by Joel Sutton <[email protected]>
Well another month just seems to have flown by.
As Jim has mentioned in the news page, last month was my first attempt
at doing the site solo. I hope everyone wasn't too disappointed :-) On
a more serious note, I'd like to send a special thank you to Marc De
Bruyn. Marc's help, after a hard days consulting where we installed a
FreeBSD file server and setup 8 Win98 workstations, was absolutely
essential in getting the last issue together.
Today I'd like to talk about FreeBSD Application software. To me, this
is something that just never seems to get discussed.
At the VicFUG user group meetings (here in Melbourne, Australia) we
often get into, sometimes, heated discussions about FreeBSD. How should
we flog it to the masses? What's wrong with it? What are it's good
points? How can it do XYZ better than ZYX operating system? But we
don't ever seem to get anywhere when it comes to software.
As far as I know, FreeBSD software comes in 4 forms:
- Contributed software in the OS distribution.
- Multi-platform software which has been imported into the ports
- FreeBSD only software which has been imported into the ports
- Commercial software which has been ported to FreeBSD.
The FreeBSD distribution does come bundled with some really useful
software. These packages include troff, Perl, cvs, gcc, doscmd, uucp,
telnet, ftp, gzip, sendmail, ppp and dump. It's quite an impressive
list when you think about it. It is possible to configure a dial-up
gateway, firewall, mail server or NFS file server without installing
anything else. This, along with a rock solid OS, is probably why a lot
of ISP's like to use FreeBSD.
Ok, but most ISPs want to run web servers right? Perhaps do something
tricky with PHP and MySQL? No problems. We've got a fantastic
collection of software called the ports collection. This collection
takes all of the heart ache out of compiling UNIX software which will
generally run of many UNIX (or UNIX like) platforms.
That's just fine if you're on ISP. However, what if you're a user who
wants to browse the web? That's easy! You need to find the ports
collection and install the FreeBSD version of Netscape. The people at
Netscape have been kind enough to port their browser to FreeBSD, even
though they don't sell it anymore.
Lets take it one step further. This particular user find themselves
needing to prepare reports by integrating Word and Excel 97 documents
from various users around the office. That user can use Netscape to
order a copy of ApplixWare Office (even though it's not the most recent
version) from Walnut Creek and receive commercial support if they have
trouble embedding the Excel files into the ApplixWord documents.
Hang on, you're really a software developer. This week you're looking
at doing a proposal for a project which involves developing a web-based
front end to an Oracle database which is currently running on an NT
server with Visual Basic based clients. Being the FreeBSD addict that
you are, you would like to be able to recommend that they move
everything over to an OS that you know won't let them down.
Unfortunately you end up recommending Sun's Solaris because you can't
buy the necessary software or support to get the Oracle client working
on FreeBSD (which PHP needs this at compile time to talk to the Oracle
server). Although you have to option of doing it in Java, you can't
justify the difference in development time.
What does that all mean?
FreeBSD has a number of different avenues with which to find and use
various pieces of software. A majority of this software comes from the
open source community and will compile/run on a variety of different
FreeBSD could experience a significant increase in the "number of
users" if more commercial organizations (such as Oracle or Sun)
were to port their products to FreeBSD and officially support them.
To make this a reality, both users and software developers need to
continue to support FreeBSD commercial software vendors, no matter
how small they are. We can do this by buying commercial products (such
as ApplixWare) and/or asking commercial organizations for FreeBSD
versions of their software and purchasing them when they become
It's up to us if we want native, supported, commercial software. But
if we just keep our wallets in our pockets whilst we wait for a
version of XYZ's package which does everything, the authors may decide
that FreeBSD wasn't worth while after all.