FreeBSD on the Desktop (Was iBook THIS THREAD MUST DIE NOW)

James James at reftech.co.uk
Fri Jan 7 17:02:21 GMT 2005


Gerald Davies wrote:

> not neccessarily, depends what distro and what you install.  its about
> choice more than anything.  i do agree with you though that some of
> the distros seem bloaty now.

I had a play with Yarrow before Christmas, and 'bloaty' is like saying 
that Rik Waller likes the occasional chip butty.  Slackware was 
downright inpenetrable, but I suspect that I'm happy with knowing five 
different HD partitioning systems.  I'm technically minded, but not 
masochistic.  And they've yet to produce 'Trivial Pursuit: *nix edition'.

> your avg person isn't going to like fbsd IMHO.  

The point is that nobody has a clue what the average computer user 
actually is.  I support friend's machines who run the gamut from gaming 
through to making something loosely described as music.  Even Microsoft 
makes howling errors like an annoying paperclip and 'user-friendly' has 
never been a synonym for 'patronising'.  I'll probably take lives if I 
ever have to use another piece of scanner-bundled software.

I've been wondering for the past couple of years about creating a 'base' 
FreeBSD distro that automatically installs a given subset of software 
(roughly modelled on XP.  Don't hate me.) and asks simple configuration 
questions.  Admittedly I'm insanely happy with current methods of doing 
it, but I'm sure that something like that could work well.

> do you mean that they should adopt an 'appliance nature' in that tools
> are made for their job?

Not necessarily, but it's a definate that the majority of people _do_ 
treat them as flaky tools with a minority of us being a bit more 
'fetishistic' about the unlovable beige boxes.

One thing that isn't generally considered as being a problem for us 
compared with 'joe user' is that the unexpected problems, failures and 
bugs, to us, are an excuse to get some coffee and start applying however 
many years experience to fixing the problem in ways that look like 
voodoo to Messr. user.  With personal computers it's possible for it to 
be a 'little bit broken', which compared with every other household 
appliance is extremely unusual.

> i reckon thats where apple have it right - narrow hardware platform &
> an OS that works.  it doesn't suprise me that people are moving
> towards OSX as a desktop and still using the other bsd/linux distros
> in a server capacitiy.

It's incredibly pretty.  I make the Apple jokes, but my colleague is a 
fan and I was very impressed.  In a way they've crossed FreeBSD with a 
really nice window manager and a consistent design philosophy...but 
their main audience are designers and graphic artists.  Or were.

I suspect that this is why MS tends to do badly in the server side of 
things.  Their biggest critics are doing the infrastructure jobs. 
Apple's biggest critics are going to have problems if it isn't pretty 
and fast.

Apple has a captive market because it had an aggressive policy of 
putting computers into schools and colleges, which is the functional 
equivalent of creating extremely early brand awareness.  The high cost 
of the kit compared with the licensed IBM clones was the thing that 
stopped them becoming huge, IMO.

> actually, having a distro with tons of apps does have its benefits
> (even if you don't install them all) - if you don't have access to
> broadband then its actually rather useful to have 5 or 6 ISOs with a
> fair selection of apps.

I agree with both viewpoints, which is why I spend idle minutes leafing 
through the ports collection...however, broadband isn't necessarily the 
issue; 22Mb for Mysql on dialup was hurty, but doable.  Like MS you can 
broadly assume that people are going to be using a lot of broadband, but 
I agree with Frank that scattering hundreds of applications across a 
distro dilutes the time to familiaries with each one.  Rarely do you 
ever install five pieces of spreadsheeting software, and that inertia is 
what the big guys have played on for years.

The other thing is that the ISO's are static images of source.  Open 
Source has a huge turnover rate because of enhancement and security, and 
you want to be careful that you don't create a situation where boxes are 
vulnerable because people don't think that online updates are necessary.

James


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