BSD is dying

Robert Watson rwatson at
Thu Jul 28 15:05:25 BST 2005

On Thu, 28 Jul 2005, David Gerard wrote:

> I dunno about that. I've been playing with Ubuntu Linux. It's basically 
> Debian with up-to-date software and a bit of work to make it easy to 
> use. Its weak point right now is Linux's hardware support - but any 
> supported hardware Just Works. Debian is eminently sane, so the only 
> thing I don't like about it is the Linux kernel at the bottom of it ;-) 
> If only Debian GNU/FreeBSD wasn't all but vaporware ...
> But Ubuntu is an *amazingly* usable desktop system. I'd like the FreeBSD 
> ports/packages folk to have a play with it and see what it feels like to 
> use.

My primary problems with the UNIX desktop are actually problems that span 
FreeBSD and Linux -- that aspects of the desktop environment are 
counter-intuitive, fail to integrate well with the low-level OS, fail to 
expose all the administrative twiddles well, and that the applications 
vary from "poor" to "still catching up with MS Office".  Open Office, 
which is arguably one of the most complete and usable UNIX-based desktop 
applications, basically looks like MS Office'97, and works almost as well. 
I.e., these aren't OS issues per se, as much as user usability issues.

Or to phrase this another way: when was the last time you saw innovative 
user interface and application work in a UNIX desktop and thought "Wow, 
that's really cool, I've never seen that before!".  I think the last time 
that happened for me was when I discovered that X11 programs could 
transparently run over the network, and that was hardly recent.  While the 
UNIX desktop world is getting more mature, I think in the end it's simply 
not getting the fundamental investment that you see on Windows and Mac OS 

Not that we shouldn't work to make it better, but I think that there are 
some fundamental missing pieces, and those pieces aren't at the OS level.

Robert N M Watson

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