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Jan Schaumann Talks About NetBSD on the Desktop 29

An anonymous reader writes "Continuing his series of interviews, Emmanuel Dreyfus asks NetBSD's Jan Schaumann about his experience with NetBSD on the desktop. From the article: 'Jan Schaumann has been an important contributor to the NetBSD project for several years. He spent a lot of time working on the NetBSD package system, known as pkgsrc, and he currently uses NetBSD as his desktop system. We will try to learn from his experience during this interview.'"
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Jan Schaumann Talks About NetBSD on the Desktop

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  • Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:33PM (#15069068)
    I have been saying this for a long time. Basically to sum it up. Linux (and netbsd) ARE ready for the desktop. Because the end user wouldnt be installing linux, just like they dont install/upgrade windows. Someone else does that, the administrator, or the kid down the street. The administrative details can still lack, but that is immaterial since the person doing the work is already knowledgable (in theory) As long as their is an easy to use GUI available that makes it easy to get to their mail, the web, and possibly type something up, that satisfies most people's requirements.
    • Re:Brilliant (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Homology ( 639438 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:49PM (#15069238)
      I have been saying this for a long time. Basically to sum it up. Linux (and netbsd) ARE ready for the desktop.

      I have been hearing this for a long time. Basically to sum it up: I don't understand this issue about "desktop readiness". What matters is that the applications you need are available and that drivers exist for your hardware.

      • Data Centric (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:34PM (#15069721) Homepage Journal
        I've been hearing myself say that for years, and it's been true. But we're increasingly concentrating more on our data and, the people with whom we exchange it, than on the applications we use to do that. The maturity of "personal computing" has evolved a short list of apps which resemble each other regardless of developer, with similar UIs. But a diversity of architectures, from phones to notebooks to desktops to big iron, often several of which participate in any one transaction across the network. Yet the app paradigm inherently creates boundaries across which people must communicate, which often doesn't work and is always complex - even when "integrated". While cross-platform Web apps and inclusion of millions of "unsophisticated" users create a demand for things to "just work", without requiring "computer" skills in addition to those required by the actual task at hand.

        In short, "personal computing" is getting to be like driving: most people can use most cars more or less the same, with different performance and convenience, on standardized roads, to get where we're going - mostly to get to other people. Applications are like cars, desktops are like dashboards, OS'es are like transmissions, networks are like fuel types, and our data is like the open road. MIME and desktop integrations are making that data the center of user activity. So the question is decreasingly whether "the" app you need is available under an OS on given HW. Rather, whether an app more or less automatically is available to work with your data, on whatever OS/HW is available and connected to the Internet. Since most of that data is for working with other people, convergence of voice and other data will make a lot of idiosyncratic SW, and unique skills using it, go the way of the Model T.
      • I have been using NetBSD on the desktop - or rather: laptop - for a long time. Started with a ThinkPad T22 in 2001, now I have a Thinkpad R50e. It just works.

    • Correct. The hardest part about installing Linux/NetBSD/etc., is the dual booting. Windows users very very rarely do this, so they think it's a Linux problem. But it's actually harder to dual boot two Windows versions than it is dual booting Windows and Linux or BSD.
      • Dual booting? I just have a KVM switch, and my main desktop machine at present runs NetBSD. There's a Windows 2000 machine I can switch to for tasks where it's necessary. Usable desktop-speed hardware is CHEAP these days, and with KVM switches there's no need to have more than one keyboard/monitor. I run NetBSD on a Pentium 550 MHz (one that I paid less than $5 for at auction) for my desktop machine and it's plenty snappy. I don't use a bloatware WM, though.

        I haven't dual booted in five years or more.
      • > The hardest part about installing Linux/NetBSD/etc., is the dual booting.

        I don't like my Windows and Linux touching each other. I keep them seperate.
  • FWIW (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doctor Memory ( 6336 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:04PM (#15069407)
    I used NetBSD as my desktop for over two years, and didn't have any usability issues. Thunderbird for e-mail, Firefox for browsing, OpenOffice for the occasional resume tweak. Plus all the "standard" FOSS stuff: Gimp, Apache, Tomcat, Ethereal, gAIM, etc. VLC for the (very) occasional MP3/DVD playback.

    Granted, I'm more of a pure software developer (I don't game, and I don't use my machine for "media" too much), but I can't recall a time when I got "stuck" because I didn't have some piece of software available. I believe both KDE and GNOME are available (I used AfterStep), so there shouldn't be too much confusion switching a Windows user over.
    • So why did you (I assume) choose NetBSD over Linux and the other BSDs?

      I ran NetBSD on a Mac SE/30 for a while, as it was the most advanced free *nix for the system at the time. But it was never my primary system. Nowadays my main contact with it is at SDF (freeshell.org). They run on Alphas, which (combined with the sysadmin's hatred of Linux) I think has something to do with their choice of NetBSD.
      • I first learned Unix on 4.2BSD, so the BSD conventions were more "natural" to me. I also used Linux back in the day of the 2.0 kernel (I think the first one I compiled was 2.0.36), and I just found the quality of much of the software appalling. Not Linux per se, but a lot of the stuff on Freshmeat was "of variable quality", to be charitable. It was sooo disappointing to find exactly what you needed, then discover that it was written by a HS sophomore and had hard-wired directory paths, required a genuine
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:31PM (#15069683)
    The only problem is that my desktop is a VAX 4000-90
    But yes, compared to VMS on the same hardware, NetBSD is WONDERFUL!
  • If you feel the need to learn more than you wanted to know about unix and building everything from source, then go for it. Install netbsd and fiddle with the (vastly improved) rc.conf stuff to get things to startup and configure you cards. cvs update the latest security fixes to build you are running and remake,reinstall the kernel/os. Install your packages from source (the first time it takes 20 hours to install KDE is fun!). Or use the prebuilt packages for the stable release. Most of the packages in pkgs
    • Just to let everyone know, NetBSD has binary packages. You don't have to build everything from source. Unless, like the parent post, you decide you want to.
      • in all fairness he did mention that you can install stable binary packages, which you can -- they release builds every quarter. his argument basically is that if you like control over your systems you should use netbsd, if you don't then use a `modern' linux distro, which i guess is also ok, but not for me.

        i come from a Slackware background, and i believe my views on simplicity and/or ease of use are slightly different. i like the fact that NetBSD is a simple barebobones system [the overhead he was talkin

        • i like the fact that NetBSD is a simple barebobones system

          That's why I like FreeBSD. In fact, it's pretty much only chance that I'm running FreeBSD instead of NetBSD. I too used to be a Slackware person, and if I had to go back to Linux, it would be Slackware with pkgsrc.
  • I've used NetBSD on my old server. It was great once I got my head around pkgsrc and its quirks. I now use pkgsrc on my new server with Slackware Linux, because I heard Linux was better on SMP hardware than BSD, although NB3.0 might have chnaged that.

    I'd use NetBSD on my desktop if the NVidia X server would run on it. Does anyone play Unreal Tournament on BSD?
    • You are really unlikely to see any problems with the old-style big giant lock on a two-way SMP system, so any kernel will be fine if you only have two CPUs. Both Free- and NetBSD now have fine-grained locking in a lot of the kernel, which makes it a lot more scalable. You probably won't see much benefit from Linux until you get up to around 16CPUs (and possibly not even then). If you have that many CPUs, however, you would probably be better off with Solaris, since it was running on 64+ CPU boxes when Li
      • Notice that Solaris moved away from M:N and to 1:1. It is WAY simpler, and thus easier to do correctly and with good performance. NetBSD and FreeBSD are the only ones still trying to do M:N threading, because its too complicated, and offers only theoretical benefits that haven't actually been realized in practice.
    • by MC68000 ( 825546 )
      UT2004 does indeed work on FreeBSD, of course through the linux emulation layer

Loose bits sink chips.