Mike - BSD 217 & Winning over Linux Users by

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I love the show. Thanks for all your work putting out the episodes like

Regarding your comments on why more people don't switch from Linux to
FreeBSD. I friend at work has played a bit lately trying FreeBSD,
OpenBSD and possibly NetBSD. These were his experiences as I heard about
them over lunches...

First he had a home server / gateway he'd wanted to run it on. He
started out seeming quite committed, even enthusiastic, because getting
ZFS on Ubuntu Linux was still not that well integrated into their
installer, and I'd also told him that FreeBSD's ZFS is likely more
mature from what I'd heard (on your show probably -- I run OpenBSD so
have no first hand experience).  It didn't work out because the
installer failed. It sounded to me like a driver problem or possibly
glitchy hardware that for whatever reason worked better with Linux than
FreeBSD. So this coloured his impression to the negative. Sorry, I don't
recall the hardware except that it was an old Dell server, something
high end as their stuff goes but from 2006 I think.

Then he tried on a laptop, a relatively new thinkpad (again I'm
forgetting the model, perhaps I can convince him to write you). He'd
tried each of FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD and ended up with OpenBSD
seeming to be most viable on this machine, I'm not sure exactly why. But
since that's my preference I encouraged him in that direction.

Well, then he complained that OpenBSD does not lay down a bootable
mbr. Let's understand that this is a person who likes to multiboot. I
see developers and users on the OpenBSD mailing list discourage that, it
being error prone, but if we're thinking of who might come over from
Linuxland, let's suppose many will be those who have a couple different
Linux distros on a single drive and look on a BSD as something new to
try out in the same way.

But I know OpenBSD can write a perfectly good mbr and can share a disk
with Linux. I've done it myself. So what was the problem? Well, him
saying, "OpenBSD doesn't write a bootable mbr," in fact meant that he
installed it with their boot loader in the pbr partition OpenBSD
inhabited and it left the mbr alone. His expectation was that OpenBSD
would do what Mint Linux does, which is to detect the other operating
systems on the disk and install grub on the mbr with menu items for each
OS. Here I got a bit defensive, which those who want to advocate for BSD
maybe can take a lesson from in what not to do. I said to him, "why the
hell would they do that? What, they're going to put GNU Grub in base?
Not likely." So FreeBSD maybe could think about this. Does your boot
loader and installer look for Linux or Windows and include menu items
that can boot them?

Also, I think there's a problem with Grub's native BSD boot modules, at
least the OpenBSD ones. It seems known in the cummunity you have to use
the chain loader, but Grub's documentation says nothing to suggest their
stuff doesn't actually work. If no one beats me to it I'd like to try to
fix that someday, but it's way down my list.

The other issue he has, which he also has with Debian vs. Ubuntu and
Mint, is that he expects wireless to work during the install without any
special attention on his part. He claims OpenBSD doesn't support his
wireless card, which I'm skeptical of since he said it was some kind of
Intel wireless, which I thought was really well supported in
general. Perhaps it's too new or perhaps it's just a matter of him
needing to run fw_update.

My own experience trying FreeBSD the issue was hardware support. I had a
machine that OpenBSD didn't run on so tried FreeBSD and it failed during
the installer too. I ended up on NetBSD then ran DragonFly for awhile
until discovering OpenBSD corrected whatever the problem was. Curious
that there was a machine out there (about 10 years ago) that DragonFly
ran on that FreeBSD didn't, isn't it? I expect that's the largest
and most difficult problem the BSDs have vs. Linux, the hardware support.

But if FreeBSD had supported the machine I would have only used it long
enough to wait for Stefan Sperling of OpenBSD to finish the wireless
driver or whatever was lacking. This is something maybe also to keep in
mind. People have their preferences. Some prefer OpenBSD some FreeBSD
some GNU and Linux. We can help people when they ask but can we convert
preferences? I talk about what I like in OpenBSD, but it doesn't
register with my friend much because different aspects of what an OS
should be rise to the top in importance for him. Then he tries it, it
doesn't suit him, and he tells me how foolish I am and points to some
phoronix benchmark that looks like it ran ffs without softupdates. Oh

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