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Date:      Sat, 20 Aug 2011 13:01:30 -0500
From:      "Conrad J. Sabatier" <>
Subject:   Re: A quality operating system
Message-ID:  <>
In-Reply-To: <>
References:  <>

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On Fri, 19 Aug 2011 23:47:04 -0500
Evan Busch <> wrote:

> Hi,
> I make decisions about hardware and software for those who work with
> me.
> Talking with my second in command this morning, we reached a quandary.
> Ron is completely pro-Linux and pro-Windows, and against FreeBSD.

Ron must be a pretty persuasive fellow.  Obviously, his bias has
already rubbed off on you.  :-)

> What is odd about this is that he's the biggest UNIX fanatic I know,
> not only all types of UNIX (dating back quite some time) but also all
> Unix-like OSen.

"Odd" is putting it mildly.

> I told him I was considering FreeBSD because of greater stability and
> security.
> He asked me a question that stopped me dead:
> "What is a quality operating system?"

In a word, FreeBSD.
> In his view, and now mine, a quality operating system is reliable,
> streamlined and clearly organized.

You mean, like FreeBSD.

> Over the past few years, FreeBSD has drifted off-course in this
> department, in his view.
> Let me share the points he made that I consider valid (I have deleted
> two as trivial, and added one of my own):
> (1) Lack of direction.
> FreeBSD is still not sure whether it is a desktop OS, or a server OS.
> It is easy for the developers to say "well, it's whatever you want,"
> but this makes the configuration process more involved. This works
> against people who have to use these operating systems to get anything
> done.
> In his view, a crucial metric here is the ability to estimate time
> required for any task. It may be a wide window, but it should not be
> as wide as "anywhere from 30 minutes to 96 hours." In his experience,
> FreeBSD varies widely on this front because in the name of keeping
> options open, standardization of interface and process has been
> deprecated.

If I'm understanding the main thrust of this argument, you'd prefer
that FreeBSD, like many Linux distros (or Windows), force the same
desktop/interface/user environment on everyone from the get-go.  Many
here would disagree with such a philosophy (myself, included).

> (2) Geek culture.
> Geek culture is the oldest clique on the internet. Their goal is to
> make friends with no one who is not like them. As a result, they
> specialize in the arcane, disorganized and ambiguous. This forces
> people to go through the same hoops they went through. This makes them
> happy, and drives away people who need to use operating systems to
> achieve real-world results. They reduce a community to hobbyists only.

This is sheer nonsense.  Unless you have some salient information to
backup such an assertion, it's not worth responding to.
> (3) Horrible documentation.

Say whaaaaat!?!?!?

> This is my specialty and has been since the early 1980s. The FreeBSD
> documentation is wordy, disorganized, inconsistent and highly
> selective in what it mentions. It is not the product of professionals
> but it also not the product of volunteers with a focus on
> communication. It seems pro-forma, as in, "it's in the documentation,
> so don't bother me." The web site compounds this error by pointing us
> in multiple directions instead of to a singular resource. It is bad
> enough that man pages are separate from your main documentation tree,
> but now you have doubled or trebled the workload required of you
> without any benefit to the end user.

This is just plain crazy.  Where would you suggest the man pages go?
The base set of man pages document the base system, and as such, are
situated exactly where they belong.

As for shoddy documentation, spend a week or two with any Linux distro,
and see how quickly you run up against inconsistencies between the man
pages and the actual functionality built into certain programs.
Options mentioned in the man pages often don't exist in reality, and
vice versa.

> (4) Elitism.
> To a developer, looking at some inconsistent or buggy interface and
> thinking, "If they can't do this, they don't belong using FreeBSD
> anyway" is too easy of a thought. Yet it looks to me like this happens
> quite a bit, and "this is for the elite" has become the default
> orientation. This is problematic in that there are people out there
> who are every bit as smart as you, or smarter, but are not specialized
> in computers. They want to use computers to achieve results; you may
> want to play around with your computer as an activity, but that is not
> so for everyone.
> (5) Hostile community.
> For the last several weeks, I have been observing the FreeBSD
> community. Two things stand out: many legitimate questions go ignored,
> and for others, response is hostile resulting in either incorrect
> answers, haughty snubs, and in many cases, a refusal to admit when the
> problem is FreeBSD and not the user. In particular, the community is
> oblivious to interfaces and chunks of code that have illogical or
> inconsistent interfaces, are buggy, or whose function does not
> correspond to what is documented (even in the manpages).

Points (4) and (5) seem to be addressing very similar ideas, and
again, I have to disagree.  The online FreeBSD community is extremely
helpful, and a fantastic support resource for everyone from the rank
newbie to the seasoned developer.

If a question goes ignored, or is met with criticism, it's usually for
a very good reason, i.e., a very poorly thought-out, vague, or
downright unintelligible request for help, something completely
off-topic for a given list or forum, etc.

I've seen far more flame wars and insulting responses in the Linux
community.  The FreeBSD community, for the most part, shows remarkable
restraint and courtesy in dealing with people who simply can't be
bothered to avail themselves of the existing documentation or the
archived previous discussions on such-and-such topic.

> (6) Selective fixes.
> I am guilty of this too, sometimes, but when you hope to build an
> operating system, it is a poor idea. Programmers work on what they
> want to work on. This leaves much of the unexciting stuff in a literal
> non-working state, and the entire community oblivious to it or
> uncaring. As Ron detailed, huge parts of FreeBSD are like buried land
> mines just waiting to detonate. They are details that can invoke that
> 30 minute to 96 hour time period instantly, usually right before you
> need to get something done.

<scratching head>  Uh, what???

You're talking about basic human nature here, it looks like to me.  Are
FreeBSD's developers supposed to be a bunch of =DCbermenschen or

I mean, come on!

> (7) Disorganized website.
> The part of the FreeBSD project that should set the tone for the
> community, the FreeBSD website, reflects every one of these
> criticisms. It is inconsistent and often disorganized; there is no
> clear path; resources are duplicated and squirreled away instead of
> organized and made into a process for others to follow. It is arcane,
> nuanced and cryptic for the purpose of keeping the community elitist,
> hobbyist and hostile to outsiders.
> In addition, huge portions of it break on a regular basis and seem to
> go unnoticed. The attitude of "that's for beginners, so we don't need
> it" persists even there. With the graphic design of the website I have
> no problem, but the arrangement of resources on it reflects a lack of
> presence of mind, or paying attention to the user experience.

The nature of the beast, if you ask me.  This is one area where I do
agree there's room for improvement.  I would also like to see a more
clearly navigable path to certain areas on the website.

> All of this adds up to a quality operating system in theory that does
> not translate into quality in reality.
> You alienate users and place the burden upon them to sort through your
> mess, then sneer at them.
> You alienate business, professional and artistic users with your
> insistence on hobbyism. These people have full lives; 48 hour sessions
> of trying to configure audio drivers, network cards or drive arrays
> are not in their interest.
> Even when you get big parts of the operating system correct, it's the
> thousand little details that have been forgotten, ignored or snootily
> written off that add up to many hours of frustration for the end user.
> This is not necessary frustration, and they get nothing out of it. It
> seems to exist because of the emotional and social attitudes of the
> FreeBSD team.
> Sadly, Ron is right. FreeBSD is not right for us, or any others who
> care about using an operating system as a means to an end. FreeBSD is
> a hobby and you have to use it because you like using it for the
> purpose of using it, and anything else will be incidental.
> That is the condition of FreeBSD now. If these criticisms were taken
> seriously, I believe the situation could change, and I hope it does.

I won't respond to this part of your post, as it smacks of
diatribe/polemic/flame bait rather than discussion.

Conrad J. Sabatier

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