On Tue, Apr 01, 2014 at 12:11:19PM +0500, Jordan Hubbard wrote:
> On Apr 1, 2014, at 10:46 AM, Eitan Adler <li...@eitanadler.com> wrote:
> > That is why on this date I propose that we cease competing on the
> > desktop market.  FreeBSD should declare 2014 to be "year of the Linux
> > desktop" and start to rip out the pieces of the OS not needed for
> > server or embedded use.
> > 
> > Some of you may point to PCBSD and say that we have a chance, but I
> > must ask you: how does one flavor stand up to the thousands in the
> > Linux world?
> The fact that this posting comes out on April 1st makes me wonder if
> it’s just an elaborate April Fool’s joke, but then the notion of *BSD
> (or Linux, for that matter) on the Desktop is just another
> long-running April fool’s joke, so I’m willing to postulate that two
> April Fools jokes would simply cancel each other out and make this
> posting a serious one again. :-)
> I’ll choose to be serious and say what I’m about to say in spite of
> the fact that I work for the primary sponsor of PC-BSD and actually
> like the fact that it has created some interesting technologies like
> PBIs, the Jail Warden, Life-preserver and a ZFS boot environment menu.
> There is no such thing as a desktop market for *BSD or Linux.  There
> never has been and there never will be.   Why do you think we chose
> “the power to serve” as FreeBSD’s first marketing slogan?  It makes a
> fine server OS and it’s easy to defend its role in the server room.
> It’s also becoming easier to defend its role as an embedded OS, which
> is another excellent niche to pursue and I am happy to see all the
> recent developments there.
> A desktop?  Unless you consider Mac OS X to be “BSD on the desktop”
> (and while they share some common technologies, it’s increasingly a
> stretch to say that), it’s just never going to happen for (at least)
> the following reasons:
> 1. Power.  As you point out, being truly power efficient is a complete
> top-to-bottom engineering effort and it takes a lot more than just
> trying to idle the processor whenever possible to achieve that.  You
> need to optimize all of the hot-spot routines in the system for power
> efficiency (which actually involves a fair amount of micro
> architecture knowledge), you need a kernel scheduler that is power
> management aware, you need a process management system that runs as
> few things as possible and knows how to schedule things during package
> wake-up intervals, you need timers to be coalesced at the level where
> applications consume them, the list just goes on and on.  It’s a lot
> of engineering work, and to drive that work you also need a lot of
> telemetry data and people with big sticks running around hitting
> people who write power-inefficient code.  FreeBSD has neither.
> 2. Multimedia.  A real end-user’s desktop is basically one big UI for
> watching things, listening to things, and running apps.  A decent
> audio / video subsystem is just one part of the picture, and one that
> has always been really weak - entire engineering teams can spend years
> working on codecs, performance optimizations, low and guaranteed
> latency support for audio I/O, etc.  What’s worse, the bar is only
> being raised.  You want to be part of the next wave of folks who can
> author and edit content for the new 4K video standard?  Not on FreeBSD
> or Linux, you’re not.
> 3. Applications.  A desktop without real and useful applications is
> not a desktop, it’s just an empty display surface.  Sure, there are
> users out there who are happy with just a mail client, a web browser
> and maybe a calendaring app, but those users are also arguably even
> better candidates for Chrome or other simplified environments where
> all of that simply happens in a fancy web browser and you get things
> like “software updates” and cloud integration essentially for free
> since it’s all just one cohesive picture there.  The ability to solve
> those user’s needs very simply makes them ripe targets for the web
> application delivery platforms.
> For the other folks who want to do fancier stuff like mix audio, edit
> videos or even just play mainstream 3D games that were actually
> published sometime in the last year, they’ll use a real desktop OS and
> won't even bother looking at one of the free ones because guess what,
> the free ones just can’t do those things, or do them badly enough that
> their users feel like they’re perpetually living in a kind of
> self-selected ghetto.  Metaphorically speaking, sleeping on the floor
> in a sleeping bag in your one-room apartment is fine when you’re
> young, but as you get older, you want to be more comfortable and have
> a real bed in a real house!
> Those are just three reasons.  There are lots more, not least of which
> among them is the fact that it’s damn hard even just to *create*
> significant applications with the weak-ass APIs that *BSD and Linux
> provide.  You have to stitch together some Frankenstein collection of
> libraries out of ports (or linux packages) and then hope the whole
> pile of multi-“vendor" bits will sort of work together, which of
> course they rarely do because they were written by several hundred
> different people with no mandate to interoperate.
> April fool’s joke?  Yes, the desktop has always been one in the OSS
> space.  It’s a lousy OSS problem to try and solve because all the
> hardest parts are things nobody wants to do for free, and there’s no
> money to be made just providing the OS (even Ubuntu, the current
> leader, seems to have “pledge drives” every other week).
> - Jordan

I'm a happy FreeBSD desktop user since 4.7. There are some edges, but I
really like that I can can create a desktop the way _I_ want it and my
mail client even allows me to break lines at 80 chars. Eat that, Apple
Mail! ;-)

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