Selling FreeBSD

Andrew Hodgson andrewh at
Thu Jun 5 17:00:04 BST 2003

Bruce M Simpson wrote:
> 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 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.

Sounds cool. :) If it includes audio I'm definitely interested. I've
been keeping an eye on the audio side of *nix for a while now, and a few
months ago Sound on Sound Magazine covered the Agnula project. Some kind
of *nix-specific audio (or multimedia) application (that did something
unique) would be great for advocacy.

> > 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.

Wow! I didn't know there *was* a user-community in East London! I'm only
in time there's a meet stick it on the list, I'll be
there! About the install procedure, I think I'll prepare a list of
things that tick me off (having just done a reinstall at home).

> > 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.

I just think that FreeBSD has something the others don't have, and
talking to people who've used a lot of OS's seem to think the same
thing. All the foundation stuff seems to be in place, what's needed now
is perhaps a little spit and polish! A little PR wouldn't be a bad thing
at all, but of course, when it's a (largely) volunteer effort, finding
resources is difficult, to say the least.

> 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.

Thanks. I will look into this.

> 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.

This is something I'd suspected but not had the balls to say. I guess
companies like Apple spend millions on acquiring this kind of knowledge,
it is priceless.

> 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.

You're right, and I'm sure there are others out there in the same
position as me. I'm not clueless, but I've never programmed (properly:)
and consequently feel slightly put-off when it comes to chiming in with
suggestions. Finding the right language to start with and stick with
through the larval stage is the key, I reckon.

> 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.

Much obliged! 


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