BSD is Dying

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*BSD has been dying for years. The death progressed slowly at first, but of late, it has taken a turn for the worse and is nearly complete. The death of *BSD has followed several stages.

Suicide is Painless

In 2000, chief *BSD developer Matt Damon left the project after penning a long, meandering suicide note, loosely based on a novel by renowned playwright Buzz Aldrin.

FreeBSD used to be fun. It used to be about doing things the right way. It used to be something that you could sink your teeth into when the mundane chores of programming for a living got you down. It was something cool and exciting; a way to spend your spare time on an endeavour you loved that was at the same time wholesome and worthwhile.
It's not anymore. It's about bylaws and committees and reports and milestones, telling others what to do and doing what you're told. It's about who can rant the longest or shout the loudest or mislead the most people into a bloc in order to legitimise doing what they think is best. Individuals notwithstanding, the project as a whole has lost track of where it's going, and has instead become obsessed with process and mechanics.

Netcraft Weighs In

Not long after Matt's suicide, the United Nations Commission for Wresting Control of the DNS Root Servers from the Imperialist United States ("UN-USA")'s Netcraft project weighed in with its final judgement. In typical Netcraft fashion, the writer kept to the facts and looked to the numbers:

It is now official. Netcraft has confirmed: *BSD is dying
One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.
You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.
FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.
Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.
OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.
Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.
All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

That crippling bombshell sent *BSD fans into a tailspin of mourning and denial. However, bad news poured in like a river of water.

Commission for Technology Management

In 2003, the widely respected Commission for Technology Management completed a year-long intensive survey that concluded that *BSD may as well already be dead.

Yet another sickening blow has struck what's left of the *BSD community, as a soon-to-be-released report by the independent Commision for Technology Management (CTM) after a year-long study has concluded: *BSD is already dead. Here are some of the commission's findings:
Fact: the *BSDs have balkanized yet again. There are now no less than twelve separate, competing *BSD projects, each of which has introduced fundamental incompatibilities with the other *BSDs, and frequently with Unix standards. Average number of developers in each project: fewer than five. Average number of users per project: there are no definitive numbers, but reports show that all projects are on the decline.
Fact: X.org will not include support for *BSD. The newly formed group believes that the *BSDs have strayed too far from Unix standards and have become too difficult to support along with Linux and Solaris x86. "It's too much trouble," said one anonymous developer. "If they want to make their own standards, let them doing the porting for us."
Fact: DragonflyBSD, yet another offshoot of the beleaguered FreeBSD "project", is already collapsing under the weight of internal power struggles and in-fighting. "They haven't done a single decent release," notes Mark Baron, an industry watcher and columnist. "Their mailing lists read like an online version of a Jerry Springer episode, complete with food fights, swearing, name-calling, and chair-throwing." Netcraft reports that DragonflyBSD is run on exactly 0% of internet servers.
Fact: There are almost no FreeBSD developers left, and its use, according to Netcraft, is down to a sadly crippled .005% of internet servers. A recent attempt at a face-to-face summit in Boulder, Colorado culminated in an out-and-out fistfight between core developers, reportedly over code commenting formats (tabs vs. spaces). Hotel security guards broke up the melee and banned the participants from the hotel. Two of the developers were hospitalized, and one continues to have his jaw wired shut.
Fact: NetBSD, which claims to focus on portability (whatever that is supposed to mean), is slow, and cannot take advantage of multiple CPUs. "That about drove the last nail in the coffin for BSD use here," said Michael Curry, CTO of Amazon.com. "We took our NetBSD boxes out to the backyard and shot them in the head. We're much happier running Linux."
Fact: *BSD has no support from the media. Number of Linux magazines available at bookstores: 5 (Linux Journal, Linux World, Linux Developer, Linux Format, Linux User). Number of available *BSD magazines: 0. Current count of Linux-oriented technical books: 1071. Current count of *BSD books: 6.
Fact: Many user-level applications will no longer work under *BSD, and no one is working to change this. The GIMP, a Photoshop-like application, has not worked at all under *BSD since version 1.1 (sorry, too much trouble for such a small base, developers have said). OpenOffice, a Microsoft Office clone, has never worked under *BSD and never will. ("Why would we bother?" said developer Steven Andrews, an OpenOffice team lead.)
Fact: servers running OpenBSD, which claims to focus on security, are frequently compromised. According to Jim Markham, editor of the online security forum SecurityWatch, the few OpenBSD servers that exist on the internet have become a joke among the hacker community. "They make a game out of it," he says. "(OpenBSD leader) Theo [de Raadt] will scramble to make a new patch to fix one problem, and they've already compromised a bunch of boxes with a different exploit."
With these incontroverible facts staring (what's left of) the *BSD community in the face, they can only draw one conclusion: *BSD is already dead.

Wired Writes an Epitaph

In 2004, Wired Magazine published an article in which it declared *BSD dead, once and for all. The article also declared Linux superior to *BSD.

IT IS OFFICIAL; WIRED NEWS CONFIRMS: LINUX IS SUPERIOR TO *BSD
  • BSD is Dying, Says Respected Journal
Linux advocates have long insisted that open-source development results in better and more secure software. Now they have statistics to back up their claims.
According to a four-year analysis of the 5.7 million lines of Linux source code conducted by five Stanford University computer science researchers, the Linux kernel programming code is better and more secure than the programming code of *BSD.
The report, set to be released on Tuesday, states that the 2.6 Linux production kernel, shipped with software from Red Hat, Novell and other major Linux software vendors, contains 985 bugs in 5.7 million lines of code, well below the average for *BSD software. NetBSD, by comparison, contains about 40 million lines of code, with new bugs found on a frequent basis.
  • BSD software typically has 20 to 30 bugs for every 1,000 lines of code, according to a group of Carnegie Mellon University's pot-smoking hippies. This would be equivalent to 114,000 to 171,000 bugs in 5.7 million lines of code.
The study identified 0.17 bugs per 1,000 lines of code in the Linux kernel. Of the 985 bugs identified, 627 were in critical parts of the kernel. Another 569 could cause a system crash, 100 were security holes, and 33 of the bugs could result in less-than-optimal system performance.
Seth Hell, CEO of Covertitude, a provider of source-code analysis, noted that the majority of the bugs documented in the study have already been fixed by members of the Linux development community.
"Our findings show that Linux contains an extremely low defect rate and is evidence of the strong security of Linux," said Hell. "Many security holes in software are the result of software bugs that can be eliminated with good programming processes."
The Linux source-code analysis project started in 2000 at the Stanford University Computer Science Research Center as part of a large research initiative to improve core software engineering processes in the software industry.
The initiative now continues at Covertitude, a software engineering startup that now employs the five researchers who conducted the study. Covertitude said it intends to start providing Linux bug analysis reports on a regular basis and will make a summary of the results freely available to the Linux development community.
"This is a benefit to the Linux development community, and we appreciate Coverity's efforts to help us improve the security and stability of Linux," said Andrew Mumpkins, lead Linux kernel maintainer. Mumpkins said developers have already addressed the top-priority bugs uncovered in the study.

The Obituary

On September 9, 2005, *BSD was finally declared dead. The following obituary appeared in the Berkeley Observer:


  • BSD Obituary
  • BSD, 28, of Berkeley, CA died Monday, Sept. 19, 2005. Born July 3, 1976, it was the creation of a cluster of pot-smoking hippies who went to Illinois and came home with a reel of tape. Rather than smoke the tape, they uploaded it and hacked on it a little.
  • BSD was known for its C shell and early TCP/IP implementation. After being banished from UC Berkeley, it was ported to the x86 platform, where it fell into the hands of heavier pot-smokers who liked to argue. Soon, the project had splintered into 12 different Balkanized projects. Until its death, there was almost constant fighting in and amongst these groups, sometimes degenerating into out-and-out fistfights.
  • BSD is survived by its superior, Linux, as well as several commercial unix implementations. It may be missed by some who knew it, although most of them are said to be mere OS dilettante dabblers.

A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Berkeley Chapel on the UC campus, with interment to follow via the burning of the original *BSD tapes and scattering of the ashes over the San Francisco Bay. The Rev. Lou "Buddy" Stubbs will officiate.

The family will receive friends from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the funeral home.

Enemies of *BSD

  • Linux was very happy, and a new version of Super Tux was made with the BSD Deamon and other BSD characters as the new enemies. Except for Rinux which seemed to only have Mario type games with enemies named Billy and Bally and Mario had to break Windows instead of boxes.


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