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Re: Why the BSDs get no love

Posted 04-26-2010 at 12:43 PM by ofaring
Updated 04-26-2010 at 12:46 PM by ofaring

Re: Why the BSDs get no love
Date: December 14th, 2009
Author: Jack Wallen

(Written in style as a letter/comment to Jack in response to the article.)

While I enjoyed the well-written article, after reading it my first thought was, "Seriously, that's your take on BSD-land? You've missed the point." Not that I mean to attack. It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round. But rather than attempt to grab mass acceptance by removing complexity, I try to help a few people begin to think (for themselves) scientifically.

The BSDs have always been, and hopefully always will be, about pure computer science. That goal has little or nothing to do with glitzy, power-consuming, hardware-update-forcing GUI environments. If you happen to love computers primarily for nuts-and-bolts technical reasons, as opposed to merely entertainment value, then the BSDs are immensely valuable.

And yes, that viewpoint always has been unappealing to the mainstream. Actually understanding the underpinnings of computer hardware and the way sotware interfaces with it takes a lot of work and a rather technical mindset. Most members of the public either don't have the time or the interest to pursue a pure OS understanding. It's just the way things are.

For BSDs to do what you are asking is like asking a leopard to change its spots. (No reference to OSX intended.) You aren't saying, "modernise, dammit!" You are saying,
"Pure science isn't enough. You must change the fundamental nature of your beliefs in order to entertain the masses. Only then will you grow." (Yes, the ever-present problem: research vs. money.)

In your article there is a shadowy reference to BSD developers complaining about the lack of public interest in BSD. Many complainers have also misunderstood why BSD exists. It is as you said, "insanely stable and secure". Why? Because the people designing it decided that it was more important to exercise diligence in design rather than cobble together a series of hacks to quickly gain public acceptance. I could argue that the scientific community is one of the last remaining which realises that hard work is necessary to achieve something noteworthy. It will be a sad day if or when the BSD community completely folds to today's pressure of fitting in.

But you are right. The young and young-ish public today does not accept a 90s-looking OS. They want flash; they want razzle-dazzle; they want to be entertained by "Minority Report" like computing. Is there anything wrong with that? Probably only that in the relentless push for snazz, understanding has been dumped in the gutter. Why do Windows users (with a new computer) oooh and ahhh over modern Windows versions? Because they get to use a beautiful screen and they don't need to understand why it works. Of course they will have little interest in a system which actually demands that you read, and read some more, before you're able to use it with power. This has very little to do with entertainment as you are indirectly describing it, but everything to do with the rush of discovery. But that takes work, and work requires time away from entertainment.

In today's environment, the BSDs will always be the minority, and there's nothing wrong with that. Which is better? To have all systems alike, each easily accessible by non-thinking or time-constrained individuals, or to have the option to pursue a necessarily hard-thinking path, learning and growing in knowledge and experience as you do?
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