What Makes FreeBSD Interesting
A Narrative History of BSD, by Dr. Kirk McKusick (Courtesy: bsdconferences channel @ Youtube)
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a 4BSD?
My friends all got sources, so why can’t I see?
Come all you moby hackers, come sing it out with me:
To hell with the lawyers from AT&T!
— a random, hilarious fortune cookie touching on the origins of the FreeBSD project
Another quick post about tech stuff today. Someday I’ll delve into FreeBSD in a lot more detail. But for now, a brief rundown of why I personally think FreeBSD is one of the best toys around to play with today:
- Great documentation! Aside from the FreeBSD Handbook, there are two other books that I think do a phenomenal job in teaching not just the way things are done in the BSD world, but also UNIX philosophy in general. Michael Lucas’s, ‘Absolute FreeBSD‘ and Greg Lehey’s, ‘The Complete FreeBSD‘. My personal all time favorite tech book is currently, ‘The Complete FreeBSD‘. Note the emphasis on ‘all time’. That kind of thing doesn’t come easily from a person who’s not a professional techie. Although Greg ‘Groggy’ Lehey (as he’s popularly known) hasn’t covered the latest version of FreeBSD, a lot of the knowledge you gain from reading his book is pretty transferable. This book also teaches you how computing all began. From the origins of the word ‘Terminal’, to the Hayes command set (he even teaches you some basic commands to talk directly to your modem!), to how the Internet came to be shaped with TCP/IP and BIND and so on. Go check it out for free here and listen to Lehey and Lucas as they are interviewed by BSDTalk here and here. If you’ve ever dabbled in the Linux world, you’ll soon come to realize that FreeBSD’s approach in consolidating, streamlining and simplifying documentation is like a breath of fresh air! Oh and by the way, Dru Lavigne, another famous personality in the BSD world has a great talk on the similarities and differences between BSD and Linux here.
- Another incredible boon is their hardware compatibility list (a.k.a. the ‘Hardware Notes‘, that come with every release). It’s jaw-droppingly amazing that you are presented with a list of all known chips/circuit boards and the drivers that you’ll need to use to get them working all organized in such a neat manner right on their main website! Again, something that will definitely blow you away if you’re coming from the Linux world. In fact, when anybody asks me what hardware I recommend for good open-source support (i.e. cross-compatibility across major Operating Systems), I usually turn to this excellent list. It’s a great shopper’s guide!
- From my experience, it’s a lot easier to grasp fundamental concepts about the way computers work by reading about FreeBSD than by looking at books about Linux. In fact Arch Linux, which is a great Linux distribution that I recommend if you want to explore how Linux works, borrows a lot from the manner FreeBSD functions (its /etc/rc.conf file for example) as part of its KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) philosophy.
More on FreeBSD later! That does it for today! Cheers!
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