my thoughts on FreeBSD

Scott I. Remick scott at
Mon Mar 1 13:08:43 PST 2004

--- Matt Jarjoura <matt at> wrote:
> A) RedHat and SUSE both have GUI installers.  -- Honestly, how 
> important is it that FreeBSD remain a TUI-only menu based 
> installation-??  Sure it's simple, but screen-shots of it sure don't 
> appear appetizing to ISPs in a 2 week window.

Actually, it's important for 3 reasons: 

1) Compatibility. You can't even depend on 640x480 working on every piece of
hardware you might wish to install FreeBSD on. Some embedded applications
can't do any graphics.

2) Speed. I'm still rather green w/ FreeBSD compared to many, but I can fly
through the FreeBSD setup in just a few mins.

3) Old cruft. Apparently a lot of people are too scared of the whole
ncurses/sysinstall beast to dare revamping it. It works, and it's
tried-and-tested. It's easier and safer to make minor modifications to
support new versions than to overhaul it. 

I wouldn't mind a GUI option, if there were enough people to maintain it,
but it'd need to only be an option (leaving the current ncurses install or
some other equivalently-easy text-based install for the die-hards). And then
you'd have to make sure there were people around enough to support 2
separate install scripts (unless a text-based one could be automatically
generated from the GUI one somehow, using templates).

> B) RH/SUSE both have great upgrade engines.  -- I forget the command 
> line program in FreeBSD that allows you merge old settings w/ the new 
> settings.

Maybe you mean mergemaster? Mergemaster is very scary... an overhaul of that
part of the process would solve 80% of what makes updating FreeBSD an
unpleasant experience for the enduser. The rest is pretty painless, really,
once you get used to it. Not to say the other parts couldn't be made easier
for the normal desktop user... but mergemaster isn't even friendly for the
technically-savvy. :)

> C) The FreeBSD Foundation -- Great job w/ releasing Java, but I am sure 
> they can pull a lot more strings to start hiring UI Research Developers 
> and release their findings under a similar BSD license.

Agreed... the JVM is a sore point too. Although I have 1.4 working, there
are a lot of annoying hoops to jump through to make it happen. I wouldn't
want to wish it on my less-technical (yet FreeBSD-interested) friends.
Admittedly, it's Sun's fault more than it's FreeBSD's.

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