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"If you have a database server with 8 processors, OpenBSD might not be the best choice. But for a firewall, a router, a small server or a super stable desktop system it is one of the best choices. And its installation is not a pain at all! It is not graphical, of course, but that is a different thing. If you take time to read carefully the small booklet with the CD and the installation notes/README files on the CD (they are on the website, too), installation is quite easy and *without any trouble* (that is, for an average geek). I prefer a trouble-free command-line installer that takes some time to learn than a buggy graphical installer that makes you scratch your head and make you retry multiple times if something fails. If you wonder why it is not graphical, it is in order to have the same installer for all supported architectures (some of them can only be installed over a serial port or through the network). And, contrary to popular belief, OpenBSD *is* the most user-friendly of all the BSDs. It is not the prettiest, for sure, but it is the most stable and it has, by far, the best documentation. Otherwise, it is probably not as performant as DragonFly, Linux, NetBSD or FreeBSD (at least, in micro-benchmarks), but it is not slow anyway, and at least it is stable as a rock "
Thanks for that. I just might give OpenBSD a go. OpenBSD seems to be the most stringent on code review and overall technical excellence. BTW - I have no problem whatsoever with a text based install - I've done many of them. But just looking over the doc on installation at the OpenBSD website, it looked rather complicated. But I'm probably wrong about that. It's probably pretty straight forward once I jump in.
"And for all those complaints about FreeBSD 5 being a disaster, remember that the vast majority of that was in 5.2 and previous versions, which were NOT recommended for production anyway. And Linux had its own history of problems when the 2.6 kernel began moving into production, so let's not start trading barbs, please."
Does that mean that 5.3 and 5.4 have the problems solved? Are FreeBSD 5.3 and 5.4 currently running stable in production systems, with no or little problems? Are they just fine for a desktop (I'm actually considering PC-BSD)?
And, btw, I've heard different things (SMP, NUMA, memory issues), but what were the actual problems in 5.2?
And yes, you make a great point about the 2.6 Linux kernel. I actually still prefer the 2.4 kernel a lot of the time as it seems to work more consistently with my hardware. 2.6 gives the occasional kernel panic, or failure to detect my wheel mouse (on one of my machines), or failure to detect my pcmcia on my laptop. 2.4 works perfectly with all of it, every time. That said, I've used some distros that managed to make the 2.6 kernel work fine with all of my hardware, so the problems might have been more distro specific, rather than kernel specific.
Anyway, I really want to give one of the BSDs a go. I just want to make sure it's worth my while.
I am using 5.3 and 5.4 in production right now, with absolutely no difficulties. Now, to be sure, I am not yet using the ULE scheduler or Preemption in the kernel. Point being, many of these problems are regarding things you do not need to turn on. There are plenty of good reasons for moving to the 5.x series besides the "biggies" like ULE. Many new fixes, better hardware detection, new init design, etc... as well as newer libraries in base and the ports system.
Not to say there are no problems, but none that has been a showstopper for me. My company has currently shipped at least 100 "network appliance"-style boxes based on 5.3, and we are very happy with the results. 5.4 looks even better yet, as well as 6.x, of course.
I think most of the serious problems with the 5.x and possibly 6.x series is more in edge cases or extreme usage scenarios. Yes, if you are planning to run an 8-CPU box with a busy database, you might want to wait until ULE is better worked-out, since it addresses that sort of scalability. For most standard usage, as well as desktop usage, regular 5.x and 6.x seems to work quite well.
My laptop is running 5_STABLE right now, and running quite nicely, with full multimedia, hundreds of ports installed, the latest Firefox/Thunderbird/OpenOffice/what-have-you, and I enjoy every minute of it. I recently donated a very low-end machine with 5.4 on it to some non-computer-literate friends, where I customized everything as much I could with automount, KPPP for their dial-up, icons for all the most common things they would use, and they are happily surfing the web and using email every day :-). So far, I have had only one phone call about the machine. Other than that, it just... runs.
So yes, check it out. Enjoy. (One hint: the default shell for standard users is simply /bin/sh, which is pretty disappointing. Just install /usr/ports/shells/bash, or set users' shells to /bin/csh to get a shell with history, auto-completion, etc...)
The primary problem with 5.2 for most was related to issues with IDE hard drives. There were others, but since most people use IDE drives, this was a show-stopper. I actually used 5.2.1 until about two weeks ago, and it worked very well for me. But then, I use SCSI drives.
5.4 is indeed used for production systems, and it works well. I chose instead to move directly to the 6.0-Beta (now Beta2), and it is working very well on the desktop. No crashes or any untoward behavior at all. And ULE does now work for SMP!!!
The whole 5.x series is a HUGE change from 4.x -- next generation SMP, IDE, threading libraries, scheduler, and a whole host of other things. There were some hick-ups, but it has to viewed in the context of the huge changes that took place. 5.4 is pretty stable now, and I think the 6.0 series will be quite nice.
I would encourage you to try PC-BSD (based on 5.4) if you want a binary distribution that runs KDE on the desktop. Just keep in mind that it is still in the beta stage, and that the binaries packaged for PC-BSD (the .pbi files) are still a bit limited in number. You still can use the ports and packages system if you like, so that's no real limitation.