Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Operating Systems Software BSD Linux

Comparing Linux and BSD, Diplomatically 448

Posted by timothy
from the famous-diplomat-linus-torvalds dept.
Joe Barr writes "Talk about a red-button issue. How do you compare Linux and the BSDs and keep the debate from turning into a friendly-fire flame-fest nightmare between bigots on both sides of the line? Linus Torvalds once handled a similar situation by wearing a BSD beanie at USENIX while delivering a Linux talk. Now he tries it again in this interview on NewsForge ."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Comparing Linux and BSD, Diplomatically

Comments Filter:
  • by geomon (78680) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:16PM (#12804566) Homepage Journal
    TFA is not a Slashdot-style discussion, obviously. No matter how hard Joe Barr tried to get Linus to engage in a comparison, he was unwilling to rise to the bait. Good going, Linus.

    There are obvious merits to any operating system. Despite what many /.ers think, Windows does work well enough to allow people to do productive work. The various BSD flavors work well enough for their community to do productive work. I would venture that Solaris users probably get quite a bit done with their relatively immature software as well. Oh yeah, OSX stuff works well too.

    The problem with comparisons is that once all of the products begin to operate at a level that makes them useful to their target audience, then the only thing left to argue about is the margins. Zealots exist on the margins and so are they are the most likely to carp and moan about the small differences between various products.

    Linus is not a zealot. He is an advocate.
    • by infonography (566403) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:31PM (#12804732) Homepage
      Nice bit of underhanded baiting there yourself. Not that I don't agree on many levels. Solaris isn't so immature, however the user level stuff is horrific and unfriendly. I know I am a Solaris admin. Get into big oracle or financials systems then tell me it's child's play. Still over all your correct.
    • by Zemplar (764598) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:36PM (#12804785) Journal
      Ditto the other poster, you couldn't resist the bait on Solaris. Solaris will kick some Linux and BSD butt for certain applications, however, it is relatively unfriendly as a desktop OS. Hopefully when OpenSolaris.org "opens for business" this week, we'll have a better package manager and userland applications. IMHO, the Solaris kernel is simply one of the, the not THE, best kernel currently available.
      • by geomon (78680) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:43PM (#12804861) Homepage Journal
        IMHO, the Solaris kernel is simply one of the, the not THE, best kernel currently available.

        I don't think even the most hard-core Linux user would dispute that (well, maybe the zealots would).

        As I wrote to the other poster who caught my gentle dig, I love Solaris for its stability. The only thing that I admire more about Linux is the open development. Sun cannot compete (for many reasons, mostly commercial) with Linux on that score.
        • by l1nux_z34l0t (891830) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:03PM (#12805079)
          Everyone who cares about the details knows Linux is light years ahead of solaris in every respect that matters to people of this century and not the last.

          Look at Linux's vast array of scheduling algorithms. See how Linux's capabilities thrash Sun's pathetic security model into the ground. Checkout the triangles/sec and blit rate in Quake2.

          OK?
    • Well then, maybe as a guy that uses and likes many things about both BSD and Linux, I can suggest a few things to the Linux folks out there that would really make me happy to see in Linux that are in BSD.
      • Direct FD number control in the kernel build. BSD has this 'maxusers' settings in its kernel configuration taht maps directly to the number of FDs available on a system. I dislike having to mess around with settings post-boot in order to get a bigger FD table.
      • Text file kernel configuration. That .con
    • by RealProgrammer (723725) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:46PM (#12804896) Homepage Journal
      Solaris users probably get quite a bit done with their relatively immature software as well.

      You must be referring to Solaris on Intel. I still don't think "immature" is the right adjective. The problem with Solaris on Intel is mostly hardware support, and that's not going to change with age. Hardware popularity shifts faster than Sun's ability to support it.

      "Stodgy" and "crusty", maybe, but not "immature".

      For vanilla hardware in a server, it does just fine.


    • The differences in the capabilities of the competing OS's is small compared to the differences in their philosophies.

      MS and Apple both now have competent OS's - as of Win2K (in my opinion) and OS X - but they will always be driven by a different set of values than Linux and raw BSD.

      So, I personally use Windows and sometimes even like it, but my hat goes off to those who use Linux, whether it is best or worst.
      • competent OS's (Score:3, Interesting)

        by falconwolf (725481)

        MS and Apple both now have competent OS's - as of Win2K (in my opinion) and OS X - but they will always be driven by a different set of values than Linux and raw BSD.

        So, I personally use Windows and sometimes even like it, but my hat goes off to those who use Linux, whether it is best or worst.

        It depends on what you mean by "competent OS's".Though for the past several years I've used mostly Windows I rank it at the bottum of the heap in stability, with WinNT being the most stable to me, and I've use

    • Despite what many /.ers think, Windows does work well enough to allow people to do productive work.

      Even Windows 3.1 satisfied that criterion. The problems with Windows are, and have always been, the costs and risks of going with a proprietary single-vendor solution. The many security and technical issues Windows has are just one expression of those underlying problems.

      The problem with comparisons is that once all of the products begin to operate at a level that makes them useful to their target audien
  • How do you compare Linux and the BSDs and keep the debate from turning into a friendly-fire flame-fest nightmare between bigots on both sides of the line?

    Would you have a "debate" with a racial bigot over which race is better?

    Bigots of any type aren't worth the time of day.

    IMHO
    • by s20451 (410424) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:29PM (#12804708) Journal
      Putting aside truly harmful types of bigotry, such as racism etc., I find "OS bigotry" pretty entertaining. I am a centrist, who sees merit in almost every viewpoint, so it's pretty funny to me to watch people get at each others' throats over ludicrous low-level minutiae from the inner bowels of arcane computing concepts. I mean, who gives a rat's ass? And yet people are using comparisons to the Nazis, and worse.

      Truthfully, it's what keeps me coming back to Slashdot.
      • by jellomizer (103300) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:05PM (#12805095)
        But what is more fun. Is if you post a message that can really rial them up. Like saying all the things you can do in windows that you can't do in Linux, or Dissing on Stallman. You can get hate responces as far as the bowser scrools. and you comments and Modded down into boliavian. I am sure some of them are people who are tring to egg me on from the other side, and have some fun at my expense. But still it is a lot of fun.

        Some of my favorate Instults.

        "Tie Wearing Sheeple." (Although I only wear a tie like once ever 3 months or so)

        "poorly argued rant simply demonstrate that you are a close minded jerk of lower than average intelligence that no amount of college could help." (Ohhh good comeback, If my argument was so poorly argued why didn't he just give reasons.)

        "Windows loving fananic" (although I normally run Linux, Solaris or OS X)

        If they were just a little bit more moderated they would live happier lives. Because every other thing out there that could be more popular then their choice wont make then annoyed. I know I use to be an Open Source Zealot then I relized ill just be happier if I wasn't
    • by nurhussein (864532) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:57PM (#12805017) Homepage
      Now, now, operating systems are technical things, with technical merits and disadvantages.

      A good computer scientist can look at any system and ask himself, "ok how does this suck?".

      Because the answer to that question can be followed up with "how do we make it better?".

      If you can't ask "how does this suck?" for fear of being an "troll" then you've effectively eliminated thought.
    • by Linux_ho (205887) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:18PM (#12805258) Homepage
      Look in the article! He sez:

      I often find black-and-white people a bit stupid, truth be told.

      See! See?!
  • In short: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MPHellwig (847067) * <mhellwig@xs4all.nl> on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:17PM (#12804572) Homepage
    Try to use the appropriate tool at the right time at the right moment.
    What is appropriate depends on the situation and your experience.
    • by Infinityis (807294)
      I make it shorter...here's a quote from the article:

      "The world simply isn't black-and-white, and I recognize a lot of grayness. I often find black-and-white people a bit stupid, truth be told."

      Basically, what Linus is saying here is

      "Only a Sith deals in absolutes"
  • Comparison (Score:5, Funny)

    by COMON$ (806135) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:17PM (#12804575) Journal
    Easy, you just compair them to Microsoft and the Linux and BSD bigots will unite.
  • come on (Score:5, Funny)

    by uberjoe (726765) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:17PM (#12804576)
    So what? Everyone knows windows blows both of them out of the water as far as viral whoring goes. Try that with wine.
  • Short Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <.akaimbatman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:18PM (#12804584) Homepage Journal
    In summary, Linux Torvalds understands that computers are about the right tool for the right job. For some, that tool is Linux. For others, that tool is *BSD. But he rightfully takes the stance that competition is no skin off his nose.

    This is a *good* thing people! I realize it's much easier to jump into Highlander mode ("There can be only one!"), but reality is rarely so simple. Until someone invents the "perfect solution", every decision will lead to a particular set of tradeoffs. If you don't have anyone else exploring alternatives, how can you know for certain that your own alternative is the best one? Cooperation always leads to better results.

    That said, I have a feeling about the replies I'm about to get:

    Girl: Don't even think about it!
    Human Torch: Never do. (Jumps off building)
    Human Torch: Flame ON!
    ;-P
  • Short Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hungus (585181) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:20PM (#12804603) Journal
    To summarrize Linus :
    1)They are different don't try to compare them.
    2)I like Linux better because it agrees with me.
    3) Don't ask me what I wan't in Linux (kernal) from BSD (kernal) because I don't use BSD.

    Basically it was a whole bunch of nothing
    • To summarise the summary: I daren't say anything.
    • It's only natural for Linus himself to promote a unix under his name (Linux) versus a unix under the name of University of Berkeley (BSD).

    • 1.) You born
      2.) You live
      3.) You die

      Remember that everything can be generalized into broad, short terms, but if you do that nothing except universe in the broadest sense makes a topic worth talking about. So before deducting something's value please try to look at the details first, not the broad generalization (btw, that is why i hate short summaries of any movie/tv show: they make the topic look utterly boring even when it is not).
    • Basically it was a whole bunch of nothing.

      Ah, Grasshopper, you miss the point. Linus is saying nothing, and what is more, he is aware he is saying nothing. That anybody could acheive this is, apparently, news that matters.
  • by dayid (802168) * <slashdot@dayid.org> on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:20PM (#12804607) Homepage
    Torvalds : It just means that I don't know anything about BSD technical internals, so I'm the wrong person to ask. Ask somebody who uses both.
    • bothersome (Score:3, Interesting)

      by millahtime (710421)
      Maybe he doesn't have the time but isn't it a good idea to learn some of the technical details of the competition, especially when it's all legal to look at the code of what they do well. He should know at least the general arch and some tech details in areas linux is trying to get better at.

      of course, this is my engineering mind thinking. Learn from what's out there and then do it better.
  • by TildeMan (472701) <gsivek&mit,edu> on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:20PM (#12804611) Homepage
    Which are better, apples or oranges?
  • by 3770 (560838) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:21PM (#12804623) Homepage

    Linux or BSD? I don't care...

    As long as you use vi (and not Emacs).
  • umount -f (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gtrubetskoy (734033) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:21PM (#12804625)

    One of the things I'd love to see in Linux that exists in BSD is umount -f for any filesystem, not just NFS. On FreeBSD (and probably other BSD's?) you can force unmount any filesystem. This is especially useful when you need to foce unmount snapshot mounts.
  • Good quote... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coop0030 (263345) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:21PM (#12804628) Homepage
    I like this quote from Linux:

    In contrast, one of my favorite mantras is "perfect is the enemy of good," and the idea is that "good enough" is actually a lot more flexible than some idealized perfection. The world simply isn't black-and-white, and I recognize a lot of grayness. I often find black-and-white people a bit stupid, truth be told.


    I shows a lot about how he thinks. He seems to be more of a realist than I would have thought.

    I find Linus's interviews to be very interesting.

    I do think that Linux, and Windows seems to be more similar than Linux and BSD, since he keeps commenting that BSD wants everything to be perfect, whereas Linux tends to be all things "good" for everyone.

    I would consider Windows to be happy with just being "ok" at all things, and not perfect. Which also works for a lot of people.

    • http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/13/technology/13dr i ll.html [nytimes.com]

      The movie biz is bitching about movie downloads. They're citing stats gathered from people's hard drives.

      Hmmm?

      With what degree of knowledge or cooperation from the people who's hard drives were scanned?

      Or were these people just hacked? (Linux and OS X probably not just cooperate quite so readily to an invasive procedure like this, so is it just Windows that tattle-tells?)

      An enquiring mind wants to know...
    • " I like this quote from Linux:"

      This was my favorite.

      Which mindset is right? Mine, of course. People who disagree with me are by definition crazy.
  • by troytop (194882) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:26PM (#12804677) Homepage
    "...It just means that I don't know anything about BSD technical internals, so I'm the wrong person to ask. Ask somebody who uses both."

    That said, he raised some interesting points about the differences in philosophy between the two camps.
  • by Some Random Username (873177) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:27PM (#12804688) Journal
    He's obviously a bad person to ask since he thinks things like "you'll find a lot of areas where Linux is better (often a lot better -- as in "it works"), and then you'll find a few narrow areas where one particular BSD version will be better." and "Linux has a much wider audience, in many ways. That ranges from supporting much wider hardware (both in the driver sense and in the architecture sense) to actual uses.".

    Sorry, NetBSD runs on more hardware that linux does, and apart from running on very large SMP systems, I can't think of *anything* that linux can do and BSD can't, much less "many" things.
    • I think you're the bigot the summary refers to...
      • I didn't say anything bad about linux at all, I stated two simple facts. Maybe you could point out some of these things that linux does and BSD doesn't? Just because its Linus spreading the FUD doesn't make it ok.
        • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:56PM (#12805709) Homepage
          I didn't say anything bad about linux at all, I stated two simple facts. Maybe you could point out some of these things that linux does and BSD doesn't? Just because its Linus spreading the FUD doesn't make it ok.

          I usually find the BSDs might take a little longer to support the latest, greatest hardware. But that's primarily it. Or more support for more esoteric kernel settings and the like.

          From an end-user perspective, by the time you install either, you have a nice UNIX-enough-for-me environment. They're both nice and robust feeling, and do well.

          I use FreeBSD now simply because I'm lazy and I find the ports system to be the way I find easier/simplest to use. Do I care if you prefer to run Linux? Not really.

          My FreeBSD desktop is behind a firewall, and I'm completely uninterested in regularly updating my OS. It just works, and doesn't ever give me any lip. I suspect many Linux users have the same stance.

          If it's not out on the internet without a firewall, security patches are more of an issue. For a shockingly stable OS that I upgrade every year or so .... that's what I wanted in the first place.

          I think Linus is correct though --- the BSDs focus on a particular design prinicpal, Linux encourages everyone to add in the things they need to make things work, and "just good enough" focues on actually providing functionality. Linux is highly successful because of that.
    • "Linux has a much wider audience, in many ways. That ranges from supporting much wider hardware (both in the driver sense and in the architecture sense) to actual uses."

      Sorry, NetBSD runs on more hardware that linux does..


      I'd like to see a Venn diagram of the hardware supported by just BSD, just linux, and both. I imagine that if you gave each piece of hardware a weight by the number of people using that hardware, most of the weight would be in the middle of the diagram (i.e. both linux and BSD suppor
    • Purely out of curiosity, does BSD (any flavour) have a reasonably mature LVM system?
    • by Azog (20907) on Monday June 13, 2005 @03:44PM (#12806303) Homepage
      You can't think of anything else besides large SMP systems that Linux does and NetBSD doesn't? Come on, you aren't trying very hard. Just off the top of my head, Linux has:

      - Newbie-friendly installers with lots of really nice up to date free software (Ubuntu, FC4, etc.)
      - Lots of custom distributions for specialized purposes, live CDs, etc.
      - Accelerated 3D graphics with manufacturer-supported drivers.
      - Support contracts available from Oracle and other large players.
      - Hyperthreading support in scheduler.
      - Kernel event system (dbus, hal, hotplug, etc)
      - Device drivers for far more devices.
      - Security levels beyond standard POSIX (NSA-designed SELinux framework, etc.)
      - Really good, mature, journalling file systems.
      - ... lots more, really.

      Sure, NetBSD runs on more hardware. This is good if you want to create an embedded system with some obscure microcontroller.

      But nobody choosing an operating system actually cares how many microprocessors are supported. They just care if their cpu is supported. And for 99.99% of the world, with linux, it is.
  • Warning: spoiler. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr2cents (323101) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:30PM (#12804720)
    Summary: some guy tried to get a newsworthy quote from Linus, he says the interviewer's questions don't make sense and ends with "Ask somebody who uses both."
  • Easy. (Score:5, Funny)

    by ionicplasma (820891) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:31PM (#12804725) Homepage
    It's quite easy.

    Purchase 1x Tux Plushie, 1x Daemon Plushie, fill them both with audio tapes of associated OS zealot's verbal spew, put them down and press play. Whichever one's batteries run out first wins the debate.

    Simple, no?
    • Re:Easy. (Score:3, Informative)

      by halber_mensch (851834)
      Purchase 1x Tux Plushie, 1x Daemon Plushie, fill them both with audio tapes of associated OS zealot's verbal spew, put them down and press play. Whichever one's batteries run out first wins the debate.
      Shouldn't the one that runs out of juice first lose?

      That's so typical! Leave it to the Linux users to redefine success in their own benefit...

      ;)
  • by mrkitty (584915) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:31PM (#12804729) Homepage
    "The BSD people (and keep in mind that I'm obviously generalizing) are often perfectionists. They hone something specific for a long time, and then they frown on anything that doesn't meet their standards of perfection. The OpenBSD single-minded focus on security is a good example." - linus So what he's saying is bsd people don't release as much buggy code. I'll have to agree with him here with the bimonthly linux kernel security vulnerabilities creeping up. 2 years and no 'root level' exploit in freebsd's kernel.....
  • BSD vs. Linux (Score:2, Interesting)

    by debilo (612116)
    I am mainly a BSD user (I guess my .sig gives me away), but I have used Linux before I made the jump to FreeBSD (and OpenBSD) a couple years ago. I am not enough of an expert to comment on the technical superiority of one or the other, but it's not for technical reasons that I went with FreeBSD.

    The reason is quite simple and probably uncommon: While I realize that Linux is easier to install and to configure (once you get used to the distro specific tools) and has wider hardware support, I just couldn't
  • I liked Linus's comment on the single-mindedness of some BSD derivatives - he hit on OpenBSD's security focus without going into Theo's personality (:-), and the NetBSD folks want to port their system to anything bigger than a digital watch.

    Obviously with only three main BSDs out there, or four if you count Dragonfly, there's a lot less variability in the installation and porting systems, which seem to take up a lot of the learning-curve time. Many of the Linuxes are focusing on either friendliness or new

    • First of all, you don't need to learn yet another ports systems, all 3 BSDs use a very similar ports tree. You just have to type "make install" in the directory of the software you want installed. They also have excellent documentation, so you could have found this out in less time than it took to find your knoppix CD.

      And wether you buy an openbsd CD or do a network install makes no difference at all, they are the exact same installation procedure. There is no need to "do everything from scratch" anymor
  • It's very subjective (Score:2, Interesting)

    by udderly (890305)
    For me the best OS is the one I already know how to use. My brain has been full for a few years now and--as pathetic as it sounds--I just don't feel like learning another OS. I use Linux and Windows since I know how, but, for all I know, BSD may be better.

    I guess that when I find something that I really need to do that Linux and/or Windows can't manage, then I will be forced to learn something else. Maybe BSD...who knows?
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:36PM (#12804797) Homepage

    This is easy. Linux is cool because it has an X in it. Everyone knows Xs are cool. (Of course, Linux would be cooler if they capitalized the X, but that's a minor point.)

    On the other hand, BSD is cool because it has a hot chick [freebsd.org].

    Both are valid attributes and neither side should feel bad.

    • by javaxman (705658) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:12PM (#12805177) Journal
      On the other hand, BSD is cool because it has a hot chick.

      I mean, you've got to be able to come up with a better BSD daemon girl than that without even trying. What, is that your girlfriend or something? Pathetic.

      Honestly, doing a google search didn't give me _just_ the image I wanted, but there are some pretty impressive examples in this collection [unixprogram.com], even if what is perhaps the best one is animated. ( Warning: not entirely work-safe, *and* contains flamefest-inducing images of penguins impaled on pitchforks ). You've been warned, now let's see that server melt...

  • It would be enough to ask slashdotters which one is better to get a clear answer. Neither one wins. Both are good OSes. Either that or half of US is ignorant... = P
  • Linus says it all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by halber_mensch (851834)
    From TFA:
    Linus: ... "you'll find a lot of areas where Linux is better (often a lot better -- as in "it works"), and then you'll find a few narrow areas where one particular BSD version will be better."
    Linus: ... "I don't know anything about BSD technical internals, so I'm the wrong person to ask."
    So how exactly is this diplomatic? It seems a little more baseless, bigoted, and presumptuous to me...
  • by Ridgelift (228977) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:51PM (#12804952)
    FTA: I recently asked Linus Torvalds for his thoughts...

    Torvalds: Linux has a much wider audience, in many ways. That ranges from supporting much wider hardware (both in the driver sense and in the architecture sense) to actual uses.

    Wow. Amazing. Linus has managed to speak to another human being in paranthesis. What happened here, was he talking one minute verbally and then transmitted his thoughts to the interviewer through some Jedi'ish mind trick?

    I knew Torvalds had to be an alien. I just knew it.
  • by judmarc (649183) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:58PM (#12805027)
    ...when Linus says he thinks "Which is better" questions are stupid, and Joe's first few questions are all of the "Which is better" variety.
  • by SFEley (743605) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:18PM (#12805252) Homepage
    Q: Doyou agree that BSD is better than Linux?

    A: I don't know, man. It depends what you mean by "better."

    Q: Okay, then, why is it BSD used to be better?

    A: Was it? I was busy not noticing.

    Q: So you prefer Linux?

    A: Um. Yes. Are you an idiot?

    Q: Why do you think BSD and Linux are two different operating systems?

    A: Probably because they start at different places in the alphabet. Are we done here? (points) Hey, look, there's Tanenbaum! Go ask him why writing a Unix kernel from scratch is impossible!

    Q: Thank you for your time. Tune in Wednesday as we ask the BSD leaders why they insist on using one-button mice.

  • by tbo (35008) on Monday June 13, 2005 @03:09PM (#12805865) Journal
    Disclaimer
    I'm not a linux zealot. I don't use Linux at home (I use OS X), and have no ideological reason to prefer Linux. I'm also at UC Berkeley, so, for "patriotic" reasons, I have a slight bias in favor of BSD.

    That said, I have to admit Linux is more mature than FreeBSD for desktop use. Before you flame, hear me out.

    Background
    I'm a graduate student, and, with the help of another grad student and the College's head unix support guy, I'm stuck administering a small network of about 15 computers, all of which are vanilla Dell Precision 360s. Some run Windows, some run *nix. Our server is an Xserve G5, and it serves user home directories via NFS and does authentication & directory services via LDAP.

    The FreeBSD story
    We started with FreeBSD 4.9. Out of the box, we were able to get NFS mounting working, but there were a lot of problems. Sound didn't work. To get X working, we had to grab a special Nvidia driver. Even then, we only had VGA support, and not DVI. After much tinkering and kernel recompiling, I got DVI working, sort of (there were a few weird random "twinkly" pixels on each screen that showed up when in BSD DVI mode, but not BSD VGA or Windows DVI). Sound never worked. Then we tried to get LDAP working. No go, pam_ldap and nss_switch require FreeBSD 5.x.

    So we upgrade to FreeBSD 5.2.1 (read, reinstall from scratch). That breaks DVI video, and the same kernel options as before don't work. No amount of tinkering can get sound working. Thus, we give up on DVI and sound. LDAP *does* work, after some effort, and so we have a mostly-usable system. There are still problems: KOffice apps crash on saving, and that the default PDF viewer doesn't work.

    In an effort to fix KOffice and the PDF issue, we update & upgrade the ports tree. After a great deal of manual intervention to deal with broken dependencies in the pkg database, non-building ports, etc., the upgrade finishes. Now X is broken. It turns out the configuration file format for XFree86 changed when X got upgraded in the ports upgrade. A similar thing happens to KDE. After resolving those problems, the PDF and KOffice issues are resolved. Still no sound or DVI video, but we can live with that.

    Then we upgrade our Xserve to Mac OS X 10.4 Server. All of a sudden, logging in via KDE as a "network" user on *some* of the BSD machines doesn't work. KDE complains that it doesn't have write access to the user's NFS-mounted home directories. A quick check on the command-line or with a failsafe session shows that users do, in fact, still have write access. I spend forever on this, and get nowhere. Some users can log in, others can't, on some BSD computers and not others. There are no clear differences, no explanations, and nothing makes sense.

    I call in backup. The College's head unix admin comes over and spends a day on the problem. He contacts the KDE developers. I call Apple "Premium" Support. Nobody knows what's going on. In the end, we realize that the issue is that the NFS spec is fairly loose, and it's possible to have two nominally compliant implementations that don't quite talk to each other. Our theory is there's some sort of strange conflict between Apple's OS X 10.4 NFS implementation, the FreeBSD 5.x implementation, and KDE that causes some very subtle race condition with writing some KDE configuration file. At this point, we decide to try installing Linux on one machine as a test to see if it will work any better.
    Total time about 100 hours.

    The Linux Story
    We install Centros 4.0 (a RedHat Enterprise Linux-derived distribution) on a machine. Everything works out of the box, except LDAP. After an hour or two of futzing around, that works too. Everything works. Sound, DVI video, NFS, KDE, PDFs, you name it. It all works.
    Total time 3 - 5 hours.

    Moral of the story
    FreeBSD just isn't ready for the desktop. I wish it weren't true, because I like lots of things about FreeBSD, but it is. FreeBSD
    • From the FreeBSD story, it looks like the problem lies not with FreeBSD but with the NFS spec. IIRC, NFS is Sun technology, and if this is the case, someone needs to give Sun a good kick in the ass and have them tighten up the NFS spec. The whole reason why we have (preferably open) specifications in the first place is to enable different implementations from different people/organizations to work together. A loose spec ultimately hurts everyone.
    • Your post correctly points out some of the things FreeBSD lacks - mainly things working "out of the box". As for you not being able to get those things working, that sucks. Might have been the flakiness if the earlier 5.x releases of FreeBSD - or maybe those areas of FreeBSD just aren't up to snuff.

      I do recall having some misc. problems with 5.1/5.2 releases of FreeBSD, but they seem to have finally gotten it right with 5.4, which is my current desktop at home.

      Still things generally do not work out of the
  • by raytracer (51035) on Monday June 13, 2005 @03:51PM (#12806364)
    Did anyone learn anything of interest from this interview? What new insight into Linux or FreeBSD did you come away with?

    I think I learned just as much about open software from this article as I did from E!'s coverage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Work without a vision is slavery, Vision without work is a pipe dream, But vision with work is the hope of the world.

Working...