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Peter MacDonald (computer programmer)

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Peter MacDonald is a Canadian software engineer, best known as the creator of Softlanding Linux System (SLS), widely regarded as the first complete Linux distribution.[1] Some of his work served as a foundation of Wine. He also created the Tcl web browser BrowseX, and the PDQI suite of Tcl utilities.

Current projects include Jsish, an embeddable javascript interpreter with builtin type-checking.[2]



Peter Charles MacDonald was born in Victoria, British Columbia on June 28, 1957. He graduated from the Computer Science program of the University of Victoria with a BSc (1989) and MSc (1996, master's thesis: Decomposing the Linux Kernel into Dynamically Loadable Modules).[3]



MacDonald co-developed early features of the Linux kernel in the early 1990s, including shared libraries, pseudo terminals, the select call and virtual consoles.[4][5][6] He announced Softlanding Linux System (SLS), the first standalone Linux install, for testing in August 1992 (on 15 floppy disks),[7] and for general release in October 1992 (recommending at least 10 MB of disk space).[8]

SLS became popular, but also drew criticism. MacDonald was criticized for trying to make money on free software, but defended by Linus Torvalds.[6] Two of the early Linux distributions were made specifically in reaction to SLS, Ian Murdock's Debian to compensate for SLS's bugs, and Patrick Volkerding's Slackware to include installer patches which weren't added to SLS, and which MacDonald wouldn't allow Volkerding to distribute independently.[9][10][11]

Other software


The initial 1993 Wine Windows compatibility layer was based on Tcl/Tk windowing functions MacDonald wrote (though later rewritten as direct Xlib calls).[12]

MacDonald founded BrowseX Systems in 1999,[13] and put out version 1.0 of BrowseX, an open source Tcl-based cross-platform web browser, meant to be smaller and faster than Netscape.[14][15] The last update of BrowseX was in 2003; the company was renamed to PDQ Interfaces Inc., and put out a set of various TCL based utilities.[13][16]

Jsish: a javascript interpreter with builtin sqlite, json, websocket, and zvfs support.[17]


  1. ^ "Linux Distributions", Apr 01, 1994, Linux Journal, Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  2. ^ "Jsish.org". Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  3. ^ "Peter MacDonald" Archived 2007-11-08 at the Wayback Machine, PDQI Staff page. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  4. ^ "Linux-Activists" mailing list, 1991. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  5. ^ "Linux-Activists" mailing list, 1992. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  6. ^ a b "The Choice of a GNU Generation: An Interview With Linus Torvalds", Originally published late 1993 in Meta Magazine. By Mike Linksvayer. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  7. ^ "SLS: now available (for testers)" Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine, SLS first announcement - Newsgroup: comp.os.linux, August 15, 1992. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  8. ^ "Linux Timeline", Linux Journal, May 31, 2006. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  9. ^ "The Ultimate Distro", by Glyn Moody, Linux Journal, December 27, 2006. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  10. ^ "Interview with Patrick Volkerding", by Phil Hughes, Linux Journal, April 1, 1994. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  11. ^ Linux Bible 2010 Edition: Boot Up to Ubuntu, Fedora, KNOPPIX, Debian, openSUSE, and 13 Other Distributions, by Christopher Negus, Wiley, 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-48505-7, p.528. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  12. ^ "Wine History", WineHQ. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  13. ^ a b "BrowseX Home Page". Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  14. ^ "BrowseX Systems Inc. announces Beta Release 1.0.x of BrowseX", BrowseX Systems Inc., Sept 26, 2000. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  15. ^ "BrowseX - A Viable Alternative", review by Steve Coe, Canada Computes, Oct 04, 2000. Archived at the Internet Archive. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  16. ^ "PDQI Home Page" Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  17. ^ "Jsish.org". Retrieved 2014-04-30.