She waited patiently, her paws crossed as she lay in the small patch of sun available in the fenced yard. Once each week, he walked past on the newly paved street which had replaced the gravel. In her mind, the road served the single purpose of bringing this beloved stranger into her utterly boring life. Sure enough, at roughly the same time as always, she spied a lone pedestrian in a neighborhood which saw precious few people walking anywhere outside their own yards.
His fast stride carried him to her. For just a few moments, she was fully alive, as he stroked her through the fence, then tossed the ball she had carefully dropped between the wrought iron bars. She chased, caught it, and turned to see him receding down the street again. She would wait another week for this golden moment.
On today’s long walk, the man debated in his mind which operating system he hated most. He spent much of his working hours working with computers. There was none he liked, only a few he could tolerate, and most he simply despised. The corporate products were often closer to what he wanted in general terms of usability, but always riddled with security holes. The Open Source stuff was always more secure, but also always a patchwork of multiple projects. Most ran forward at breakneck pace in development, always new and shiny, always broken in some new way. Every day another project folded, and three others sprang up to grab the limelight. It was utterly chaotic, and a wonder anything worked at all.
He loved BSD for it’s simplicity and stability, but it was one of the worst about rolling heedlessly over user complaints. You were lucky if you ever got a curt, “Code it yourself.” That was the Open Source developer’s excuse for ignoring anything he or she found boring. But he typically ended up running some clone of Red Hat simply because it didn’t change dramatically, nor was it dropped from support, for pretty much the life of the hardware on which it ran. It was worth it compiling his own extras from source, despite the cascading dependencies on some items.
Thaddeus Eyrie was just your average aging ghost writer. He loved writing, but had gotten rather tired of the massive job of correcting some of the increasingly imbecilic prose, nowadays the worst there could be outside of an urban middle school. Lately had taken fewer jobs, and spent more time fooling with the operating systems and software with which he did his writing. Not that it mattered, since his veterans’ pension ensured he wouldn’t starve.
But Thad was just so tired of the constant changes in both the commercial closed source world, and the even greater changes in Open Source. He would have gladly stayed with the the likes of Debian Etch, but there was no hardware available for such ancient software. And the last time he actually liked FreeBSD was version 4.8. It was a good thing he didn’t take himself too seriously, or he would have stopped working altogether.
He was doing the background research for a stock article on businesses and Open Source software. The best comments and quotes came from obscure blogs and such, and he was chasing links late that night. At one point, he ran across one titled Electronic Rune Stones which mentioned a new project for business oriented software. The writer was being coy, apparently because it hadn’t been released at that point. So he went through the long process of scanning the archive on the blog. As always, some links were dead, but he found one tantalizing lead linked back to a previous post on the same blog. He got a “404 Page Not Found” error, and noticed the newer posts used a different format. He tried guessing what the older article might be, but still got the 404, even after trying various possibilities.
On his final incantation, he was distracted with a light flashing outside the window. Apparently his fingers slipped from the home keys, because he turned back just after he hit ENTER and saw the most hilarious typo. All he managed was a single bark of laughter, because he caught his breath when, instead of the same 404 error, he hit a page which was itself a simple instantaneous redirect.
His browser displayed a very plain FTP directory on some server which didn’t have a domain name, only the IP address. Among the interesting folders displayed there was the odd name “bread”. It opened for him, and he saw a collection of files. It took a moment for him to recognize he was in the top of an installation disk tree. Poking around a bit more, he realized it was an OS project of some kind, rather like FreeBSD in layout, with some of the same names, but seemed incomplete.
With time to kill, he downloaded the whole tree to a fresh folder. It was just a bit larger than a typical CD, so he used a DVD. Turning to the one machine not already running something, it was one he picked up at some office supply auction. It was specced with about the most generic hardware possible, and he figured it offered the best chance to work. Upon rebooting with the DVD in the tray, he was treated to a an ASCII art logo announcing this was “Bread OS 1.” Then came a series of text screens with one script handing off another. He took the default for what was called a “standard workstation.”
It was the final screen of text above the “commit” button that caught his attention. In essence, it warned him the installer would give him a very generic micro kernel and just precisely those driver modules which matched his hardware. One option was to allow the machine to then rebuild itself on the first reboot. A highly scripted process would recompile and optimize all the libraries, then create a macrokernel for only the hardware on his system, plus the bare necessity of function calls needed for common software used on a standard model workstation for most offices. It would periodically check for changes in the code based and rerun this process as needed. There was a warning the machine could not access any networking interfaces while the system files were open to rewrite. The computer would reboot and mount the system files read only.
The other option was to use the system immediately, and it would simply run the rebuild during idle time, mostly overnight. In two or three days of typical use patterns, it would be finished, and demand the user allow it to go into rewrite mode, then reboot.
Leaning back with a smile, he dared to hope. If this thing would actually run and do anything useful, it was the holy grail of ordinary computer users long frustrated with Open Source development which made the developers utterly unaccountable demigods. Yet it was Open Source, ostensibly trustworthy, and if it worked, exceptionally secure in basic concept.
He could afford to wait. He chose the option to rebuild immediately. Sleep came easy that night.