Help PLZ

Matthew Hawkins matthew at
Tue Aug 28 18:51:10 EST 2001

On Tue, 28 Aug 2001, jeremy at wrote:
> I think it may have been true that BSD once had some superior
> functionality, but Linux has stolen it since then.

Depends where you're talking about.  The VM subsystem in FreeBSD 4.x
certainly beat the pants off Linux 2.2, and they've been having all
sorts of "fun" trying to better it in 2.4.  It's always been the case
that binaries are smaller on disk and in memory on BSD, so it's useful
in embedded systems.

There's no doubt Debian's package management system beats the pants off
any BSD.  It beats the pants off anything, period, IMO.  One thing I do
like about FreeBSD's ports collection though is (if you install from
source) you're downloading and installing the original source tarball.
This gives a few benefits, first any proxy cache along the way can hold
the original source tarball and save you time & money.  Secondly you can
compile locally with any extra optimisation flags to gcc you like, so
that application performs the best it can on the target machine (rather
than being compiled for generic, lowest-common-denominator system
upstream).  Thirdly, you can stay up-to-date with applications with a
simple cvsup, no need to wait two years for the next release of your
favourite Linux distribution.  FreeBSD ports have maintainers like
Debian packages have maintainers, hence you get all the benefits of
having a responsible person making sure that application works.
I think that's one thing that should be moved to Linux (and Debian lends
itself quite easily to this) - distributions, rather, platforms, simply
distribute enough metadata to have the specific application run on their
platform - everything else comes from the original source tarball
obtained seperately.  This saves lots of data wasteage when most changes
really are platform-specific things, not upstream.

One other thing I've noticed about ports is that in most cases it's more
uptodate than even unstable Debian, I've compiled the latest mozilla
from source and run it three weeks before it appears in sid, for example.
This is sometimes a help (quicker bugfixes) and sometimes a hindrance
(quicker bugs)

Hmm, other things... FreeBSD has a Linux ABI compatibility option, so
Linux binaries run on FreeBSD.  Not emulation, natively.  This means you
can get the best of both worlds in terms of applications.  The ffs has
an option called softupdates which is an alternative to metadata
journaling, permitting safe updating without the speed sacrifice of
synchronous updates or the complexity of journaling.  This makes FreeBSD
much better to use as a mail server (for example) than Linux.

Some other things are more a matter of personal preference, I prefer
System V rc scripts over BSD-style, for example.  I prefer not to have
csh installed at all, let alone as root's shell.  I also prefer to have
the PC run a proper POSIX.1 friendly system without repeated kernel
oopses, the only reason the PC I'm using now runs FreeBSD instead of
Linux.  (okay, the other reason is that I'm an OS junkie, hell I ran
OpenBSD on it for a bit also).
One thing I don't like is rigid mentality, "we run redhat here" "the
earth is flat"; refuse outright any other suggestions, not on technical
(de)merits but sheer blind prejudice.  The scientist in me cannot accept
that one solution is the only one, be all and end all.  Hell, even NT
has some nice features (fast threading, binding applications or drivers
in SMP systems to a particular CPU, component-based architecture) that
are worth something.  Is a shovel better than a hammer?  You must first
ask who is wielding it and what experience they have, and what the heck
the job is.


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