Why?

I love Apple products.

I’ve been a fan of theirs since about 1984. I fell in love at a very early age. Unfortunately, my family could never afford one. So when I finally could purchase a PowerBook 2400 around 1998 or so, I remember bringing it home and thinking how cool the hardware looked (still does) and how beautiful MacOS 8.5.1 (?maybe?) was, when it didn’t crash. :)

[Note: currently I’d debate anyone that the UI is still gorgeous. My conjecture is that they’ve long since abandoned sound UI design in favor of introducing a random series of “improvements” for no other reason than to differentiate it from the last release. See Big Sur. Ugh.]

Prior to becoming a fanboy of MacOS and PowerBooks I was an avid user of the 3 (at the time) major BSDs and Linux as well. Indeed, Linux was the first Unix-like OS that I came into contact with around 1994.

And I absolutely loved it. I picked up Matt Welch’s book Running Linux, and the world seemed to just fall into place for me. This is how using a computer is supposed to be.

This is The Right Way.

Pipes. Scripts. C. (most) Everything’s a file…Yesssss.

I hadn’t been into computing much before finding Linux. I mean, I had my foray into BASIC via the Vic-20 as a child and I furiously hacked TI-BASIC on my TI-85 during high school (much to the chagrin of my parents as they watched my grades deteriorate during the latter half of my senior year and into the first year of college.) I blame the TI-85 for at least 1 failed math class.

Back to the story. So, I loved Unix but I also loved MacOS, what’s a fledgling hacker to do? Well, up until about 2001 or so, I had a PowerBook 2400 for my daily driver and a PC running Linux for my Unix fix.

“Stop. What in the hell does this have to do with FreeBSD?”, you say.

Well, nothing yet. But I’m off in the weeds right now.

The big moment for me was the announcement that Apple would be releasing MacOS X and that it would be Unix-based. This solved (nearly) all my problems. I could consolidate into a single laptop and have my beautiful interface as well as my powerful Unix computing environment all-in-one box. (As an aside: the next big consolidation event happened when Apple announced the switch to Intel. Which meant that I could run all my required OSes on one box using virtualization, but I digress.)

I’ve been a fairly happy user of macOS until recently.

Until “The Cloud”, aka “Here’s all my personal and private data, I trust you to hold on to it and keep it safe, I know that it’s not safe, and that eventually all my data will be available for anyone to see via some cracker, but no matter, as long as I can see my Elf Bowling Flash E-Card on all my devices, it’s cool.”

It all started out innocently. I could keep my contacts and calendar in “The Cloud” and see it on my brand new iPhone. Neat! Well, when it worked. Then came iDisk. I can store my files in “The Cloud”. Neat! Well, when it worked. Then music. Neat! When Apple Match didn’t randomly delete my songs.

Now everything seems to be in the cloud. I mean, try finding an accounting program that is dekstop-based (other than GnuCash, which I love and use).

I fucking hate the cloud.

I hate subscription-based software. I hate having my personal data stored on infinite servers. I hate having to have an internet connection to do any work. I hate that macOS needs 500 processes running on an otherwise idle system so it can keep the cloud updated as to my every move. There have even been instances of macOS becoming unusable without an internet connection(!).

“The Cloud” is opaque. Disgustingly so. Being unable to pry something open to see how it works is incredibly frustrating experience for me. So, no, the cloud really isn’t for me.

Am I a Luddite? Yeah, probably that’s got something to do with it.

Am I a hipster who just wants to use something that no one else is using? Yeah, that’s probably part of it.

Am I someone who just wants some simplicity in their computing life (you’ll see shortly why the last statement greatly depends on what you consider to be “simple”.) Umm, yes, sort of.

Maybe it’s just that I’m trying to relive my computing youth. Much like the guy who peaked in 1975. Back in the day with his steed, a mint 1970 Ford Mustang, at his side, they could do no wrong. He lamented for years about how he sold that stallion for too little. And thus, finally caving in on the emotional desire to relive his glory years and try and fill what has otherwise been an empty life, the 57 year old goes out and buys a rusty 1970 Mustang to restore.

[That last one a bit dark to you?]

Lately I’ve been lurking on the /r/unixporn subreddit and the incredible variety of users' desktop configurations (so called “ricing”) has really impressed me. It has piqued my interest in desktop open source unixes…er..unices…er…whatever, it piqued my interest in running an open source unix for my desktop again. At the same time, I’m becoming tired of the cloud dance and the aforementioned UI changes in macOS.

I’ve decided to try and run FreeBSD for my main computing platform.

Why not linux? Easy. systemd. Well, among other things. It has also become a huge lumbering colassal beast. One that I’d rather stay away from, at least until FreeBSD frustrates me enough that I decide to make life a little easier on myself and just run something like Arch Linux.

What not any of the other BSDs? Well, FreeBSD seems to be the biggest project with the most activity. So, this likely means that nearly all the hardware on my X1 Carbon will be supported (hardcore foreshadowing). It also has a vibrant community and lots of good documentation sources and even a few books. Finally, Kirk Mckusick seems to like it, so that’s reason enough for me.

So, I think I’ll leave it here for right now.

–josh