FreeBSD Week: Introduction to FreeBSD

However, there are some places where Linux is further “ahead” that FreeBSD. One example that springs to mind is commercial Nvidia video card drivers. Keep in mind however that while Linux is aiming for the corporate desktop, FreeBSD is designed to be a server OS. You don’t need 3D graphics drivers on your firewall or DNS server. You need tried and tested code that won’t crash at 3 in the morning. If you can look past a few of the newer cutting edge features, FreeBSD makes a great desktop OS as well. When it’s 3 in the morning, and I’m writing a paper thats due at 8:00 AM, I want a nice stable OS just as much as the sysadmin in the next building

FreeBSD is a Unix based operating system. As such it can run much of the same software as Linux. XFree86, the windowing environment, will compile and run on FreeBSD, just as it will on Linux. Most, if not all, of the same window managers are available. I am currently running Window Maker, but I also have enlightenment and KDE installed. If there is an application that you must have, check the ports tree, and don’t be surprised if it’s there. Imagine a directory containing sub-directories which have makefiles for over 4000 open-source applications. If I want to install the latest and greatest Window Maker, all I have to do is ‘cd’ into the Window Maker directory and type, ‘make’ and it will download and compile Window Maker, along with any Window Maker dependancies that aren’t already installed. It doesn’t matter if you installed a dependency via the ports tree, via binary package or compiled locally from source, as long as it’s in your $PATH it doesn’t matter. That, my friends, is the ports tree. In my humble opinion, it’s the greatest packaging system I’ve seen on any OS, it’s ever better than apt-get in my opinion. Although I must admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve used Debian, and even then I wasn’t anything close to a expert on the inner workings of apt-get and dselect. Just take my word for it: the ports tree needs to be experienced to be believed.

The -CURRENT version of FreeBSD is supposed to be released as Freebsd-5.0 in November of 2002. It will include much better muti-processor capabilities, which will allow FreeBSD to scale better as the number of processors increases. It will also include major improvements to the VM system, as well as the TCP stack. While 4.5 is only a minor release, it helps in it’s own small way of easing us towards the eagerly awaited version 5.0.

I’ve been running the first release candidate for Freebsd-4.5 for over a week and a half now (which is mostly a bug fixed version over 4.4 with some new lements/improvements on the networking & filesystem side of things). It’s been very stable, not a single thing to complain about. I’ve got the usual software installed: XFree86-4, KDE2, galeon, xmms, all from the ports tree. I’ve compiled all of my software from the ports tree, and I also run a client. All of these tasks, especially compiling large apps such as X Windows or KDE, stress the OS sub-systems. Granted, I’m not serving 100+ hits a second on Apache, and I’m not running a 100+ GB file server either. But I can honestly say that it is the most stable OS I’ve ever ran and I welcome everyone to at least give it try. It could very well surprise you.

Related Link: The Big *BSD Interview

About the Author:
Nathan Mace is currently a Senior enrolled at the University of Charleston, majoring in Computer Information Systems. He is interested in all types of operating systems, expecially Unix-type OS’s such as Linux, *BSD’s, and other commercial Unices. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]


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