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Unix Operating Systems Software

Why FreeBSD 644

An anonymous reader writes "The FreeBSD operating system is the unknown giant among free operating systems. Starting out from the 386BSD project, it is an extremely fast UNIX-like operating system mostly for the Intel chip and its clones. In many ways, FreeBSD has always been the operating system that GNU/Linux-based operating systems should have been. It runs on out-of-date Intel machines and 64-bit AMD chips, and it serves terabytes of files a day on some of the largest file servers on earth."
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Why FreeBSD

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:14AM (#13149613)
    He didn't even flag it for the BSD section [slashdot.org] on the site. I guess this is a step up from that RAID article, though.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Squidly ( 720087 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:15AM (#13149621)
    Simple, choice is good. As muck as I like Linux, I'm glad to see that there are viable, open alternative OS's.
  • FreeBSD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JeiFuRi ( 888436 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:16AM (#13149632)
    Don't ask why, ask why not.
    • But BSD is dying! I thought everyone knew that. I guess someone forgot to tell CmdrTaco.
    • Re:FreeBSD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @01:02PM (#13150284)
      since I love both, I'll jump right in and give plus and minus to both FreeBSD and your friendly Linux distro of choice:

      1. drivers: more devices supported in the Linux world
      2. install: bsd install still primative, and disk partitioning is weird especially for novice, and multiple boot can be hard to set up
      3. smp - scaling: 5.x freebsd is still having trouble with its spinlocks, and can still sieze up under heavy load (4.x version with giant lock doesn't have this problem). The core issue is that the freebsd folks don't seem to realize releasing locks in the same order they are applied makes things easy, while what they are doing can make trouble. This is why I use 4. in production.
      4. filesystem - ext3 and reiserfs can get into inconsistent unrecoverable state, pure and simple. XFS and maybe some other Linux filesystems don't have that problem.
      5. Linux GPL great for some things and horrible for others, BSD license ditto.
      6. startup scripts easier to understand in BSD, getting pretty hairy in some Linux distros. My favorite commercial distro SuSE and RedHat are really getting tangled.
      7. More Enterprise software available (and supported) on Linux, maybe not a big deal unless you're in big SAN environment or absolutely MUST use Oracle and such. I'm betting though you'll see more stuff popping up for Debian and friends now that Debian has bounded back into life.

  • by ProudClod ( 752352 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:17AM (#13149639)
    Jesus Christ, is this post a bloody propaganda speech or something? Slashdot - keeping the Nuremburg spirit alive!
  • Flaimbait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DemENtoR ( 582030 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:17AM (#13149645)
    "FreeBSD has always been the operating system that GNU/Linux-based operating systems should have been."
    Can it get anymore flaimbaitish than this. Ironicaly enought it comes from I.B.M developer works.

    P.S: Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.
  • Linux And The BSDs (Score:3, Informative)

    by Goo.cc ( 687626 ) * on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:20AM (#13149670)
    Linux and BSD based operating systems provide many of the same services, and pretty much work the same way. I think that you can't go wrong with either of them. I see no need to pit them against each other, as they both provide freedom and excellence to the user.
    • "Linux" is GNU+Linux, FreeBSD is a complete OS.
    • by stoney27 ( 36372 ) * on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:35AM (#13149781) Homepage
      Yes but there is the licenses issue. BSD style licenses vs the GPL.

      At least for companies to use the OS with there products.

      Now the licenses issue is not going to concern me if all I am doing is setting up a machine to run at home. And I think it comes down to what you are use to. I have been mostly a old Sun Admin and I like FreeBSD over Linux, although I do like the rc start up scripts of Linux over FreeBSD.

      And it did make the move to OS X easier coming from FreeBSD. However I am not sure I will ever get use to the changes in the startup files that Apple has introduced. Maybe some day.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @12:19PM (#13150032) Homepage
        Yes but there is the licenses issue. BSD style licenses vs the GPL.

        At least for companies to use the OS with there products.

        Linux doesn't require that applications running on top must be free/open (Or Red Hat, Suse, IBM, Oracle and everyone else doing that would be in trouble), so what would be the difference? The only thing they can't do is modify the kernel, distribute it, and not ship the code. And that is only relevant to an OS company. Hell, they could even do all the in-house customization they want, like the NSA did. Or just publish their modifications, since they're not in the OS business anyway. So to claim there's any relevant licensing difference for companies using either OS is just FUD, in my opinion.

      • by NutscrapeSucks ( 446616 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @12:58PM (#13150266)
        Yes but there is the licenses issue. BSD style licenses vs the GPL. At least for companies to use the OS with there products.

        Just as a factual matter, Linux and GPL software have recieved about 10^6 more corporate support than BSD-licenced software in recent years. The GPL has proven to be a very corporate-friendly license because it allows copyright holders to share their code without giving away the 'exploitation rights'.

        Plus, I think you could argue that the big exception (Apple), was driven more by technical reasons than licensing ones. They started with an 1980s BSD-based OS, so FreeBSD code was a better fit. If OS X was a clean slate, who knows?
    • I see no need to pit them against each other, as they both provide freedom and excellence to the user.

      FreeBSD has a bit of an identity crisis, they sorta see themselves as "Linux Junior", with a chip on their shoulders. Which is why every single pro-BSD article is basically a comparison to Linux.

      If you look at how Linux has been positioned and marketed, they've never felt the need to "eat their own" and convert FreeBSD users. At least not in the last 10 years.

      Linux has always been positioned for "world
  • News? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by N3TW4LK3R ( 841526 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:20AM (#13149674)
    Exactly how is this news?

    I've know that FreeBSD was much better than Linux for ages ;)

    Joking aside, FreeBSD is a bit hard to install and get working if you're using it as a workstation OS...
    I've been using it for 4 years now and it still took most of my free time in a period of 2 weeks to get it installed properly on my newly bought laptop (with all the details and little stuff, that is)
    Of course when I was done, it was very much worth it. I don't think any system is as robust and stable as FreeBSD.

    A huge "Thank You" to the developers!
    • by chronicon ( 625367 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:39AM (#13149808) Homepage
      Joking aside, FreeBSD is a bit hard to install...

      I think those days are over...

      The PC-BSD [pcbsd.org] project makes it a snap to install a functioning FreeBSD system. DistroWatch [distrowatch.com] mentions a very nice step-by-step guide [michael-and-mary.net] to installation process but really, you don't even need that if you are already handy at installing various GNU/Linux distros. (Although the guide does go into some custom configuration things that are useful/interesting.)

      The torrent for PC-BSD [pcbsd.org] is ready to roll, give it a try. Now there are no more excuses ;-)

    • "2 weeks to get installed" can you tell me specifically what advantages you have in a laptop that justify 2 weeks of work ?
      even assuming zero maintenance for bsd (ha !) and 30 mins every 2 week for windows (windows update + norton) it is hard to see the advantage, particularly given the wealth of windows apps and ease of communicating with others
  • Why Skippy? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:25AM (#13149701)
    Skippy is the unknown giant among peanut butters. Starting out from George Washington Carver's project, it is an extremely creamy spreadable peanut product mostly for the "& Jelly" sandwich and its clones. In many ways, Skippy has always been the peanut butter that Peter Pan should have been. It spreads on Wonder Bread and artisan sourdough loafs fresh from the oven, and it serves terabites of children a day on some of the largest daycare centers on earth.
  • by slummy ( 887268 ) <shawnuthNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:27AM (#13149723) Homepage
    But all the new and fun stuff comes out for Linux. If you're looking for something close to the style of FreeBSD, but with the new and freshness of Linux, try Gentoo.
  • Why we use FreeBSD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheBracket ( 307388 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:29AM (#13149738) Homepage
    We use FreeBSD a lot; small firewalls on obsolete hardware, SMP database servers (PostgreSQL and MySQL, mainly), LDAP servers, mail servers, NFS/samba file servers, web servers, servers to monitor servers... just about anything that doesn't HAVE to be Windows to satisfy a client's desire for Exchange.

    In general, it is rock solid; I've seen a FreeBSD server with a load of 80-something (process went nuts), and still been able to login and take corrective action without rebooting. I remember being quite shocked to find a console reporting that / was inaccessible due to a drive error - but server processes on other partitions continued to run just fine anyway. We've had a few hiccups with 5.x (although 5.4 fixed most of them), but our testing of 6-beta is going really well. FreeBSD is the masochist of operating systems: you hit it, and it just keeps asking for more!

    There are other reasons to love it. The ports system is very solid, and it's been years since we had problems applying an upgrade due to dependency issues. The documentation is marvelous - man pages are useful, and the handbook covers most things. The community support mailing lists are very useful, too. Jails provide a convenient way to partition processes on a single server, although they are far from perfect at this point (they keep improving, though).

    I really can't say enough good things about FreeBSD. It has been running most of our hosting setup, and many of our client's networks for years, and the only time we ever seem to run into problems is when hardware dies.

    (For the record, I also use Debian - and it is good, but I prefer FreeBSD for servers that have to be trusted)

  • Goes both ways (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plasticsquirrel ( 637166 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:31AM (#13149747)
    One could also argue that Linux is what FreeBSD should have been, and cite the huge number of supercomputers using Linux [top500.org], or the success of Linux on the mainframe [ibm.com]. However, it would be nice if the poster realized that it's a pissing contest and both operating systems are impressive and have their uses, benefits, and drawbacks. Neither is what one "should have been". They both have their own, very different methodologies, so let's leave it at that.

    Not that it's news anyways...
  • Silly Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rathehun ( 818491 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:32AM (#13149758) Homepage
    ...but why isn't this in the BSD section?


  • by confusion ( 14388 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:33AM (#13149765) Homepage
    I've admin'd most every flavor of Unix at some point in my life and I really really like how FreeBSD is managed, from development to the ports tree.

    Now that there is a push to support binary updates, my last major complaint has been addressed.

    Anyone who has ever been stuck in the perl dependancy hell will absolutely love the ports tree - I really don't understand why there hasn't been more adoption of that concept in Linux.

    Also, I am suprised that Linux is the platform of choice for all of these appliances that companies are pumping out, like wireless routers, security devices, etc, when the BSD license is so much more attractive to business.

    The major stumbling block that FreeBSD has left is their development team. It seems like the way things are organized really creates a lot of opportunity for personality clashes.

    http://www.cyvin.org/ [cyvin.org]
  • Extremely fast? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cee ( 22717 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:34AM (#13149774)
    Starting out from the 386BSD project, it is an extremely fast UNIX-like operating system mostly for the Intel chip and its clones.

    This sounds like FreeBSD performs vastly better than any OS in the world. And how much faster is exteremly compared to Linux or Windows? Twice the speed? Four times?
  • This many comments into a BSD thread, and no one has inserted the "Netcraft confirms BSD is dying" troll? Is it now confirmed that BSD is actually growing, and that troll is nonsense?
  • FreeBSD makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alex_delarge ( 187598 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:38AM (#13149799)
    The first time I installed FreeBSD, I looked at the screen and kind of went "What do I do now?". After a bit of digging, my impression was that of a system that had all the kinks worked out of it. After trying many Linux distros, FreeBSD made more sense.

    If I install software, it's going to be in /usr/local, if I upgrade the system, cvsup is simple, the ports tree makes keeping software up to date a breeze, I'm not going to have to hunt for a distro specific rpm or a wierd library just to get something to work. The amount of software available for FreeBSD is astounding, chances are, if a project is in development, it's already in the ports tree.

    I've used FreeBSD for about 6 years and I really don't see myself using Linux anymore. The community is very supportive, intelligent and open minded, I always seem to get things done with FreeBSD, I haven't found a problem I couldn't solve within a few hours, it just works, and works well. Try it, you might find that it works as well for you.
  • by John_Booty ( 149925 ) <johnbooty AT bootyproject DOT org> on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:43AM (#13149831) Homepage
    Seems like an informative and unbiased article, but I couldn't help but laugh at the author's email address. Especially given the "FreeBSD has always been the operating system that GNU/Linux-based operating systems should have been" jab that the story submitter felt compelled to include.

    Why FreeBSD
    A quick tour of the BSD alternative
    Level: Introductory
    Frank Pohlmann (frank@linuxuser.co.uk), U.K. Technical Editor, Linuxuser and Developer
    19 Jul 2005
  • Better question: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:44AM (#13149838) Journal
    Why FreeBSD instead of OpenBSD, NetBSD, OSX, etc.?
    The article was really sketchy on this point.
  • For real, yo. NetBSD works far better and smoother than anything in the FreeBSD 5.x series. Of course, for those scared of the command line there's always mac, windows and linux; but if you're going to run a unix, why settle for FreeBSD when you can have something far better?
    • nVidia binary drivers. If you want a free BSD system with nVidia hardware support it's going to be FreeBSD. Also, some of the security enhancements might be useful (although I personally think they are a bad idea). Oh, and better documentation - the NetBSD docs are a little sketchy in places. Oh yes, and an NDIS wrapper - although NetBSD should be getting one of these courtesy of Google in a few months.

      Its certainly not the clear-cut decision it was two years ago though, when I would have said Free on

  • by bofar ( 902274 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @11:49AM (#13149875)
    I work at a large internet organization that runs thousands of FreeBSD systems. When we need 64-bit though, we switch to Linux because it has a stable 64-bit distribution and FreeBSD does not. I've gone through all the kudo's about FreeBSD being stable, but are you using release 5? and are you using 64-bit? (and don't even get me started about threading support.)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I've gone through all the kudo's about FreeBSD being stable

      Give back what you've stolen from Mr Kudo.
    • I have been fairly cautious about 5.x. We maintain a customized install image for our servers, and I've waited until march this year to switch to 5.x. I would say that everything from 5.2 and higher is stable for all normal purposes. I have a 64bit Sparc running on 5.2-RC2 and its uptime is 347 days. It handles 3-4 Mbit/s of web traffic with no problem and I never had to look at it after the initial install. All our other machines are running 5.x as well. But under extreme load, 5.x still has some lingeri
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by Understudy ( 111386 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @12:56PM (#13150258) Homepage
    I wrote this a while ago but it seems applicable here.
    Linux vs. FreeBSD [understudy.net]
  • by toby ( 759 ) * on Sunday July 24, 2005 @01:40PM (#13150491) Homepage Journal
    In many ways, FreeBSD has always been the operating system that GNU/Linux-based operating systems should have been.

    And if you want a portable BSD, don't overlook NetBSD [netbsd.org], arguably the most portable and ported modern high-performance operating system in existence.

  • Kernel performance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by foonf ( 447461 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @02:24PM (#13150713) Homepage
    If you want to seriously compare two open-source Unix-like systems, the only instrinsic difference is the kernel. Arguing that one system is better because of the default configuration of network services, the package system, the organization of the rc scripts, and so on, is a red herring, because there is no reason you can't take all of the userspace from one system and run it on top of the kernel from the other -- and there are projects which do this.

    In that light, these benchmarks [bulk.fefe.de] are the most enlightening comparison I have seen to date. Some BSD users have attacked the methodology, but none of them has gone on to do alternative tests of their own, and the author has been very conscientious about addressing some of the criticism. The bottom line is that FreeBSD is, whichever version you choose, at best equal to Linux in low-level kernel performance, and usually slower.

    When you also take into account the greater ease of use of most common Linux distributions, broader hardware support, greater availability of commercial software (yes, you may be able to run it under FreeBSD's Linux emulation layer, but the vendor is unlikely to officially support that, which matters to large corporations), and better scalability, it really isn't suprising that most people considering a free Unix-like operating system choose some distribution of Linux.

    Undoubtedly for a long time, perhaps until the 2.4 kernel came out, FreeBSD probably was superior, and had a well-deserved reputation as a better choice for serious usage. For some purposes (there are some routing benchmarks that FreeBSD people always bring up, which I can't find right now) it may still be. But through some combination of the AT&T lawsuit, media coverage, and pure chance (licensing may also have played a part), the commercial support and developer mindshare swung decisively to the Linux kernel, and today it is clearly the best choice for most uses. We can wonder what would have happened if FreeBSD had won out instead -- the resulting kernel might very well be better than either Linux or FreeBSD is today -- but that doesn't change the facts about which is the better choice today.
    • by Wonko42 ( 29194 ) <ryan+slashdot@wo[ ].com ['nko' in gap]> on Sunday July 24, 2005 @03:15PM (#13150963) Homepage
      It would be very interesting to see an updated version of those benchmarks performed on FreeBSD 5.4 with debugging off. In those tests, FreeBSD 5.1 scaled almost as well as Linux 2.6, but FreeBSD kernels prior to 5.3 had some major problems. There have been huge improvements between 5.1 and 5.4.

      Personally, I'd say that 5.3 was the first of the 5.x branch that was actually production-ready, and 5.4 is even better. However, the 5.x branch is still a bit of a disappointment compared to 4.x, which was an absolute gem in terms of stability and scalability. Thankfully, it looks like 6.x is shaping up nicely and a great effort is being made to avoid making the mistakes that were made in the 5.x branch (namely cramming in too many big new features without sufficient testing).

      For my money (or lack thereof, teehee), if the FreeBSD kernel performs about as well as the Linux 2.6 kernel, then I'd choose FreeBSD hands down, merely because I prefer the FreeBSD Way. It's the oldest argument in the FreeBSD vs. Linux game: I like the consistency, the elegance, the ease of keeping third-party software updated via the ports system, and the knowledge that the project is in the hands of good, intelligent, trustworthy people. I don't mind Linux at all; in fact, I really like Gentoo. But it doesn't give me the same warm fuzzy feeling of stability, security, and elegance that FreeBSD does.

      • It's the oldest argument in the FreeBSD vs. Linux game: I like the consistency

        Let me say a few words about consistency:
        Some software developers complain (I don't need to post URLs, you'll find it if you google) about GCC, glibc and library developers, even kernel hackers, who every now and again break existing software, or change interfaces on GNU/Linux. Just this week I saw a ML compiler that ceased to work properly under the new 2.6 kernel.
        I've read a presentation about kernel development by an IBM guy
    • by argent ( 18001 )
      If you want to seriously compare two open-source Unix-like systems, the only instrinsic difference is the kernel. Arguing that one system is better because of the default configuration of network services, the package system, the organization of the rc scripts, and so on, is a red herring, because there is no reason you can't take all of the userspace from one system and run it on top of the kernel from the other -- and there are projects which do this.

      I've looked at every "Linux kernel with a BSD-like us
  • by Punk Walrus ( 582794 ) on Sunday July 24, 2005 @04:23PM (#13151303) Journal
    I work in a former FreeBSD office. I say "former" because we are in the long process of uprooting a lot of FreeBSD architecture a previous admin forced upon us.

    I am not going to get into which OS "is better" because actual performance is not the issue here. If I had to rate what I saw, FreeBSD (4.1x) worked okay for the hardware it was put on, although it probably would have worked better on a "stock install" than the kludged clusterfuck that we deal with now.

    The background is this: a few years ago, the small company I worked for had two admins who were FreeBSD fanatics. They pressured the IT department to use FreeBSD because it was free, their Windows infrastructure was taxed, and they had just bought a whole lot of new hardware. The pressured FreeBSD over Redhat, and made an impressive demo. So the company started going to FreeBSD. The admins, who had impressive mod skills, "tuned and tweaked" FreeBSD to work under the specific loads of the various server functions.

    This would have been a good situation to be in, but then one of them got lazy, and updates got further and further behind. The other quit. The lazy one got fired. The other admins didn't know FreeBSD and barely knew Linux. Both of them eventually quit, too. I don't blame FreeBSD for the personnel problems, but this is leading to the main problem.

    The company searched for someone with FreeBSD experience. The few people they found were not the kind of people they were looking for (inexperienced, would not pass clearance, had poor work records), and now they were stuck with a rapidly aging system that wasn't supported by anyone who had a clue. The new admins they hired tried to match the previous admin's skills, but were spending so much time diagnosing crashes, they didn't have time to learn new FreeBSD skills via online sources, which are sparse, confused, unorganized, and unsupportive (don't flame me on this, because this is pretty much the opinion of the whole company). And finding corporate-level supported software and hardware to run on FreeBSD was next to impossible ("We don't support FreeBSD for our fiber channel cards," says a SAN company desperate for our business, "but we hear some guy in the Netherlands had a flaky beta driver that can see things as long as the partitions are less than 256 GB." then the Sourceforge project hasn't been updated since 2002, doesn't work on our kernel version, and the guy's website is 404...)

    So they decided to go with Redhat Linux. It just works. It worked faster than FreeBSD. It had an easy-to understand packaging and script-driven administration system, corporate support, and better yet: they could find LOTS people skilled in Redhat Linux in resumes. I was a particular gem because when the hired me I was an RHCT and had experience with OpenBSD and FreeBSD experience to boot. My first project was "Get us off FreeBSD!!!" by direct order. Yes, you could argue this is not a FreeBSD issue at all, but some management of people issue, and you would be right, and that is my exact point.

    If FreeBSD had a sensible corporate base, a well-thought out directory structure (I have boot scripts in /etc and /usr/local/etc... and have you ever had to diagnose which one broke?), better hardware/software vendor support, and a huge skills base, maybe with some certs... THEN we will see true competition with Linux in the corporate sector. Redhat is the type of company businesses want. They understand the support language Redhat speaks. And maybe I'll see stats that the Redhat kernel is bloated, runs 20% slower the what FreeBSD does on Apache pulls, or some fanatic going on about, "Oh yeah? What about PORTS, dumbass???" But you know what? If FreeBSD wants to be taken out of the hobbyist corner and shine in the corporate arena... it's got a lot of marketing work to do.

    • The company searched for someone with FreeBSD experience.

      That was a mistake. They should have earched for someone with mainstream UNIX experience. Anyone who's familiar with any commercial UNIX... Solaris, AIX, HPUX, whatever... will find FreeBSD a familiar environment. The details are different, but the BSD environment is baked into the genes of every commercial UNIX out there.

      And there's lots of people who know UNIX who can pick up FreeBSD far far quicker than they can pick up Linux.

      For example...

      If FreeBSD had [...] a well-thought out directory structure (I have boot scripts in /etc and /usr/local/etc... and have you ever had to diagnose which one broke?),

      That is a well-thought-out directory structure. You have the operating system, a fixed core that's evolved only gradually over the past 15 years, and add-on packages. You upgrade the OS, your packages don't get touched. You upgrade a package, the OS doesn't get touched. And your oldschool SunOS guys? They'll have no problem diagnosing which one broke.

      I've used Red Hat versions since 2.1. Every major version has had a completely different structure. You don't have any border between the OS and add-ons, so when you go to upgrade you have to take all-or-nothing. Over the short term I can see the advantage of Red Hat's model, but over the long term you've got to start over again and again and again.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe