A strategic question

Jozef Baum jozef.baum at telenet.be
Fri Jan 27 18:15:58 PST 2006

This posting doesn't contain a technical question about FreeBSD, rather a
strategic one.

Some time ago, I wanted to migrate to a Unix environment, because I wanted
to have a secure, stable, convenient and efficient environment for
developing and running programs, no longer having to buy a new PC with a new
OS and applications software every 3 years to support Bill Gates' only goal
(becoming and remaining the richest man of the USA). At the end of the 20th
century, it took us only a few years to have to upgrade from Win 95 to Win
95SE, to Win 98, to Win 98SE, and to Win ME, only to remain with a poor OS.
Now, when reinstalling my version of Windows XP, it takes me more time to
download and install the SP2 than to install Windows XP. I wonder how people
with a low-bandwidth Internet connection do to download the SP2 for Windows

I downloaded Solaris 10 and a lot of documentation about it, then installed
Solaris 10. As opposed to Linux and free BSD implementations of UNIX,
Solaris looks like a professionally developed operating system. It seems to
be1 a very advanced operating system. However, I soon realized that, when
one wants a yacht, it is not a good idea to acquire the Queen Mary II, just
as it costs too much time to acquire a hotel to have a cup of coffee.

Then I downloaded what I thought being one of the best Linux distributions,
Suse Linux. I tried to install it, but the system got locked up by something
so stupid as my nVidia modem. Together with the heterogeneous quality of
Linux components, and not at all liking Linus Torvald's arrogance, I decided
to abandon Linux.

I came to FreeBSD, with the idea that it had a more homogeneous quality
development model, downloaded the FreeBSD 6.0 boot CD and CD 1 and 2, and
installed it on my PC, following the handbook.

I knew UNIX is a toolkit intended to IT knowledge people, so it will never
perform a breakthrough to the average desktop user. But my disappointment
with FreeBSD was great.

In fact, to install FreeBSD, one needs already a lot of knowledge about the
system. To acquire that knowledge, one needs experience on an installed
system. But to have an installed system, one needs already a lot of
knowledge about the system. That's the problem.

The handbook doesn't tell you that, at the "last chance" message, you have
to take out the boot CD and to insert CD 1. But if you don't do so, nothing
gets installed.

I configured a German ISO keyboard, but many keys don't work correctly. One
has to look with Google to find additional information about configuring a
German keyboard.

I have a cable Internet connection and my network card was recognized, but
getting an IP-address with the DHCP service of my provider was impossible.
Again, I had to look up with Google how to allow the firewall to get an
IP-addres with my provider's DHCP.

The locate command did not work, as the locate database seemed to be
corrupted. I had to figure out how to rebuild this database.

The root user had a csh, while ordinary users had a sh shell. I had to
figure out how to provide the same shell to the root user and the other
users, as all those virtual users are all one and the same person, me.

I tried to setup an X Window environment (nVidia Geforce video adapter), but
the horizontal and vertical refresh rates of the manufacturer didn't work, I
had to experiment to find out the one X likes. Then I could startup X, only
to not having configured at all my German keyboard.

I tried to install emacs during installation, but it didn't succeed.
Returning to the post-installation tasks after having installed the system
resulted in a successfull installation of emacs (working only after a system

I could go on for hours with this kind of troubles. But now comes the
strategic question.

Why is it that FreeBSD people, who seem to be perfectly able to formulate
correct algorithms for implementing UNIX concepts, and translating them into
code, don't care at all about a novice user, providing him with an
installation program that doesn't work as it should, even without a GUI?

I know UNIX is all about solving problems, but is it really interesting to
make it apparently deliberatly so difficult for a newcomer? Is it really the
policy of those guys to make the entry level to UNIX difficult, only to
avoid a breakthrough of UNIX (FreeBSD) to the desktop users?

I knew the installation, configuration and optimization of a Unix system
would take me a lot of time and patience. But after some weeks, the only
result, as probably for many others, is an immense frustration. I cannot
imagine that people capable of developing such a complex operating system as
Unix are unable to offer newcomers a correct and easy install procedure. But
probably, that's not their concern.

Please, guys, if you want FreeBSD to survive and to become not only a server
OS, but also a desktop OS, realize that you are going the wrong way by
annoying newcomers with a puzzle. I want to learn Unix, the real Unix.
Searching a text file for a string with grep, not launching a tremendous
memory hungry application under X Window to do so. I want to learn how to
pipe Unix commands to get usefull work done.  I want to learn the ed line
editor as a starting point for using sed. But please, don't frustrate me
from the beginning by making the installation of FreeBSD so difficult. Drop
some whistles and bells on which you are working, and encounter the newbie.

Many thanks in advance for your comments.

A frustrated FreeBSD newbie

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