Originally Published: Monday, 15 November 1999 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Buddying up to BSD: Part Three - Regrouping

After some of the scorn last week's article received from places like Slashdot, I decided to regroup and rethink where the Buddying up to BSD series is headed.

I started the series at the behest of a BSD advocate. Now, I had dozens telling me that I wasn't good enough to write about their favorite OS. Many more wondered why I didn't consider OpenBSD to be ready for the desktop (hint: I think the OS is great, but in the current state it is too difficult for the average desktop user to install, setup, and use). One prominent poster had been using the BSDs since 1982. The only thought that spiraled into my mind was that I had been playing with He-Man and G.I. Joe in 1982. Perhaps I wasn't qualified to be writing on this material!...

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After some of the scorn last week's article received from places like Slashdot, I decided to regroup and rethink where the Buddying up to BSD series is headed.

I started the series at the behest of a BSD advocate. Now, I had dozens telling me that I wasn't good enough to write about their favorite OS. Many more wondered why I didn't consider OpenBSD to be ready for the desktop (hint: I think the OS is great, but in the current state it is too difficult for the average desktop user to install, setup, and use). One prominent poster had been using the BSDs since 1982. The only thought that spiraled into my mind was that I had been playing with He-Man and G.I. Joe in 1982. Perhaps I wasn't qualified to be writing on this material!

Then, I read and carefully considered every comment posted on the message boards here on Linux.com, Daemon News, Linux Today, Slashdot.org, and my e-mail. Many were flames, but there were enough comments that told me I had reached the people I was writing for. These articles aren't for folks who have co-authored O'Reilly books and who first explored BSD Unix in 1982. Buddying up to BSD is meant to expose BSD to mid-level Linux users. This is something I am qualified to write about. As a result of my review, several readers have decided to install OpenBSD.

I also must admit to finding some delicious irony in the fact that I was flamed by BSD advocates for advocating OpenBSD on Linux.com. It took me awhile to calm down after the initial barrage, but I learned something valuable from even the worst flames. I realized that the BSD community looked at me in the same way the Linux community has looked at Windows journalists that have reviewed Linux. These flames gave me the rare opportunity to experience a little bit of how these journalists must have felt.

It took a lot of effort not to throw in the towel completely. After all, this was Linux.com and I had put myself on the line to try bringing in a bit of BSD. Certainly, Windows journalists must have had similar feelings after being at the business end of the extreme wing of the Linux community. Often, the vicious flaming tends to drown out the voices of those who wrote thoughtful non-antagonistic responses, and there were many of those.

For instance, many criticized my critique of the OpenBSD fdisk. Some said that I must be an idiot for not immediately understanding it, others said that it was a good thing fdisk was so difficult, because it got rid of the "rabble." Instead of flaming me as an idiot, why didn't anyone simply say, "Sorry you had problems with fdisk, please remember that OpenBSD is a non-commercial product written by volunteers. Often we don't have the resources that some of the commercial Linux distros have to make things more user friendly. Our focus has been on making the most secure free UNIX-clone available. The source code is freely available and if you are interested in making fdisk more user friendly, we'll gladly look at any patches you make. Thanks!"

Anyway, after adjusting my mental filter a bit, the image I had been forming about the BSD community changed drastically. Too often the Linux community has been unfairly painted by a few extreme individuals. I wasn't about to do the same thing to the BSD community. I am truly impressed by some of the achievements they have accomplished, and I believe some of the Linux distributions still have a lot to learn from *BSD.

I'd also like to thank everyone who suggested fixes to the problems I encountered, or pointed me to helpful resources. Nearly every complaint I had in my review has either been fixed or will be fixed in the upcoming 2.6 release. I'll be looking forward to giving it a go.

Now that I've gotten all that out of the way, I'd just like to paint a quick picture of how I'm going to change the series due to user feedback. This week I will be down-loading and playing with FreeBSD. I've already been contacted by several FreeBSD users and I plan to make good use of their knowledge. I still want to present the article from the same perspectives, but with a bit more technical detail. Then I'll try to run some informal testing on each of the distributions. I've also gotten enough interest from readers that I'll do a review of NetBSD to round out the series.

Once again, I'd like to say that I will read any suggestions or tips anyone has on how to make the series better. I don't claim to be an expert and after seeing some of the flames I got from experts I hope I never become one. I enjoy the perspective of the beginners so much more. Their minds aren't closed to new possibilities, and they have no concept of "we've done it this way since 1972, so it must be good."

I'll look forward to your comments.

Matt Michie is a student of computer science in New Mexico. Drop him e-mail at mmichie@linux.com. He also maintains a small web site at http://web.nmsu.edu/~mmichie





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