The FreeBSD 'zine

July 2000 : Advocacy and User Groups

by Joel Sutton <[email protected]>

Well another month has rolled mercilessly by. All of a sudden I find myself cramming to get FreeBSDzine together. Unlike previous editorials (which were composed on my Palm Pilot in the train, traveling to or from work) I'm quite happy to admit that I'm sitting near the fireplace (It's winter here in Australia don't forget :->) typing away on my clapped out old Daewoo terminal connected to my file server with a very wet piece of string - other wise know as one of Joel's home brew serial cables.

Although articles are pretty thin on the ground, at the moment, I'm determined to put in as much effort as I can afford to get FreeBSDzine out on a monthly basis. Unfortunately I wasn't able to help out much last month (my wife insisted that getting married was more important) so I'd like to thank Jim officially for putting in that extra effort.

However, I won't lie to you by saying that we're laughing now that I'm back on track. We're suffering from a serious lull in articles at the moment, especially regular columns. We really need your help to keep this 'zine going. We're looking for articles of all shapes and sizes, and from all levels of technical expertise. If you can spare an hour on a Saturday afternoon, or two, then you're just what we need. Just think of how good it will look in your resume :-).

Anyways... on with the show.

A state of decay

My view of FreeBSD has changed considerably during the last few months. Not necessarily for the better. There are a number of reasons behind this and they are a jumble of community, professional, and personal reasons.

About a month ago, I resigned as the president of our local FreeBSD user group (VicFUG) here in Melbourne, Australia. I'd been at the helm for nearly a year and I felt that I had taken it as far as I could (plus I have a serious lack of free time since starting a new job). Over the next few weeks I was utterly dismayed to see the whole club literally collapse in front of me. It's really made me begin to wonder just what FreeBSD users, out there in the big wide world, really want out of their user groups.

As I mentioned earlier, I've recently started a new job. Mainly database stuff with the emphasis on web enabled user interfaces - that sort of thing. It's hit home pretty hard that a lot of the Joe Average businesses out there aren't interested in having FreeBSD + MySQL (or whatever RDBMS) sitting in their server room hosting their company database . They're talking name brand OS's like NT, SCO, Solaris and AIX running the likes of MS SQL server, Oracle, DB2, Informix - most of which are not officially supported on FreeBSD.

In just about every instance I'm aware of, the customer has said something like "We're not comfortable going with FreeBSD because we're worried about getting support for it if you're not available". A quick look at shows that there are a very few entries in the Consultants section for Australia (the company I work for is also missing).

Both of my workstations, at work and at home, are dual boot systems. It seems to be the easiest way to get the benefits of both worlds, or so I thought. Both machines have been booting Windows 98 for the last 3 months. Packages like Maximizer (contact management and scheduling), Access 2000 and Quickbooks Pro are packages I can't just stop using. It's also of more benefit to me to have a good working knowledge of the Windows operating systems as all of applications that I develop are accessed via that OS.


It seems to me that the FreeBSD movement, here in Melbourne, is in some serious trouble. Until more Australian organizations being to support and develop for FreeBSD, it's an up-hill battle to sell it to commercial organizations.

FreeBSD's user base is wide and varied, but fragmented. We've got some top notch people working on FreeBSD at the moment, and it gets better and better with every release. There are numerous examples of the commiters and developers performing various coding miracles, but what have the user groups achieved for the project?

As for the workstation debate, that's a tough one. If you've got a workstation in a commercial situation then you'll keep getting forced back to Windows. But that's not quite as bad as it sounds. A Windows workstation + FreeBSD server setup is a killer combination. With tools like Tera Term, VNC and Samba you can get the benefit of both platforms and still be very productive.

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