FreeBSD News blog

J.C. human2205 at
Sun Jul 27 22:31:36 UTC 2008

>> Folks want an OS, not a religion - this is where we beat Linux single
>> handed.
> probably one of the nicest (+ more accurate) comparisons i've yet read on this.
> couldn't agree more...

I second that. Being a computer lover, I was drawn to free/open source
software because of its superior quality, the elevated levels of
competence of its users, and the comparatively limitless technical
capabilities. Software freedom is very attractive but hardly a moral
requirement, not to mention an absolute non-issue for the
unsophisticated 99% of computer users.

I began looking at the BSDs, etc. after being repulsed by the
unintelligent religiosity of the GNU/Linux communities, especially
(with a few exceptions) the senseless illogic and useless appeals to
emotion of one of Free Software's most outspoken advocates. I was
surprised to learn that what I valued most about "Linux systems" is
actually true of *any* UNIX or UNIX-like operating system. Then I
learned that FreeBSD is both reasonable towards proprietary software
*and* a better operating system internally, and I was sold.

>> It is of utmost importance to tell a Windows user, that we are NOT Linux.
>> Don't say FreeBSD is a Linux alternative - they might get the wrong
>> impression.

There are very subtle psychological fallacies at work with Linux. Take
laundry detergent as an example. Manufacturers have long known that
many people choose their brand of detergent using trivial (and I would
argue nonsensical) criteria, like the images, shapes, and colors of
the packaging, vivid word imagery like "Fresh Breeze" or "Refreshing
Lavender", perceived (instead of actual) quality differences resulting
from advertising or higher price, the imagery used in advertising, the
smell, the perceived status of using higher-priced detergent, or
simply being the same brand that one grew up with. Thus, companies
like Proctor & Gamble actually have several brands of laundry
detergent "competing" with each other to increase the likelihood that
a customer will choose one of their brands. This is also why there are
so many "makes" of GM automobiles. I remember how, growing up, my
father would never fill up at any gas station except Mobile (a common
gas station chain in the eastern United States) because they had
"better gas", and, for a long time, I believed that. Does Mobile
really have better gas than their competitors? I doubt it. Did my dad
know that gas stations like Mobile routinely buy gas from other chains
that they're supposedly competing with? *That's* a good question. : )

What first frustrated me about Linux is actually the main reason for
its popularity: the hundreds of distributions of the exact same
operating system with mostly the exact same software, differing only
by mostly trivial characteristics like the choice of desktop
environment or package management system, which applications are
included by default and in the repositories, the default theme of the
user interface, and the wallpaper. And users will actually argue over
which is better. Even though it's possible to use Red Hat packages and
repositories to maintain a live "Debian" system, for example. Ubuntu
is a particularly "fashionable" distribution at the moment. Flashy?
Certainly. Accessible? Sure. I always keep an Xubuntu Live CD on hand
for when I just want a graphical operating system up and working
quickly. But as a primary operating system, is it that much better
than mature distributions like Fedora? Not really. Do its annoying
design limitations in the name of "accessibility" and immaturity piss
me off? Very quickly. Its popularity is mainly because of those
trivial secondary characteristics, i.e. it's "cool".

Experienced Linux users know that Linux is Linux is Linux, but many
don't seem to know that Unix is Unix is Unix, and Linux is just
another Unix*. This is a great place to start talking about Unix.
Those powerful command lines in "Linux" that they love so much? They
work the same on *any* UNIX-like system. Shell scripts? Configurable
window managers? Desktop environments? Apache? Postgre? MySQL? PHP?
All identical. So many of the things people love about "Linux" are
really characteristics of UNIX-like systems. Talk about why Unix is so
great. Explain that Linux is not Unix. Then explain why FreeBSD is
better than Linux. If that doesn't work, maybe we could make a hundred
different distributions of wallpaper and desktop themes, to ease the
transition a little bit? ; )

I would also caution against going after Windows users too
aggressively. FreeBSD is for users who can handle a UNIX-like
operating systems. Ample documentation and an approachable community
do not change the fact that any UNIX-like system, be it Linux,
FreeBSD, or any other, is considerably more difficult to learn and
less accessible than a Windows system. Since about 99% of computer
users have no computer literacy at all, there are many people for whom
*any* Unix system is completely inappropriate. The emergence of
quality free software for Windows (particularly GPL-licensed software;
the GPL is a much more useful license for Windows software than for
Unix) can help close the functional gap for Windows users and perhaps
ease the transition, as it did for me.

Really, it's just about the software.

- Jonathan

*UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group, all rights
reserved, blah blah blah, but Unix is not. "Unix" is a genericized
ex-trademark describing any UNIX-like opearting system, as well as the
general characteristics of such a system. Capitalization matters.

More information about the freebsd-advocacy mailing list