posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 28th Apr 2003 15:48 UTC
IconToday we feature an in-depth interview with three members of FreeBSD's Core (Wes Peters, Greg Lehey and M. Warner Losh) and also a major FreeBSD developer (Scott Long). It is a long read, but we touch a number of hot issues, from the Java port to corporate backing, the Linux competition, the 5.x branch and how it stacks up against the other Unices, UFS2, the possible XFree86 fork, SCO and its Unix IP situation, even re-unification of the BSDs. If you are into (any) Unix, this interview is a must read.

1. What is the status of the Java 1.4.x port to FreeBSD? How has its absence impacted FreeBSD's market penetration? (Editor's Note: Java patchset 3 for BSD was just released)

Chuck, the FreeBSD mascot Scott Long: Several months ago the FreeBSD Foundation funded a contract to bring Java 1.4.1 to FreeBSD. Unfortunately, the process of gaining certification from Sun is quite lengthy, and the money available for the contract ran out before it was complete. Still, the work that was done is quite impressive. Most users have reported that it is relatively bug-free for common applications like tomcat, and some have also reported that it is measurably faster than the Linux version. It is even in production use by a very large internet portal company. The FreeBSD Foundation is currently working to raise funds to complete the contract and have it certified by Sun.

Wes Peters: The current status has been answered well by Scott Long.

As for the market penetration, the only possible answer is "we don't know," at least partly because we don't have a marketing department. I know of a few embedded development firms who use FreeBSD and Java successfully, but cannot comment on how they use it or on their performance needs, etc. I and a number of other developers are very much looking forward to being able to distribute Java 1.4.x in binary, but in the meantime the source distribution works well.

Developments in FreeBSD 5.x may have a strong positive effect on the performance of Java threads once we have time to sort out the interactions between the JVM and the new threading capabilities found in FreeBSD 5, but this work will be completed after the 5.1 release.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: It's interesting that this is your first question: I would have considered it relatively uninteresting.

M. Warner Losh: I find this answer a little rude.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: Scott has described the status. As others have said, it's difficult to assess the impact, but I would suspect that Sun's current licensing strategy would have more of an effect on the use of Java under FreeBSD: it's a real pain just getting the software. Possibly Linux users are more accustomed to jumping through hoops to get software installed, but FreeBSD users expect to be able to type 'make install' and have things done automatically. Sun's licensing conditions make this impossible.

2. A few years ago, companies like WindRiver/BSDi were helping out the FreeBSD project in many ways, including PR, handling relationships with other companies regarding drivers, etc. Now that the FreeBSD project is completely autonomous, how do you handle these issues? PR, tech specs for drivers that might require NDAs (e.g. an ATi/nVidia relationship) etc...

Scott Long: The loss of corporate backing from BSDi has slowed FreeBSD down without a doubt. Without a central focus point anymore, FreeBSD has relied on a more distributed set of backers. This includes NAI Labs, Yahoo!, The Weather Channel, and Apple, among others. They have provided employment for key developers, helped coordinate NDA deals with other companies, and donated server space and bandwidth to the project. Our experience with PR issues is also growing over time and we hope to make a good PR splash with the 5.1 release.

Wes Peters: Scott also answered this quite well. I want to note that FreeBSD was not ever a "division of" BSDi, or Wind River, nor was it ever a product of either of those companies. It is inaccurate to say that FreeBSD is *now* completely autonomous; it always was. I hope your article reflects this point.

BSDi (and Walnut Creek CD-ROM before it) were quite helpful to the FreeBSD Project in many ways; it's not clear (to me) that Wind River ever helped in any meaningful way.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: This is an interesting perception. We never felt more or less autonomous. Yes, different groups have supported us; before WindRiver it was Walnut Creek CDROM, and now FreeBSD mall, which you could consider a successor to Walnut Creek, is doing the same thing. There are also many others.

M. Warner Losh: FreeBSD has grown beyond the one company that nurtured it in the old days. FreeBSD gets much of its development done via different kinds of funding, but from the private and public sectors. My current employer, for example, allows me a certain amount of time each month to work on FreeBSD bugs that impact our ability to deploy a system. These get fed back into the base FreeBSD from time to time. Many other people are in a similar situation.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: The FreeBSD Foundation handles these issues. You might like to get in touch with them. See here for further details.

I note that my reply to this question contradicts Scott's. Perceptions obviously play a role here.

M. Warner Losh : I disagree with Greg here. Most of the time when there are NDA issues, individuals will enter into agreements with the companies in question, or it will be done through their current employer. We've had a number of drivers contirbuted by people who had inside access to information. Some of these were done on a individual basis (much of my work on the wi driver for Prism II, 2.5 and 3 chipsets was based on an NDA that I have on file with Intersil, for example). I know that the nVidia stuff was done under contract with one of the developers, but the FF wasn't in the loop on that.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: However, a lot of people are motivated more than by money to work on FreeBSD. It is their hobby or passion. They find an itch to scratch using FreeBSD and FreeBSD benefits.

Table of contents
  1. "Intro, Java, Corporate Support"
  2. "Linux, the desktop market"
  3. "Maturity of 5.x branch, speed of development compared to Linux"
  4. "How FreeBSD compares to other Unices"
  5. "Bug resolution, team work, graphical installer"
  6. "Optimizations, SPARC/PPC/Itanium/Opteron ports, third party tools"
  7. "XFree86 issue, re-unification of the BSDs, UFS2"
  8. "The SCO questionmark"
e p (0)    94 Comment(s)

Technology White Papers

See More