My Dominant Hemisphere

The Official Weblog of 'The Basilic Insula'

What Makes FreeBSD Interesting

with 4 comments

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

Howdy all!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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! 🙂
  3. 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! 🙂

Copyright © Firas MR. All rights reserved.

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Written by Firas MR

October 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Technology, Unix

Tagged with , , , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Yep I agree. I think the Handbook should actually be published into a physical book. It is so well organized and complete enough for anybody.

    I haven’t touched FreeBSD in a long time ever since I put away my old laptop.

    I use Vista full time – simply because it’s worked very well for me.


    October 26, 2010 at 4:57 am

    • Thanks for the comment Jaffer! The Handbook is indeed available as a book. But I personally prefer the online version, just because it’s certain to be uptodate.

      My main OS is Vista too. I’ve managed fine so far and am planning to jump ship to either FreeBSD or Linux once I’ve had enough of it! There’s no way I’m going to put Windows 7 or whatever new version comes out by the time Vista has reached its end-of-life …

      Firas MR

      October 26, 2010 at 5:52 am

      • I’ve refused to upgrade my Vista simply due to the costs.
        The only neat feature I could actually use from Windows 7 is the taskbar.

        My brother’s got a new computer and he gave his old one to my mother. She needs her daily dose of mms streams from Makkah and Madinah and Watch Peace TV Urdu on\
        And that is all she can do with a computer – bless her.

        I’ve tried everything to get to work on Ubuntu but I am baffled. They stream via Windows Media but use a Shockwave front end – which has no official linux support.
        Xine worked well streaming mms audio first couple of weeks but refused to work after that.

        I gave up and downloaded a bootleg copy of Windows 7. Mom is happy now. Linux wasn’t for her unfortunately.


        October 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm

        • Ah yes … the problem with Windows Multimedia on Linux … I’ve stumbled across this myself. Unfortunately, nothing’s solid for mms:// . Darn mms:// !

          VLC will work. And so will MPlayer. But I’ve always had caching issues on them. You need to tweak and play around with the player settings a little bit, before optimal playback.

          Moonlight on Linux, can usually be used as a drop-in replacement for the Windows Media Player plugin for Firefox. It usually behaves well in my experience.

          Firas MR

          October 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

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