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Letter to BSD Users from Rod Hayward

Hi Folks,

after sending a message to you with contribution request, we have received an email from Rod. Rod would love to write an article, but he has no access to the operating system. “My interests are in getting and using a BSD or Linux 64 bit operating system for RPI 3 and on the Pine 64. I don’t expect much as yet as these are new and I am a bit useless at writing any code for myself. If there are people that can send me such an operating system I would certainly share my experience of  installing and using.” 

If you would like to help him, contact him directly at [email protected]

Dear Readers

I would like to contribute to BSD magazine, but not for, shall I say, historic least known BSD operating systems. I would like to be able to write about, as yet, an unknown BSD operating system!

As a hobbyist I have been messing about with computers starting with an abysmal ZX 81 and then a TRS 80. In the early ’90’s I got a 386 with 2 megs of ram and a 20 MB hard drive. In the long term it cost a fortune, although at the time I was a “mature” student at a Polytechnic, but at the stroke of a government pen it became a University. Any way there was an offer to get a computer, conjured up between a bank and the student union, I was flat broke and already in debt, but in a week or two after signing a form two heavy cardboard boxes arrived.

One box contained a 15” monitor, a desktop style computer with a big red switch on the side, and also a slew of floppy disks and manuals. MS DOS 5, Windows 3 and I had to install it. This was the real beginning of my life time adventure into personal computers. What I didn’t notice, at the time, was a big imaginary, invisible and non existent “doigt d’honneur” sign on the boxes saying “Stitch that you gullible fool”.

I was a awestruck newbie and I learned a lot with my 16 bit 386. Life’s too short to go into the ins and outs of dip switches. About inserting more ram, a sound card, a CD ROM and a maths co-processor. So I shan’t. I could say I did enjoy using that machine or maybe just happily distracted at least for about two years or so, but soon after I detested it.

As it happened I saw an Amiga 1200 in a second hand shop. I was so sick of that 386 and it’s awful operating system, I bought the Amiga, took it home and loved it to bits. It was like a breath of fresh air.

In the mean time I had subscribed to an Amiga magazine, but some time after Commodore folded, the last issue finished with a picture, of the whole crew of that publication, crying in their beer, down the pub, boo hoo and could some one please kindly make those violins shut up.

As my subscription was still running, I was sent a new publication all about Linux (whoops I mentioned the L word), being intrigued I bought

some cheap components and built a pc box. I installed Mandrake Linux, one of the distros off the magazine cover. I had found something good and not proprietary, I was hooked!

At this time I still had no knowledge of BSD’s existence. Time passed and I got a disc with the magazine with PC-BSD. I also had access to loads of old pc boxes that just weren’t wanted any more, so, easy to build another out of discarded ruins. Excellent for trying out different flavours of different operating systems but hardly cutting edge equipment. I liked very much the way PC-BSD installed itself but the old hardware didn’t have the grunt needed to function. On the other hand Free BSD is good although a steep learning curve to install. I like using the command line as least as possible, mainly because I forget commands and end up having to look them up again, maybe that’s just me, but I get there eventually.

I do enjoy an intuitive GUI. For instance like the Amiga OS or BeOS (now called Haiku) and especially RiscOS that only recently found to play with. I never did have an Acorn Archimedes, although I would have liked one in that time period. My wife bought me a Raspberry Pi, the early 256 MB version, for my 60th birthday present. That is how I discovered RiscOS. Now RiscOS is excellent but lacks a modern day web browser.

It was a year after I got the RPI 512 MB version and was able to install Free BSD. But no graphical user interface. Much the same with Net-BSD but too glitchy and didn’t work for me. So back to good old Debian. I was running my Raspberry Pi’s mainly for curiosity reasons. Then recently, my pc box with an AMD 64 chip also running Debian (that I built in 2006) was starting to go wrong and I simply can’t be arsed to fix it. No more power hungry, noisy, wheezing vacuum cleaner like boxes for me.

I do have a smart phone with Android Jellybean and a Android TV thingy with KitKat, probably the best devices I own in certain respects, but in reality they are not quite my cup of tea. I do not feel in control. I think I read somewhere they are a bit like a modern day XP type OS. Very successful yes.

Moving on until today I have bought a Raspberry Pi 3 whilst waiting for a Pine64 to arrive. My RPI 3 is now my Desktop computer. Running mainly on it’s native Raspian, a version of Debian Jessie. I have tried Ubuntu.

MATE which is good for running Firefox. I prefer Raspian but it has Epiphany Web Browser that has it’s limitations.

I would like to plant a genetically modified open source seed in the style and spirit of BSD and Linux with reduced instruction set computing. Re- built from the ground up by students and any one that can contribute. The wheel was invented out of necessity a long time ago much the same as a computer operating system. We must insist to have the freedom to build a much better one without bickering about who owns what.

What would be better if it could exist would be Risc-BSD. Something like a car, where you know where all the controls are, all you have to do is drive. If you like to look under the bonnet, and get your hands dirty, it can be your freedom to be able to tune it to your desire. Conversely if you can make a good product from this operating system with your brand on it also good. In the general spirit of personal computer company’s may the best brand win.

I have only that vision of something good to run on these single board 64 bit micro computers. It is the future. Please help make them binary blob free so we can all advance.

Have fun
Rod Hayward.

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