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Lennart Poettering: BSD Isn't Relevant Anymore 460

halfaperson writes "In an interview with, Lennart Poettering speaks freely about his creations, PulseAudio, Avahi and systemd among other things. Naturally, what has stirred up most of the discussions online is Lennart's opinions on BSD. Following the recent proposal to make Gnome a Linux-exclusive desktop, Lennart explains that he thinks BSD support is holding back a lot of Free Software development. He says this while also taking a stab at Debian kFreeBSD: 'Debian kFreeBSD is a toy OS, people really shouldn't misunderstand that.'"
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Lennart Poettering: BSD Isn't Relevant Anymore

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  • Re:Holding back? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:25PM (#36782466)

    Regarding the summary, PulseAudio adds nothing to the *BSDs...OSS has always been able to have multiple programs access the sound card at the same time. Avahi runs fine at least on OpenBSD, and systemd....well there are only about two Linux distributions even using it at this point.

    PulseAudio is a useless piece of shit. It's like ALSA with a bunch of stupid complications. How it got to be the standard sound system for so many mainstream distros is a real mystery.

    It lends credibility to the idea that Open Source developers don't really want to achieve a mature, working codebase and stick with that unless there are serious problems that really do require moving to something else. There is a perception that it has to be hackish and in perpetual beta to be considered sexy and cool for an Open Source OS. PulseAudio is a big example of why this perception exists.

    Just answer me one thing. ALSA has had Dmix for nearly ten years. It has enabled Dmix by default (as in it just automagically works) for about seven years. What glaring need is there for adding a second software layer to a sound system that already does what you need it to do? No, playing sound over the network isn't a good reason. That's what application-level streaming software is for. What does PulseAudio contribute other than needless complexity and several FAQs dedicated to replacing it with ALSA for various distributions that ship with it?

    Oh, and in the case of Mandriva, a petition to remove PulseAudio by default [] since more than 90% of users are disabling it and replacing it with ALSA. Yeah, that's not for no reason.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:57PM (#36782620)

    not sure about today, but years ago, Juniper networks used freebsd inside, to run the userland side of their core routers.

    netbsd was used (also about 10 yrs ago, a lot) for non-intel style embedded network devices. I was at a router/switch company and we used netbsd (ppc arch. at the time).

    can't say I ever ran into a bay area company, during my travels, that used openbsd. but back about 10 yrs ago, freebsd and netbsd *were* quite popular in the enterprise. corp people didn't like the GPL (at least at the time) and bsd was the most business-friendly license they could find.

  • Re:In related news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tester ( 591 ) <olivier.crete@oc ... inus threevowels> on Friday July 15, 2011 @11:46PM (#36782846) Homepage

    Seriously you're asking a linux developer his opinion on BSD? What answer were you expecting?

    Something that doesn't make him sound like a complete idiot?

    The core of Mac OS X borrows heavily from BSD, so one could legitimately argue that BSD is now the most widespread UNIX variant. In fact, I wouldn't swear to it, but I suspect that makes BSD (and Mac OS X, specifically) more popular than all of the other Linux and UNIX variants put together.

    1. Lennart is NOT a kernel developer. He is a userspace developer who wrote many important pieces of infrastructure for all free operating systems.

    2. Lennart is trying to make Linux more like OSX.. What he is saying is that the other BSDs are way way behind in features. Apple had to radically change BSD to make it suitable for a desktop, and Lennart is doing the same.

  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tom9729 ( 1134127 ) < minus language> on Friday July 15, 2011 @11:49PM (#36782862) Homepage

    TFS is flamebait. : Systemd use a lot of Linux only technologies (cgroups, udev, fanotify, timerfd, signalfd, etc). Do you really think the Linux API has been taking the role of the POSIX API and the other systems are irrelevant ?

    Lennart : Yes, I don't think BSD is really too relevant anymore, and I think that this implied requirement for compatibility with those systems when somebody hacks software for the free desktop or ecosystem is a burden, and holds us back for little benefit.
    I am pretty sure those other systems are not irrelevant for everbody, after all there are people hacking on them. I just don't think it's really in our interest to let us being held back by them if we want to make sure Linux enters the mainstream all across the board (and not just on servers and mobile phones, and not in reduced ways like Android). They are irrelevant to get Free Software into everybody's hand, and I think that is and should be our goal.
    But hey, that's just me saying this. I am sure people do Free Software for a number of reasons. I have mine, and others have others.

    He's saying BSD isn't really relevant on the _desktop_ (and sorry but no, OS X is not a counter-example to this) and that if developers want Linux to succeed on the desktop then they need to worry less about other platforms. In other words, don't cater to the lowest common denominator.

  • Re:Holding back? (Score:4, Informative)

    by gilboad ( 986599 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:39AM (#36783024)

    Actually, I -really- like Pulse.
    For the first time since, err, RedHat 5?, I can actually hear music on amarok, watch a movie on youtube and get a call using skype without blocking the system.
    I can dynamically reduce the volume of streams that I don't like (E.g. flash) without dropping the volume on other applications (E.g. amarok) or dynamically move streams from one device to another (E.g. Switch music stream from on-board / headphone to SB Audigy / 5.1).
    I could never achieve that, not with Alsa (Linux w/ or w/o dmix) nor with OSS (under both Linux and FreeBSD).

    Now, ***you*** may not appreciate or need it, but calling a very stable (at least on Fedora) a useless piece of shit just because ***you*** don't use it, should have earned you a -5 troll.

    - Gilboa

  • by Sits ( 117492 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @04:20AM (#36783768) Homepage Journal

    Many of the things that pulseaudio provides:

    • When I log into GNOME I don't have to have the same volume as the last user who logged into GNOME- it's restored on a per user basis
    • Simplified volume interface. Pulseuadio multiplexes things like the Master volume and the PCM volume into a single control thus allowing better granularity than the Master volume alone
    • When I plug a USB webcam in, pulseaudio now remembers that I prefer it as my default microphone and applications switch to using it rather than the built in one without forcing programs to be reconfigured
    • The per app volumes are also useful - sometimes a Flash app in the browser doesn't have a volume control but I can use pulseaudio to make it quieter
    • esd has been allowed to retire
    • Using pulseaudio allows the kernel to sleep longer when audio is playing by sending a bigger buffer when possible []. When not possible (because a quicker response is needed) it sends a smaller buffer. This enables power savings to be made.
    • Easier to apply volume boost (artificially making quiet audio "louder")
    • Easier to switch between audio setups (e.g. from stereo to 5.1)

    There were introductory issues too:

    • When it was introduced most programs didn't use pulseaudio directly. Some programs still wanted to use OSS. Pulseuadio can emulate a subset ALSA but some programs were using more than that subset
    • Not all distributions enabled ALSA emulation when they first enabled pulseaudio. This created fights between ALSA using programs and pulseaudio using ones
    • Bugs in audio drivers were uncovered. Like a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear it, you can create a philosophical debate as to whether a bug is a bug if no one hits it. Regardless, the result was pain for some users.
    • Bugs in the userland audio stack. Bugs in gstreamer and pulseaudio have caused issues like the volume going to 0 every time a track was changed or huge CPU usage that caused pulseaudio to be killed off.
    • Choice of audio mixing methods which make use of floating point

    These issues seem to have been mostly solved with time but caused a lot of heartache along the way. The problem is whether it was a chicken and the egg issue where these issues wouldn't have been uncovered until people started testing these things but you can never get enough testers so...

    Then there are issues that are still with us. If you have a creative sound card your life is going to be difficult. Pulseaudio doesn't make use of hardware mixing so if you have such a card, you may have noticeably higher CPU usage than ALSA alone (even though the audio mixing is no better). Two steps forward, one step back?

    ALSA was never going to be able to introduce all the features mentioned in the first part of this mega post, mainly because it is too low level. Even OSS on the BSDs doesn't present an easy GUI for all those features (it does do mixing and per program volumes) yet Windows and OS X have many of these features. The big picture is that I can do things that I couldn't before and sometimes a lot simpler (remember esd and artsd?) but there was a cost. You may not find the cost was worth it but my feeling is that it will be around on "big" Linux (e.g. machines similar in power to desktops) for the next 10 years.

  • Can't stand Linux... (Score:1, Informative)

    by drussell ( 132373 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @05:24AM (#36784062)

    AGREED! You can call me a BSD fanboy if you like, but I run FreeBSD on about 20 servers and 10 other personal boxen for various purposes (and yes, most of my "desktops" are FreeBSD) and another 50 or so installed at customer sites... The ** ONLY ** reason I ever use any variant of Linux for ANY reason is for tuner card support for Myth-TV-type systems. And I HATE it. FreeBSD just always works. Set it up, sit back and read the logs. Thats what UNIX is supposed to be. FreeBSD has never crashed and eaten files on me... Many of my Myth boxes seem to eat files every few months for no apparent reason... no matter what filesystem I use, even on a clean shutdown probably 20% of the time when I fire up one of those Linux boxes it won't even fsck and boot; it's easiest to just pull the HDD and fsck it on another box... That's just the tip of the iceberg... It just seems to me to be a horribly fragmented OS... everyone and every distro does something differently and mostly just in the name of being quick-to-market... They all seem to have that same Microsoft-style disease; get it out the door quickly instead of doing it RIGHT. Every time I have to actually use Linux for something It makes me realize just how inferior it is to FreeBSD... Sometimes seems almost as bad as Windows! I'll take my BSD flavors ANYDAY over any flavor of Linux. Yes, perhaps I'm excessively biased (I've been using FreeBSD extensively since 1.x) but I've tried many Linux variants MANY times over the past, what's it's been now; 15 years? I've TRIED to like it! Yet, I've NEVER liked it one bit... ARGH! GRRRR!

  • Re:PulseAudio? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:56AM (#36784398)

    "Oh something new and shiny that breaks backwards compatibility! Therefore it must automaticly be bad!"

    Well, yes, actually. Breaking backwards compatibility is always bad. It may on occasion be necessary to do so to gain a greater good, but it's still bad.

  • Re:Pulse Audio (Score:3, Informative)

    by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <`rich' `at' `'> on Saturday July 16, 2011 @08:39AM (#36784950) Homepage

    PulseAudio sucks, but systemd is reasonable stuff. It's like upstart (but done right) combined with inetd.

    Unlike what another reply says, systemd does not require changes to daemons.


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