Home > FreeBSD > Comprehensive Review of FreeBSD 5.1-RELEASE Comprehensive Review of FreeBSD 5.1-RELEASE Submitted by Jem Matzan 2003-10-17 FreeBSD 41 Comments There’s a review of FreeBSD 5.1 at The Jem Report. It’s a comprehensive review and offers a quick comparison with GNU/Linux. About The Author David Adams Follow me on Twitter @david_adams 41 Comments 2003-10-17 4:10 pm “You can download it in two formats (PDF or StarOffice)” What’s wrong with plain HTML? Why should I have to download it and open another viewer to see this document? Pfft. 2003-10-17 4:12 pm um, this was supposed to go under the XPde thread. OSnews comment posting problems? 2003-10-17 4:21 pm IMHO, the review was a little pre-emptive considering that no one in their right mind would be running 5.1 especially with the amount of work being done on it, with that being said, it will be an interesting situation later on once 5.3 is released and FreeBSD stablises. —– MCSE: Hold it right there, buddy … that scruffy beard…those suspenders… that smug expression…YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE CONDESCENDING UNIX USERS! ME: Here’s a nickel, kid. Get yourself a better computer 2003-10-17 4:24 pm This was the first review of FreeBSD I have read that I liked. He knows what he is talking about. 2003-10-17 4:25 pm Overall I think the review was good. I think he missed the point with the license but don’t want to start a war about it. What would be interesting would be if someone would make a “user friendly” FreeBSD in terms of configs/install for FreeBSD, just like Apple did, but for x86. But I guess that won’t happen until FreeBSD get the “hype” that Linux is living on.. 2003-10-17 4:33 pm IMHO, the review was a little pre-emptive considering that no one in their right mind would be running 5.1 especially with the amount of work being done on it. Huh? You mean 5.1-CURRENT right? I’ve been running 5.1 RELEASE on my workstation ever since it was released. I haven’t had a single problem. I wouldn’t recommend it for servers yet, but that’s mostly being really cautious. A friend of mine has been running a large server on 5.1 as well. Really, 5.1-RELEASE is as stable or more stable than most Linux distributions (with some exceptions of course). 2003-10-17 4:52 pm The stuff about installation and the ports was good. Re the licensing differences between FBSD and GNU/Linux, that’s been the subject of innumerable flame wars, and the review just presents one more opinion. Hard to believe that the reviewer feels lack of latest hardware support can be fixed if folks from the FreeBSD project would just bother the hardware companies more. The basic problem is that the FreeBSD community doesn’t represent a big enough market to make it worthwhile for a company like ATI to develop a driver and make it available. The reviewer does a couple of disservices to folks considering FreeBSD. First, the mailing lists are *extremely* helpful. They receive hundreds of questions and answers each day. Many of the answers are provided by the programmers who coded the part of the OS that is the subject of the question. BSD Forums can be helpful, too, but it doesn’t get anything like the same volume of information. The reviewer’s bias against the mailing lists (more on that below) also plays into his recommendation that people try FreeBSD 5.x rather than 4.x. 4.x is *highly* recommended by the project as the version to start with; one of the reasons is that people using 5.x are expected to know their way around FreeBSD, so there is little enthusiasm for helping out in the mailing lists with newbie questions about that version. Ask the same question about 4.x, OTOH, and you’ll find plenty of assistance. Now, about that bias – when I read the review, I thought to myself, “Oh, *that* guy.” He posted a question to a FreeBSD mailing list that was so general (“I’m writing an article, can you comment on FreeBSD’s development process and philosophy?”) that it couldn’t be answered any other way than the responses he got, which were basically to read the website, documentation, and stuff others had written about the OS. How would you respond to the same question about GNU/Linux – tell him to read stuff by/about Linus, RMS, other kernel hackers, web documentation, etc., right? Apparently he wanted a nice, specific, cut-and-dried answer (what would that be – go ahead, in 25 words or less, what is FreeBSD’s development process and philosophy?), and because he didn’t get it, he dismisses this incredibly valuable resource. Believe me, if you have a reasonably specific question about a problem with the OS, applications, or hardware, the mailing lists are a great place to get answers. 2003-10-17 5:09 pm If he was told to read the documentation on the website, I think that is the best solution. I mean, what would you think is a more valid soure of information – whoever happens to respond to you on the mailing list, or what the official website says. Looking through the beginning of the Developers’ Handbook: The BSD Vision: http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/developers-handboo… To produce the best UNIX®-like operating system package possible, with due respect to the original software tools ideology as well as usability, performance and stability. Architecture Guidelines: http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/developers-handboo… And of course the front page of http://www.freebsd.org has useful info like “What is FreeBSD?”, a link to this page http://www.freebsd.org/internet.html (“FreeBSD was designed for the internet”). 2003-10-17 5:15 pm Maybe he suggested the forums because he is writing an article for newbies to fbsd wanting to try 5.1 and the forums are easier on 5.1 noobs, hell, maybe it’s a bunch of 5.1 noobs trying to helkp each other out, usually forums are more atractive to noobs in general. I totally understand what you’re saying, but in the world of free unix where linux is the king and the majority of linux users these day really chase after the latest and greatest (ie hobby and desktop/win dual booters). His article might be just what they’re looking for, lets face it, you no longer have to be the bright light-bulb in order to run linux these days, and havent for quite some time. So, he’s writing the article towards those linux people. the more pople that hear about and try fbsd the better, i remember 5 years ago when i tried it, i thought it was to tuff but instantly i understood that “this is a real unix operating system” and by 4.0 release/4.1, it’s been my main desktop ever since. The point is we just need to get people to try it and the ones with potential will understand what’s up, and they *will* keep coming back until it sticks, so maybe out of all the linux users that read this article, we gained 5% of them to be steady freebsd users in a year. this is all speculation, but i think you may agree with what i’m trying to say. 2003-10-17 5:19 pm “IMHO, the review was a little pre-emptive considering that no one in their right mind would be running 5.1 especially with the amount of work being done on it, with that being said, it will be an interesting situation later on once 5.3 is released and FreeBSD stablises.” Unfortunately what is on store shelves is the “FreeBSD Powerpack” at version 5.1. That leads me to believe that many would be using it since that is what can be purchased currently at the likes of CompUSA. I still use 4.8 myself since that is the actual production release. For production servers any of the 5.x should not be used yet IMHO. 2003-10-17 5:19 pm I don’t understand why some people have such a hard time comprehending the word “comment.” I asked for opinions and comments on the development process from the developers, which means I want something more personal — a quote to include in the article — from someone in the trenches. I did read the manuals and docs several times and as the article shows, I was well aware of the development process as the manuals state. If as a member of the mailing list you had actually read my post and responded intelligently rather than looked at the first sentence and spouted off an “RTFM” then you’d have understood that and wouldn’t be so hot and bothered by my dislike of spam-feeding mailing lists. -Jem 2003-10-17 5:21 pm I’ve been using FreeBSD since the 2.x series and the 5.x series comes the closest to installing completely on laptops. Its the first FreeBSD release to properly detect and configure my NIC via the ACPI junk. Unfortunately it still has a little bit to go on the ACPI support. My touchpad mouse doesn’t work and the serial port doesn’t work. However, these look like they will be fixed in the 5.2 release. The kernel building and bootup is nice and easy. I would kill for a native version of Flash. Running version four under Linux emulation just isn’t cutting it. Anyways, have a good day. Check out the release if you get a chance. -W 2003-10-17 5:34 pm You can use the Linux Flash plugin (version 6) with native browsers on FreeBSD by using the linuxpluginwrapper, see http://www.bsdforums.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=14906. This works with all the Mozilla variants and apparently Konqueror. Opera is only supported in 4.x. 2003-10-17 5:34 pm Wes (IP: —.alumnihouse.swt.edu) – well, I am running version 6. Flash 5 was available for very long time. One still needs wrapper though. Drill Sgt (IP: 12.177.68.—) Why unfortunately? Somebody has to test latest CURRENT, also I have not seen any suggestion about running 5.x on production servers. 5.x will become STABLE soon only if people will test CURRENT and info on CURRENT mailing list. 2003-10-17 5:44 pm There’s a Flashpluginwrapper to use Flash 6.0 with the native mozilla now. It’s still emulation but it beats Flash 4. 2003-10-17 6:02 pm Nah, I don’t really get “hot and bothered,” and my apologies for coming off in print in that way (not to say a bit rude). I did read your entire post, and I personally didn’t gather from it that you wanted “something more personal from someone in the trenches” – which in itself isn’t entirely clear to me, but we’ll just put that down to me being thick. But what you meant or what I gathered isn’t important. What is important is that people who might want to try an excellent OS are informed of all the resources that might help them, and I think the mailing lists certainly qualify as helpful resources. Re the BSD Forums being easier on “5.1 noobs,” I am happy to see any help for FreeBSD newbies. I haven’t seen a lot of specific pointers for 5.x newbies on BSD Forum so far (as I mentioned, newbies are advised to start with 4.x), though that doesn’t mean they won’t appear in the future. For folks thinking of trying FreeBSD, read the excellent online Handbook and Dru Lavigne’s fine tutorials (<URL: http://www.onlamp.com/pub/ct/15>), the FreeBSD mailing lists, particularly FreeBSD-questions (<URL: http://docs.freebsd.org/mail/current/freebsd-questions.html>), and the BSD Forums (<URL: http://bsdforums.org/>) and start soaking up information. 2003-10-17 6:06 pm The article implied that rather than having vi, FreeBSD comes with ee. This is inaccurate, FreeBSD has both out of the box. (Actually, it has nvi, *BSD’s unencumbered vi clone, but it’s linked to /usr/bin/vi.) Some of us actually like vi, when using an inferior editor I keep reflexively pressing esc expecting it to do something. 😉 vi actually was an editor first included with BSD back when it was a Pascal compiler distribution, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s there. 2003-10-17 6:19 pm What would be interesting would be if someone would make a “user friendly” FreeBSD in terms of configs/install for FreeBSD, just like Apple did, but for x86. What would be _really_ interesting is if Apple were to release OSX for x86. 2003-10-17 6:33 pm It’s something that I hate mostly is… GNATS, so I agree with the author’s comment. Implement a web-based bug reporting tool. Many people do not have Sendmail enabled or configured by default, and the send-pr command (which is the only command recommended on the bug report webpage) can’t get through an active firewall under most circumstances. That means to send a report you have to flush the firewall rules, leaving a system open to intrusion. Other bug reporting tools could be used (or rather, suggested for use), like gtk-send-pr which uses SMTP to send reports. GNATS is nasty and not easy, required few more tools (clients) if you want to make it works more such as open, close and etc by use send-pr, edit-pr and etc. Only one thing that I still couldn’t figure is to download the raw attach from any of PR if someone attached in the send-pr and sent to GNATS. I wish, they just could replace from GNATS to Bugzilla, but I didn’t bother to check if there has such of convert tool to allow to make the switch. 2003-10-17 6:37 pm Yeah, I personal rather to use ‘ee’ or ‘edit’ instead vi when I edit make.conf, kernel config, send-pr and etc for the quick task. But, I use vim as my main editor for programming. 2003-10-17 7:05 pm What would be _really_ interesting is if Apple were to release OSX for x86. Until then, give http://www.gnustep.org/ a try. Both, OS X and GNUstep are (almost) source compatible. 2003-10-17 8:23 pm What would be interesting would be if someone would make a “user friendly” FreeBSD in terms of configs/install for FreeBSD, just like Apple did, but for x86. Something like that should be quite easy after the completion of libh: http://www.freebsd.org/projects/libh.html Unfortunately libh is an excellent example of second system effect (I will wholeheartedly admit sysinstall sucks… it’s suffering from dramatic changes to the requirements since it was first implemented), and may have been too great an undertaking given the amount of interest amoung the FreeBSD developers. Development progress on libh has been painfully slow: http://rtp1.slowblink.com/~libh/progress.html#milestones Once it is complete, however, it will provide a generic installation framework for FreeBSD which can be used with any number of frontends. 2003-10-17 8:25 pm He dissed Vi! Kinda strange since Vi was originally written on BSD… BTW, most Linux distros now use nano, which is also pretty easy (and highly irritating for those with Vi-muscle memory to use. 2003-10-17 9:06 pm What would be interesting would be if someone would make a “user friendly” FreeBSD in terms of configs/install for FreeBSD, just like Apple did, but for x86. You might be suprised at how user friendly FreeBSD is. The install is straight forward, the package collection has a GUI, and the FreeBSD init process is a lot nicer then the SYS V style init used by alot of linux distributions. Sure there is a learning curve if you are new to *nix, but learning some of the basic here can help you in alot of other OSes. 2003-10-17 9:28 pm I don’t know, linux itself is ok. However I like how FreeBSD is an operating system rather than a kernel that people package with their distribution. The lack of immature politics is also nice too. Linux is for those who hate Microsoft BSD is for those who love Unix 2003-10-17 10:00 pm I have used Linux since 1994 (Slackware). With the “alleged violations” of the Linux kernel started by SCO almost a year ago, I wanted to try another OS. I started with FreeBSD 4.7 and became disatisfied. I bought a new PC this spring and 4.7 didn’t have some of the new drivers I needed. So I jumped aboard the 5.0-branch. It’s been fun. It has worked just fine for me. I have gone from 5.1-Release to 5.1-Current and if I have a problem, I just downgrade my BSD to the Release version and have no problems. I use Linux b/c I HATE Microsoft and BSD b/c I love Unix. 2003-10-17 10:50 pm “You might be suprised at how user friendly FreeBSD is. The install is straight forward, the package collection has a GUI, and the FreeBSD init process is a lot nicer then the SYS V style init used by alot of linux distributions. Sure there is a learning curve if you are new to *nix, but learning some of the basic here can help you in alot of other OSes.” Well… user friendly for you and for me, but not for Joe Average. Making FreeBSD a desktop system for everyone, there MUST be graphical tools for e.g. user management, hardware setup, hardware and software installation, basic configuration One the other hand: FreeBSD is a stable and clean system that has ONE implementation (e.g. directory layout, kernel, config files) not like the one billion (or are they even more?) linux flavours. It would be a childs play for RedHat, SuSE, Mandrake… to set up a FreeBSD distribution for desktop use. I wonder why no one thought about that, is linux really superiour? Or is it just a hype? IMHO FreeBSD is better… 2003-10-18 3:32 am On the other hand: FreeBSD is a stable and clean system that has ONE implementation (e.g. directory layout, kernel, config files) not like the one billion (or are they even more?) linux flavours. Well, if you want ONE kind of implementation, it’s your choice. But we like choices. Dishing linux’s distro implementations just because FreeBSD has only one is stupid IMO. That’s why Linux may please larger base of people, instead of forcing people to use the one and only choice, Linux gives choices. 2003-10-18 7:08 am <em>Dishing linux’s distro implementations just because FreeBSD has only one is stupid IMO.</em> This contributes largely to confusion and is mostly a bad thing because the choices are not good choices. If I can choose from multiple flavors of poop it is not good. BSD is nice because you have 3 very good choices each BSD implementation is a clean, stable, useable implementation. While many of the linux distrubtions are cool I have yet to find them anywhere near the beauty of *BSD. This is not meant as a bash on linux, I hope that they continue to develop and mature but the direction that I have seen them take makes me wonder as to how much better than windows linux will actually end up. We are already seeing many of the affects of mass popularization now. 2003-10-18 9:27 am I’ve been using various distributions of Linux for some time. I ended up with Slackware as my favorite. Some time ago, I decided to give FreeBSD a try. I used 5.1. What I wanted was pretty simple: setup an apache server, with Tomcat and mod_jk, backuped by a Postgres database. The pkgadd -r solution proved not to be any good for these packages. FreeBSD lacks good support for the Java SDK (until a couple of weeks ago). Eventually I ended up with a lot of broken dependencies on that version, a lot of manual downloads, a lot of “cd ports”. I still prefer Slackware. Java is better supported on Linux. With the help of linuxpackages.net, you get a lot of extra packages. I should try swaret one day, to see how that compares to pkgadd. But … to be honest. I was not at all convinced of FreeBSD …. 2003-10-18 10:27 am I’ve used both Linux and FreeBSD, Linux most, and to me the performance difference seems to be a wash. BSD is faster in some areas, and Linux in others. The BSD VM rocks, but 2.6 feels very nice too – both are better then Linux 2.4. Linux 2.6 “feels” nicer as a desktop kernel to me, and both seem to have, insofar as I can ever tell subjectively, similar network performance. FreeBSD seems to stutter for me, mouse jerks under load, perhaps I misconfigured something – but Linux 2.6 hasn’t done that for me. Yes, DMA is on. By load I mean compiling from the ports collection, like three apps at once – Linux 2.6, for me, can handle that dandy (portage rather then ports, but essentially the same thing). Mind you I have an SMP system. I dunno, the difference to me seems somewhat minimal as a desktop – but I do know I’ll never use 2.4 willingly on a desktop again. 🙂 I’d love to see some benchmarks comparing FreeBSD 4.x and 5.x to Linux 2.4 and 2.6. THAT would be truely interesting. Toss in NPTL (or whatever that new threading library is called) for good measure. 🙂 2003-10-18 10:46 am I’m no expert, but according to articles I’ve read FreeBSD 5.x should offer increased speed and performance once it is considered stable enough to remove debugging code from kernel (allegedly this happens when 5.3 is released in spring 2004). The forthcoming (before the end of 2004) DragonFly BSD is also very interesting since its design strives for increased performance. 2003-10-18 11:37 am ee is infinitely easier to use for editing config files than the maddeningly archaic vi Why so much hatred for vi? I couldn’t live without it. 2003-10-18 1:00 pm I didn’t see Jem’s request for comment so I don’t know what kinds of specific information he requested. That said, if appropriate responses are already written and available elsewhere, I’m not sure why a simple referral to those docs is unresponsive. The FreeBSD folks have no obligation to answer any email, or even operate these mailing lists. The assessment that FreeBSD’s support structure is rather thin is, I think, a bit off center. Unless a business purchases a service contract (something individual home users don’t do), support for both Linux and the BSD’s comes from mailing lists, newsgroups, irc, and the web. Linux has fostered a tidal wave of third-party books, of varying quality; however, a small number of excellent BSD books are available. That said, one important reasons I use FreeBSD after several years experience with Linux is the cohesiveness and focus of its support structure. How many times have Linux users needed to deal with the annoying differences between distributions? That doesn’t happen with FreeBSD — there are no distributions. Personally, I would not have led the review with the bit on the license. This is a grossly overrated and overheated issue among home desktop users (How often are any of them seriously impacted by licensing problems? How many of them are developing and releasing code, or managing networks?) And, I believe 5.1 retains the option to install via ftp. That only requires downloading of a few very small files and creating 2 floppies. 2003-10-18 1:09 pm …for desktop Linux users? How does, say, the fact that RedHat and SuSE provide a “choice” of layouts benefit users? Touting “choice” in Linux is a bit like touting motherhood and apple pie. The code in every Linux application is essentially identical, so the only remaining space for choices is along the edges. 2003-10-18 1:46 pm Christopher X (IP: —.ok.ok.cox.net). You have not misconfigured anything. Now you would have to manipulate libmap. It seems that SCHED_ULE finally worked out problems with mouse. So combination of KSE and SCHED_ULE will do. 2003-10-18 3:41 pm FreeBSD might be great at some points, and I have used it over the past few months, but in some aspects I find it horrible. For everything I want to do I run into a (most times fixable) problem. 1. Installation didn’t work for me by default; FreeBSD doesn’t support my chipset properly. Submitted bug report, was a non-bug according to them… Solution: turn off DMA. 2. Installation still didn’t work: FreeBSD can’t handly my 38 gb harddisk, because the BIOS can’t handle disks larger than 32 GB. Solution: create BSD slice using Linux. 3. Sometimes sysinstall misteriously can’t resolve a hostname when you select to install packages via FTP. 4. Package conflicts seemingly missing: I could install Apache 2.0 over 1.4. Removing 2.0 again left behind a broken 1.4 installation, which I couldn’t reinstall due to dependency problems. Solution: forced package removal. 5. Sound doesn’t work. My card is SB compatible, but SB driver doesn’t work. 6. For ide-scsi a kernel recompile is needed. So by default most people won’t be able to use XCDRoast or similar. 7. FreeBSD is unable to read NetBSD or OpenBSD partitions. According to mailinglist people it shouldn’t be a problem, but both I and something else had this problem. 8. When you use portsupgrade and stop it while it does “make install”, it forgets that the corresponding package was installed. If other packages depend on it, it will complain that there are “stale dependencies”, which it can’t fix because it’s not installed. Solution: manually continue installation of interrupted package first. So I won’t ever try FreeBSD again. I am currently reinstalling NetBSD, which mostly “just works” out of the box. While I havent tried 8) on it, while 7) won’t work either by design, and while 2) is also a problem, it at least hasn’t any of the problems 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. P.S. Debian, by the way, has none of them, and can even play CD’s! 2003-10-18 3:56 pm Oh, and 9. wxWindows in FreeBSD ports is hopelessly outdated, which it isn’t in NetBSD. The only positive thing about FreeBSD is that it feels fast and responsive, and that scrolling happens smoothly because it has XFree 4.3 (compared to 4.2 in NetBSD and Debian). It goes without saying, of course, that anyone running mission-critical systems should use the RELEASE branch rather than the CURRENT or STABLE branches. Shouldn’t you rather use STABLE for mission-critical systems? 2003-10-18 4:49 pm Tough luck your hardware is not yet supported in FreeBSD. With Debian, however, XFree86 4.3 should be doable. Try this link: http://www.apt-get.org/search.php?query=xfree86&submit=&arch%5B… or alternatively these instructions: http://www.tuxmobil.org/debian_xfree43.html 2003-10-18 5:54 pm Shouldn’t you rather use STABLE for mission-critical systems Not really. Stable doesn’t get all the new features, but it gets some. The -RELEASE cvs tags get security and really bad bog fixes only, making it less of a moving target. 2003-10-18 7:00 pm I hadn’t really though about it, but does *no one* else know that FreeBSD has loadable modules? Nvidia in the install instructions says “recompile your kernel”, and the author here complains that ipfw isn’t there by default. If you use rc.conf to turn on the firewall on, it automatically loads ipfw.ko. For Nvidia, there’s a sysvshm.ko (that I haven’t tested, I need to go home and get installing).