Subject: Re: buying more NetBSD hardware
To: None <>
From: Chuck Yerkes <>
List: netbsd-users
Date: 04/16/2003 14:02:12
Quoting Michael W . Lucas (
> Hello,
> I'm trying to accumulate a reasonable variety of hardware to run
> NetBSD on, for writing articles.  The catch is, I want usable hardware
> that is sufficiently unique to be worth writing about and interesting
> to read about, and is usable in a day-to-day context.  A Dreamcast
> might both boot and work, but from reading the ports page it seems
> more useful for bragging rights than anything else.  :-) So far, my
> platforms include:
> i386
> hpcarm
> alpha
> Are the, say, sparc or macppc platforms sufficiently different that it
> would be worth picking one up?  Or are there other particular
> platforms that might be worth checking out?

To what end?  What's achieved.  A friend runs his vax in cold months,
but that's just cause he's a VAX junky.  Nice hardware, for 1980.
A human generation ago.  There are semi-experienced CS grads who
were born after the 780 hit the world.

Technically, I have something like 20 machines.  But if you don't
count CoCo2s running OS/9 (vaguely unix like, < 64k), Apple ][s,
Kaypro model II, it comes down some, but they live in shelves.

Can I run NetBSD on NeXT?  Perhaps, but why?
Can I run Linux on my SGI?  Perhaps, but why?
Their joy was that their OSs took advantage of unique hardware.

Most hardware ain't so unique.  The $60,000 reality engine
that SGI offered is smoked by a $300 ATI or nVidia card today.

Can I run BSD on my SPARC 4m? Yes.  And I do.  Cause I can
manage it really well remotely and it's updated quick software
that is easy to maintain and run.

I run BSD on SPARC and Alpha, but they suck power and aren't so
brisk.  Mostly the "on" machines are an Intel box (big disk, cheap),
and a soekris x86 appliance and a Sparc in a remote location with
a "build" system to test things here that's often off.

I run Unix on a Mac Laptop - portable, pretty, support for icky
third party apps the GirlF still needs (quicken, MS crap we both
hate, etc).  And it gives us a shell easily.

A GOAL I have with Unix is that it's about the same everywhere.
I don't really notice if I'm on an Alpha, SGI, Sun or Intel.
I don't really notice if the Sun is 1 CPU or 16.  That's good.
I can ssh over to my Zaurus PDA and run things on it and
not care.

There are variations in the OSs, there are variations in the
hardware.  Developing programs to do math works fine on a
Sun workstation, but once developed you can throw it on a
cray and that 2hr calculation takes 2 seconds.

The vendors spent the 90's showing how "the same" they were.
Motif and POSIX tried to reduce the costs of portability to
software developers.  They failed mainly.  Windows came in
looking good to managers while the vendors pissed on each
other and fought standarizations ("motif over my dead body"
jumps to mind).  ISVs went to Windows in a big way.

With its portability, NetBSD lets me have EXACTLY the same
environment.  Does it matter if it's an Amiga, Alpha, MIPS,
SPARC or Intel?  No really.  That's the cool part.  My
soerkis isn't a math monster, but it's dead quiet and boots
from Compact Flash.

So if the hardware makes a difference to you, then perhaps
you are focussing on the wrong thing.

A GOAL is that I can write something on a $50 castoff Intel
box and know that it can run on a computer that fits in my
car or my wall or a $5 million super computer.  The OS makes
the differences go away.

I think emphasizing the differences in hardware does a disservice
to the goals of portability.  NetBSD, I'm sure, scare the few viable
vendors like Sun because it's another place where it's only their
hardware performance and price that makes them competitive (or
not).  Get SMP and NUMA down and I can drop Solaris.  That means
that I *might* find a loaded 8CPU TanHewCompaqItal PC for $60k blows
away the Sun V880 that's more than twice the price.  That's got to
keep Sun's stock price down.