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Re: Merging Net/Free/Open-BSD together against Linux
On Wednesday, 25 November 1998 at 10:24:53 -0500, Todd Vierling wrote:
> On Wed, 25 Nov 1998, Robert Evans wrote:
> : The best we can hope for is friendly cooperation, and I think to a
> : large extent NetBSD and FreeBSD have achieved that over the last couple
> : of years
> And this is a good point that I'd like to link with trade shows above.
> I know we have political differences, but if we can find people from each of
> the free-source *BSD's out there, and maybe even someone from BSD/I to
> represent the commercial factor, perhaps we can get a collective, or
> neighboring, display/booth at some trade show?
> This is pipe dream, of course, because I can see the colossal potential for
> infighting in my head just as I write this. Still, it would be a
It sounds like a good idea, and possibly also a good time to talk
about it, though I'm not the person to carry it on.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm the author of ``The Complete
FreeBSD'', and I've been relatively active in the FreeBSD advocacy
group. I've just subscribed to NetBSD-advocacy and
(OpenBSD)-advocacy, and I'm copying both lists as well as the
Note for the paranoid: in the following, where I refer to the three
free BSDs, I'll do it in alphabetical order. It should not be taken
to imply any preference.
Most of you will know about Daemon News, which was one effort we made
in this direction. I believe there are other things that the
different *BSDs can do together; I'll expound on this below around the
framework of Herb Peyerl's message, and also in a separate message on
a related subject. Here are the relevant parts of Herb's message:
> Alicia da Conceicao <email@example.com> wrote:
>> I've just recently returned from Comdex in Las Vegas. While I was there,
>> I conducted a number of interviews, with a number of organizations and
>> individuals for Internet Paper. Based on the responses I have received,
>> as well as information from other sources including the web, mailing
>> lists, news sources, and other publications, it would appear that Linux
>> (which is already the most popular ix86 Unix OS) is gaining in some of
>> its growth at the expensive of BSD based Unixes, including NetBSD. More
>> alarming, this trend appears to be predominate among new Unix adoptees.
> I don't think that is particularly "alarming" myself... It seems perfectly
> natural that people should try other products... For the most part, I
> know many people who have tried NetBSD, FreeBSD, and Linux and have
> come back to NetBSD. I'm sure there are cases where people have tried
> all three and chosen one of the others. I think this is a perfectly
> acceptable outcome... As long as they don't try all three and choose
> W98... We know that the vast majority of the populace will choose
> mediocrity when presented with all the choices. This is true in general.
I suppose the most interesting thing in this message is that it would
sound just about the same in a FreeBSD context if all instances of
FreeBSD were replaced by NetBSD and vice-versa. I agree with Herb
that things aren't alarming, and for the same reasons.
>> Part of the problem with NetBSD is that it is one of several "forks" or
>> splits from BSD, which also include FreeBSD, OpenBSD, BSDI, etc. This
>> splitting up of BSD into the different forks has divided up the talent
>> pool of BSD developers, benefiting non-forked operating system like
> The last time I looked, which was quite recent mind you, I found that
> there were quite a large number of Linux distributions all with different
> goals and different contents. In fact, I found that there were more
> "Linux operating systems" than there are currently BSD operating systems.
> How can you claim that Linux is a non-forked operating system? How similar
> is Redhat with Debian? How similar is the Amiga version of "Linux" to
> the Sparc version of "Linux"? How 'bout the Alpha version? To my knowledge,
> they don't even share the same source repository... What exactly _is_
> "Linux"? Linux is to Unix as Hamburgers are to the food industry. You
> can buy hamburgers from any of a thousand different vendors and they're
> all different...
To be fair here, the Linux distributions all use the same kernel.
It's the kernel that would make it difficult to merge FreeBSD, NetBSD
and OpenBSD, assuming this should be desirable.
>> NetBSD, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD are all open source, and each of them have
>> their own advantages over the other. Now is the time that people put
>> their egos aside and perhaps at least talk about merging some components
>> of these BSD operating systems, including kernels, drivers, etc., taking
>> the best features from each. Only then can we establish a BSD based OS
>> as the real non-Linux Unix alternative; something that Sun Solaris, SCO,
>> OSF, etc. are also trying to do.
> We have been told repeatedly, over the years, that "now is the time that
> people should put their egos aside and perhaps at least talk about
> merging some components." In fact, at one point, we did "talk" about
> merging some components... At the time, we couldn't even agree on how to
> go about merging... The problem was not _ego_ however; it was a result of
> widely different goals that were not mutually compatible; and in the end,
> it was decided that we were all best off the way we are.
Agreed, mostly. Ego still is a problem, I suspect, but it's not the
main problem. There's also still the question: ``Is it worthwhile?''
Obviously we need a minimum quorum of people to keep kernel
development working. I believe that this is quite small, not more
than two or three people, so all three BSDs fulfil this requirement.
Having separate development groups may appear to dilute the efforts,
but it also sustains multiple platforms for testing out alternative
approaches. For the same reason, I believe that Linux has a place,
and I'd be sad to see BSD take over so completely that Linux went away
altogether (some hope, anyway). Don't forget that there's a lot of
cross-pollination between the four systems.
Having said that, it *might* be a good idea to agree on certain
interfaces, so that for example a driver for one of the BSDs could be
ported to the others with a minimum of pain. But even there, there
are practical considerations which oppose the idea.
>> I would be most interested in hearing from other NetBSD users about the
>> idea of possible merging the BSD OS forks back together, especially from
>> those of you who are actively involved in NetBSD OS development.
> From my own perspective; there's a lot of water under the bridge. Some
> of it is moving and some of it is just swirling around... When standing
> on the outside, it must seem quite obvious that the one true answer is
> to merge all of the *BSD's and create one true BSD to go forth and
> conquer the world... However, from the inside, it is not so plain and
> in fact, becomes a non-goal due to the wildly conflicting goals and
> directions that we've all taken. If you propose to merge the goals and
> direction and try to corral up all the wild horses, you will kill off
> most of the true thoroughbreds and end up with a mish-mash that will
> really go stagnant...
Well, what would to happen is that the best would escape and form new
herds. Just look at history.
One of the most frequent questions we see on FreeBSD-questions (after
``What's the difference between FreeBSD and Linux?'') is ``What's the
difference between FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD?''. One thing the
three advocacy groups could do it come up with a good, neutral answer.
In this connection, look out for my next message (promised above): I'm
writing an article for SunWorld about the return of the BSD. I'd like
help from anybody who can shed more light on the NetBSD and OpenBSD
perspectives, both of which are interesting for people with old Sun
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