july 18, 2003

So, I've been using Mac OS X on my iBook for a while. It's cool, it's Unix. It is BSD-based Unix. I've administered a Solaris box before (the old, old box) and that was BSD-like. But lately I've really been doing the Linux thing heavily, so I thought I'd give FreeBSD a try on my office desktop test/development box. It's an old Dell box running a 800MHz P3 with 128MB of RAM. It barely ran Red Hat Linux 8.0 with X for me to use it -- it did a lot of swapping when I used it, mostly because I did not give it enough RAM to play with. So I was not expecting much of a performance gain with FreeBSD (4.8) on it. I was really surprised. FreeBSD performs wonderfully on the box and that was what surprised me, but I had to take a step back to realize why: FreeBSD does not install (nor come with) a lot of the daemons that RHL 8.0 comes with. For instance Apache nor MySQL come with FreeBSD and have to be built and installed. So, all those services that are running under RHL 8.0, which eat up memory are not running on my installation of FreeBSD. I think this is exactly what accounts for the performance gain with my installation. The installation of FreeBSD is not the easiest thing in the world -- I have been totally spoiled by Red Hat's easy, consumer oriented installation process. Not only is the disk partitioning done via a text tool (it's really not that bad, but it is not as good as Red Hat's GUI) but the XFree configurator is pretty difficult to use. Configuring X was the hardest part about the installation. Other than that I think FreeBSD can be installed by most people, it has enough hand-holding to walk most somewhat tech-oriented people through a complete configuration. Will FreeBSD stay on my machine at work? Yea, I want to play with it and learn from it. See what the differences are between it and Linux is -- since Linux is a mix of BSD-style and SysV-style Unices. And the thing runs really well, so I can actually put my machine to good use. We'll have to see though!