What is FreeBSD?

This website deals with the FreeBSD Operating System, but what is FreeBSD?

FreeBSD (FBSD) is an advanced Unix-like operating system developed by the FreeBSD Project. FBSD is one of the most reliable, robust and secure operating systems in the world. It is free, open source and powers some of the internet’s largest web servers, including Yahoo’s and Sony’s (more companies). Rock-solid stability and the ability to perform extremely well under heavy workloads makes this operating system a popular choice among Internet Service Providers and Web hosting companies. A cohesive userland and kernel, the ports system and regular OS upgrades are the strengths of this OS.

FreeBSD is derived from the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), the version of UNIX developed at the University of California at Berkeley between 1975 and 1993. FreeBSD is not a UNIX clone. Historically and technically, it has greater rights than UNIX System V to be called UNIX. Legally, it may not be called UNIX, since UNIX is now a registered trade mark of The Open Group.

FreeBSD runs on Intel processors as well as on DEC Alpha, Sun UltraSPARC processors, Itanium (IA-64) and AMD64 processors and soon on Suns Niagara servers (FreeBSD 7).

FreeBSD is an operating system that is very flexible and can therefore be used for various purposes:

  • FreeBSD – (web)servers
  • FreeNAS – Network Attached Storage servers
  • DragonFly BSD – Powering cluster computing
  • PC-BSD and DesktopBSD – Desktop
  • M0n0wall and pfSense – Firewall
  • Frenzy – portable system administrator toolkit
  • FreeSBIE and RoFreeSBIE- Live CDs

Stability, flexibility and security are what is needed for a good operating system, and FreeBSD has them all, whether you use it on your desktop or as server. There’s an interesting article on IBM’s website “Why FreeBSD” dealing with the strong points of FreeBSD.

Flash/Youtube videos on FreeBSD

To be able to watch Adobe Flash animations and videos on BSD systems, has been not too easy so far. This is caused by Adobe not releasing a (Free)BSD version of Flash, but only a (closed source) version for Windows and Linux. In order to watch Flash content on BSD one has to install the Linux Flash version along with the Linux Compatibility layer and tweak the system (sym-links).

However, there’s a Flash PBI available for PC-BSD users that installs Flash with a few mouse-clicks. Installing this manually is not necessary anymore as version 1.4 will come with Flash pre-installed, thanks to a redistribution agreement between iXsystems, the company behind the PC-BSD project, and Adobe.

There are a few open-source Flash players in development currently, of which Gnash and swfdec are the most promising projects, but they’re not perfect yet. Gnash for example is quite good at playing Flash animations (though a bit “grainy”), but it can’t play YouTube videos, whereas swfdec is better at playing YouTube videos, but it’s not very good with animations.

Matteo from the FreeSBIE project has now found a way to watch YouTube videos with Gnash on FreeBSD, but without using the Linux compatibility layer. Please note, that the steps he’s taken are the same for PC-BSD and DesktopBSD. Matteo installed the following ports:

  • graphics/gnash
  • www/firefox (uncheck “GSTREAMER” on the ncurses window)
  • multimedia/mplayer [MAKE WITH_GUI]
  • www/mplayer-plugin

He then installed the Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox and this Greasemonkey script. Note: select the “mini” GUI for mplayer because it is needed for the plugin.

If you have followed these steps and installed the port successfully, surf now to YouTube.com and give it a whirl.

A list of FreeBSD based operating systems

FreeBSD is an advanced operating system for x86 compatible (including Pentium® and Athlon), amd64 compatible (including Opteron, Athlon 64, and EM64T), UltraSPARC, IA-64, PC-98 and ARM architectures. It is derived from BSD, the version of UNIX® developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It is developed and maintained by a large team of individuals. Additional platforms are in various stages of development.

PC-BSD has been designed with the “casual” computer user in mind. Installing the system is simply a matter of a few clicks and a few minutes for the installation process to finish. Hardware such as video, sound, network and other devices will be auto-detected and available at the first system startup. Home users will immediately feel comfortable with PC-BSD’s desktop interface, with KDE 3.5 running under the hood. Software installation has also been designed to be as painless as possible, simply double-click and software will be installed.

DesktopBSD aims at being a stable and powerful operating system for desktop users. DesktopBSD combines the stability of FreeBSD, the usability and functionality of KDE and the simplicity of specially developed software to provide a system that’s easy to use and install.

m0n0wall is a project aimed at creating a complete, embedded firewall software package that, when used together with an embedded PC, provides all the important features of commercial firewall boxes (including ease of use) at a fraction of the price (free software). m0n0wall is based on a bare-bones version of FreeBSD, along with a web server, PHP and a few other utilities. The entire system configuration is stored in one single XML text file to keep things transparent. m0n0wall is probably the first UNIX system that has its boot-time configuration done with PHP, rather than the usual shell scripts, and that has the entire system configuration stored in XML format.

pfSense is an open source firewall derived from the m0n0wall operating system platform with radically different goals such as using OpenBSD’s ported Packet Filter, FreeBSD 6.1 ALTQ (HFSC) for excellent packet queueing and finally an integrated package management system for extending the environment with new features.

FreeNAS is a free NAS (Network-Attached Storage) server, supporting: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, RSYNC protocols, local user authentication, Software RAID (0,1,5) with a Full WEB configuration interface. FreeNAS takes less than 32MB once installed on Compact Flash, hard drive or USB key. The minimal FreeBSD distribution, Web interface, PHP scripts and documentation are based on M0n0wall.

Freesbie is a LiveCD based on the FreeBSD Operating system, or even easier, a FreeBSD-based operating system that works directly from a CD, without touching your hard drive.

RoFreeSBIE is a Live DVD/CD installable on hark disk. Its goal is to promote FreeBSD and make it an educational tool and a mobile desktop too.

Frenzy is a “portable system administrator toolkit,” LiveCD based on FreeBSD. It generally contains software for hardware tests, file system check, security check and network setup and analysis.

More and more up-to-date information can be found on the FreeBSD systems page.