FreeBSD is an open source Unix-like operating system which was originally based
on BSD Unix. The first release of FreeBSD, FreeBSD 1.0, was published around 1993
and the OS has been going strong ever since.
Although FreeBSD can't be called a true Unix system because of licensing issues,
it's still a direct descendant of the BSD Unix. It behaves and 'feels' as if
you're dealing with an official Unix system, the rest is merely politics.
In my personal opinion the main reason why FreeBSD stands so close to Unix is
because FreeBSD doesn't try to appeal to the masses like so many Linux distributions
are doing. Instead the group of volunteers which maintains the operating system
simply do that which they enjoy doing, while also making sure that they're doing a
good job. The result of that labour can be seen when you're working with FreeBSD.
FreeBSD on Catslair.org? Why?
Because I like to advocate the stuff I'm actively using. At the time of setting up
this page I've only been at it for a week, but the things I've seen and done with
the OS has impressed me more than enough to start a full transition from Linux and
towards a full FreeBSD implementation. The OS really is that much more mature and
stable to me.
FreeBSD vs. Linux
Now, before I come to my favourite section let it be well known that this paragraph
isn't about which of the two is the "best". Quite frankly I don't think one is better
than the other, just like I also don't believe that Linux (or FreeBSD for that matter)
is by definition better than Windows. It all depends on the job at hand, and when it
comes to servers then FreeBSD has become my personal favourite. Why?
ZFS; Once you worked with the ZFS filesystem it's very hard to go back to a
regular environment. ZFS is extremely flexible, extremely robust and it's
the best tool to make sure that your disk space is used to its full potential.
Hierarchy; A Linux system usually consists of several individual software packages,
which includes the kernel. Nearly all of those packages have specific dependencies
on other packages. FreeBSD on the other hand consists of a small but complete base
system which provides everything. From an editor (vi) to a mailserver (the default
being sendmail) and a (chrooted) DNS server (Bind9). Everything else gets installed
"on top" of that.
Ports collection; The ports collection contains blueprints which allow you to
compile and install nearly 25.000 different software bundles. From complex
graphical environments such as Gnome or KDE, right down to more trivial programs
like the game of Nethack. This is how software gets installed "on top"
of the base system, as mentioned in my previous point.
Update policy; Because the base system and the ports collection are two different
entities, both follow a different update strategy. The reason I consider this a
key asset, especially for servers, is that you'll never have to jump through a
lot of hoops to make $program when it requires immediate updating or upgrading.
You don't need to update your base system in order to update the ports, and in
many cases this goes the other way around as well.
All in all FreeBSD provides a sense of freedom which is unheard of when compared to
your average Linux distribution. Although this doesn't make it the best system out
there it most certainly is a way of working which I personal prefer over the somewhat
restrictive way most package managers work on Linux.