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I’m starting a series of BSD user interviews to help beginners (mostly developers and system administrators) to discover BSD operating systems and related projects.


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    This is really interesting to get an idea of how people are taking advantage of BSD! I now have a much nicer idea of why people are going to it (and am a bit tempted myself). That feeling of having to go through ports and simply not having 1st-class support for some software seems… rough for desktop usage though

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        I mean “someone talks to me about an application and I’m interested in trying it out on my system”?

        I feel like the link to the CVE database is a bit of an unwarranted snipe here. I’m not talking too much about security updates, just “someone released some software and didn’t bother to confirm BSD support so now I’m going to need to figure out which ways this software will not work”.

        To be honest I don’t really think that having all userland software come in via OS-maintained package managers is a great idea in the first place (do I really need OS maintainers looking after anki?). I’m fine downloading binaries off the net. Just nicer if they have out of the box support for stuff. I’m not blaming the BSDs for this (it’s more the software writer’s fault), just that it’s my impression that this becomes a bit of an issue if you try out a lot of less used software.

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          As an engineer that uses and works on a minority share operating system, I don’t really think it’s reasonable to expect chiefly volunteer projects to ship binaries for my platform in a way that fits well with the OS itself. It would be great if they were willing to test on our platform, even just occasionally, but I understand why they don’t.

          Given this, it seems more likely to expect a good experience from binaries provided by somebody with a vested interest in quality on the OS in question – which is why we end up with a distribution model.

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            Yep, this makes a lot of sense.

            I’m getting more and more partial to software relying on their host language’s package manager recently. It’s pretty nice for a Python binary to basically always work so long as you got pip running properly on your system, plus you get all the nice advantages of virtual environments and the like letting you more easily set things up. The biggest issue being around some trust issues in those ecosystems.

            Considering a lot of communities (not just OSes) are getting more and more involved in distribution questions, we might be getting closer to getting things to work out of the box for non-tricky cases.

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              software relying on their host language’s package manager

              In general I’m not a fan. They all have problems. Many (most?) of them lack a notion of disconnected operation when they cannot reach their central Internet-connected registry. There is often no complete tracking of all files installed, which makes it difficult to completely remove a package later. Some of the language runtimes make it difficult to use packages installed in non-default directory trees, which is one way you might have hoped to work around the difficulty of subsequent removal. These systems also generally conflate the build machine with the target machine (i.e., the host on which the software will run) which tends to mean you’re not just installing a binary package but needing to build the software in-situ every time you install it.

              In practice, I do end up using these tools because there is often no alternative – but they do not bring me joy.

              Operating system package managers (dpkg/apt, rpm/yum, pkg_add/pkgin, IPS, etc) also have their problems. In contrast, though, these package managers tend to at least have some tools to manage the set of files that were installed for a particular package and to remove (or even just verify) them later. They also generally offer some first class way to install a set of a packages from archive files obtained via means other than direct access to a central repository.

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                For development I use the “central Internet-connected registry.”, for production I use DEB/RPM packages in a repository:

                • forces you to limit the number of dependencies you use, otherwise too much work to package them all;
                • force you to choose high quality dependencies that are easy to package or already packaged;
                • makes sure every dependency is buildable from source (depending on language);
                • have an “offline” copy of the dependencies, protect against “left-pad” issues;
                • run unit tests of the dependencies during package build, great for QA!;
                • have (PGP) signed packages that uses the distribution’s tools to verify.

                There are probably more benefits that escape me at the moment :)

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        That feeling of having to go through ports and simply not having 1st-class support for some software seems… rough for desktop usage though

        What kind of desktop software do you install from these non-OS sources?

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          Linux is moving more and more towards Flatpak and Snap for (sandboxed) application distribution.

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            I remember screwing around with Flathub on the command line in Fedora 27, but right now on Fedora 28, if you enable Flatpak in the Gnome Software Center thingy, it’s actually pretty seamless - type “Signal” in the application browser, and a Flatpak install link shows up.

            With this sort of UX improvements, I’m optimistic. I feel like Fedora is just going to get easier and easier to use.

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        I enjoyed this little hyperlink rabbit trail: https://jpmens.net/2018/06/19/on-a-pos-pole-display-and-an-open-source-os/

        Thanks @romanzolotarev for assembling these interviews! Been reading them all day.

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          I’m glad you found it. I like it too :)

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            Wow, 28 people run BSD.

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              Last time I posted a link to my blog on Lobsters, 1 out of 39 visitors came from OpenBSD!

              If the link was not about bash, I might have gotten even more visitors using OpenBSD.

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              Ready to share your story? DM me.