A strategic question

Byron Campbell wa4geg at surfbest.net
Sat Jan 28 09:23:56 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
> XP.
> 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.

I too, coming from a M$ Windows Desktop environment, found the learning curve 
for Unix to be a straight vertical line. But I was tired of fighting worms, 
viruses and etc. and decided to invest in leaning Unix. And it didn't hurt 
matters reading somewhere that FreeBSD is the base for Mac OS-X. If it is 
secure enough for OS-X, it is plenty secure enough for my desktop workstation 

> 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.

If you have CD1 you do not need the boot CD. Boot and install from CD1. Then 
CD2 will be called for during package_add as needed for the installation of 
user selected packages, that is, for those packages not residing on CD1. 

There is more than one way to do anything. And I've managed to not have to use 
a CLI editor ever (FreeBSD 4.x to 6.0) Although I do plan to learn vi. That's 
the beauty of FreeBSD. There are many paths and one can learn at ones own 
pace. For me this means getting the FreeBSD workstation PC up and going first 
and foremost so I can get some work done. 

To do this I choose from the install menu "All system sources, binaries, docs 
and X window system".  Once that is done and the user and root accounts are 
set up, making sure that the one standard user is a member of groups "wheel" 
and "operator", exit the install process which reboots the system. Then I 
test that I log in as both user and root. All being well I proceed with the 
installation of KDE desktop. I like to use KDE's GUI editor KATE for doing 
the final system configuration, i.e. to set up ppp, devfs, fstab, configure 
the firewall and etc. And for my office needs, KDE (KOffice) has all the 
apps. I need which keeps me M$ free.

Other FreeBSD enthusiast will have their own individual approach.

> 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.

Keep in mind that the vertical refresh rate and horizontal scan rate to use 
are not those specifications of the video adapter, but rather those of your 

> 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
> reboot).

I have had similar difficulties in installing packages from the CD during the 
main system installation. So these days I first install "All system sources, 
binaries, docs and X window system".  Then test that I can log in as root and 
user, then go back into the install to get the applications I want.

> 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 too found that the installation process takes some know-how. But it is 
getting better. Years ago as a newbie my first attempts to install (FreeBSD 
4.x) took several tries to get it right. To get a workstation up quickly, I 
found Greg Lehey's book (The Complete FreeBSD, 4th ed.) a super resource. 

> 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 remember when learning how to ride a bicycle seemed deliberately difficult. 
But once you learn,.....

From what I understand, there is a group concentrating on making FreeBSD 
easier for beginners.  It may well be worth a look if you haven't tried it:


Best regards,
Byron - WA4GEG

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