BSD is dying -- not even close!

Brian Somers brian at
Fri Aug 5 01:31:48 BST 2005

On Thu, 4 Aug 2005 13:43:06 +0100 Paul Richards <paul at> wrote:
> You're thinking like a developer, not a sysadmin or a user. The
> I don't think anyone here really believes that Linux is better than
> FreeBSD technically. However, my feeling is that the BSD mentality
> is that of a low level developer who likes to do things themselves.

I think you're probably right here.  My first introduction to Unix
sources was back in 1989 when I was shown how to mount /usr/src on
a Motorola 68010 running sys5.2.  If you didn't know that the
partition was there, then there was no way of finding out.  It was
``accidentally left there'' by one of the Motorola guys that
installed the system as a favour to someone at the company that he

There wasn't much point in leaving the office in the evenings after

I had to wait nearly four years before getting a similar opportunity.
386BSD-0.1 was painfully buggy, but was so incredibly attractive
because it'd actually run on an affordable machine.  I could throw
away DOS + the MKS toolkit and do it properly.

But I digress!!  I'm a developer, and my job entails being able to
produce software.  The software has to work 100% of the time (!!),
but when my manager sits in an office with me and asks ``how are we
going to make sure that this sort of thing (bug... ok, 95%) doesn't
happen again?'' I want to be clear on two points:

1.  This had better not happen again (ie., I'd better be able to
    fix it or explain why it must remain broken).
2.  This had better not have happened before!

And the only way I can do this is to know that what I'm producing
can be modified.  A lot of software that's ``released'' by an
individual these days isn't something they've written themselves,
but it's something they're accountable for, so they'd better be
ready to fix it... or as a manager, they'd better be in a position
to have it fixed.

IMHO, FreeBSD is *the* development platform of choice.  It's not for
users (how many people would put FreeBSD on their parent's computer?),
and it's not for admins unless the job entails a fairly high level of accountability (see above).  I guess the admin side is a grey area as
admins come in many shapes and sizes.

If however people fancy a shot at developing, install FreeBSD.  Struggle
with your first src upgrade, try to figure out why everything's broken,
ponder over the wonders of the bootblocks and why the hell we need three
different bootloaders before we run the kernel, wonder why all the hoops
are necessary to upgrade to the next major version, ask google about
a.out and elf library version numbers, gasp at the subtleties that are
taking place when we run linux binaries, marvel at the abstraction
layers that have been built since the first file descriptor abstractions,
dream about running -current, and wonder if it's really as difficult as
it seems.  Subscribe to the -hackers list and wonder what people are
talking about....  Then, as things start to become clear, fix the broken
bits, maintain local repo changes, submit PRs, get to know the developers
that are necessary to get things committed and eventually, for your
efforts, you'll get hit over the back of the head with a commit-bit.

These are all of the things that have kept me interested over the years.
As a fairly seasoned developer, Paul, I'm sure you're aware of all of
these wonders and more, but if you throw your arms in the air and give
up at this point, you'll miss all of the rest of it.

Who wants to step away from FreeBSD and become a user of the technology?
Who wants to have everything ``just work'' and have the subtleties just
pass them by?  Think of all of the future technologies that will be
missed by the computer users of this world.  Think about your parent's
reaction to computers and scale it to your knowledge.  You've gotta keep

/steps down

So you get my point.  IMHO FreeBSD isn't even close to dying.  It's
simply just not the same thing as Windows, and where Linux owns most
of the embedded and server marketplace, well, it's only a matter of
time.  Either linux gets a clue or FreeBSD will take over.

> Different licenses suits different purposes and there are times
> when the protection of the GPL suits your business requirements and
> times when BSD would be better.

Point taken.  I have to agree.  I tend to consider the GPL as being a
two (sharp) edged sword.  On one side you've got to be careful (as a
corporate) that you don't end up being told by a court that you have
to give away your market edge.  On the other side, you've got to be
careful that if you try to use it to your advantage, your competition
doesn't just kick you in the teeth with it.

I guess it's not always good to run away from something you don't
understand :^}

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

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