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Feature: BSD

My desktop OS: FreeBSD 6.0-STABLE

By Vaida Bogdan on April 25, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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I've been using FreeBSD since I dumped Linux six years ago at a friend's suggestion. I quickly learned to appreciate its intelligent design: a bare /etc where you can find only necessary system files, good use of /usr/local (most Linux distributions leave this empty and concentrate on filling /etc and /usr/*bin instead), an application system called Ports, which contains a set of scripts that download, install, and patch any program found in the /usr/ports directory, and a very good handbook.

I recently installed FreeBSD 6 on a new notebook computer. The installation went quickly; I got a terminal screen in less than 40 minutes. The only packages I wanted from the installation disk were Lynx, a Web browser, and cvsup-without-gui, a tool with which you can upgrade your sources from a FreeBSD mirror. With only the base system at its disposal, FreeBSD can give you a hands-on experience from hour zero: it has a compiler (gcc), a download utility (fetch), an editor (vi), and a bunch of other tools (OpenSSH, SendMail, Revision Control System) that can help or entertain you during the rest of the installation.

I went on with downloading the latest system sources and ports via CVSup, a process in which only the modified files are downloaded (thus saving bandwidth). In order to do this, I had to insert two lines of text in two cvsup config files: one line was a mirror server near my location and the second was the name of the FreeBSD version I needed the packages for. While rebuilding the system -- a process called "buildworld" that brings all your system files up-to-date from the previously cvs-updated source tree -- I started installing my packages.

In order to install the X Window System you only have to run the commands cd /usr/ports/x11/xorg && make install clean. I use WindowMaker as my desktop environment, mainly because it is lightweight, and over the years I have customized it to fit my needs. For instance, I set it up so that I have no need for a mouse. With WindowMaker I usually create one window for Web browsing, two or three for programming, and another one for multimedia.

I use Opera as my Web browser mainly for its stability and performance; on my system Firefox increases system load and sometimes crashes. I listen to music with XMMS, with its xmms-crossfade and xmms-alarm plugins, all installed from ports, and I watch movies with MPlayer, with which I have never had any codec problems.

I use the gPhoto/GQview/WebMagick/GIMP combo to extract, view, manage, and modify pictures I take with my digital camera.

For desktop productivity I use the AbiWord word processor, Gnumeric spreadsheet, and Xpdf viewer. I installed the GnuCash finance manager to keep track of income and expenses. Birthday helps me remember important dates, and wmweather shows me the weather from the local airport.

I use duplicity to remotely backup my home directory, and I encrypt my hard disk with GBDE. In order to maintain system stability I use pkg_cutleaves, a Perl script found in ports which can remove any package not listed as a dependency for any other package (thus keeping the system safe from unneeded packages).

Since I found FreeBSD, I haven't wanted to leave it. I use it for desktop productivity, finance, programming, and multimedia, and it excels in all of them. I've tried several Linux distributions and I still have a collection of pretty much any downloadable free operating system around, but FreeBSD works better for me.

What desktop OS do you use every day? Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us what you use and why. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your favorite OS or have one in hand.) In recent weeks, we've covered SimplyMEPIS, Xandros, Mac OS X, Fedora Core 3, Ubuntu, White Box Enterprise Linux, Mandriva PowerPack 2006, Slackware, SUSE, GRML, Kanotix, Gentoo, VectorLinux, CentOS, Damn Small Linux, and Frugalware.

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on My desktop OS: FreeBSD 6.0-STABLE

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Why CVSup? Use Portsnap

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 01:17 AM
You have to use CVSup to update the source FreeBSD itself, but why use it for ports? Portsnap uses even less bandwidth, doesn't require modification of any config files and is part of the default install. You don't have to worry about remembering to install CVSup during install or using sysinstall to get it after the fact. Once your ports tree is up to date, you can grab CVSup and whatever else you need from there.

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Re:Why CVSup? Use Portsnap

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 06:37 AM
On the downside portsnap doesn't support refuse file or any equivalent thereof. I personally use portsnap for the ports and CTM for the sources (and only when I want to track current, otherwise it is freebsd-update for me)

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Re:Why CVSup? Use Portsnap

Posted by: Vaida Bogdan on April 26, 2006 05:08 PM
I use CVSup mainly because it's faster to type: "cd<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/src && make update" - and upgrade both source and ports (even though it takes more time to download the ports). Anyway as far as quality goes they both do the job fine.

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/usr/local

Posted by: massysett on April 26, 2006 01:20 AM
"good use of<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local (most Linux distributions leave this empty and concentrate on filling<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc and<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/*bin instead"

What's so great about this? On Linux I understand that<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local is for stuff I compile and install myself (fortunately, almost nothing) while my package manager takes care of<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin. What's the benefit of the FreeBSD way?

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 02:06 AM
There's a little bit more of a distinction than that.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin is meant to store binaries that are part of the system, and<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local/bin is meant to store "locally installed" binaries.

I guess as a matter of interpretation, managed packages are considered part of the system and compiled packages are considered non-system. Seems fair to me, but I'm sure somebody has started a holy war over it.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Charles Tryon on April 26, 2006 03:33 AM
The article simply tells us that this is a "Good Thing", without providing any reason why. Sorta goes with the author's assumption that putting anything in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc is somehow "BAD". I suppose that's fine, if you like that kind of thing...

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 07:50 AM
One major philosophical difference between FreeBSD and Linux is that FreeBSD is a complete system while Linux is a collection of tools and a kernel. (Don't flame me over this, it's all over the web and I'm just telling it like people see it, =).

Because of this, everything in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/bin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/sbin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/sbin, and<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc are system binaries and files. Everything under<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local is supposed to be user-added stuff. For example, I keep my Apache config files in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local/etc and Postfix is in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local/sbin/postfix, but neither is part of the FreeBSD system.

It keeps a good, clean line between system and user files and binaries. Theoretically, I can delete<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local and return my system to a fairly, clean state.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 10:51 PM
That's stupid. In your scheme, what the hell is the difference between<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin and<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/sbin? Nothing, that's what. It's stupid. You're stupid, stupid.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 10:52 PM
"system files" and "user files" probably isn't the best way to describe those files. What would be more appropriate would be files installed and maintained with the base system versus files installed outside of the base system.

Files in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/bin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/sbin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/sbin, etc... are installed with the base distribution. Files in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local/bin are installed as a result of ports or custom source installs. When a system is upgraded via "make buildworld; make installworld", only<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/bin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/sbin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/sbin (and supporting files) are updated.

This allows one to update ports and custom-installed software at-will without affecting the base system, and allows base system updates via buildworld/installworld without affecting ports and custom software.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on May 01, 2006 03:04 PM
"It's stupid. You're stupid, stupid."

That's what we get when parents allow their 12 year old's to use the Internet unsupervised, lol.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 01:15 PM
It's probably because the article is supposed to be a 1000 words or less, hehe.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 11:43 AM
Lol.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: gonzeaux on April 26, 2006 05:20 PM
I have to say I've wondered this. You can't say that it's all system files in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/bin, because then what differentiates that from<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/bin or<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/sbin? I've always thought that<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local/ is where I put my own installed software (sometimes an external installer, sometimes compiled.)

Then again, I've never understood the use of<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/opt either. Regardless, a tool or system of organization is best when it can be fluid. The way I see it, just because the original directory structure was built to be laid out a certain way, that doesn't mean that the differences in the way we use our computers now can't be accomodated within the current system creatively. Thus, people are going to do things differently (even, and especially within the GNU/Linux world.) And that's okay -- some ways will inevitably work better than others. Maybe the old ways, maybe not.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on April 28, 2006 01:49 AM
I think it has to do with the root directory software and libraries being at the really low base level (like the Kernel, the C libraries and the common utilities in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/bin that are used for shell scripts) while userspace components are in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr. Of course, one could argue that KDE is part of the operating system from the common user's perspective, but that's just semantics. Unixy thing.

It might have to do with netbooting. Historical thing. This is totally a guess, but think of a setup where you're operating system is booted and mounted off a server. But you have your own<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local directory, either mounted to your own hard drive or to your own filesystem space on the server, and you can install your "local" programs there, rather than installing them to your home directory.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/opt isn't used on all distributions. The last system I saw that used it was when I used Caldera OpenLinux 2.3.

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Re:/usr/local

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 28, 2006 03:20 PM
but think of a setup where you're operating system is booted

"your".

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Without starting anything,...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 02:36 AM
...I unfortuantely think anyone would be hard pressed to say that a BSD based OS has the same driver support as Linux. It's a pretty basic assumption that driver support is one of the most important items with any FOSS regardless of the skill level.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE F-BSD too, but the article indirectly implies that driver support is up to par with Linux. In my experience, this is not the case.

Oh, and a desktop FreeBSD system that uses ports will easily spend more time compiling then being used. Again, I'm a big fan of the Ports system, but man, I can't do another KDE upgrade again!

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Re:Without starting anything,...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 02:56 AM
Actually I tried FreeBSD on my thinkpad the other week and I was very impressed at how much hardware detection it did. The only piece of hardware that gave me any issues was the PCCard Bus, and I was able to resolve that with a little googling.

However, the binary packages are another story. Most of them are dated (firefox 1.07, vim 4.3) so I've actually been trying to switch over to DragonFlyBSD where the hardware support is a bit worse, but the binary packages are more up-to date.

I've been a long time linux user, but I've finally had the time and the inclination to try the BSDs and I'm quite satisfied with them.

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just use Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 04:48 AM
and get the best of both worlds

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Re:don't use Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 01:26 PM
Hey troll, why do the silly little Linux fanboys always have to plug their favorite distro?

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just use Gentoo/BSD

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 03:50 PM
I think the grandparent was referring to Gentoo/BSD ( see <a href="http://ezine.daemonnews.org/200604/gentoo-bsd_interview.html/" title="daemonnews.org">http://ezine.daemonnews.org/200604/gentoo-bsd_int<nobr>e<wbr></nobr> rview.html/</a daemonnews.org>), not Gentoo/Linux.

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Re:do not use Gentoo/BSD

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 11:45 PM
Thanks for the dead links!

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just use Ubuntu

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 11:51 PM
Hi, I'm a Linux newb/fanboy, and this distro is great, it found all my hardware, is easy to use, highly polished, etc, etc, etc. Their website even redirects hits to Distrowatch, enabling me and my buddies to have the most popular free distro/OS in the world. Great job Ubuntu team!!!

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Re:don't use Gentoo

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on April 28, 2006 05:02 AM
I also find that annoying, but he was refering to Gentoo because it's a Linux system (driver support) that uses portage. That's relevant.

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Re:Without starting anything,...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 10:51 PM
Well... You can use packages instead if you prefer not to compile from source, that's what it's for. Packages/ports is a couple even though the first one is often forgotten of.

I definitely prefer FreeBSD. If nothing else, for the handbook.

Cheers

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Re:Without starting anything,...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 10:19 PM
Thats would be great if they kept it up to date with the ports.

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intelligent design or Darwin award?!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 26, 2006 08:28 PM
I quickly learned to appreciate its intelligent design: a bare<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc where you can find only necessary system files, good use of<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local (most Linux distributions leave this empty and concentrate on filling<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc and<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/*bin instead), an application system called Ports, which contains a set of scripts that download, install, and patch any program found in the<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/ports directory, and a very good handbook.

Puhleeze! If these are the examples of "intelligent design" then BSD is headed for a victory in the Darwin awards. In an "ecological niche" in which the selective pressure have resulted in apt-get firmly sitting on top of the food chains such lame "qualities" point to a lack of any real advantages...

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Re:intelligent design or Darwin award?!

Posted by: Vaida Bogdan on April 27, 2006 12:16 AM
My target audience were people new to this operating system (from a desktop environment perspective); I didn't intend to write about BSD internals (page coloring and the like).

And yes<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... the "intelligent design" part could be rewritten.

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Re:intelligent design or Darwin award?!

Posted by: crythias on April 29, 2006 04:06 AM
OK, then why is it not intelligent design?

I've used FreeBSD 5.x and 6.x as desktop and just like all the other whiners who claim Linux isn't ready for the desktop and fanboys that say, "Oh, yeah? It works for me as a desktop!", I have to say it does work as a desktop OS.

I don't care about 3d frills. If I want them, I can work it out. I still can get apt-get and ports and everything Linux users can get, either native Linux or native FreeBSD, if I want that junk on my PC or laptop.

I used ion3 as my Window Manager. I use screen. I program with vim. I use portaudit to tell me when I need my apps to be secure. And yes, I do upgrade recursively, especially when I upgrade things like perl.

I *like* that I know that<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/local/etc holds the configs for stuff I've installed, and<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/etc holds the configs for stuff that could keep FreeBSD from booting.

Do I need to actually get work done? I don't care what OS I use. FreeBSD is as good as any.

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Ports is a pain

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 03:20 AM
I used to like ports. Then I got tired of trying to maintain the ports database, spending hours compiling for a single small app with bizarre dependencies, and a host of other annoyances. I dropped F-BSD on all my boxes, switched to Linux, and couldn't be happier. That was about 4 years ago. In that time, I've probably saved a couple of months by not having to recompile something (usually several somethings) or other every few weeks.

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d'ye always just follow?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 02:55 PM
> since I dumped Linux six years ago at a friend's suggestion
Did you also get on drugs at the same friend's advice? Or jump off the roof?

Some tend to use their own brain and not blindly follow any propaganda. I can tell this as both exUSSR citizen and having experienced similar advice of a friend roughly the same time ('98 or '99); still it was then I didn't like beastie, and it is now I see that FreeBSD has already failed to create a platform to build upon.

Being self-contained isn't exactly a benefit.

So while keeping localhost alive on anything is no problem with me if I have to, keeping considerably more systems alive is way better with Linux, vserver, and apt-get -- which are all supported out-of-box in our ALT Linux distro.

--
Michael Shigorin

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molodets Misha!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 07:35 PM
Correct. This is pure *BSD propaganda. The article does not give one single credible reason for the author "dumped", as he elegantly puts it, GNU/Linux in favor of BSD. Which makes sense, since there is not a single credible advantage which BSD could claim over GNU/Linux, and for sure not as a desktop.

Propaganda is for scatophages.

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A little harsh?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 27, 2006 10:25 PM
These comments are pretty harsh for someone that just wanted to make $100 and tell people why he likes FreeBSD. I like FreeBSD too, but I don't use it on a desktop system. I use computers as a tool, not as a method of learning the ins and outs of a certain OS. Just my opinion. People are going to have different ones. Lets not beat the dude up for expressing his.

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Typical response

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 28, 2006 12:35 AM
from someone who can't get FreeBSD to work. Don't be such a fanboy.

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Michael Shigorin is a troll

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 28, 2006 01:12 AM
and the #1 fanboy of ALT Linux. Please go sell your crap distro elsewhere, we're not buying here.

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Anonymous Reader has no arguments

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 28, 2006 04:11 AM
that he/she needs to resort to lame ad hominem attacks against Shigorin. as for go sell your crap distro elsewhere, we're not buying here. it is so unapologetically stupid that it requiers no answer at all.

Mish - nu i kozly eti BSDshniki!

mv *BSD<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/dev/null && chown -R Debian-Linux:GNU world

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You just don't get it..

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 28, 2006 05:27 AM
No need to reply DA

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dy'e always take cheap shots?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 28, 2006 10:16 PM
Wow, you find FreeBSD not to your liking so you bash the author of this article _and_ plug your Linux distro? <a href="http://freshmeat.net/~gvy/" title="freshmeat.net">http://freshmeat.net/~gvy/</a freshmeat.net> Nice!!!

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