On taking FreeBSD seriously

freebsd_logo-100x100Pongoewin found himself frustrated with Windows 7 at work and decided to take FreeBSD for a spin:

I found myself frustrated with Windows 7 at work. It’s a fairly decent system, and a craptonne better than Vista in both performance and resource usage on the old desktop I have (a Pentium 4/2.66 with a gig of RAM). But it was still slow, and I had heard that FreeBSD was fast approaching the ‘usable’ state for a desktop role. So, I decided to take it for a spin.

Firstly, your experience may vary wildly from mine; I spent the entire weekend compiling everything (including the kernel and all of KDE) to my own liking (and optimisation). And disclaimer: this is on a new ATA-133 drive that actually beats older SATA drives on sustained speed (the very definition of ‘win’).

He goes on comparing Windows – FreeBSD with regards to the following topics:

  • Installation
  • Productivity
  • Office Stuff
  • Email
  • Media
  • IM
  • Other stuff

He concludes by saying:

It’s not really different from Windows, but it’s free and you have more options.

Windows has buggy apps. OS X has buggy apps. FreeBSD has buggy apps. It’s all really a matter of preference. Windows is more tweaked for the beginning computer user, and as such has a lot of safeguards built-in. This is a Good Thing(TM) for new users, but it gets dreadful and annoying to people like me. OS X has its strong points, but it can be wildly random. And randomness is one thing all IT people hate — because it’s nigh-on-impossible to pin down exactly where the problem lies. FreeBSD…what can I say. It’s grown so much from the days of 5.x when I started to run it on servers. And overall, though it may not be as user-friendly as Ubuntu, it certainly packs a mean punch, and anyone who isn’t afraid to learn, is able to devote a bit of time to read the FreeBSD Handbook and other interesting manuals, and get their hands a bit “dirty” with computer knowledge should seriously consider using it as a desktop — especially Linux users looking for more. I’d liken running FreeBSD on a computer to performing maintenance on your car; most people don’t want to do it, but the ones who do save time, money, and have the feeling of a job well done.

Well, that’s Pongoewin’s verdict. What are your experiences with FreeBSD on the desktop, or with PC-BSD, that’s especially geared for desktop use?

Portmaster funding proposal

Doug Barton wrote in the @announce mailing list,

I have launched an initiative to give the community the opportunity to fund further development work on portmaster. As much as I love doing this work I need to be able to support myself and my family and the kinds of features that users have requested (such as package support) will take a lot of time to implement correctly.

The URL is here: http://dougbarton.us/portmaster-proposal.html

Several users have been kind enough to send donations and I have updated the web page to indicate the work that has been completed, and that which is in progress.

If you have any interest in funding this project take a look at that web page. Of course additional ideas for features are also welcome.

Have a look at or download portmaster here

11 BSD Success Stories

O’Reilly has a free PDF article with 11 BSD success stories

Adventures in BSD
How BSD Keeps Me Sane
FreeBSD at Shannon Medical Center
BSD in a Panic
You Haven’t Had E-mail Since When? FreeBSD
saves a dot-org, and maybe me, too!
A FreeBSD Success Story
(and Dragon?yBSD too)
BSD In a Microsoft Of?ce
Museum Guardian
OpenBSD Saves the Day
A FreeBSD Implementation
Open Source Software in
Co-operation Ireland
  1. Adventures in BSD
  2. How BSD Keeps Me Sane
  3. FreeBSD at Shannon Medical Center
  4. BSD in a Panic
  5. You Haven’t Had E-mail Since When? FreeBSD saves a dot-org, and maybe me, too!
  6. A FreeBSD Success Story (and Dragon?yBSD too)
  7. BSD In a Microsoft Of?ce
  8. Museum Guardian
  9. OpenBSD Saves the Day
  10. A FreeBSD Implementation
  11. Open Source Software in  Co-operation Ireland

Read/Download the article

(via – freebsd.lt)

Development Release: FreeBSD 8.0-RC2

Ken Smith announced on 28/10 the availability of the second release candidate for FreeBSD 8.0:

The second of the release candidates for the FreeBSD 8.0 release cycle is now available. At this point we feel most of what has been discovered during public testing that is feasible to fix as part of the release process has been addressed. So the current plan is to have 8.0-RC3 in about two weeks. ISO images for all supported architectures are available on the FTP sites, and a ‘memory stick’ image is available for amd64/i386 architectures. For amd64/i386 architectures the CD-ROM and memory stick images include the documentation packages but no other packages. The DVD image includes the packages that will probably be available on the official release media.

Announcement | Download | Website

New FreeBSD Foundation Project: Flattened Device Tree

FreeBSD foundation logoThe FreeBSD Foundation has announced another funded project!

“Rafal Jaworowski and Semihalf has been awarded a grant to provide FreeBSD with support for the flattened device tree (FDT) technology. This project allows for describing hardware resources of a computer system and their dependencies in a platform-neutral and portable way.

The main consumers of this functionality are embedded systems whose hardware resources assignment cannot be probed or self-discovered.

The FDT idea is inherited from Open Firmware IEEE 1275 device-tree notion (part of the regular Open Firmware implementation), and among other deployments is used as a basis for Power.org’s embedded platform
reference specification (ePAPR).

Rafal JaworowskiThanks to this project, embedded FreeBSD platforms will grow in a uniform and extensible way of representing hardware devices, compliant with industry standards (ePAPR, Open Firmware), independent of architecture and platform (portable across ARM, MIPS, PowerPC etc.),

said Rafal Jaworoski, FreeBSD Developer.

Semihalf is a privately owned company, based in Krakow, Poland. They specialize in embedded systems design and development, with expertise in both software and hardware. Among their portfolio are FreeBSD ports to high-end embedded processors (including multi-core) with a wide range of peripheral drivers (storage, networking, pattern matching, security engines etc.); most of this work is publicly available from the FreeBSD repository.

You can find out more about the project at http://wiki.freebsd.org/FlattenedDeviceTree.

This project will complete by February 2010.”

If you want, you can support this project too.

New FreeBSD Foundation Project: HAST

FreeBSD foundation logoThe FreeBSD Foundation has announced that is funding a new funded project: HAST

“Pawel Jakub Dawidek has been awarded a grant to implement storage replication software that will enable users to use the FreeBSD operating system for highly available configurations where data has to be shared across the cluster nodes. The project is partly being funded by OMCnet Internet Service and TransIP BV.

The software will allow for synchronous block-level replication of any storage media (GEOM providers, using FreeBSD nomenclature) over the TCP/IP network and for fast failure recovery. HAST will provide storage
using GEOM infrastructure, which means it will be file system and application independent and could be combined with any existing GEOM class. In case of a master node failure, the cluster will be able to
switch to the slave node, check and mount UFS file system or import ZFS pool and continue to work without missing a single bit of data.

High-availability is the number one requirement for any serious use of any operating system,

Pawel Jakub Dawideksaid Pawel Jakub Dawidek, FreeBSD Developer.

Highly available storage is one of the key components in such environments. I strongly believe there are many FreeBSD users that have been waiting a long time for this functionality. I’ll do my best to deliver software that matches FreeBSD quality and that will satisfy the needs of our users.

Pawel has been an active FreeBSD committer since 2003. During this period, he has touched almost every part of the kernel. But, his main interest in FreeBSD is storage and security related topics. Pawel is the author of various GEOM classes (eli, mirror, gate, label, journal, hsec, etc.), geom(8) utility, various opencrypto improvements as well as port of the ZFS file system from OpenSolaris to FreeBSD.

The project will complete by February 2010.”

If you want, you can support this project too.

FreeBSD Release Process

Ivan Voras sumarised a little while ago the FreeBSD release procedure:

“It goes something like this (or at least it did/will be for 8.0-RELEASE):

  1. An approximate date is set on one of the DevSummits – this is usually of the granularity of “autumn 2009″ rather than a specific day.
  2. As the set date approaches, a more specific deadline is set for a “code freeze”.
  3. Developers try to get as much code into the tree as they can before the code freeze – this is still “free-for-all” time.
  4. After the code freeze, only code specifically approved by the release engineering (releng) team can go in.
  5. During various BETA releases, a RELENG branch – what is known for the users as a “STABLE” branch is created from VCS “head”. Some early beta releases might be cut of the “head” of the tree, latter from the RELENG branch.
  6. Release candidates are cut from the RELENG (STABLE) branch. This is where debugging is turned off system-wide and the performance is as it should be in the released versions. Debugging is never turned back on for STABLE branches (except of course that developers have it on by themeselves).
  7. After a certain amount of BETA and RC releases, the number of which is determined ad-hoc as needed, a release comes out. Everyone is happy, especially developers who can now commit freely to “head” again.
  8. The release engineering period for a major .0 release takes any time from a month to several months.”
  9. To find out more about FreeBSD release engineering, visit the FreeBSD Release Enginering page or Murray Stokely’s Release Document.