posted by Carl G. Mathisen on Wed 9th Apr 2003 17:20 UTC
IconI have read many OS/distribution reviews in the last couple of years, but it always seems like it is distros like Red Hat, SuSe and Mandrake (and the fairly new distro, Lindows) that get all the attention. The light has sometimes moved towards other less "user friendly" distros as Slackware, Debian and so forth, but the main concern of the authors has always been the distros meant to be used by Joe User.

This is all well and good, but lately there has been an overflow of reviews written by total beginners and their experiences with the main distributions. So then I decided to write a review of FreeBSD 5.0, "a victim of isolation and Linux's hype," as Eugenia Loli-Queru well put it. The way I see it, FreeBSD will gain ground faster each day without any hype, but why not contribute?

That said, I would like to tell you about myself. I am not a complete beginner in the Linux/Unix world, but I'm not a guru either. I've been sniffing on different Linux distros since I received a PC Format CD with SuSe on it. For several years I have used Windows as my main OS, but I've always had a partition free to be occupied by another OS (QNX, BeOS, BSD, Linux).

I've had no rush changing my main OS, Windows has always given me the possibility to do whatever I wanted, which is pretty much programming, listen to music, browse the Internet and checking my mail. Since I gave myself unlimited time to choose and experiment with several operative systems and distributions, I found it easy to change it when I first decided on doing it. Linux has never really been my favorite, I've always liked QNX and BeOS much better because of the clean GUI and the easy-to-configure set up. (I can't wait until OpenBeOS is released.) It was not until fall 2001 I discovered the BSD tree. A friend and colleague told me about his good experiences he had with OpenBSD at his own company. I read more about it, and found FreeBSD to be a very good choice, with the biggest package system available and all. At this point I had used Linux distributions as Slackware, Trustix and JBLinux on my private home server, so FreeBSD seemed perfect on my server and on my workstation as well. And it was. Ports/Pkg is nothing but smooth. Problems rarely occurred, and the dependencies are always getting installed without any problems. Speed and stability are two keywords that describe FreeBSD with great accuracy.

After nothing but good experiences with FreeBSD over the past year and a half, I decided that I've found the main OS for me at the desktop as well. FreeBSD 5.0 got released and I had to try it out.

Processor: AMD Duron 650MHz
Motherboard: ASUS 133
Memory: 192 MB SDRAM
Graphics: nVIDIA GeForce 2MX
Sound: Creative SB Live! 1024
Disks: 80 GB WD, 13 GB WD and 4 GB Quantum
Network: 3Com 10/100Mbit TP
CD/DVD: Creative PC-DVD 6x/24x, Philips 4x/4x/24x


I downloaded a mini-install from, burned it on a CD, put it in my cup holder and rebooted. The installation was familiar, identical to older versions. FreeBSDs installation UI (Sysinstall) is one of the best out there. It has no graphical installation like Red Hat/Mandrake, and is more similar to Slackware/Debian. The installation is easy to follow by everyone, even for a first time OS installer. The only thing that can be tricky for beginners is fdisk. Although, if you only have one disk and you wish to use the entire disk for FBSD, press A to get an automatic set up of the partitions you need.

I deleted my BeOS 5 partition and split it up in two parts:
1. ufs at /

I chose the Express installation, because I prefer to set up everything myself. The only thing I added was ports. As installation media I chose an FTP server nearby. A couple of minutes later, the few needed packages were installed and I was told to reboot. As expected, everything worked well.

If it is one thing I need, it is a text editor for development. I need to be completely comfortable when I'm programming, or else shit hits the fan. In Windows, I used EditPlus with a great smile on my face. The closest thing I found was Glimmer. I also tried out jEdit, which is a full featured editor with a pleasant user interface, but it is extremely slow compared to other editors. What else to expect from a big project like jEdit using Swing as GUI? Anyway, I ended up with Glimmer. The user can change highlight colors, and now they are identical with EditPlus. I couldn't be happier.

Table of contents
  1. "FreeBSD Intro, Part I"
  2. "FreeBSD Intro, Part II"
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