Instead of freebsd. com, why not...

Nikolas Britton freebsd at
Tue Feb 15 02:23:24 PST 2005

Johnson David wrote:

>Except for Sun "enterprise servers" and Apple's offerings, every server I
>have seen has been a PC. I guess that makes me part of the unwashed masses.
>When I go to and other similar sites, I see that
>everything they sell is a PC. That 1U is a PC. That 4U is a PC. That tower
>is a PC. They may not be client PCs, but PCs they are.
>Let's take a look at one, the iNET860. It has an identical CPU to the one in
>my home desktop system.  Identical RAM type. Same SATA drives, but in a RAID
>configuration. It has an Intel Pro/1000 while I have an Intel Pro/100 at
>home. The mobo chipset is different, but not substantially. The available
>ports are substantially the same. Oh, here's a difference: No audio or video
>cards! The point is, while the iNET860 is optimized for a server, the basic
>architecture is still that of a PC. I could very well slap in a PCI video
>card and run FreeBSD, Linux or WindowsXP from it!
>Servers and clients have converged. The differences between the two are not
>in architecture, power or flexibility, but in optimization. One has RAID
>while the other had 3D video. One might have four- or eight-way SMP, while
>the other usually maxes out at dual CPUs. One tends to use more reliable
>(and expensive) components than the other. Etc, etc.
>To make a long story short, If I can have the same hardware on the desktop
>as I do the server, why can't I have the same software as well?
Desktop x86 and Server x86 are different beasts with a common mother...

Desktop x86:
cheap hardware
and you know the rest...

Server x86:
Quality High end Hardware.
Different MCH and ICHs.
ECC RAM standard.
16-64(+?)GB RAM, also things like quad-channel, hotswap, mirroring, 
interleaved mem i/o buses, etc.
Hotswap SCSI and SATA standard.
Hotswap power supplies.
Other fault tolerant systems.
RAID Standard, more exotic RAID levels.
BIOS optimizations; console redirection, advanced hardware monitoring, etc.
Different CPUs; Xeon, Itanium, Optatron, etc.
Larger L2 and L3 caches.
n-way SMP standard.
PCI-X (hotswap) standard, also other exotic interconnects and buses such 
as InfiniBand, Fibre channel, etc.
Different chassises, form factors, backplanes, riser cards, blades, etc.
Different NIC options; 10Gbit, multiple ports, multiplexed ports, fiber 
optics, fault tolerant, etc.
Etc. etc.

The only thing these two systems really have in common is they both use 
the x86 instruction set. The only real difference between an x86 server 
and say for example a Sun Sparc server or Power Server of the same 
caliber is they use different CPUs. Also It would be stupid to plunk 
down 20-50 grand for servers of this caliber and use it as your desktop 
pc. ;-) but do agree with you that entry-level x86 servers and high-end 
x86 workstations are more or less the same beast as 86x desktop PCs.

These days there's (mostly) no reason to stray way from commodity off 
the shelf hardware platforms (mainly x86, but also Power etc.) because 
of the advent of cost effective cluster computing*, proprietary super 
computers, mainframes, and mini's do still have a few niches left but I 
think I'm preaching to the choir so I'll shut up now.     *

Personally I feel that FreeBSD is no better or worst then Linux (or any 
*nix) on the desktop because once you have X and your desktop 
environment running everything else is transparent to the user (joe blow 
user, not joe blow computer geek). If BSD wants to get in and onto the 
desktop (like Linux is trying to do) then it needs to focus on things 
like laptops (APCI, PC Card/PCMCIA bus etc.), USB sound, networking, and 
other multimedia devices, better multimedia support (TV cards, DV stuff, 
Sound cards), better (more) wifi devices and other common desktop stuff 
like printers, scanners, etc. As far as the software goes it needs to 
focus on preemption, better/tuned scheduler for desktop related tasks, 
general tunning of the system for desktop tasks, and a more user 
friendly installer. changing the direction of FreeBSD from a server OS 
to a desktop OS is most likely never going to happen but I see a two 
ways one could do this:

Create a subproject disto ("lite fork") of FreeBSD that is tuned for the 
desktop and has the needed hardware support, sort of like the old BSD 
patch sets. Or completely fork the project into something like 
"DesktopBSD". Also a good thing to do is pool all the resources of all 
the BSDs into creating a co-opt common DesktopBSD OS. Is also could be a 
commercial project/product.

The easiest way to get a BSD targeted for the desktop is through Apple.

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