freebsd

I’ve started looking at FreeBSD at work this week, because I was reading some blog posts about how MySQL performs well on a combination of that and ZFS together.  I haven’t gotten around to getting ZFS setup yet, but I have been looking into FreeBSD as an OS a lot, and so far, I like it.

This makes the second distro in the past year that I’ve really started to seriously look into, the other one being Ubuntu.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole FreeBSD design structure and philosophy, and for now I’m having a hard time summing it up.  In my mind, it kind of feels like a mashup of functionality between Gentoo and Ubuntu.  I like that there is a set group of packages that are always there, kind of like Ubuntu, but that you can compile everything from source, like Gentoo.

What has really surprised me is how quickly I’ve been able to pick it up, understand it, and already work on getting an install up and running.  I think that having patience is probably the primary reason there.  Figuring out how things work hasn’t really been that hard, but I say that because of past Linux experience that has helped me figure out where to look for answers more easily.  That is, when I get stuck on something, I can usually figure it out just by guessing or poking around with little effort.

Years ago, if I would have looked at any BSD, I would have been asking “why?”  I still don’t know why I’m looking at it, other than I believe it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket.  At work we already support CentOS, Gentoo and Ubuntu, and it’d be awesome to add FreeBSD to the list.

I’m really enjoying it so far.  It’s easy to install packages using the ports system.  I tried going the route of binary packages at first, but that wasn’t working out so well for me.  Then I tried mixing ports and packages, and that wasn’t doing too great either, so I switched to just using ports for now.

The only thing I don’t like so far is how it’s kind of hard to find what I’m looking for.  I totally chalk that up to me being a noob, and not as any real flaw of the distro or it’s documentation — I just don’t know where to look yet.  Fortunately, ‘whereis’ has saved me a lot of time.

The system seems familiar enough and easy to use for me, coming from a Linux background.  In fact, I really can’t find many differences.  The things I have noticed are that it uses much less memory, even on old underpowered boxes, and that it is relatively quick out of the box.  I never would have guessed that.

I’m curious to see how ZFS integrates into the system, if at all.  I like the filesystem, and it’s feature set, but that’s about it for now (I got to play with it a bit as we had a FreeNAS install for a few months).  If it’s a major pain to integrate it, I’m probably not going to push for it right now — I’m content with riding out the learning curve until I feel more comfortable with the system.

So, all in all, it’s cool to find something different, that doesn’t feel too different, but still lets me get my head in there and figure out something new.

If you guys know of any killer apps to use on here, let me know.  I’m kind of wishing I had an easier way to install stuff using ports aside from tromping through /usr/ports manually looking for package names.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “freebsd

  1. The hier man page might be useful as well in getting to know how FreeBSD is organized: http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=hier

  2. We use a lot of fbsd at work, and I’m sorta’ the one doing the system setup. I also recently switched my laptop over from ubuntu to fbsd, as the last problems seemed solved ( suspend-to-ram ).

    One of the main reasons I enjoy fbsd so much is the feeling of consistency in the OS. It is developed as a whole, not as individual packages. I also prefer modifying/reading system settings via sysctl than poking around in /sys and /proc. I also find the manpages shipping with the base OS much easier to read than the equivalent ones in linux.

    I use zfs a lot, and it really saves a lot of pain and frustration, so go for it ;) One of the great things is the possibility to have something like opensolaris boot environments, ie, you clone your running root fs, chroot/jail into it and do system and/or package-updates. When done just set a zpool property to boot the new env. If there is a problem, just switch back to the old one. zfs can also facilitate backups.

    Regarding ports/packages: yes, it can be a bit frustrating trying to find what you are looking for. Main problem is still upgrading installed ports, as there is only very basic dependency tracking. There is a utility called portmaster which is good though. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there is a new package-system being developed. It’s called pkgng and this http://ivoras.net/blog/tree/2012-07-26.pkgng—best-thing-since-sliced-bread!.html might be a good start.

    So, all in all, hope you get to like fbsd :) And have a look at some man-pages, they usually have a lot to teach us. rc.conf, loader.conf, ifconfig and hier are perhaps the most important ones.

    • Andreas, I’m noticing more and more how FreeBSD owning the entire stack is making more sense, and I kind of like it the more I use it.

      I heard about pkng, gonna look into it. I keep thinking there’s gotta be simpler ways to install stuff.

  3. I’m sure you have already read this on my blog (you do read my blog, don’t you?), but you can install ZFS as a native kernel module in Linux. Check out http://zfsonlinux.org. No, it’s not FUSE, and it’s the latest sources that were available before Oracle screwed everything up. I’ve been using it for about a year now, with great success. If it’s ZFS you’re after, you don’t need the BSDs.

    • Yah I’ve looked into the Linux port, but still seems sketchy to me. Also, I’ve pretty much stopped reading blogs for a time now, dunno why, really. Maybe I should setup my own planet feed — that’d be simpler to catch up on than an RSS reader.

  4. FWIW, I switched to Gentoo from FreeBSD. Lots of frustrations with the lack of coherency in the package management, as well as a bunch of Linux-only apps.

    • I’m running only Apache MySQL PHP stacks over here, so I don’t really have many package issues. The only thing I want so far is a Percona build.

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