Subject: Re: Merging Net/Free/Open-BSD together against Linux
To: None <>
From: John Ruschmeyer <>
List: port-i386
Date: 11/25/1998 14:03:21
> I'm not sure at what point it would be appropriate to drag in other
> Maybe this just belongs on netbsd-advocacy?

>> I've just recently returned from Comdex in Las Vegas.  While I was
>> I conducted a number of interviews, with a number of organizations
>> individuals for Internet Paper.  Based on the responses I have
>> as well as information from other sources including the web, mailing
>> lists, news sources, and other publications, it would appear that
>> (which is already the most popular ix86 Unix OS) is gaining in some
>> its growth at the expensive of BSD based Unixes, including NetBSD.
>> alarming, this trend appears to be predominate among new Unix

> Yes. This is because compared to Linux, the *BSD development process
> so much like a non-profit Cathedral it isn't funny. Thus, every kid
> wants to dabble in the free O/S racket starts fooling around with
> either because it's the first free O/S he heard about (this has
> effects of its own), or because he tried to get into the *BSD's and
> that if he tried too hard to help out, many people would treat him
like an
> irritating pest.

Interesting statements...

First of all, I really don't know why you say that the *BSD development
looks like a "non-profit Cathedral". My impression is that each of the
(intended plural) is developed using what could be considered a
development model; certainly one which is no worse than that used by
so-called industry leaders.

As for the "first OS Syndrome". This is the real issue and probably
much of Linux's continued popularity. Unfortunately, Linux has become
synonymous in the public's mind with "Free Unix"... the same way that
"Xerox" is synonymous with "photocopy".

Is it really that difficult to break into the BSD development. As
someone who
recently submitted a device driver, I didn't seem to have any problems
Jason Thorpe never did return my e-mail :-).

>> Part of the problem with NetBSD is that it is one of several "forks"
>> splits from BSD, which also include FreeBSD, OpenBSD, BSDI, etc.
>> splitting up of BSD into the different forks has divided up the
>> pool of BSD developers, benefiting non-forked operating system like
>> Linux.
>Sort of. The non-forkedness mostly applies to the kernel. The rest of a

>typical Linux distribution is obtained from the FSF or public FTP
>or where-ever.

Actually, in a way, Linux and the *BSD are inversely forked.

Linux has a non-forked kernel, but the userland is the choice of the
assembling the distrbution.  To my (uninformed) eye, assembling a Linux
distribution always looked more like the Microsoft model of software
Pick a point on the calendar, take the then-current Stable kernel, take
current rev of your package tool, package up the current versions of the

gnu tools and various other Open Source pacakges, upload all to FTP
cut CDs, announce release.

*BSD is a forked kernel (if you accept the idea that there should only
one BSD kernel), but has a pretty consistent userland.

>If anything, the great triumph of Linux is that Linus is a Zen style
>He spends most of his time making sure everyone else gets along,
>his lieutenants carefully, and above all TRUSTING them to DTRT, or at
>something close enough to the right thing that it can be fixed. After
>that's where their favorite quote "debugging is parallelizable" came

Herein lies the greatest difference between the Linux and *BSD worlds.
Think of it like religions (most people do anyway :-):

BSD is a religion in which the god/messiah/whatever (CRSG) has died and
ascended, leaving the profits and disciples to determine how best to
on the traditions.

    - Some build golden temples and appeal to the merchant class (BSDi).

    - Some preach to the masses (FreeBSD)
    - Some continue to provide new enlightment to the old believers
    - Some reach out to the insecure (OpenBSD)

Linux, on the other hand, is a religion whose charismatic messiah still
among us, but who limits his pronouncements to cryptic (Zen-like :-)
on the relationship of man to his environment. The role of interpreting
pronouncements is left to his followers and the churches they have
built, each church
having little similarity other than the fact that they all pull from the
same pool of
Open Source software and the same kernel.

>> NetBSD, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD are all open source, and each of them
>> their own advantages over the other.  Now is the time that people put

>> their egos aside and perhaps at least talk about merging some
>> of these BSD operating systems, including kernels, drivers, etc.,
>> the best features from each.  Only then can we establish a BSD based
>> as the real non-Linux Unix alternative; something that Sun Solaris,
>> OSF, etc. are also trying to do.

It seems like we already have this sort of sharing; it's just that we
take the
features unto our own, rather than building some neutral "best of

>> I know that merging the BSD OS forks back together is a huge
>> technically and politically.  But if we all plan to continue using
>> (or its successor) as a viable and robust operating system in the
>> years to come, I can not see any other alternative.
>Well, that's the question, isn't it. Is Linux going to smother us, or
>it going to educate and then disillusion a generation of defectors for
>to recruit?

Does it matter? Did we really get into this just to be the winner of the
OS wars?

If so, that sounds very Microsoft-like...

>> As a software developer and system administrator, I love NetBSD, I
>> hate to have to force myself to switch to another non-BSD based
>> system in order to keep from sacrificing performance, robustness, or
>> application/driver/support diversity.
>Admittedly I feel some of this myself. It does not help that so far,
what I
>have learned from these email lists and my own experiences tracking
>is that the NetBSD project appears to be running very close to survival
>in terms of growth -- core seems to be burning out about as fast as it
>taking on new people. What pisses me off is that this leaves the
>NetBSD advantage, superior code leverage as a result of meticulously
>design, tragically underexploited.

If we're really having this burnout of core then we need to clean up our
house before we can reach out to the other *BSD groups.

As for NetBSD's position in the popularity rankings, I think it's more a
function of
those features which we have chosen to emphasize.

Linux is popular because it is synonymous with "free unix" and is the
first thing that
comes to people's mind.

FreeBSD is popular because it is arguably the best Unix on commodity

OpenBSD emhpasizes security and is not encumbered by US Muntions law.
This makes
it big in foreign circles and with those for whom security is paramount.

Where does that leave NetBSD. Well, we do things the "right way". Great,
not sexy to an end-user. Well, we support the most platforms. True, but
we end
up competing head-to head with Linux and FreeBSD on the 'sexy" ones
offering the only real choice for several several "legacy" platforms.
While I don't
want to see that stop, it does probably tend to limit the influx of new

>> I would be most interested in hearing from other NetBSD users about
>> idea of possible merging the BSD OS forks back together, especially
>> those of you who are actively involved in NetBSD OS development.
>So would I. Especially if anyone has comments/flames/etc on my

Personally, I think trying to merge BSDs is a waste of effort. If you
want to be
more constructive then start identifying features from the other BSDs
that should
be in NetBSD, keeping in mind the goal of doing things right. Next,
solicit volunteers
to integrate those features to the existing -current.