Sat, 24 Oct 2009

8:50 PM - A commentary on BSD development

I started the day with a little development work on MidnightBSD.  Many people think I'm wasting my time working on an open source project, particularly when it hasn't taken off like they think it must to "beat" ubuntu.  The reason I keep working on this project is two fold.   First, I enjoy the experience.  It's fun to work on a long term project with many different aspects to it.  I can work on anything from an installer to a device driver to a port of an application that I like to use.  Sometimes, I find it quite relaxing.  it's different from the Java based web development that I do at work.  Second, I am convinced that a UNIX desktop environment is the best approach.  Sure some things have to be changed to make it fit that environment.  Some days I just look at Mac OS and see what is possible.  Apple didn't make all the right choices in my mind, but it certainly proves that it's possible.  BSD on the desktop is a good idea.

Many of us in the open source community have been arguing and duplicating effort over the years.  Sometimes there are good reasons for it, but many times it's just a big terrible twos style tantrum.  Many people were angry at me when I started this project.  How dare I fork a server OS for a desktop?  The FreeBSD community at that time did not care about the desktop.  Sure, there were ports for this or that  but it was not even on their radar.  Today, they've been pulled into embedded systems and some desktop exposure due to PC-BSD and DesktopBSD.  There were improvements in their ports infrastructure, list of applications, utilities and updating tools for the OS, and even a little improvement in the attitude their developers have toward the desktop.  Some people within the project have passion about the desktop.  Still, you mostly hear excitement about embedded systems where they can get corporate assistance and funding (freebsd foundation, etc.)  There's nothing wrong with that, but embedded systems is a completely different direction from what I see as a good desktop OS.  Embedded space is huge but traditional systems are very small.  Any electrical engineer will tell you that.  I intentionally chose a subset of the full x86 market because I feel users need special attention to their daily computing habits.  They need a stable, secure, virus free environment with structure and consistency.  The linux community can't  offer this consistency due to the adhoc nature of development between the kernel and various components.  We're also limited by the development and the fuss around various components, but at least the base system is under our control.

I was sent an e-mail this even asking for assistance with another project.  Many other developers from this and other BSD communities received the same e-mail.  I thought about the best way to respond for some time.  I believe in BSD on the desktop, but for the reasons found in that projects forums, I know that this can only be accomplished with greater control.  I did not make a distro of freebsd because I don't feel we could maintain a stable system with enough stability.  It is not possible to keep throwing bandaids on an OS that differ as it targets routers and cell phones for your desktop.  It just doesn't make sense.  FreeBSD is a damn good server OS.   It may turn out to be an ok embedded system, but frankly I think NetBSD has that market.  

Since we appear to be near the last man standing (like highlander?), it appears I can't give up on my dream.  


tags: direction os future desktop midnightbsd

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