BSD is dying

Brian Somers brian at
Wed Aug 3 12:11:33 BST 2005

On Thu, 28 Jul 2005 10:50:14 +0100 Paul Richards <paul at> wrote:
> and seems pretty  much dead in the UK based on this list.
> Although I'm being a bit flippant, since this list has become totally
> inactive recently I've also been trawling job lists a lot in the last
> few months and BSD has vanished from the UK job market too.
> Anyone got any comments on how they see the state of BSD in general
> and FreeBSD in particular in the UK at the moment?

I guess I have a few comments on the state of BSD in the UK.... it'd
be a shame not to bore the people here with them!

On the bad side (WRT BSD in the UK), I'm off to Vancouver to live,
following a job offer with Sophos & ActiveState.  Whilst I'm
effectively skipping the country because of FreeBSD, I don't see
the OS as being any more or less "dead" here or anywhere else than
it has been for the past few years.  In fact, I'd say that awareness
of the OS is greater than it ever has been.

In my opinion, employers are favouring linux as a development platform
not because of any particular technical aspect but because there are
lots of Linux development people out there, because it can do the
job at hand (whatever that might be) and because that's what they
perceive the market wants.  These employers are also seeing the chaos
of the linux development model and are striving towards ways of
controlling it.  They're also concerned about the licensing implications
of using linux...

BSD has been sitting in the background, maturing.

Just about any company that employs linux development people will know
about BSD.  A fair number of them will have BSD boxes in strategic
places within their business, and BSD knowledge will hold just about
as much water as linux knowledge when they're employing development

In my previous job at Sun, I worked with Linux.  I spent my time doing
the enjoyable bits of developing drivers and writing deployment
systems.  I also did the not-so-enjoyable bits of handling upgrades.
IMHO, upgrades under linux are best handled by making your own
distribution, but at the expense of going it alone and not having the
RedHats and SuSEs of this world to subcontract part of your support
organisation to.

Perhaps my opinion is based on knowing too much about FreeBSD and
not enough about linux, but I would counter that argument with the
whole "what do you want out of your release engineering department"

ActiveState (who I now work for) are the guys that have had a lot of
perl input in the past and have also contributed somewhat to the state
of SpamAssassin.  They've got a bunch of very talented developers who
are almost exclusively linux folks.  They employed me with the plan
to develop an appliance that might run on linux and might run on
FreeBSD.  The decision was to be deferred 'till practical comparisons
could be made between the two.  Whilst I'd like to say I convinced
them to use FreeBSD, I didn't.  They did it all on their own, and
not because of the development model but because of the licensing.
Given the choice, the lawyers preferred to just avoid the whole GPL

Since then, the answer to each of the technical issues that have
come up has been "yes, we can fix this or alter that", and nothing
gets in the way of our upgrade path.  In fact, I feel that the
developers I'm working with are coming around to thinking "yes,
that's cleaner than the linux way... I like it".

So I guess what I'm saying is that I believe BSD, and FreeBSD
specifically is poised to take market share away from linux.  Not
in the desktop market, but in the development market whether it
be in the appliance or server space.  It just needs people to
realise that when you get to the crux of it, handling linux in
a controllable way gives you a product that's more BSD than linux.

We've always been lacking the enthusiasm and drive of the linux
folks, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  We're not as
impulsive and do what's right in the long term.  Only the core
of the linux community have these qualities whereas almost all
of the BSD community have, so as a whole I believe our OS has
to be a better platform.


Brian Somers                                          <brian at>
Don't _EVER_ lose your sense of humour !               <brian at>

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