BSD is dying

Robert Watson rwatson at
Thu Jul 28 14:39:24 BST 2005

On Thu, 28 Jul 2005, Paul Richards 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?

Gosh, you guys are a depressing lot. :-)

I'm not really in contact with FreeBSD use in the UK, but I can tell you 
it continues to see wide-spread adoption, especially in the embedded 
market, in the US, as well as many companies moving from Linux to FreeBSD 
as it meets their needs better in the ISP space.  The FreeBSD Project does 
a pretty bad job of advertising these things, but I'd say there is 
actually a lot of hope -- we recently managed to put together a marketing 
team, who are working on authoring a set of white papers, etc.

Despite the implicit claims in this thread, FreeBSD has never had much in 
the way of casual desktop use, and that remains the case.  Even with all 
the investment of companies like IBM, etc, Linux still isn't a desirable 
desktop environment, so it's not surprising to me that people who want a 
desktop environment and UNIX bits underneath are buying Macs.  I wouldn't 
suggest to my wife she use FreeBSD directly today on her desktop, nor 
would I suggest Linux.  I would suggest Mac OS X, so you might argue this 
is a FreeBSD success, as opposed to a Linux failure, since we provide the 
UNIX bits of choice for the most widely used UNIX desktop system on the 
planet.  I.e., this is the first time my wife and in-laws have been able 
to run large quantities to FreeBSD code on their desktops.  Most of the 
experiments I know of where Linux has been put on end user desktops as 
opposed to techies have gone pretty badly -- worse than the plethora of 
earlier commercial failed attempts at such things, such as BeOS, OS/2, and 
.. er.. whatever that low-end competitor to Windows was in about 1994.

In general, systems become what people need by virtue of people making 
them fit that need.  FreeBSD works really well in the ISP environment 
because a lot of ISPs sat down and said "FreeBSD is a good starting point, 
but if only it did <x> a little better!", and then doing <x> and 
contributing it back.  FreeBSD is doing better and better in the embedded 
space as "embedded" ceases to mean MMU-less low-end processors, and 
increasingly means i386 with a 486 class CPU or better.  The new PPC port 
and ARM work will probably help also, but will need some larger consumers 
to sit down with the pieces and hone them some.  FreeBSD continues to pick 
up new network appliance consumers, especially ones who found WindRiver's 
upgrade path from VXworks to... VXworks unappealing, and find that Linux's 
intellectual property contraints, not to mention technical properties, are 

The reason I've not been doing a lot of FreeBSD-related socializing and 
talking in the UK is that I've been utterly exhausted supporting my 
custoemrs using FreeBSD and Darwin, as our customer workload has gone 
through the ceiling in the last 24 months, and have had a hard time being 
in Cambridge for more than 14 days at a time over the last six months. 
So I guess that speaks to a slightly different perspective on things :-).
Sadly, my employer flies me discount economy everywhere, so I got few if 
any air miles from BA...

Robert N M Watson

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