (and now Linux for servers are popping up, at least at the experimental level), and the management and graphics depts. still prefer macs. Heck, there are even punch card systems tucked here and there, performing really big tasks, like payroll!

One the best proprietary systems going (1)

aero6dof (415422) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176575)

To me VMS was one of the technical best of the proprietary systems. They cost an arm and a leg but you got value for what you paid for. Their OS, compilers, and other software had top notch documentation and were more stable than just about anything out there.

Re:One the best proprietary systems going (2)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176680)

Largely, yes. Some of their stuff, frankly, sucked. For example, the early implementations of PL/1 and VAX/C. In the latter case, we just used GCC for VAX/VMS and it worked fine. The docs were excellent and unlike MS, there were very few really internal APIs and they weren't being revised every six months.

And it is still stable which is why it is being used for electronic trading.

elegance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176594)

VMS was a truly elegant operating system. Not something you see much with OSs these days.

How secure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176656)

"considered one of the most secure"

I wonder is that reputation will last when everyone is running it and all hackers are looking for holes.

After all, windows (NT) is nothing more than the "next generation" of VMS, and some concepts of windows (like a registry) even found their way back into VMS (did they actually go through with that? It was on the promise list when Compaq bought Digital).

Not going anywhere, trolls! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176660)

VMS has been around forever, its still under development. It hasnt gone away. Its not going away for a long time, too many companies have their money invested in VMS. If it is not broke dont fix it. It does its job very well thank you.

Stop.. my ribs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176677)

and it's considered one of the most secure OS's around...

VMS secure.. holy damn that's hilarious. Quick tell me another one.

VAX/VMS recollections (1)

Foozy (552529) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176698)

* Excellent documentation. Used to fill several shelves. Writtent by engineers, and very well cross referenced.

* Very good C compiler *for the time*. Used it extensively in early 80s at EDS & GM

* Excellent system level IPC. The Message Box interfaces were extremely easy to use. Easily built large distributed systems with these.

* Excellent, multi-layer security model. Much better than the Unix model(s) even today.

* Good network *at the time*. DecNet beat the pants off IBM SNA for engineering and distributed systems work. Faded gradually with the rise of IP. Don't know if anyone still builds DecNet networks except in the CCIE labs.

An ex-Deccie remembers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4176729)

you know, just looking at that website made me yearn for DCL, and its ever so consistent command qualifiers, which could be shorted or spelled out in full as you wanted.

One of Unices weakest asthetic points, and I never understood how it got these, are the little command line -h switches.

Was it Cal or AT&T that was to blame ? :-)

Winton

I wouldn't use them. (1)

praxim (117485) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176789)

Each host has the name of a serial killer and the page mentions "loose hits." With that in mind, I wouldn't touch those systems with a ten foot pole.

VMS lives in MI (2, Interesting)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176842)

Michigan's child support system runs on it, or most of it does. Finally last year pieces of it started getting replaced with an Oracle back end and Java (urg) front end. But at this moment most of the state's child support personnel log onto a VMS system via terminal emulators.

Frankly I find the old application much more responsive and pleasant to use. I'm sure in just 5 or 10 years of bug fixes the new system will be just as good ;)

Thevax.org (2, Informative)

paranoidia (472028) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176895)

Another great free site is thevax.org [thevax.org] these guys have set up some VAXen machines on the internet for free for people to use. All you need to do is submit a form for a free account. So if you want some alternatives, here they are. Already a lot of users from around the world.

If you like VMS, run NT 3.51 SP 5 (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 11 years ago | (#4176944)

NT 3.51, with the last service pack SP5, is the purest expression of the VMS model in NT. That's the last version before Microsoft let the kode kiddies from the Windows 95 group put their stuff in the kernel. In NT 3.x, all the GUI stuff is outside the kernel and untrusted, so there's some hope of securing the thing. In NT 4, all that crap went inside the kernel. A version of NT 3.51 without networking once passed NSA's lowest level of security testing.
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