Selling FreeBSD

Bruce M Simpson bms at spc.org
Thu Jun 5 15:26:38 BST 2003


On Thu, Jun 05, 2003 at 01:48:08PM +0100, Andrew Hodgson wrote:
> <quote>
> The reason why FreeBSD trails behind Linux in the outside world is
> because 
> nobody is "selling" FreeBSD. It's debatable if this is a good thing or
> not.
> </quote>
> 
> Sorry if this has been discussed a thousand times before, but Paul
> Robinson's comment rang some bells with me. How does everyone feel about
> the issue of promoting and advocating FreeBSD? Has anyone succeeded in
> getting it implemented at work? Or in an educational setting?

We at spc.org use FreeBSD extensively. Mainly for servers. One 'pet project'
idea of mine is to use 5.1 as the nexus for a multimedia/video jamming
workstation OS. This may happen yet; it's related to what I describe below.

> Being something of a beginner myself, I reckon that from a new users
> point of view what might be off-putting is the lack of a nice-looking
> install process, automatic detection and mounting of removable disks,
> and the lack of a point-and-click solution for updates, software
> install, and lower-level configuration, among other things. Obviously
> this adds to bloat, but this is what I see being implemented on Linux.
> Not that any of that made ME switch ;) but then I am a g---.

This is exactly what needs to be addressed. Speaking to the user community
in and around East London at large, they often complain that the
sysinstall procedure is a bit convoluted, or incomplete, and that device
driver installation isn't automatic, etc.

> Reading a recent interview with the core members of the Project, this
> kind of thing isn't a priority at the moment. Which is fine for geeky
> types like me, but I'd love to see a version that does a nice Redhat or
> Mandrake-style install, with software designed for X that interfaces
> with the various config files for you, in a foolproof way of course! I'd
> love to write it myself, I'm just not clever enough yet.

These are all legitimate concerns. It's something I'd like to dedicate some
energy to when less pressed. There is an existing effort to improve the
installer which jkh was involved with.

Having been involved in ClosedBSD in the past, it's something I'm familiar
with; and I'd like to stop the rot just as much as you.

If you want to have a go, though, I'd suggest that you consider using
XSLTs with a master XML to generate the files you need in /etc. Also
consider 5.1, because of its new NEWBUS and devd/devfs features which should
make hot plugging and configuration of devices much easier. You'd also
need to consider the serial console/headless server use case in the overall
scenario.

Formal training in software engineering process can and does help, but your
experience as an end-user is invaluable, especially in terms of a priori
perception of the install process. This is often something that's missing
from in-house software development - due to the corporatization of language,
essential details get missed.

It would be a great help if you could write down exactly what about it pisses
you off, and which parts you find sleek; it's extremely empowering to
develop your own skills for dealing with the problems, too.

Binary updates are something which have been dealt with - see
/usr/ports/security/freebsd-update for an example.

The release process is in a state of flux right now; Bill Fenner is
reengineering the 'make world' and 'make release' process to use Tinderbox.
Preliminary feedback suggests that some gains have been made here in terms
of flexibility of builds, speed, and ease of producing ISO masters. 

If you want to have a bash, feel free to consult me as a resource.

BMS




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