Rick Jelliffe has written up his experience of installing FreeBSD and tweaking it so he could use it for every day use instead of Windows, Linux or Solaris: “I’m a BSD

This is her verdict:

But so far I am really enjoying it. BSD feels like UNIX, a welcome change from Linux. It seems much snappier than Windows. It doesn’t waste its resources on the zillion pre-loading applications, virus-checkers, etc. that bog Windows systems down. Nor does it have the dumb Windows roaming system enabled by default (my Windows PC would take over 2 hours to restart, recently, because of so-called “Roaming”: it actually prevented roaming!) KDE4 is pretty and seems to work well. The hardware and networking just work. The package system works well. There seem to be up-to-date versions of most applications.

I will be interested to see how well the OS update system works (that was something that killed off Mandriva Community Edition for me, after several years of happy use.) FreeBSD has avoided the issues that I had with earlier versions of Mandriva Linux, Sabayon Linux, Mint Linux and OpenSolaris. However, each of them have a much better out-of-the-box configuration, particularly for the applications I use most: Firefox, Thunderbird, Java and OpenOffice.

So I would see FreeBSD as being useful where you needed to use BSD servers for security, and wanted a SOE that would use the same support staff skills. If you don’t have BSD or UNIX skills on tap, or don’t have security requirements, you may find Linux a better choice: as I wrote at the head, I probably would be better off with a derivative BSD distribution aimed at the desktop, like PC-BSD.

My reason for trying it, is first frustration with Windows (roaming, etc), second a desire for better performance, third I have lost patience with having to run virus checkers (and pay for them) for security which should be part of the base product, fourth just for interest, and fifth because I whinge in this blog a lot about technologies driven by the corporate agendas of vendors rather than by user requirements, and FreeBSD seems unattached to vendors (it has had a lot of funding from DARPA.)

Anyway, I have a workable system on which I can do my normal jobs. But I estimate it will be taking about 3 working days to get it OK. Much of that time is not actual time: when loading from the disks I could attend to other work, of course. I don’t know if O’Reilly have a Missing Manual for FreeBSD, but it would have come in very handy. And I certainly have not worked on a BSD system that had package management like this, so there is a bit of learning there, which is OK. I am pretty excited by it, actually.

FreeBSD has so much that inspires confidence, and it is pretty, robust and secure too, with more than a smattering of convenience: all the right stuff.

Read Rick’s full post: I’m a BSD