Subject: linux -> netbsd conversion (mildly OT)
To: NetBSD Current Users <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: None <email@example.com>
Date: 10/21/2003 05:23:55
I have an anecdote which you _might_ enjoy. is the story of my conversion
to NetBSD. Here goes:
-[ My Conversion ]-
I have been an off-and-on NetBSD user for about 5 years. However
like many, I started off with Linux back in 1994. My first distro was
"SLS" which, I believe, is no longer around. I took up with Slackware on
my personal systems and stuck with that as my "main" OS till about a year
ago when I went completely to NetBSD. Don't read me wrong, I _like_ Linux.
I'm not going to bash it or play the OS holy-war game. Linux is
responsible for helping me nurture a love for Unix (the ideas not the
trademark). I still see Linux as an interesting and useful OS. Still, this
is my story of how and why I became a NetBSD user and advocate.
Being a tinkerer, I've tried _lots_ of operating systems such as
BeOS, AtheOS, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Minix, OSX, IRIX, Solaris [x86 && SPARC],
RISCOS, AmigaOS, MorphOS, HURD, QNX, dozens of Linux distros, and even
*cough* Windows. My initial reason for trying NetBSD was to run a free OS
on a DEC Alpha system I once had. Once I saw NetBSD in action I realized a
lot of things. First off, at that time there were no Linux distributions
(including my beloved Slackware) which had a proper idea of what a "base"
was really meant to be. I feel like NetBSD has got this nailed good and
proper. Unix users are so picky about how they want their systems and how
they wish to customize things that giving them a clean, minimal, and well
thought out "base" is something that is totally underrated. A day when the
"base" distribution of NetBSD becomes bloated would be a sad day indeed.
The next personal epiphany that struck me was (like many NetBSD
users) the cleanliness of using CVS with the source tree and build tools
to keep the entire base system (kernel and userland) up to date. The first
time I saw a "world" build & install do it's thing I was swooning and
convinced of it's merits: the thoughtful, sanitary organization.
Then one of the "sleepers" that hit me was Pkgsrc. Anyone could
see the advantages to an automatic software installer. However, Pkgsrc had
a few other advantages that didn't hit me till later. One of them was the
simple fact that you had binary packages installed (for easy management of
installed apps) and also that you had _source_ at the same time. The
latter became much more important to me when I started doing a lot of C
programming and needed to pop the hood on things much more often. Those
two things made Pkgsrc like having your cake and eating it, too. The most
latent advantage hit me when I later tried FreeBSD. The way Pkgsrc puts
everything in /usr/pkg at first was very alien to me (being a former
Linux-only user). It took me a while to get used to that because I always
had fixed in my mind that /usr/local was the best place. However, I later
realized that it really doesn't matter what you call the directory, but
what is so important is that you keep the application binaries, libraries,
and shared items in a tidy place _away_ from the base system. As far as I
know, NetBSD is the only system which really does this and takes it to the
necessary extent. Everyone gives credit to the FreeBSD ports collection
and indeed it deserves some accolades if for nothing else than it's
massive size but my personal nitpick with it was that it smattered files
all over my system. In no time at all you can't tell what's a "base
operating system file" and what is there as the result of some package
(without invoking package tools queries for each file). I understood that
greying the line between the system and the apps was very inconvenient and
it felt grubby. Every Linux distro I've tried does the same thing or
worse. Alternatively, everything about NetBSD pkgsrc cries "clean".
The last thing about NetBSD which was ultimately the final straw
in winning me over completely (as in replacing my Linux boxes with NetBSD)
was something which has little to do with NetBSD. It goes back to those
zealots which seem to flock to Linux. There is a lot of great things about
Linux, but the average Slashdot-styled Linux user is, in my humble
opinion, not one of them. Linux users as a group tend to be too
reactionary, over-zealous, less technical, more emotional than their BSD
counterparts (exempting the OpenBSD folks who have the emotional knee-jerk
move down to an art form), and increasingly prone to a "form over
function" attitude. The latter being what I think has caused the success
of operating systems like Windows and not at all a healthy thing.
I'm glad that Linus and his generals still have the reigns of the
Linux kernel firmly in their capable and wise grasp. I still respect
Linux, but when I made the decision to dump Linux off my myriad of systems
one of the many reasons was because I no longer wanted to associate with
the seething, unwashed, cellophane-consumptionite mass of Linux users.
Their aggregate face was becoming less like the friendly, technical, and
rare alpha-geeks I get along with and more like the face of pop-culture
conformists who were the same types that thought "computer nerd!" was an
insult to me in 7th grade as I pounded the keys of an Apple IIC in the
back of the classroom, but hey computers are OK _now_. I have a shirt that
says "Stop laughing - computers are cool now" and I think Linux and the
Internet in general may have a lot to do with that statement.
Nevertheless, being "cool" is one thing; and being clearheaded and
concerned about technical rightness is another. The pedantic hygiene of
NetBSD now means more to me than the glory of Linux and it's aims for
world domination. In my opinion, there is nothing right about the attitude
that you want as many people as possible to use your OS. In a one size
doesn't fit all world, I'd say that quality is still better than quantity
any day. If my reasoning sounds just as emotional as the people I am
beleaguered by, then perhaps it makes me a hypocrite. However, I don't see
it that way at present.
So, now I'm a NetBSD user. I've yet to look back since my total
conversion a year or so ago. I've also found that I'm learning new things
more often and liking what I learn better than ever. The NetBSD creed of
"we don't call it done unless it's right" has struck a deep chord in me.
As a Linux user I wasn't quite ready to take off and nuke the site from
orbit (as a Win98 user might feel), but I felt was increasingly stagnated
and put off by the evolution of (for lack of a better term) "Linuxisms".
I'm happy to tend the fire in the back of the NetBSD wizard's cave even if
I'm not ready to cast the spells myself and, though we are a good way from
the gleaming spires built in Linux-Land, this is a place were work still
gets done honestly and without crowds who just add to the noise.
PS: The horrible penguin mascot also didn't help matters. Even picking one
of the powderpuff girls as a banner-bearer would have been a been easier
for me to swallow. *grin*