Explaining FreeBSD features

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at toybox.placo.com
Tue Jun 21 08:05:36 GMT 2005

>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
>[mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org]On Behalf Of Fafa Hafiz
>Sent: Monday, June 20, 2005 12:56 PM
>To: questions at freebsd.org; advocacy at freebsd.org
>Subject: Re: Explaining FreeBSD features
>Thank you all for everything so far.
>But I am not looking for comparisons.
>I am looking for stuff that has been written so that people can 
>Let's say this:
>Multi-threaded SMP architecture capable of executing the kernel 
>in parallel on multiple processors, and with kernel preemption, 
>allowing high priority kernel tasks to preempt other kernel 
>activity, reducing latency. This includes a multi-threaded 
>network stack and a multi-threaded virtual memory subsystem. 
>With FreeBSD 6.x, support for a fully parallel VFS allows the 
>UFS file system to run on multiple processors simultaneously, 
>permitting load sharing of CPU-intensive I/O optimization.
>In the real world, that ought to sound more like:
>FreeBSD includes support for symmetric multiprocessing and 
>multithreading. This makes the kernel lock down levels of 
>interfaces and buffers, minimizing the chance of threads on 
>different processors blocking each other, to give maximum 
>performance on multiprocessor systems.

Fafa, I've seen these kinds of efforts before and they are all
generally doomed to failure.

You see, the problem is that FreeBSD is not a general computer
operating system product.  It is a very specific product in fact.

Now, the USES that FreeBSD can be put to are VERY general.  BUT,
do NOT make the mistake of confusing the fact that just because
FreeBSD can be put to general use, that somehow it is a general
product.  It is not.

FreeBSD is targeted at 2 main groups of people:

1) Very knowledgeable people who are using it for personal, or
in-house corporate projects.

2) Very knowledgeable people who are using it to construct
turnkey systems for customers who couldn't care less what is
under the hood.

By contrast, Windows and Linux are in fact, general computer
operating system products.  They are targeted at groups #1 and
#2, but they are also targeted at group #3 which are:

3) People who barely know how to push a button who have a problem
they need to fix with a computer operating system, and they
really don't care if they understand how the fix works as long
as it works.

This gives rise to a rather serious Catch-22 with FreeBSD:

You need to really understand intimately how FreeBSD works
and how computer software that runs on it works in order to
get it to work well enough for you to learn intimately how it

Windows and Linux solved this Catch-22 by dumbing-down the
interface to their operating systems.  Thus, an ignoramus
can get up and running with both of these systems, and that
person can remain fat, dumb, and happy, completely ignorant
of what he is doing, and those systems will still work enough
to get the job done.  It may be a half-assed fix, but it is
better than nothing.

FreeBSD by contrast, long ago decided not to do this.  For
starters, if you dumbed-down the FreeBSD interface, then to
most people FreeBSD wouldn't be any different than Linux
or Windows, so why mess with it?  But, most importantly, a
dumbed-down interface gets in the way of a knowledgeable person,
and over time becomes a tremendous liability.

With FreeBSD, the only way that a newbie can break the Catch-22 is
old-fashioned mental elbow grease.  In short, by learning a bit
at a time, expanding on that, and repeating the process.  It is a
long slow way to get to know anything, but once you get there, you
really do know everything in intimate detail.

This isn't a popular thing to tell newbies.


>Fafa Hafiz Krantz
>  Research Designer @ http://www.home.no/barbershop
>  Enlightened @ http://www.home.no/barbershop/smart/sharon.pdf
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