Desktop FreeBSD Series

A few years ago, Ed Hurst, an Associate Editor of Open for Business, began what would become an extremely popular series of articles on getting started with desktop BSD (i.e. FreeBSD on the desktop, not DesktopBSD ;-) Because of the continuing popularity of this series, Ed had revised the articles to apply to the latest and greatest versions of FreeBSD.

This series is very useful if you want to lear how FreeBSD works if you want to get your feet wet and set up a Desktop BSD system by installing FreeBSD and configuring it to your (desktop) needs, instead of installing PC-BSD or DesktopBSD.

Previous article in this series are:

He has now written the eighth delivery “Updating the core systems“:

So, how are you liking FreeBSD? Do you believe it’s something you work with, live with day after day? If you find you’ve gotten used to it, maybe the time has come to get more acquainted with one of the best features of FreeBSD: It’s relatively painless to update the entire system by rebuilding it from code. The emphasis is not so much slavishly chasing the cutting edge of BSD technology. Instead, our focus will be on security updates and optimization.

One of the major selling points with FreeBSD is security. How silly it would be if we didn’t do the minimum necessary to insure it stays secure. FreeBSD coders are some of the best on earth, but if perfect software could be written, no one could afford it. From time to time, flaws are discovered after the product is released. Fixes are often released within 24 hours of discovering a flaw, when it comes to core system files. Ported add-on packages may take longer. The core system fixes are seldom offered as a new package built and ready to download. You will have to download a patch, apply it and rebuild the flawed binaries from source. Occasionally, a flaw will affect the whole system base and will require rebuilding the whole thing.

Which brings us to the issue of optimization: Rebuilding the system base is a good idea in the first place, simply because it offers the best opportunity to make your system run as well as it can. When you install FreeBSD from a CD-ROM, you are getting generic binaries with the lowest level of optimization. Virtually everyone who tries a rebuild will swear it makes things better. The effects of optimizing become obvious in two ways. One, when the system is being optimized, successive rebuilds take less and less time. On most hardware I’ve tested, it’s still rather dramatic for at least the first three times. Second, when you later update your desktop from source, it runs quite a bit faster. It is especially noticeable on something like KDE.

While this sounds like a major task fraught with risk, it really is quite simple. The good folks of FreeBSD have made it so easy. Even when one considers doing an upgrade using a slow dialup connection, you can be sure the time factor is reasonable, and the results well worth it.”

Read the rest here.

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