Episode 347

New Directions


April 23rd, 2020

1 hr 50 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Rethinking OpenBSD security, FreeBSD 2020 Q1 status report, the notion of progress and user interfaces, Comments about Thomas E. Dickey on NetBSD curses, making Unix a little more Plan9-like, Not-actually Linux distro review: FreeBSD, and more.


Rethinking OpenBSD Security

OpenBSD aims to be a secure operating system. In the past few months there were quite a few security errata, however. That’s not too unusual, but some of the recent ones were a bit special. One might even say bad. The OpenBSD approach to security has a few aspects, two of which might be avoiding errors and minimizing the risk of mistakes. Other people have other ideas about how to build secure systems. I think it’s worth examining whether the OpenBSD approach works, or if this is evidence that it’s doomed to failure.
I picked a few errata, not all of them, that were interesting and happened to suit my narrative.

FreeBSD 2020 Q1 Quarterly report

Welcome, to the quarterly reports, of the future! Well, at least the first quarterly report from 2020. The new timeline, mentioned in the last few reports, still holds, which brings us to this report, which covers the period of January 2020 - March 2020.

News Roundup

The Notion of Progress and User Interfaces

One trait of modern Western culture is the notion of progress. A view claiming, at large, everything is getting better and better.

How should we think about progress? Both in general and regarding technology?

Thomas E. Dickey on NetBSD curses

I was recently pointed at a web page on Thomas E. Dickeys site talking about NetBSD curses. It seems initially that the page was intended to be a pointer to some differences between ncurses and NetBSD curses and does appear to start off in this vein but it seems that the author has lost the plot as the document evolved and the tail end of it seems to be devolving into some sort of slanging match. I don't want to go through Mr. Dickey's document point by point, that would be tedious but I would like to pick out some of the things that I believe to be the most egregious. Please note that even though I am a NetBSD developer, the opinions below are my own and not the NetBSD projects.

Making Unix a little more Plan9-like

I’m not really interested in defending anything. I tried out plan9port and liked it, but I have to live in Unix land. Here’s how I set that up.

A Warning

The suckless community, and some of the plan9 communities, are dominated by jackasses. I hope that’s strong enough wording to impress the severity. Don’t go into IRC for help. Stay off the suckless email list. The software is great, the people who write it are well-spoken and well-reasoned, but for some reason the fandom is horrible to everyone.

Not-actually Linux distro review: FreeBSD 12.1-RELEASE

This month's Linux distro review isn't of a Linux distribution at all—instead, we're taking a look at FreeBSD, the original gangster of free Unix-like operating systems.

The first FreeBSD release was in 1993, but the operating system's roots go further back—considerably further back. FreeBSD started out in 1992 as a patch-release of Bill and Lynne Jolitz's 386BSD—but 386BSD itself came from the original Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). BSD itself goes back to 1977—for reference, Linus Torvalds was only seven years old then.

Before we get started, I'd like to acknowledge something up front—our distro reviews include the desktop experience, and that is very much not FreeBSD's strength. FreeBSD is far, far better suited to running as a headless server than as a desktop! We're going to get a full desktop running on it anyway, because according to Lee Hutchinson, I hate myself—and also because we can't imagine readers wouldn't care about it.

FreeBSD does not provide a good desktop experience, to say the least. But if you're hankering for a BSD-based desktop, don't worry—we're already planning a followup review of GhostBSD, a desktop-focused BSD distribution.

Beastie Bits

BSDNow is going Independent

  • After being part of Jupiter Broadcasting since we started back in 2013, BSDNow is moving to become independent. We extend a very large thank you to Jupiter Broadcasting and Linux Academy for hosting us for so many years, and allowing us to bring you over 100 episodes without advertisements. LinuxAcademy is now under new leadership, and we understand that cutbacks needed to be made, and that BSD is not their core product. That does not mean your favourite BSD podcast is going away, we will continue and we expect things will not look much different. What does this mean for you, the listener? Not much will change, just make sure your subscription is via the RSS feed at BSDNow.tv rather than one of the Jupiter Broadcasting feeds. We will update you with more news as things settle out.