Ever wanted to tinker with FreeBSD, but felt intimidated by its being a more “hardcore” UNIX system? You’d probably be surprised to find there aren’t many major differences at all, and Dru Lavigne’s latest ONLamp column will help you on your way. In this first of two parts, she discusses the differences between FreeBSD and Linux in terms of startup, the kernel, and application management.
I administer both systems on a day-to-day basis, and there are a lot of things I like about FreeBSD. The Ports system makes application management very easy, even compared to a number of the Linux package management systems out there such as RPM. Debian’s apt-get is probably the closest, but I like the way FreeBSD synchronizes the ports tree and allows you to browse and install at will.
I know of a few people who have made the shift from Linux to FreeBSD on their desktops. As a Slackware user, one would think it wouldn’t be a great leap for me, either. Slackware’s startup system is very much like FreeBSD’s, and its package system, while less sophisticated, is similar in spirit. I’m thinking most of it is mental; I think of FreeBSD as a server system, period. The only other concerns I can think of are hardware and software support. The former can probably be rectified with a little digging, and the latter is irrelevant as the Ports system is HUGE and anything not already ported to FreeBSD can either be compiled from source or run via a Linux emulator.
That said, I will likely stick to FreeBSD on the server side. For one, the password database is literally a database rather than a tabular file, making it faster and more efficient in large installations where LDAP and similar mechanisms aren’t already in place. Second, the Ports system has really made life as a systems administrator easy. Linux is fine for some of the smaller tasks I’m using it for, but I’ve really come to love FreeBSD’s ease of upgrading software and installing new packages. It’s also been rock solid for me, and I have yet to run into a major problem.
The short version: if you’ve been thinking about tinkering with FreeBSD, either personally or profesionally, don’t be afraid to give it a try. It’s solid, it’s dependable, and it works.