Sat February 08, 2014
Sometimes people complain that NetBSD is too difficult to use, or that it’s too difficult to install. Some people think it needs some sort of face lift. Some people think NetBSD is just straight up falling into obscurity. These assertions may or may not be true. All I know is that — despite all of the clout and the doubt — NetBSD is far and away my favorite operating system.
Here’s the super-important thing: I didn’t know that when I first got started. I learned to love NetBSD and pkgsrc. NetBSD is not sexy on the outside. It has an inner beauty which I have recently succumbed to. (If you want a sexy exterior for a BSD, try PC-BSD. Or Mac OS X.)
And when I say “I learned to love NetBSD,” it’s not like an arranged marriage. It’s not like I’m permanently stuck with NetBSD. Far from it. I can leave whenever I want. But I elect not to. Like I alluded earlier, “I learned to love NetBSD” means I didn’t have a crush on it when I first discovered it. I don’t even remember when I first discovered NetBSD. That was unmemorable.
First impressions might last a really long time, but if you’re still hopelessly clinging to that image, then the issue is you, not the system. I have come to the conclusion that NetBSD is the most reliable, dependable, portable, configurable, no-nonsense operating system out there. And it’s free and open source.
Notice my list does not include “easiest to use.” I have learned that has nothing to do with it. I have become a more sophisticated computer user as a result of my relationship with NetBSD. NetBSD has challenged me, it still challenges me (e.g. I’ve never been able to get 50 lines of text on console mode to work), and I am a stronger and wiser computer user.
NetBSD has made me realize some things that I had never before considered to be valuable:
Yeah, NetBSD is at best “Unix-like,” but it’s probably the closest to the “real UNIX” you’re ever gonna get. I mean the code is genealogically tied to AT&T’s work. I always prefer “the real deal” whenever given a choice, and NetBSD is it.
It is trivial to set up your system such that the only processes are
things that you purposefully set up. I can run
ps -A and see and
perfectly understand literally everything that is happening on my
system. No surprises. And any real surprises will be really obvious (and
probably killable). I can’t do that with Linux or OS X, or even
DragonFly. I’ve successfully been able to get
ps -A on my laptop to
return only [system], init, and getty(8).
“Clean design.” I’ll admit I didn’t understand what that meant when I first checked out NetBSD. Now I get it. Everything is almost perfectly engineered. It’s sophisticated, it makes sense, and some of the developers are freakin' magicians with Bourne shell and Makefiles. I had no idea you could accomplish so much with so little.
The point is: maybe getting certain things to work isn’t straightforward (like 50 lines on the console). But the system as a whole is very straightforward, in my opinion.
Portability. It works on my Raspberry Pi as predictably as on my Sony Vaio. And I can only imagine it’ll behave identically on the super heavy-duty server I keep dreaming about. NetBSD is optimized at nothing, which means it’s great at everything.
I am head over heels with NetBSD’s flexibility. Maybe I’m a control freak, but I can’t stand machines I don’t understand. NetBSD makes my computers understandable. The only investment is that you have to learn and understand whatever it is you’re doing. Once.
(And a fun aside for French speakers: “Net” in French means “clean.”)comments powered by Disqus