It is with a fairly heavy heart that I write I am no longer running FreeBSD on my MacBook Pro.
What happened to improving?
Part of the problem is that I finally received gainful employment in March, and that work is almost impossible to do on FreeBSD. A lot of it involves Chrome (which I still have been unable to run on FreeBSD), Qt5-based applications (which crash due to known bugs in libv8 that Google do not care to resolve), and some Python libraries that have truly terrible performance on FreeBSD.
Why not run Linux in a VM for work?
Sure, I could have, if VirtualBox ever worked…
Weren’t you excited to fix up FreeBSD?
I was. I still am, but something just feels different. For over a decade, FreeBSD has for me been the go-to operating system for any use case: servers, embedded projects, desktop systems, and more. But the current heading of development seems to strongly suggest this is no longer encouraged or desired.
When I first started out with Gentoo nine years ago, they were pretty much bent on making it for newer hardware only. Back then, Pentium computers were like the Pentium 4s of now – something you give your grandma or little sister for web browsing, but nothing too serious. And Gentoo developers did not really care if they broke compatibility with these older systems. I can understand that, given that compiling the entire system by hand is something that is pretty taxing for older hardware.
The nice thing about FreeBSD was their community never looked down on you for using these older machines, and realised they still have use. My first interactions with #FreeBSDHelp on EFnet were in 2006 and related to getting SLIP support working in sysinstall so I could remotely install FreeBSD 6 on my Pentium 90 laptop. They were happy to help.
The roles have largely reversed now. Running into issues with older hardware get me looks of disdain and “great, upgrade your hardware and try again” from the FreeBSD community. Meanwhile, the Gentoo team was happy to help me with an issue regarding my retro Intel486 box, in 2015. This computer has no business still functioning, and they were still willing to help me configure a kernel that would boot on it with its anaemic 20 MB RAM.
The other thing I have noticed is that even now, months later, none of my Ports bugs have been handled. In the same amount of time, I have filed three bugs against Portage packages… and all of them were closed within one week of being opened. I feel like my contributions matter to the Gentoo Linux team.
What have you learned?
FreeBSD is more fun to hack on than Gentoo. FreeBSD is harder to get things done on than Gentoo.
FreeBSD is lighter on resources than Gentoo. FreeBSD is heavier on bug backlog than Gentoo.