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Re: Competition

On Fri, 26 Aug 2011 20:32:20 +0200
Daniel Carrera <> wrote:

> I've read a couple of posts in this list that suggest to me that 
> participants use Windows on the desktop and see *BSD as a server OS 
> only. I am genuinely surprised. I have always used some flavour of Linux 
> on my desktop. I think the only proprietary software I have is Adobe 
> Flash. I am happy with my system and I don't feel the slightest 
> temptation to buy a program that will force me to run Windows.

There are many people for which I think NetBSD wouldn't suit, but I
personally use it on firewalls+proxies, servers, the laptop and desktop
workstations here (with the native X11 set where GUI is wanted).
Admitedly on some hardware I had to add a third party card to get good
video acceleration (a collection of ATI Radeon cards is handy).

As for wireless I don't use it on the network; good quality ethernet
cable was installed with wall jacks, and a good old long and very
flexible IBM cable for the laptop, so I didn't have to care, other than
when occasionally helping friends to setup their networks.

For cameras and music players, I make sure they can save to SD or are
UMASS, which NetBSD can read.  I also avoid buying 300$+ "mobile
shopping platforms", so I don't have to worry about compatibility with
every device out there.

Desktop software preferences:

I tend to like Fluxbox with customized key shortcuts, a couple of GTK
applications, some of which you mentioned (no dbus or gnome support,
though), claws-mail and Firefox+noscript, Dillo and Lynx as browsers.
There is one package which I used to keep around but recently dropped
as it now needs QT (LyX) and I wanted to avoid the bloat/trouble (I'm
the sysadmin for a network and am the one rebuilding the software
repository regularily and handling upgrades; and the only one left at
work (and at home) using NetBSD as desktop).

I used to keep around the Suse packages and COMPAT_LINUX, but realized
eventually that the only thing I was still using it for was Flash.  I
generally loathe Flash and simply dropped it, also disabling
COMPAT_LINUX since.  I have it available on a Debian box though.
Also, for popular video sites like Youtube (which even I cannot avoid
occasionally following links to), clive, quvi and unplug help; I keep
around mplayer (command-line), ffmpeg+ffplay and vlc (only SDL frontend
built) which can all play mp4, flv and now webm.  The redundancy is
nice if/when something is unsupported on mplayer or manages to crash
it, and I need the ffmpeg libraries which are in use by some of my
software already.

As for OO I used to also keep it around but realized I rarely personally
use it, especially when I used LyX, text editors, TeX, nroff...
I no longer currently build it for NetBSD but a local Debian
system has LibreOffice installed.

Work and programming:

When programming, I mostly use urxvt, screen or tmux, ssh,
gcc+gdb for C, vim+cscope and gmake, as well as a few scripting
languages (SpiderMonkey with custom classes to access the
libraries I needed, which is a less common setup) and more recently
emacs and ECL (a Common Lisp implementation that supports threads on
NetBSD and compiles to C).  PostgreSQL is used for databases.  A pair
of privoxy+squid proxies (squid caching and forwarding requests to
privoxy), are useful to manage network-global filters, which I find
better than using adblock.

It's all open source, so don't feel alone :)

> I admit that I have a bias toward free/open source software, or at least 
> proprietary software without vendor lock-in. But I don't think that this 
> is the reason I don't use proprietary: I just don't miss it. I *like* 
> running Linux. I *like* Unix-like systems. I am not going to use Windows 
> in order to run a program, and I hardly see the point in paying for 
> Photoshop or FrameMaker when the open source software in my computer has 
> always served me so well.

Over the years I found that it's very dependable, and having the
source around allows to often fix anything that's problematic.  I also
don't have to worry about malware much (although am careful with
configuration and reading SAs), which is very nice.  And software
doesn't automatically break except sometimes during scheduled updates
(be careful with automatic updates on distributions that support it,

> I had always assumed that BSD users would feel similar. I had assumed 
> that everyone on this list *likes* running NetBSD or *BSD and naturally 
> would want to use it on their desktop rather than endure Windows.

I think I relate, but indeed people have various backgrounds, needs and
preferences...  some anecdotes about me which might explain that a
NetBSD desktop is fine for me:

Personally, my first computer that was closest to a "desktop" was
the Amiga, on which I was booting to a full screen backdrop shell
already instead of the workbench GUI (8-bit era systems I grew up using
before, the BBS and FidoNet scenes, and later on usenet, pretty much
got me used to the keyboard and text interfaces since young anyway).
The Amiga was always in graphical mode though, so using a shell was not
as restrictive as CP/M or MS-DOS, and the OS was a multitasking
microkernel albeit without PMMU protection, it was fun to code on in
C.  When even the fastest Amigas were getting too old and slow, I
started using Windows on PC, which was frustrating for me (slow and
very unstable back then (the 95, pre-NT4 era!), with no easy way to
really fix it), and I kept an Amiga around as well.

But shortly after (fortunately), someone talked to me about Linux that
he had used a bit at his university, which I tried (RH4 back then if I
remember), and I found myself immediately learning unix, transposing my
coding skills to it and trying a number of Linux distributions (and too
many window managers, obviously).

I was hooked and realized that unix was what I really wanted at home
anyway back when using Amigas, without knowing it (I hadn't realized
that PCs were powerful enough to run it yet, and wasn't interested in
ridiculous commercial unix licensing plans).  That there were now open
source implementations was awesome, as it was now free and possible to
access the kernel and libc source code without disassemblers (and the
libc man pages, yay)!

It was right on the spot, as my interests were in software and IT...
and I never missed anything from Windows, like yourself.  Perhaps that
if I had grown up using Windows with an interest in 3D PC games it'd
be different, however.  But game consoles are less hassle than a
Windows gaming box in my opinion.  For the things I miss from Amiga, I
keep UAE around (yes, the last one is now RIP) :)

After a few years maintaining a custom server Linux distribution and
finding it tedious to update, I wanted to also try the BSDs.  I
concurrently ran "the big three" as servers for a little more than a
year.  At the time, the impressions I had were the following: FreeBSD
was the fastest, supported some PC features like SMP and framebuffers
the best, and had a good pthread implementation (better than
linuxthreads (pre-NPTL era), yet had an annoying installer reminding me
of the curses configuration step of a linux kernel build), OpenBSD was
the slowest (and unfortunately buggyest, somehow; including issues when
disabling the crawling ffs sync mode, and the small part of its
community I knew unfortunately seemed elitist, I'm sorry to have to say

NetBSD had better documentation, good performance (I had no SMP
hardware), a less convoluted install procedure (with a default install
as secure as OpenBSDs even if without the hype), and a more advanced
package manager.  It also supported more hardware (I still had an
Amiga, afterall, among my systems, and the PC was "new", who knows if
it wasn't about to get replaced soon as well by another IBM, Hitachi or
Motorola chip, and porting NetBSD would not have taken much time).
NetBSD was also very stable and I discovered a very friendly IRC
community for it (which is unfortunately less active on IRC today).  I
found the project had a serious tone and thought it'd be a good choice
to try to depend on it more seriously; I subscribed to a few tech
mailing lists and gave another try at a custom server distribution,
which was based on 1.4R.  It was indeed ideal to easily customize
distributions with and a year later I finally stopped maintaining my
Linux distribution which was a burden.

I can't say that what I use now is another BSD, it's only NetBSD with a
few minor custom patches and customized set of kernel configurations
(GENERIC_MM/LAPTOP_MM) and a custom binary packages repository so that
dependencies, optimization flags and quality can be directly controled
(and since it's a private repository, it's no problem to store
redistribution-restricted packages on it for convenience).
and pkgsrc are very nice.

Today there's good SMP, the pthreads API was conforming since a
while but is now even better than it was, there's faster raidframe
recovery, WAPBL, even DRI with some hardware.  And nice kauth tricks
available at the tweak of a few sysctl knobs, without third party
modules.  So it's even better than ever.

One thing that I somewhat miss is systrace, however.  kauth is nice but
it's also quite different; it was easy to configure per-application
profiles with systrace without the need for kernel hacking.  I
understand that with our limited resources and its problematic pre-SMP
design it was no longer ideal and couldn't be fixed easily, though.
Oh well.

Enough babblings from me for today, this text is quite longer than I
had anticipated.  :)

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