Subject: Need advice: should I switch to BSD from Alpha Linux?
To: None <>
From: Jack Wathey <>
List: port-alpha
Date: 08/25/1998 23:22:07
Dear Alpha BSD folks,

This question is for those of you who have used both BSD and Linux
on the Alpha.  Please don't misunderstand my subject line: I'm not 
trying to start a flame war about BSD vs Linux.  I just need help in
making a tough decision.

I'm doing computational biology research with a cluster of Alpha
clones (LX motherboards, 21164A, 533MHz, SCSI disks, CDROM and tape
drive and one IDE CDROM; Ethernet cards: D-Link DFE-500TX [uses
DEC DC21140AC chip] and DEC DE500-AA).  They came with RedHat Linux
4.2, which I've managed to beat into a barely functional system for
my purposes.  I'm greatly disappointed in the lack of robustness and
reliability of Alpha Linux, though.  X often (but not always) crashes
the whole machine on startup.  The X-server for my video card (Matrox
Millenium II) is buggy, even when not crashing.  The system malloc is
buggy.  The debugger (gdb) can't make sense out of core files left by
program crashes.  I could go on and on (see the archives of the RedHat
axp-list if you're interested in more horror stories).  I've considered
"upgrading" to a new RedHat release, but I'm waiting to be convinced
that the new releases haven't created more bugs than they've fixed.
Meanwhile I've started to contemplate netBSD as an alternative.

The question: is Alpha BSD more complete, stable and reliable, on
hardware like mine, than is Alpha Linux?  The main things I care about
are being able to write, run and debug large complex programs in C
and C++ using gcc, pvm, rcs and vim.  I also use RasMol a fair
amount, which requires X.

I noticed on the web site that floppy controllers are not supported
in BSD for LX machines.  Why is this, and is there any hope of it
being fixed soon?  What support is there for the Matrox Millenium II?
I'd welcome any comments, general or specific, from people who have
experience with both BSD and Linux on the Alpha.  You might want to
send them to me directly, rather than to the list, in the interest
of avoiding a conflagration.

Jack Wathey