Why the BSDs get no love

Jack Wallen has updated the Techrepublic blog with a post about how old-fashioned and how so 90’s some of the BSD operating systems are with regards to their installation:

Over the weekend, I installed OpenBSD. And then I installed FreeBSD. And then I quickly realized why the BSDs are getting no love. For some odd reason, the BSDs refuse to join the rest of the modern world. Instead they have decided that they (the BSD communities) are going to rebel and remain in the 90s with the text-based installation and their cryptic install instructions. But then the BSD community complains that they get no love…no press…no user-base. Oh sure, the silver-back geeks and the server farms will run one or more flavors of BSD (it IS insanely stable and secure). More than likely, those are the users that have been running BSD since their days in high-school computer club.

I write these words in hopes that a member of the BSD clan will get word back to their high counsel. If BSD wants to gain any respect among the masses, they have to modernize, join the new world order, and (at the very least) add a GUI installation tool – or, heaven forbid, a Live CD. I did find a Live BSD project that hadn’t been updated since 2004. After much digging, I did finally come up with the BSD Anywhere project that attempts to modernize the BSD (OpenBSD at least), but shoots itself in the foot by including only the IceWM window manager with a default configuration that looks, surprisingly, very 90s! Go figure.

Jack updated his post with a comment acknowledging that PC-BSD has a graphical installer and is easy to install.

Does he know that the upcoming PC-BSD 8.0 will be able to install plain FreeBSD as well as PC-BSD. All this graphically, intuitively and easily, and with a lot of goodies, incl. ZFS


  1. Soupbowl says

    I have only been using FreeBSD for 2 years and mostly used windows before it. I always thought that the freebsd installer was really good. This post is not even news worthy, It is an angry geek that can’t handle an install without a pretty mouse cursor.

    Besides, why would slapping a nice GUI (with all its over head) on top of freebsd for the install
    then dumping the person onto the terminal when they are done. Seems silly to me.

  2. says

    I agree with you, Soup’. The only real point to a graphical installer that I can see is to comfort people who are not technical. (And, such people could just use PC-BSD and be fine anyway.) What a waste of time (and installer ISO space) it would be to just have something pretty with no real advantage over what’s used now.

    But, I doubt very much that FreeBSD will succumb to this sort of bells-and-whistles mentality.

  3. says

    I agree with you guys. I’ve been using BSD for about a decade and as a desktop os for at at least around 5 years. I’ve never felt like the installer was without because it was text based. Personally I like that it is text based, it’s quicker and when doing an install gets me in and out and back into the installed system much quicker than ones with a GUI.

    I guess it is a little elitist of me but personally if the lack of a GUI installer keeps you from using BSD… BSD is not for you.

  4. Arvind says


    You are missing the point. The sysinstall must go. Its outlived its utility by a long way. Does not mean, we _have_ to have a GUI installer. We need a better installer even if it is in text mode. With ZFS out, there is no option in the sysinstall page to choose that as an option.

    Being geek does not mean, making things difficult. Next one will say, why do we need autopilot ? If you are a true pilot, you must fly a Sopwith and not waste time on the geeky in flight controls.

    Comments, like, ‘BSD is not for you’, should be kept at a personal level. If someone does not like GUI, then they should flame the X project.

  5. Soupbowl says

    We did not miss the point, you did. Adding ZFS and other things to sysinstall is not the same thing as adding a GUI and fancy graphics. Sysinstall DOES need options for ZFS and any other new freebsd feature, that could be added during install. But that does not mean it needs a GUI.

  6. says

    Also the point that should be made: talk about what the BSD family can do, which the ordinary user wants to do now. For example, I can print customer labels now, run an accounts package, and so on. How will the BSD help to do this more quickly, more reliably and do all this for the ordinary mortal?

  7. James says

    Okay, the sysinstall UI is completely fine, you have the option of installing zfs if you want to. You just have to do a little research, BSD is not the OS you can just jump into blindly and think everything will be okay. They have a whole _FREE_ handbook with full documentation for this OS, No other OS actually gives full documentation, it’s all scattered about but FreeBSD goes as far as to support third party apps that’s not even in base. The BSD community is strong and the BSDs sure, don’t get as much love as linux but that’s mainly because of posts like this in which just points out fears and hatred towards BSD. No one should lie and say its easy as hell to setup and work with without reading anything, in fact that’s just the opposite. It’s the easiest thing to read about and then setup. Be a scientist, learn the theory then practice.

  8. Hugo Rabson says

    I don’t have time to “be a scientist”, and I *want* an “OS you can just jump into blindly and think everything will be okay”. That’s why I use Linux. It does exactly what I want, when I want it. If I thought FreeBSD would do the same, I would give it a try.

    FreeBSD is clearly not for me; nor is it for most PC users. That’s not a flaw but it’s a fact. That’s why people choose Windows over FreeBSD or Linux.

    If someone is enthusiastic (or desperate) enough to win over the populace, he/she will augment FreeBSD to make it cuddly/sexy/pleb-friendly enough.

    It’s senseless to argue that the general public *should* like FreeBSD as it is. Don’t tell the customers they’re wrong. They will simply laugh in your face.

  9. Matthias says

    There is a step by step instruction in the handbook. Have you even tried to install it? I’m _really_ tried…
    You might want to try pc-bsd with with it’s shinny installer. Can’t go wrong with that one.

  10. Babs says

    Guys, lets accept the criticism in a positive way and think of it from a layman’s view point. So why cant we have a gui installer if the user wants to install in gui mode? Give the users what they want. Simple. Ofcoz if someone complaints about the text installer of freebsd then all I can say is to try other text based installers of various os then compare & complaint.

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