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NetBSD: Designed to Fail

By Trollaxor in Op-Ed
Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 12:58:36 PM EST
Tags: BSD, NetBSD, Trollaxor (all tags)

While FreeBSD and Linux are hard to shake, I gave NetBSD a glance recently and found some serious problems that not only made me secure in my choice to stay with FreeBSD and Linux, but also compelled me to write this mini-review of NetBSD.

(From http://www.trollaxor.com/2011/10/netbsd-designed-to-fail.html.)

I'm a Unix guy and have been since the mid-Nineties, when Linux was taking off and BSD was shaking off its lawsuits. I currently use FreeBSD on our servers in our local library system and we have Linux desktops light end-use, and I use a highly-tweaked FreeBSD installation at home.

Every few years I feel I owe it to myself to do a high-level reevaluation of my unices of choice and see if the market hasn't shifted to produce something better for what I do so that our library can serve its users better.

For serious unix system administrators, FreeBSD has the best uptime, period. It has the longest average uptime for both personal and server usage, the longest uptime between urgent patches, and the least amount of kernel panics. It's also hard enough that it can handle the most amounts of data per system memory and per clock-cycle, and also happens to handle the data most efficiently against performance-per-watt.

When I went to check NetBSD's numbers, however, I found that it had the worst placements in these stats or, worse, no place at all--meaning that no one was using it for serving.

Digging deeper, I started looking at hardware support, specifically x64, multicore, and large memory installation support. And after checking NetBSD's hardware support page, it became clear why it was so absent on best-of benchmarks: NetBSD's hardware support is a mismanaged nightmare.

For instance, there are eight tier-I hardware platforms, meaning that each gets high-priority attention during development and testing. That means that ARM evaluation boards get the same amount of priority that high-end x64 servers and workstations do. Which, I don't think I have to point out, is complete nonsense.

There are only three platforms that deserve tier-I support, and those are x64, x86, and Xen, which is simply x64 and x86 for virtual platforms. ARM is anything but high-end and can't really support full operating systems or their services, and MIPS, POWER, and SPARC are all has-been serving platforms that have been dying for well over a decade.

Intel's x64 is it as far as serious computing goes nowadays and into the foreseeable future; x86 is important because of its installed user-base that's not likely to fade any time soon. Giving tier-I priority to anything else is sheer insanity, especially when you're dealing with a bunch of unpaid volunteers.

By contrast, there are 49 ports with tier-II status. While I would argue that five of the eight tier-I ports should be tier-II priority, having so many tier-II ports also belies a serious mismanagement of project priorities. All of them are obscure, and many of them are downright obsolete and ought to be made tier-III or just dropped entirely.

For example, the BeBox is a tier-II platform? Really? The BeBox ran dual 66 MHz PowerPC 603 chips, later upgraded to 133 MHz. At the time this was novel but fell short of being a big deal; 14 years later, it's at best a footnote. But not for NetBSD. It's tier-II support status! Man the decks! Compile the kernel! We've got to get this support for all 1,800 BeBoxes that were ever shipped! Go go go!

As a system admin whose time is valuable, I have no patience for NetBSD unless it gets serious about what's important. It's almost like NetBSD is designed for failure. And this isn't even touching on some of its other serious. For instance, NetBSD 6.1 is over a year late.

When Matt Thomas and company get their heads together, they might leave the world of hobbyists and people like me will adopt their toy-like operating system.

In the meantime, FreeBSD and Linux are it for me and my library's IT department and NetBSD is relegated to the scrap-heap. I urge other system administrators and end-users to, at best, try it out under virtualization. NetBSD just doesn't belong on anyone's serious hardware deployment right now. NetBSD is designed to fail.


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Related Links
o http://www .trollaxor.com/2011/10/netbsd-designed-to-fail.html
o hardware support page
o PowerPC 603
o Also by Trollaxor

Display: Sort:
NetBSD: Designed to Fail | 18 comments (13 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1FP, insightful and hard-hitting $ (3.00 / 3) (#5)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 11:21:51 PM EST

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
Now I Have Been Trolled! (2.50 / 4) (#6)
by Zombie Jesus Christ on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 12:33:08 AM EST

You do understand don't you that ARM is a far more popular Instruction Set Architecture than x86 and x86_64, don't you?

The reason Intel and AMD make more money from their chips is that ARM Holdings only sells the ARM core designs, and does not make actual chips.  If you add up all the ARM chips made by all the hardware vendors that are ARM IP licensees, you will find that all together they sell more chips than Intel and AMD put together.

Most people who have computers have only one, but ARM chips are everywhere in embedded devices.

Mike Crawford for Clark County Commissioner
District 1 North County

Paid for by The Communard Party of Washington State

running NetBSD? (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by Del Griffith on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 12:40:27 AM EST

I bet it is around the number of people enjoying oggfrog, or WarpLife... 0

I...I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. Because I'm the real article. What you see is what you get. - Me

[ Parent ]

yes! NetBSD is an important embedded platform. (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by Zombie Jesus Christ on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 01:52:19 AM EST

I've been to the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston a couple times, and whatever company is behind NetBSD always has a nice big booth that shills NetBSD-based embedded solutions and custom software development.

Linux gets all the press for being embedded, what with being used for Android and all, but very important to many proprietary embedded systems developers is that the BSD licenses does not require one to release source code.

Mike Crawford for Clark County Commissioner
District 1 North County

Paid for by The Communard Party of Washington State

[ Parent ]
avr is better tho (none / 0) (#16)
by McNugent on Mon Nov 07, 2011 at 10:41:34 PM EST

[ Parent ]
nebsd system on a chip is a dead horse dong (none / 0) (#17)
by McNugent on Mon Nov 07, 2011 at 10:42:11 PM EST

i bet. netcract confirms

[ Parent ]
hey Trollaxor, maybe stop by the diary section (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by king of fools on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 06:50:44 PM EST

once or twice in between story submissions.


fade out again

He's got to be someone's alt (none / 1) (#11)
by Nimey on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 10:32:18 AM EST

Never mind, it was just the dog cumming -- jandev
You Sir, are an Ignorant Motherfucker. -- Crawford
I am arguably too manic to do that. -- Crawford
I already fuck my mother -- trane
Nimey is right -- Blastard
i am in complete agreement with Nimey -- i am a pretty big deal

[ Parent ]
But that's the point (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by isdnip on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 10:12:49 PM EST

You do know the purpose of each of the BSDs, right?

FreeBSD:  Kick-ass stability and performance for production systems on the X86.

OpenBSD:  Secure by default.

NetBSD:  Support every weird-ass piece of hardware that's come along since around Season 1 of the Simpsons.

And while some of that hardware may only exist in museums or dingy basements, that focus on portability may actually prove useful to many users, though not the ones who could use any other BSD.

This must be... (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by Pnarp on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 02:04:34 PM EST

...another part of the elaborate gnomish conspiracy to slowly take over the world by giving people free computer software that doesn't actually work.

That is it indeed.

∼ Phillip Norbert Årp
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[ Current entry | Random entry ]
It's easy to poo poo Be Boxes, but... (none / 0) (#14)
by thiswillbegreat on Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 09:31:32 AM EST

Did you know that, with his final breath, Steve Jobs said, "Be will rise again!"?  Seriously.
Semper ubi sub ubi.
sendgrid review best ipad 3 case best kindle fire hd case
openvms owns bsd (none / 0) (#15)
by McNugent on Mon Nov 07, 2011 at 10:40:07 PM EST

ia64 is making a comeback too . itanium i use vax tho

openvms pwns freebsd (none / 0) (#18)
by McNugent on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 10:11:44 AM EST

NetBSD: Designed to Fail | 18 comments (13 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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