March 12, 2003

"Unix" or "UNIX"?

Erik Barzeski notes that there's a difference of opinion as to whether the operating system originally developed at Bell Labs in 1969 should be spelled as "Unix" or "UNIX". Interestingly enough, I did an informal survey of this while I was at Microsoft, since we wanted to figure out the correct capitalization for our documentation. The best conclusion I could come up with was that more commercially-inclined organizations -- commercial Unix vendors, Apple, all three major BSDs, RedHat, and other similar entities -- write "UNIX". On the other hand, the GNU project and other less commercial organizations write "Unix".

A quick check of the International Trademark Metasearch shows multiple trademarks for "UNIX" and none for "Unix". The obvious conclusion, then, is that those who are concerned about trademark infringement -- which would include just about any company with its own trademarks to protect, and might not include the GNU project -- use the trademarked term as it's intended to be used. On the other hand, those of us who aren't concerned about misusing a trademark and dislike the look of acronyms that are used as regular words but written in all caps will continue to write it as "Unix".

That conclusion leaves one unanswered question: Why does O'Reilly use the lowercase version? See "Mac OS X for Unix Geeks", for example. In a publishing company, something like the spelling of "Unix" must fall under some corporate policy somewhere. I wonder what led them to decide to spell it the way they do.

A huge prize for innovative software

Derrick Story announced O'Reilly's Mac OS X Innovators contest today. O'Reilly is looking for the most innovative software for Mac OS X -- software which drives the industry forward while taking advantage of Mac OS X technologies and maintaining its ease of use. And what a ADC Premier membership (which includes a free WWDC pass, multiple Apple hardware discounts, and more), a pass to O'Reilly's Mac OS X Conference, and a subscription to O'Reilly's Safari collection of online books. Runners-up get an ADC Select membership instead of the Premier membership, but the rest of the prize is the same.

That's one heck of a prize offering. I can't wait to see the winners. My choice for first prize: Brent Simmons' NetNewsWire. Only a few pieces of software have changed the way I interact with the rest of the world, but NetNewsWire has done just that. There are other news aggregators and there are other weblog editors, but NetNewsWire handles both tasks wonderfully. For demystifying RSS and making weblog editing easy, NetNewsWire definitely deserves a place among the most innovative software on Mac OS X. In my mind it's first, but I'm curious to know what other folks would pick.