FreeBSD or Linux

Ok, so if you have been on my site, you know that I started with Red Hat and never really got into it, and then, settles on FreeBSD.  Why would I choose FreeBSD over Linux? It fit me better.

I actually think that everybody needs to use what suits them.

This is NOT a FreeBSD versus Linux post.  It is a site to help others who are trying to decide whether to use FreeBSD or Linux see some pros and cons and get my recommendation.

FreeBSD

FreeBSD is not Linux or Unix exactly.  It is BSD. It has its own bsd kernel and an is surrounded by a base system.

Here are a list of positives about FreeBSD

  • It is open to proprietary code that just can’t be used in Linux, such as Sun’s ZFS.
  • It is easy to get a small install of just the base system with minimal to no features installed. (Security! Attach surface area is minimized when less software is included.)
  • Jails
  • The ports tree for compiling from source is unmatched by any Linux operating system, but if you prefer binaries, yes, it has them too.
  • Installing software has less problems as you compile it on the system, with the settings you need (rather than get binaries that may have been compiled for a different system or without the settings you need).
  • The documentation is far better than most other open source projects and better than most projects commercial or open source for that matter!
  • OS X chose to use much of FreeBSD in its underlying operating system and so when combining the OS X and FreeBSD market share, FreeBSD code is actually used on more systems than any operating system other than Windows.
  • There are not that many BSD distributions, and the ones that exist have clear focusses different than the others, that later they share.  FreeBSD is a solid server. PC-BSD is a desktop focussed on avoiding dependency problems with its software. OpenBSD is extremely securee. NetBSD is extremely compatible with lots of hardware.  They contribute back to each other often.
  • The License is free and gives everyone who uses it true freedom.
  • The License is free for commercial use.
  • Easy Editor. Newbies can actually use this editor included in the FreeBSD base system.  Don’t forget to learn vi though.
  • Patching is as simple as running freebsd-update.

Here are a list of negatives about FreeBSD

  • Hardware companies tend to make drivers for Windows and Linux first and often don’t include FreeBSD, though most hardware is soon supported.
  • There is not a native Flash Player in FreeBSD, instead the Linux version of Flash must be used.
  • There Desktop options for FreeBSD are not as rich as those for Linux (Example: KDE network settings doesn’t work on FreeBSD, but PC-BSD has their own settings now.)
  • IT/Developers forFreeBSD are harder to come by.

Linux

Linux was originally just a kernel.  The userland was separate.  Now there are plenty of projects that make a nice complete operating system using the Linux kernel and a nice base system surrounding it.

Here are a list of positives about Linux

  • It has a large user base.
  • Free to use.
  • There are plenty of distros to choose from.
  • It is no longer just a kernel but many different groups put out an actual system: Red Hat/Fedora, Debian/Ubuntu, CentOS, SUSE, Arch, Gentoo, etc…
  • A lot of work is going into the desktop environment
  • Development for any Linux platform could benefit all Linux platforms.
  • More and more hardware companies are including Linux drivers
  • Some Software companies make Linux software as well, and the number is increasing
  • Strong commercial backing (which doesn’t make sense for software licensed under the GPL)

Here are some negatives

  • There is often a lot of binary packages that just don’t work.
  • Lack of consolidation.  There are a lot of distributions of Linux and they are not the same. Which one do you choose.
  • Many Linuxes (not all) are now installing desktop software by default, and no longer are minimalistic. (Security! Attach surface area is increased when more software is included.)
  • The inability to write and distribute software that touches GPL software, without having to release your software as GPL too.
  • If you hope to do anything other than use the software or help the community, you need a lawyer to figure out how to interact with the various versions of GPL.
  • The security settings are usually not easy to use and are result in users just turning them off (i.e. SELinux)
  • Are Red Hat and SUSE open source or commercial, they sell support but the software is free, except you can’t get updates without buying support…confusing!
  • IT guys who claim to know Linux usually have done little more than run Ubuntu for a few days.

This is not a flame post and any responses that appear to be trolls will be deleted.

My recommendations

Ok, so what would I recommend if I were paid by a company for consulting?

Server (LAMP)

For a Server running Apache, PHP, SQL, often mis-termed LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) but really means any OS, Web Server, SQL, Script language.

Recommended OS: FreeBSD

Commerical Appliance

If you work for a company and you need a commercial appliance. Stay away from the dangers of the GPL, just don’t go there.

Recommended OS: FreeBSD

Open Source Desktop

For a quick desktop for a home user that has PC hardware but doesn’t have a license for Windows and doesn’t want to buy one.

Recommended OS: Ubuntu

Note: Sorry PC-BSD friends. Keep working on it.

Commerical Desktop for Employees

If you want a good commercial desktop, you should go with one of the following depending on certain factors, the primary being that some software you may need to use only runs on these two platforms.

Recommended OS: Windows 7 or OS X

However, Ubuntu, Red Hat, SUSE, Fedora, PC-BSD, are all very usable replacements depending on the situation.

Point of Sale (POS) Device

If you need to have to have a POS device for handling sales.

Recommended OS: Depends on needs

Share your thoughts

Hey, please comment.  No flame wars though.  I repeat, this is not a FreeBSD versus Linux post, but a FreeBSD or Linux post, with just some information from my experience. I appreciate all technology and any rude comments will be deleted.  However, feel free to challenge and provide facts, demand facts, etc…

6 Comments

  1. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up fast!

    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  2. freem says:

    I don't know freeBSD, and I'm using a GNU/linux from something like 5 months (but not just to use an Ubuntu. I'm not truely experienced, but start my installs by a minimal one, so not just a base user)

    I fall on this webpage because I'd see my distrib give choice between the two kernels, and would know differences. Let me say that this page is the more neutral one I see (and is the 4th in my search) other are publicity for freebsd, don't mention defaults against linux and have assertions which are... well, not neutral at all.
    So thanks for this page.

    Now, some comments who could help GNU/Linux future users.
    I agree that a major problem of GNU/Linux is the number of distributions. But there is a website that can really help to choose:
    www[DOT]zegeniestudios[DOT]net/ldc/index[DOT]php

    It can help to solve many defaults that you indicates, like:
    _There is often a lot of binary packages that just don’t work.
    _Lack of consolidation. There are a lot of distributions of Linux and they are not the same. Which one do you choose.
    _Many Linuxes (not all) are now installing desktop software by default, and no longer are minimalistic. (Security! Attach surface area is increased when more software is included.)

    The point you said here:
    _The inability to write and distribute software that touches GPL software, without having to release your software as GPL too.
    is true, but omit the fact that many libraries are released under LGPL, which is usable for making commercial softwares (like mumble and Qt for a common software)
    But, it make this one really true:
    _If you hope to do anything other than use the software or help the community, you need a lawyer to figure out how to interact with the various versions of GPL.

    For this one I agree too:
    _The security settings are usually not easy to use and are result in users just turning them off (i.e. SELinux)

    And, I don't think those two are really GNU/Linux's problems, but humans one:
    _Are Red Hat and SUSE open source or commercial, they sell support but the software is free, except you can’t get updates without buying support…confusing!
    _IT guys who claim to know Linux usually have done little more than run Ubuntu for a few days.

    For the first, it's a commercial problem. I never see commercial guys who tell everything implied by some lines in an agreement.

    For the second, it's again (I think) due to money problems: they want a job, and so lie. I'm fear that there could be some PC-BSD users than act in the same way, sadly. But I don't think this is a GNU/Linux problem, and those guys can be recognized just by letting them using bash 🙂 (or vim or emacs 😀 )

    For file-systems comment, I think that all the low documented one usable by GNU/Linux can be a problem for beginners. (In fat, for people as me) Documentation with interests on file-systems is not easy to find.
    Or maybe I didn't make the good search.

    Sorry for long post and to don't make comments for BSD, but I can't comment something I don't know.
    Sorry for my bad English too.

    And as a remark: many GNU/Linux's problems you said can be avoided by using the Debian distribution, but this is not the subjet 🙂 please remove this line if you think that it make my post trolling. (and if you think my entire post is one, let me know why, I'll try to remove troll parts, my goal is to enhance this useful webpage, not make it useless.)

  3. nestux says:

    Very nice post men, I use Linux and FreeBSD and im agree with all your comments.

    Regards.

  4. Tim says:

    Here is another pro and a con about FreeBSD from my perspective-

    Pro: For those of you who want to feel like you have completed control over your OS, I don't think anything beats FreeBSD. The process for compiling a custom FreeBSD kernel is trivial, and just involves editing a simple text file and running two commands and you're done. The Linux kernel compile process in my opinion is overly complicated. There are so many options for so many different features in the kernel config process, and many of the features that are used in common distributions are marked EXPERIMENTAL. That doesn't make me feel very confident about my system. I realize that there is a tradeoff between complexity and the ability to customize, but the FreeBSD way just seems much more polished to me. Also, it's so easy to customize your FreeBSD install just by adding lines in /etc/rc.conf and there are no run levels to worry about.

    Con: It seems like some progress of FreeBSD is hampered by its sense of history and tradition; let me give you the example I'm thinking of. FreeBSD's native filesystem is UFS2, a filesystem that dates back to 4.2BSD released in 1983. Over the years, it has been improved and features added to bring it into parity with other filesystems. However, I have seen some benchmarks (mostly on phoronix.com which, I'll admit, seem dubious) show that UFS2 doesn't have competitive performance with Linux. I know there are those who would argue that Linux has too many filesystems, but I think it's good to have some choices so you can use the best filesystem for the situation. However, the FreeBSD devs seem very dedicated to UFS2 as the only native FreeBSD filesystem, especially since the person who originally developed UFS is still involved with the FreeBSD project (although with the data corruption problems ext4 had when it first became popular I can understand their dedication to UFS). It's good to see the progress being made with ZFS, and to have read-only support for XFS and ext2/3, and I understand that there are licensing issues in completely porting other filesystems and including them in the base install. But it would still be nice to hear some plans for porting or developing future filesystems rather than just hacking the one BSD has had since 1983.

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