Jesse Smith from Distrowatch has taken FreeBSD 8.0 for a ride. Below his findings.
FreeBSD has long been recognised as a fast, stable and reliable operating system, powering large server farms of some of the biggest web sites and search engines on the Internet. This week Jesse Smith installed the project’s latest release, version 8.0, on his home server to ascertain that it works as advertised. What were his findings? Read on to find out.
Sometimes it feels to me as if Linux distributions overshadow all other aspects of the open source ecosystem. It can be very easy to jump from one flavour of Linux to another, and to yet another, without being aware of the many other options available. This week, I decided to go in a different direction and explore the latest offering from the BSD communities: FreeBSD, version 8.0.
The FreeBSD operating system is very flexible and well-suited to many different environments, including embedded systems and desktop machines. However, as the project’s motto, “The Power To Serve,” indicates, FreeBSD gains most of its strong reputation from running servers. Keeping that in mind, I borrowed an old desktop box with a 1 GHz CPU and 512 MB of RAM and installed the latest version of FreeBSD on it to see how it would function as a home server.
One of the first things that stand out about the FreeBSD project is its web site. The layout is easy to read, the presentation is professional and there is more documentation than you can shake a USB stick at. It is wonderfully easy to find just about any information one needs on this site. When troubles arise or when advice is needed, there is a friendly community forum. The latest version of this operating system comes in several different flavours, including a CD edition, with the basic system, and a DVD edition with all the bells and whistles. The operating system will run on 32-bit and 64-bit x86 architectures, Sparc64 and PowerPC systems, among others. All in all, there’s a wide variety to choose from and likely a download to suite just about everybody. I grabbed the CD image for i386 machines and got to work.
In the past, I’ve referred to FreeBSD as both stable and powerful and this release confirms that reputation. After spending a week installing, configuring and using the latest version of FreeBSD, I’d like to add that it’s a very mature and polished operating system too. On the surface, the system looks complex and arcane, but great lengths have been taken to make each step of each task smooth for the administrator. This is largely thanks to the FreeBSD Handbook, but credit should also be given to unusually clear man pages. I found the output, error messages and defaults for most commands were helpful, increasing the refined, friendly feel of the system. There are a number of minor surprises for people coming from Linux systems, mostly in small differences in commands and the layout of the file system, but nothing significant. In fact, I found the FreeBSD directories to be clean and well organized. At various points during the week, I visited the project’s forums and always found a friendly community member willing to answer questions. Version 8.0 of the FreeBSD operating system is fast, powerful, well crafted and rock solid; I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in setting up their own server.
Well, what’s stopping you from installing FreeBSD on your server?