posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 28th Apr 2003 15:48 UTC

"Maturity of 5.x branch, speed of development compared to Linux"
4. FreeBSD 5.0 has come out, and while this was mostly a "preview" of sorts, many were unhappy with the instability and slowness the 5.0 release offered compared with the 4.x branch. With Linux getting many advances in its kernel due to help from engineers working at big commercial companies like IBM, Red Hat and SGI, how do you feel your roadmap is holding up against the competition? Do you believe that a (mostly) commercial engineering-free project can pull out advancements faster than the Solaris or Linux teams can today?

KDE under the stable FreeBSD 4.8 Scott Long: The major focus for FreeBSD 5.x has been reworking the SMP capabilities of the system. This task has been huge and is largely the cause for the delays that 5.0 experienced. However, as more subsystems and drivers are converted to use it, we feel that the result will be faster and more scalable than what is available from Linux. There are also two related projects that will provide vastly improved threading support to applications, and will hopefully be another reason for people to look at FreeBSD.

While a lot more development money may be going into Linux right now, FreeBSD is helped by the 20+ years of development and maturity that the BSD base brings. Companies like NAI Labs also greatly help out by funding projects in the enterprise, stability, and security spaces, so FreeBSD keeps on advancing and setting the bar for others to follow.

Wes Peters: It's hard to understand how they could be unhappy with something they had been warned about for months before the release.

It's not clear that Linux and FreeBSD are in competition with each other, other than in editorial opinion pages. We have clear evidence that in many cases they are complimentary to each other, and numerous clear cases of cooperation, especially in the application world.

It's also important to note that development of FreeBSD isn't driven by sales, it is driven by what the FreeBSD developers want it to be. There is an assumption in your question that the influx of paid development has been good for Linux; I know many long-time Linux developers who feel this is most emphatically not the case. Paid Linux developers are paid to develop what their employers want, not what is best for the Linux system at this moment in time. The involvement of so many different entities is pulling Linux in many directions, it remains to be seen if the commercial success will make it a better system.

This certainly happens to some extent in the FreeBSD world; some of my own contributions to FreeBSD are for features my employer(s) have requested. The difference is on the emphasis.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: While we expected this, I haven't heard any concrete reports. We warned people about this issue, so it's hard to understand why they should be disappointed, unless they didn't want to believe us.

I personally also think the slowness and instability are exaggerated. I've been using both release 4 and release 5 on my personal desktop systems for a couple of years now, and I don't notice significant differences in stability or performance.

M. Warner Losh : I've done benchmarks that show that 5 is slower than 4 in a number of areas, but the biggest one is gcc. gcc 3.2 is a lot slower than 2.95, but it produces better code more of the time. That's one area where the system will feel slower to developers. Interactive performance is about the same on my laptop booted 4 as it is in 5.

Some people that are trying 5.0-current will notice things are slower because more debug options are turned on by default. We tried to clear most of them for the release, but maybe one or two snuchk through.

Greg 'groggy' Lehey: Until recently my day job was working on Linux with one of those [commercial] companies, and I spent a lot of time looking in the Linux kernel. Yes, it's getting better, but I think it will be some time yet before it overtakes FreeBSD. I'm certainly very happy that I no longer have to work on Linux.

[Do you believe that a (mostly) commercial engineering-free project can pull out advancements faster than the Solaris or Linux teams can today?]

No. Agreed, that's a distinct disadvantage.

M. Warner Losh : It makes things riskier in a lot of ways. There's a lot more chance and projects go awry for the strangest of reasons. When there's money involved, the project will get done, but the quality may or may not be high. Such is the nature of the power relationship between employer and employee, and work for open source is no different than work for other areas. When it is done because of the passion, it generally turns out better, people tweak it more, but it has a higher risk of not being finished. And timeline tend to be more predictible in compesnated realm than in the uncomensated. So having big money behind you is a mixed blessing.

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"
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