[TUHS] Code bloat (was: How Unix brings people together, or it's a small...)

Nick Downing downing.nick at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 13:47:03 AEST 2017

This is an issue that interests me quite a bit, since I was running
FreeBSD in an effort to get around Linux bloat problems discussed.
Well not that I really mind Linux as a user interface / runtime
environment / main development machine, but I think it probably
shouldn't be used as a "least common denominator" for development
since you end up introducing unwanted dependencies on a whole lot of

So I was running FreeBSD as a more minimal *nix. I did quite a lot of
interesting stuff with FreeBSD such as setting up diskless
workstations in my home, etc. I spent a lot of time tinkering around
in the kernel code. I was planning to do some serious development on
4.4BSDLite or FreeBSD to create an operating system more to my liking.
So, I was looking carefully at differences since ancient *nixes.

And, I can say that FreeBSD is pretty bloated. Umm well they've added
SMP, at the time it was using the Giant Lock although that could be
fixed by now. They've added VFS and NFS of course. They've added an
entire subsystem for block devices IIRC that handles partitioning and
possibly some other sophisticated stuff, which I believe is their own
design. Umm the kqueues and I believe they have their own
implementation of kernel threading or lightweight processes including
some sort of idle daemon. The network stack is heavily upgraded, to
the extent I looked into it, the added features are things you would
want (syncookies = DOS protection, etc) but also could not possibly be
called minimal, and would preclude running it on other than a
multi-megabyte machine. They have multiple ABIs so the kernel can
accept Linux or BSD syscalls or whatever else (I used it to run
Acrobat Reader Linux on my FreeBSD desktop). Umm I am pretty sure they
have kernel modules ala Linux. Lots and lots and lots of stuff... and
that's only considering the kernel. If you look in the ports
collection you see they have incredible amounts of bloat there too...
for instance GNOME, Libreoffice, LATEX, gcc, python... not that I'm
denigrating these tools, since they do invaluable work and I use them
every day, but the point is, you CANNOT call them minimal.

The quest for a clean minimal system goes on ->. FreeBSD is not the
answer. In fact I believe 4.3BSD-Reno and 4.4 go strongly offtrack.

cheers, Nick

On Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 1:55 PM, Greg 'groggy' Lehey <grog at lemis.com> wrote:
> On Tuesday,  7 February 2017 at 15:38:40 -0800, Steve Johnson wrote:
>> Looking back, the social dynamics of the Unix group helped a lot in
>> keeping the bloat small.   The rule was, whoever touches something
>> last becomes its owner.  Of course, we were all free to complain
>> about things, and did, but the amalgamation of tinkerings that
>> characterizes most of the Linux commands just didn't happen.
> Out of interest: where do you (or others) consider that the current
> BSD projects it in this comparison?
> Greg
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