FreeBSD & Linux distro

Chris Whitehouse cwhiteh at
Fri Feb 22 01:49:24 UTC 2008

Wojciech Puchar wrote:
>> use as a desktop system.  Contrary to that impression, I'm sending this
> what is "desktop system" and "server system"?
> AFAIK it just depends of software installed, and it can be both..
> _______________________________________________

FreeBSD as a desktop compared to other OS's? I think there are 
technical, community and attitude differences which prevent FreeBSD from 
competing as a desktop. For some time I ran a small suite of FreeBSD 
desktops for general passing users (community center for alternative 
type people) and sometimes it was quite difficult to defend FreeBSD 
against requests for Linux.

Some desktop functionality that is available for other OS's is simply 
not available to FreeBSD. Recent Debian, Windows and Mac all do hotplug 
USB for instance. The key point is that if you unplug without unmounting 
you don't get system crashes. I've read some of the threads that say 
it's not at all easy to write it into FreeBSD but it is an important 
difference and it shows up some community  and attitude differences.

Imagine if computers were cars. FreeBSD would be a super reliable car or 
maybe truck that gets built and maintained and used by people who like 
to spend most of their time hanging out in the workshop. You have to 
lift the bonnet and press a button to get it going but they see that as 
trivial. But the person who has to get the kids down to the supermarket 
and get the shopping done before hubby comes home for tea is really not 
going to understand that there is any comparison with the system where a 
key is within easy reach of the drivers seat.

Nobody in the FreeBSD workshop can see the point of doing a quite 
intricate rewiring task because the truck works so fantastically well in 
other respects.

Support for USB devices seems better in Linux too. The number of times 
people would come in and say why don't you use Linux and I would say 
FreeBSD is better and they would say well plug this USB ethernet adapter 
in and see if it works then, and it wouldn't.

If you want to do video editing on FreeBSD you can't use the main free 
software application, Cinelerra. It's not ported to FreeBSD and from 
what I've read it won't be - something to do with ALSA drivers I 
believe. Also multimedia functionality generally is far more developed 
on Mac and windows. I would be really interested to know how the FreeBSD 
kernel compares to the Linux realtime kernel. Are there any recent 
benchmarks? Something like Kris Kennaway's fantastic mySQL benchmarks 

I'm sure none of these things are impossible, simply I get the 
impression they are not very interesting to the people who decide the 
direction of FreeBSD.

There are other differences which I think come down to the overall size 
of the development community. I'm sure FreeBSD has all the components to 
allow a nice icon and directory window appear automagically on the 
desktop when you plug your removeable drive or camera in. I guess there 
must be some sort of similarity between the number of people doing 
Debian development and the number of people doing FreeBSD development. 
The difference with Linux is that there are hundreds of other dev 
communities taking Debian or whatever as a starting point and 
configuring it for different out-of-the-box use. Hence ubuntu and all 
the others. There are comparatively very few desktop development 
projects that take FreeBSD as a starting point. Hence rolling your own X 
and desktop setup in FreeBSD let alone automounter and a hundred other 

This is not meant to be an anti-FreeBSD rant, I love FreeBSD, it has 
some sort of quality and ease of use which I find hard to define, which 
is different to the 'ease of use' of windows or ubuntu (see I can't even 
give them capital letters) and which I wouldn't swap for anything. But I 
do think there is also some refusal or maybe just lack of resource 
        to engage with a completely different view of what computers are 
for that the vast majority of the computer population has,  an attitude 
exemplified by the comment that started me off on this rant.


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