FreeBSD software, ports and applications

To a lot of computer users, especially MS Windows users, FreeBSD is still covered by a cloud of “geekyness”. If people have heard of FreeBSD at all, they often think it’s a server operating system (which is not wrong) and that it comes with server software only (which is not correct).

Admitted, FreeBSD’s hardware support is not as good as Window’s or Linux’, but there’s no shortage of software for this operating system. It’s not only mail server, ftp server, network monitoring software etc that’s available for FreeBSD, but also video editing software, programs for creating PDFs, utilities to convert wav files to mp3’s etc etc. There’s an absolute wealth of programs, tools and utilities available; currently 17,968 so called FreeBSD ports (programs).

With this post I just want to point to a few sources that may help you can find software if you’re interested in using FreeBSD (incl. PC-BSD and DesktopBSD).

Those of you who are new to the “world” of open source software, have a look at the following two websites for an overview of open source equivalents for Windows software: linuxalt.com and linuxrsp.ru. Most, if not all, of the packages listed on these websites are also available for FreeBSD (as ports).

The actual FreeBSD ports directory can be found on freebsd.org or freshports.org (with search facility). To view the ports categories listed by groups have a look at this page on freebsd.org, this one on freshports.org or this one on freebsdsoftware.org. BSDapps.org lists a lot of commercial software packages, but the website doesn’t seem to be quite up to date.

You will gather from these links, that there are so many programs available that it can even be overwhelming. Hardware incompatibility may hold you back from adobting FreeBSD on the desktop, but the objection “there’s so little software for FreeBSD that I can use” is not valid ;-)

If you’re interested in using FreeBSD on your PC, you can either use a pre-configured desktop version (PC-BSD or DesktopBSD) or build it yourself from scratch.

GPL and BSD : impact

Very Grumpy Bunny has written a post comparing the GPLv2 and the BSD licence and explaining the difference when  applied to Amarok.

There are several BSD licenses, so many that you’ll typically see any particular license under BSD terms listed as a BSD-Style license. Example, the Vorbis and Theora codecs. The terms themselves are fairly simple.

#1: Anybody can access the source code
#2: Anybody can copy the source code
#3: Anybody can modify the source code
#4: Anybody can use the source code
#5: Anybody can relicense modified code

Sounds pretty simple, at least compared to the Gnu Public License. Here are the terms of say the GPLv2.

#1: Not everybody can access the source code.
#2: Everybody who can access the source code can copy the source code
#3: Everybody who can access the source code can modify the source code
#4: Everybody who modifies the source code must submit the changes back to the original author
#5: Everybody who modifies the source code must maintain the original license

That does seem a little bit more complex. Immediately we see that the GPL has restrictions placed on what can be done with the code. Ergo, the BSD-style license is more free… or is it?

Read the simplified terms of the BSD-License again. Note anything missing? Well, if you didn’t, here’s what is missing. Any changes that are made to the BSD code don’t have to be given back to the author. Anybody can take a segment of BSD code, do whatever they want with it, and never post any changes back, tell the author what they did, or anything else.

So, there is a critical difference between a BSD license, and a GPL style license. The BSD license adopts a care-free attitude about written software, while a GPL style license enforces restrictions around that software to make sure everybody benefits.

Whole post can be read here.

7 Linux/BSD firewalls reviewed (incl pfSense & m0n0wall)

Wayne Richardson reviewed in total 7 different Linux and BSD firewalls back in Nov 2007 (ClarckConnect, Endian, Gibraltar, IPCop, m0n0wall, pfSense, SmoothWall) and compared them on basis of the following categories: setup, web-gui, extensibility and speed.

Since this is a FreeBSD blog I’ll just quote (with his kind permission) what he wrote about pfSense and m0n0wall. If you’re interested in the whole article and want to see how the BSD firewalls compare to Linux firewall, please refer to Wayne’s article.

pfSense was named the best firewall with a 95% pass rate; m0nowall received a 77% mark and was the smallest of the bunch.
[Read more…]

The best of FreeBSD Basics – 2 reviews

Dru Lavigne’s latest book “The best of FreeBSD Basics” is now also available at Amazon.co.uk and has 2 reviews on Amazon.com.

Make no mistake about it…..Whether you are a novice or a system administrator, you need this book in your library. Unlike other FreeBSD books out there which basically copy the online handbook, Dru Lavigne compiled literally hundreds of FreeBSD tricks in this new book. You won’t be disappointed!

BSDA exam available from BSDCertification.org

BSD CertificationDru Lavigne has announced that the BSD Certification Group has finished the BSDA exam beta process and that it is now gone live. The BSD Associate certification marks the entry level for professional, community-based BSD certification, and work will continue to offer a certification for BSD Professionals (BSDP) next.

During 2008 the exam will be offered at technical conferences across the globe, in English only, and paper-based. The registration website for all BSDA exams is here. This site contains a calendar of upcoming events with details on each event. There is also a contact form should you wish to suggest an event.

Exciting future ahead for BSD

FreeBSD LogoTrollaxor has written up an interesting piece about the history and future of the major BSD systems: FreeBSD, netBSD, OpenBSD, DragonFlyBSD and Darwin.

In the new year the Berkeley Software Distribution family of Unix-like operating systems is growing at a phenomenal rate and excitement over the possibilities for this operating system family is in the air. After unprecedented development and adoption as well as major shifts in the marketplace, it’s time to take a look at what’s new with this demonic family of operating systems.

FreeBSD

FreeBSD 5 was the darkest period in this operating system’s history and morale and marketshare were at an all-time low. The problem originated from merging BSD/OS into FreeBSD; though the two systems shared a lot of code, the difference of just a couple years was staggering. FreeBSD’s virtual memory and multi-processing code was immature, while BSD/OS’s libraries were archaic. Mating the two was a mess that cost FreeBSD face and kept users on an older branch from the Nineties, 4.11.

Now, with FreeBSD 7.0b on the horizon promising to wrap it all up, FreeBSD is once again taking the free Unix world by storm. It’s a tight, efficient codebase leveraging the best of BSD/OS, Darwin, and FreeBSD that users have been clamoring for. FreeBSD users and sites now have a shining future ahead of them.

… [discusses NetBSD, OpenBSD, DragonFlyBSD & Darwin]

With all of these great improvements to the Berkeley operating system family in the last few years, BSD is clearly where it’s at. Linux is a throwback to when Open Source was a hot buzzword and sharing code was a novel idea. Now, Apple and company use it as standard coding procedure to share and improve the tech they have and leverage their individual strengths.

Even when taking the few commercial Unices that still exist into account, like AIX and Solaris, BSD still owns the arena in its frantic steamroll to the top of the supercomputing mountain. Whether you want the general wholesomeness of FreeBSD, the KGB-like security of OpenBSD, the more experimental NetBSD or DragonFlyBSD, or the utter perfection of Mac OS X, BSD has your bases completely covered with room to grow in the future.

Read the whole article here