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Which BSD for an Experienced Linux User? 290

Bruce C asks: "I'm a software developer with 28 years commercial experience. Although my day job is mostly on Windows software, I've been using SuSE Linux for 6 years at home. Before that I worked on HP/UX. I've no pressing plans to abandon Linux, but I am interested in experimenting with a BSD style operating system. My current motivation is largely curiosity. Of course, I might end up being converted, but that isn't my intention. I'm wondering which of the various *BSD systems would be the 'best' introduction for a person like me. The workstation I'm planning to use is a generic beige box: Celeron 1.2, 768Mb RAM, 120 Gb IDE, with about 80Gb free. It's on a LAN, behind a firewall. The live CDs for FreeBSD (Freebsie), DragnoflyBSD, and NetBSD all booted and started on it. I haven't tried an OpenBSD CDROM. Which BSD should I pick?"
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Which BSD for an Experienced Linux User?

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  • All of them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SilverspurG ( 844751 )
    And find one that's right for you.
    • Re:All of them (Score:5, Informative)

      by brilinux ( 255400 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:35PM (#11473338) Journal
      That is true ... though I was not as successful ... basically, I now use both NetBSD and FreeBSD; I like them both. I use FreeBSD on my laptop because it has NDIS support for my WiFi card (after 5.3), but I also like NetBSD, which is on my desktop. NetBSD seems to handle packages better than FreeBSD, as often with upgrades on the latter, I have some problems (I think that DragonFly is trying to fix that, though it is very preliminary right now). I have also used OpenBSD, primarily for the AFS support built in, but I did not like it as much as the others. I also have an UltraSparc, that, of course, is running NetBSD.
      To each his own, they are all great OSes, you will find one (or more) that you like.
    • Re:All of them (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think that the "all of them" replies are the ones closest to the mark. It may also depend upon where you are coming from. For example, Debian has created a distribution using a NetBSD kernel but their own Debian userland. That should get some NetBSD benefits while keeping the system "feeling" like Debian GNU/LINUX.

      Between the NetBSD, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD systems, I'd add these thoughts:

      a) Security isn't something you get out of a box.
      If you think that it is, then I hope that
      you're not run
  • try darwin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hes Nikke ( 237581 ) <{slashdot} {at} {}> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:22PM (#11473182) Journal
    I'd try darwin - that is just the 1st step towards Mac OS X ;)

    (first post?)
    • by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:44PM (#11474173) Homepage
      But once you've installed MacOS X, be sure to put Gentoo Portage [] on it to make it usable!

      Hah! I counter your zealotry with my own!

      portage also works on Free and Open BSD I believe...
      • by andkaha ( 79865 )
        But once you've installed MacOS X, be sure to put Gentoo Portage on it to make it usable!

        For a BSD solution, try pkgsrc [].

      • I tried portage on my iBook and I found it to be cumbersom, inadequate and intrusive. Darwinports on the otherhand is quick and easy to use, installs nicely, has tons of packages available and doesn't try to take over my system.
    • So who, if anybody is using Darwin? We don't seem to hear anything from any Darwin users that aren't also MacOS users. It's intriguing to know that Darwin runs on x86, but this doesn't seem to have an consequences in the real world.
  • FreeBSD (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:24PM (#11473212)
    Given that you know Linux, you'll find FreeBSD to be the best one to try. I would recommend the 5.x series if you're feeling ambitious, or the 4.x series if you don't want to put in too much effort. I say this because of my own past experice with Linux and BSD. Have fun.
  • FreeBSD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by numbski ( 515011 ) * <> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:31PM (#11473285) Homepage Journal
    Hands down the easiest to pick up, and arguably the most common.

    Install software from source?

    cvsup -g -L2 stable-supfile
    cd /usr/ports/misc/screen
    make install
    make clean

    Install the binary version?

    pkg_add -r screen

    • Re:FreeBSD (Score:5, Informative)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:39PM (#11473399) Homepage Journal
      Besides being the easiest, FreeBSD has by far the largest collection of ported software. Although you can probably built almost all of the same programs by hand on Net- or OpenBSD, it's nice to be able to let someone else do the hard work for you, particularly if this is your first time to use the system.

      BTW, I'd rewrite your instructions as:

      Update your software collection:
      cd /usr/ports; make update
      portupgrade -ra

      Install from source:
      portinstall misc/screen

      Install from binaries:
      portinstall -PP misc/screen

      Yes, I know that the first one is rarely that simple (although it can be, especially on relatively new machines). The second two are pretty representative, though.

      • Although you can probably built almost all of the same programs by hand on Net- or OpenBSD, it's nice to be able to let someone else do the hard work for you
        NetBSD: *cough* pkgsrc [] *cough*
      • Re:FreeBSD (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fweeky ( 41046 )
        "Update your software collection:
        cd /usr/ports; make update
        portupgrade -ra"

        I prefer:

        portsnap fetch
        portsnap update # use binary diffs to effeciently track small port deltas
        portaudit # get a quick security audit of installed ports and base system
        pkg_version -vL = # I alias this to pkg_chk; list updated port versions
        portupgrade [whatever needs doing]

    • I'm a long time Linux user who recently installed FreeBSD 5 on a development server, apart from the init scripts are a bit arcane to a Linux user my two problems have been.

      Kernel crashes when using DMA. VIA chipset. A kernel recompile seems to have fixed that somehow. uptime on two weeks now with quite heavy disk use.

      Because of a "bug/unimplemented feature" in Linux a FreeBSD 5 kernel can't lock files on a Linux NFS server (NLM cookie length > 8). Very recent Linux kernel have this issue sorted out (a
      • When you say FreeBSD 5, what do you mean? I.e 5.0-RELEASE? Remember that version of FreeBSD 5 before 5.3 (the latest version) were not -STABLE, and were certainly not intended for production use.

        If you were using FreeBSD before 5.3 for a production system, you should have been using 4.x like it said so on the website.

        • It is FreeBSD 5.3 because from my understanding it is -STABLE now. The box wasn't a real production box (Not open on the internet), but a development server to see how things worked out.
    • Re:FreeBSD (Score:5, Informative)

      by dokebi ( 624663 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:54PM (#11474290)
      I second FreeBSD, but for a different reason: DOCUMENTATION.

      I think FreeBSD by far has the best centralized documentation anywhere (gentoo is good, too--I think they try hard to model after FBSD). Between the Handbook for general How-To's and the man pages for nitty-gritty, you can do almost everything without googling.

      I keep trying to learn Debian, but every time I give up because it's hard to find good up-to-date information.
      • Re:FreeBSD (Score:4, Informative)

        by molnarcs ( 675885 ) <> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @10:05PM (#11476012) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, documentation! Which reminds me of the community, which is just great. I came to FreeBSD from a mandrake background ( and pclinuxonline forums) - so I was a bit afraid that freebsd users are probably too geekish for my taste or something. What a pleasant surprise! Even after the positive experience on mandrakusers, bsdforums seemed even more friendlier. Sure, you are expected to read the documentation, but even if you made zero effort to do so you are directed to the handbook in a polite manner (no rtfm). And bsdforums is a wealth of knowledge. I didn't feel the need to post for 3 months, found almost anything I wanted via the search feature.

        Anyway, although this is not the most important factor in deciding which OS to choose, it can still matter. I am very grateful to the FreeBSD user community for their patience to help out a noob like I was back when I tried it out. There is also a linux section on - and contrary to what some troll would have you believe, most freebsd users either run linux as well or don't care about linux at all. And if you are looking for positive linux reviews, you can find many of them on - surprise surprise - bsdforums (I read raves about mandrake, gentoo, etc.). I just thought that I'd mention this if someone had the same apprehension I had 1.5 years ago.

  • Experiment (Score:3, Informative)

    by Turmio ( 29215 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:34PM (#11473331) Homepage
    So you're willing to experiment with a new system. Then why not install all of the free BSD's and use each for a few weeks and after that decide which one to keep, if any.
  • What do you want? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twilight30 ( 84644 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:35PM (#11473339) Homepage
    A quick rule of thumb is generally ...

    OpenBSD for security, NetBSD for portability and FreeBSD for diffusion in the wider world (ie, comparable to Linux).

    I have no need for portability, and FreeBSD didn't appeal to me, so OpenBSD it was -- five years ago. I don't think you'll go wrong with any of them, though. If I did it again to experiment I'd probably try FreeBSD out this time.

    BSDs do generally have more thorough online and internal documentation than Linux for the core basics, so you won't miss with any of them.
    • OpenBSD for security, NetBSD for portability and FreeBSD for diffusion in the wider world (ie, comparable to Linux).


      If your playground is i386-type systems, like it is in the case of the OP, and if he has some common sense, then the three operating systems are more or less the same in terms of security and software availability. He should just pick the one he finds most fun/simple to administrate.

      • Re:What do you want? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:17PM (#11473860) Homepage
        I agree that he'll be fine whichever he chooses, but your statement that they are all more or less the same in terms of security is very wrong. OpenBSD is not the same as the other BSD's in terms of security. It really, really isn't. If you think so, you're naive. The entire development process revolves around security; code is audited, settings and defaults are carefully crafted. OpenBSD did not start simply because they wanted to include one piece of software and FreeBSD wanted to include another. The whole purpose of OpenBSD is to be the most secure OS on the planet.

        To suggest there is no difference is not only untrue, but vaguely insulting to the project.
        • And if you believe what you just said makes any difference, you are being just as naive.

          OpenBSD, as in the kernel itself, is fairly well auditted (I'm not sure about the coverage, but they do examine things closely from what I remember).

          However, Apache isn't auditted. DHCP isn't auditted. The FTP server, I'm fairly sure isn't auditted. Nothing they don't actually write themselves. If you install an OpenBSD machine on the internet and actually turn on services, you'll have just as many security probl

          • I can say for sure that the DHCP server *has* been audited, by several different groups. Chances are the other utilities have been as well. So really your question should be, "is FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD running the version that's got the fixes from the audit."

            Personally, I've always run NetBSD, I like the pkgsrc collection, use it on MacOS X as well as NetBSD, and would rather fight than switch. Whether it's actually better is something that in all likelihood none of us can answer, because we all have
            • Touche. If DHCP is auditted (I should have thought about that ISC would have it auditted along with BIND), that's great. However, my guess is that OpenBSD didn't do special audits, that didn't get pushed upstream (I know they have some for Apache that they can't pushed upstream, which I alluded to in my post).

              Thus OpenBSD isn't inheriently more secure then Linux, NetBSD, or FreeBSD due to the particular audit you are discussing.

              Even the OpenBSD guys are pretty clear on the fact that they have limited

          • by molnarcs ( 675885 ) <> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @09:49PM (#11475879) Homepage Journal
            However, Apache isn't auditted.

            Do you know what you are talking about? It seems more and more likely you don't. OpenBSD devs had a number of problems with the apache project. One was licencing issues, so they don't have apache2 included in the base system (you are still free to install it via ports). The other gripe was (and this is quite well known for it was publicized a few times even here on ./) that was slow/reluctant to include all the security fixes the openbsd project submitted - after auditing the code. The apache 1.3.x version is a security enchanched version of the normal 1.3-release.

            And that was just one example of your ignorance. Now, would you be so kind as to stop posting crap please? There is a difference between the security of say linux (or even FreeBSD) and OpenBSD. OpenBSD isn't completely secure, no one claims that. It is more secure by default even if you allow services. Not to mention the fact that pf eats iptables for breakfast (now also part of FreeBSD's base system).

          • by Homology ( 639438 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2005 @05:44AM (#11478350)
            However, Apache isn't auditted. DHCP isn't auditted. The FTP server, I'm fairly sure isn't auditted. Nothing they don't actually write themselves. If you install an OpenBSD machine on the internet and actually turn on services, you'll have just as many security problems as anyone running Linux. OpenSSH has it's fair share of security problems (written by pretty much the same people who wrote OpenBSD). Although with priveledge separation it should have even fewer problems that are actually exploitable to become root.

            You entire post shows that you know very little about OpenBSD. Everything that is part of the base install is audited, and that includes programs like Apache httpd, BIND, Sendmail, DHCP and SSH. For the 3.6 release, the DHCP server and client underwent a major cleanup to improve security. In addition there are security enhancments as well (like privilege separation, chroot).

            While it probably has a more secure kernel, most exploits out there in the world involve exploiting a user process that is running as root.

            Very few deamons are running as root on OpenBSD. Most are running under their own unique, chrooted and privilege separated if possible.

            The OpenBSD team has done alot to lessen the impact of exploits. Yes, even programs running on OpenBSD can be exploited, but there is a difference. An attempt to exploit a buffer overflow on OpenBSD is likely to just induce a crash, and thus not work.

        • To suggest there is no difference is not only untrue, but vaguely insulting to the project.

          That would be insulting myself since I'd like to see myself as a contributor to it.

          I think that you misunderstand me. Security is, in the end, in the hands of the administrator, no matter what the operating system might be. If security is your main issue, then by all means choose OpenBSD if you think it'll save your day. Personally, I picked OpenBSD because it was small, fully featured, quick to install and e

    • Re:What do you want? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mr.Ned ( 79679 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @07:55PM (#11474899)
      There was a thread on netbsd-advocacy a few weeks ago about NetBSD having image problems, and it pointed to this "rule of thumb" as a major example of the misperception of the BSDs. Many people do exactly what you did - "I have no need for portability, and FreeBSD didn't appeal to me, so OpenBSD it was" - or some variation - without actually evaluating reality.

      (I'm not as familiar with FreeBSD as I am the others, and I'm happy with NetBSD right now)

      Portability: OpenBSD lists 15 different platforms. [0] FreeBSD lists 9. [1] NetBSD boasts some rediculous number, whether you are counting processor types or variations. (For comparison, Debian supports 11 [2]) All of the BSDs are portable.

      Security: OpenBSD has a deserved reputation for focus on security. However, don't think they're the be-all-end-all - I would consider several of the 'reliability fixes' in the 3.5 errata [3] to be security issues, particularly #16 and #27. Weaknesses is the encrypted volume support have been discussed on the misc@ list, and it has been suggested that the cgd found in FreeBSD and NetBSD is much stronger; there are no current plans to port that to OpenBSD. NetBSD 2.0 has a new feature, Verified Exec [4] that looks like a very strong tool to counter rootkits; I don't have any experience with it.

      Performance: Although more than a year old, take a look at fefe's scalability benchmarks. [5] FreeBSD and Linux 2.6 came out on top by quite a margin. I believe there was work on all fronts after the benchmarks were published, but NetBSD's catches the eye most - in two weeks they pushed scalability beyond FreeBSD. A more recent series of microbenchmarks between FreeBSD 5.3 and NetBSD 2.0 [6] compare the two and are relatively close. When reading those benchmarks, you should keep in mind that it was a uniprocessor system, and there's been a lot of talk about FreeBSD's SMPng.

      One thing you didn't mention were packages and ports; OpenBSD's are more limited in number than FreeBSD or NetBSD's. OpenBSD ports follow releases; FreeBSD's don't; NetBSD's have quarterly stable branches independent of the operating system.

      One other note of mention is the RIPOFF file [7] maintained by Hubert Feyrer of NetBSD. It's not really about performance, scalability, security, or ports, but it's an interesting read. I haven't verified its accuracy nor do I know if other people keep similar accounts.

      [4] chap-whatsnew-2-0-veriexec
  • OpenBSD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:36PM (#11473352) Journal

    Go with OpenBSD - one remotely exploitable hole in how many years? 5?

    Besides that it's so much of a bastard to install that it's a fun challenge. (Not many people can say they have installed OpenBSD!)
    • Re:OpenBSD (Score:3, Informative)

      by 0racle ( 667029 )
      Lots of people can say that, and its not that hard if you read the documentation.
      • Re:OpenBSD (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        OpenBSD is easy to install. The hardest part is the disk configuration. OpenBSD doesn't hold your hand through the process. BUT, it's all spelled out in the FAQ. Once you've done it, you'll realize it's not that bad. I can install a base OpenBSD system from CD in about 10 minutes. Not much longer on a broadband connection booting from a floppy. Combine that with the power of the ports and packages, I can usually have the system I want in an hour or two depending on download times.
    • Re:OpenBSD (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )
      I disagree. OpenBSD was a bear to install when I first tried several years ago. I gave it another shot last year after getting quite a bit of FreeBSD experience under my belt, and it was a breeze.

      It defines "minimal", but if you can get used to the fact that the installer won't hold your hand in any way, then it's actually about the easiest you'll find. Seriously. It's just not that bad for an experienced user.

    • Re:OpenBSD (Score:3, Funny)

      by SunFan ( 845761 )

      I found OpenBSD easier to install than Red Hat. I'm not sure what that means about me, though.
      • I found OpenBSD easier to install than Red Hat. I'm not sure what that means about me, though.

        Your BSD-fu is indeed strong, Grasshopper. Your training here is complete.

    • Re:OpenBSD (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peacefinder ( 469349 ) *
      Bah. OpenBSD is not hard to install. My first three *nix OS installs ever were OpenBSD. Twice on old salvaged PCs, and then on a headless Soekris 4801. It's not like I'm some superbrain guru either... I had nearly zero experience with any *nix flavor at the time. All that was requred was to read the online manpages. Never mind the FUD, it's just not that hard.

      Buy the CD, and it's a snap. It's slightly harder with the floppy/ftp install, but not much.
    • Re:OpenBSD (Score:4, Informative)

      by Noodlenose ( 537591 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2005 @06:10AM (#11478432) Homepage Journal
      Besides that it's so much of a bastard to install that it's a fun challenge. (Not many people can say they have installed OpenBSD!)

      Utter rubbish. Me, being a complete *nix idiot then (and still pretty clueless now) was able to install OpenBSD without a hitch, found drivers for my exotic hardware and had the best community support you could wish for. [].

      In addition to being a great, functional and secure OS, it also has a outspoken, intelligent leader who is not afraid to stir up controversy for his political or technical beliefs.

      Go Theo!

  • OpenBSD strengths. (Score:5, Informative)

    by far_star ( 102599 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:39PM (#11473380)
    Here are some reasons you should consider OpenBSD's strengths.

    Easy Install (and perhaps one of the quickest I've ever seen)
    Very Secure OS. (You mihgt just find the OS all of your future servers run)
    Ports System. - Like other BSDs, the ports system is truly a marvel. Software installation could not be easier.
    Good license standpoint - OpenBSD has a rather purist stance on the licenses for software they ship. It might seem extreme at first, but there is some good reasoning behind it.
    Documentation - OpenBSD's offical FAQ is very helpfull and answered 99.9% of the questions I had as a beginner.

    • by SuperBeaker ( 604944 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:47PM (#11473484)
      I would also add firewalls, routing, and packet queueing. I haven't found anything that compares with the power and ease of OpenBSD's pf firewall ruleset. It provides all of the features that you could possibly need in a firewall including stateful packet filtering, packet normalization, and packet shaping - all with and extremely easy-to-understand interface. For routing, you can support RIP, OSPF, and BGP. BGP is supported with the new OpenBGP server. I have a few OpenBSD boxes set up in my home lab that are linked with various Cisco routers running OSPF. But which one is actually cheaper . . . ? :) Finally, the OpenBSD dev team is militant on the security front. All servers are chrooted by default. Stuff just works out of the box securely. I can't tell you how easy and quick it is to set up a secure, chrooted web server with OpenBSD.
  • by ArbitraryConstant ( 763964 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:39PM (#11473393) Homepage
    I've tried them all and they're so different from each other that one won't really give you a very good idea of what the others are like.

    OpenBSD is probably the easiest. Most things are in a working configuration by default, they just need to be switched on. FreeBSD has more software and better performance, but it's never been worth it for me because you have to mess around with the kernel and stuff (We're not on Linux, after all). I had to manually enable modules to get things like sound and set all sorts of environment variables to get some of the ports to work right. On OpenBSD it pretty much works the first time you boot it if it's going to work at all. The security is a bonus, but mostly I like how little work it takes to maintain.

    FreeBSD is a bit more up to date, and has more powerful features (I love jails). I usually fall back on it if I need one of the features.

    I don't really see much point in NetBSD, but given the number of people that use it and like it it's probably worthwhile to take a look.

    DragonFly is still close enough to FreeBSD in terms of user experience that you might be able to skip it if you don't like FreeBSD.

    They're all pretty easy to install. Give 'em a shot.
    • FreeBSD has more software and better performance, but it's never been worth it for me because you have to mess around with the kernel and stuff (We're not on Linux, after all). I had to manually enable modules to get things like sound and set all sorts of environment variables to get some of the ports to work right.

      I'm honestly not sure what you're talking about. There are quite a few ports that accept environmental variables to decide with optional dependencies to compile in. For example, if you set "W

      • "I'm honestly not sure what you're talking about. There are quite a few ports that accept environmental variables to decide with optional dependencies to compile in. For example, if you set "WITHOUT_X11='YES'", then ports will avoid requiring xorg (or xf86 on 4.x) whenever possible. Ports are pretty good about letting you know which options you can select, and you can put all of those definitions in a single file so that you don't have to remember them each time."

        The only case I specifically remember was k
        • I didn't have to mess with anything to get sound working on the same machine with OpenBSD or Linux. Besides, "same as Linux" is not a particularly lofty standard.

          Those drivers are compiled into OpenBSD's GENERIC kernel, and any given Linux distro may also have them compiled in (or autodetect them). FreeBSD tends to leave such decisions to the user, and isn't as cautious about providing modules as OpenBSD.

          Can't you do NAT for the various jails? The firewall is global to all jails.

          Sure (although that

    • Apparently the functionality of Free jails can be implemented in Net and Open environments using systrace functionality. I wish someone would provide them as preconfigured options though...

      The main selling point for FreeBSD when I first tried it was nVidia drivers. I'd tend to agree though - they all have their strengths, and I'd recommend you try them all (including OS X). They are sufficiently similar that you can relatively easily move between them (far easier than Linux distros that can't make up th

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:41PM (#11473422)
    I started on OpenBSD 2.6 and I liked it. Just text mode as a firewall. The initial install was a little bumpy but then the man pages were excellent.

    I've since used FreeBSD a fair amount. I'm becoming comfortable there, but I still feel more at home with OpenBSD.

    FreeBSD 5 is not the best place to start. Some important things have changed and there isn't much support for these changes on the web yet. You'll find lots of older "howto" articles that won't work as written. I managed to bootstrap my FreeBSD server using PXEboot, but I had to liberally adapt the approaches I found because of the many changes in 5.x

    There's a lot of negativity floating around about FreeBSD 5.x lately. It seems they've put a lot of energy in breaking hard ground over the past two years. It remains to be seen whether lush vegetation will spout in future versions as they tune these improvements. I think in any project with sufficient ambition, there are times when things have to go sideways for a period of time.

    Recall how Tiger Woods decided to tune his golf swing when he was on top of the world. I sure hope it works out better for FreeBSD.
  • SODA!!
  • It's really not at all that hard to install all the BSDs, one after the other, and try them out. There's not that many of them... and what better way to get to learn the systems?

    All the BSD projects have excellent documentation, easily accessible from their respective web sites. They all have good mailing lists for users who can both RTFM and RTFFAQ but who still gets stuck with problems.

    Honestly, if you rely on other people's opinions on what operating system to choose for personal use, you will get

  • FreeBSD, definitely. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nuxx ( 10153 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:45PM (#11473461) Homepage
    I say without a doubt they should try FreeBSD first. It'll run almost any application they are used to either natively or through the Linux compatibility layer.

    Also, reading through the FreeBSD Handbook [] will answer almost any question that one could have regarding getting the system up and going.

    Combine all of this with the extremely expansive collection of ported applications [] (it's often as easy as 'cd /usr/ports/net/whatever ; make all install clean ; rehash' for almost anything) and it's a really, really nice way to work.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is now official. Netcraft has confirmed: *BSD is dying

    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [] in

  • At least initially. It's easy to install, fast, simple to configure and has a plethora of software available. It also has some of the best documentation of any OS out there in the form of the FreeBSD handbook. While I agree you should give all the BSD's a try- you should probably start with FreeBSD.

    The difference between the BSD variants are small and tend more towards implementation details and installation than general system maintenance. If you log in to a running BSD system and were asked to administer
  • I like... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by virid ( 34014 )
    OpenBSD. If you're a networking guy Packet Filter (PF) is a cool toy to play with. But if you're looking for a more BSD-style Linux you might want to consider Slackware.
    • If you're a networking guy Packet Filter (PF) is a cool toy to play with.

      Calling it a cool toy is underselling it somewhat. It wipes the floor with any other networking tool I've ever come across. Quite simply, it's awesome. Back in the day, I used to be quite impressed with ipf. But pf just takes things to a whole new level, and combined with CARP and pfsync, it's pretty untouchable. After using it for a while, you'll never want to touch IOS again :-)

      • [...] and combined with CARP and pfsync, it's pretty untouchable.

        Don't forget bgpd. Together, they make the guys that bought Cisco boxes look pretty dumb.

  • by Anonymous Cowherd X ( 850136 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:59PM (#11473629) Journal

    Which one? I would recommend you try all of them, but in the following order:

    1. FreeBSD 4.11 - because it will ease you gently into the world of BSD with its easy setup, wonderful documentation and a myriad of great ports that build right out of the box.
    2. NetBSD - because it will introduce you to the world of quality device drivers for a very wide selection of hardware.
    3. DragonFlyBSD - because it will show you the speed and the potential of change on BSD platforms. It's still in the early stages of development, so do not expect to be able to build additional software out of the box.
    4. OpenBSD - because it will expand your view of what security is regardless of what your current experience might be. With the experience gained using other BSD systems you should have no trouble installing OpenBSD, but don't install OpenBSD before other systems because you will most likely regret it, it's the least user-friendly BSD system to set up.

    After you're finished you may want to try FreeBSD 5.3, especially if you are interested in comparing its GBDE (Geom Based Disk Encryption) to NetBSD's CGD (CryptoGraphic Disk) facility.

    Welcome to the world of BSD, I hope your ride will be a smooth one. Let us know if we can help. :)

  • I have no experience with any of the BSDs, but it seems to me that FreeBSD is the most popular with ISPs. That means that any programs you write will run on the web host computer. For example, Powweb []. (I'm a customer, but have no other connection with them.)
  • by nuintari ( 47926 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:07PM (#11473729) Homepage
    If you like Linux for tons of packages, and ease of use as a desktop system, go with FreeBSD.

    If you hate Linux for its complexity, bloat, unclean filesystem, and long for something cleaner, go with Open or Net, I prefer Open myself.

    If you hate linux for all those things, but don't want to make any large steps, then again, FreeBSD, its the closest thing to a baby step you'll make.

    All the BSD's rock, all of them are much cleaner, and more consistent than your average linux distro, which is, in my humble opinion, the best reason to move over to them.
  • It depends (Score:4, Informative)

    by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:18PM (#11473863) Homepage
    BSDs in their most basic are all the same. NetBSD, OpenBSD, FreeBSD are like different distros. The only difference will be felt when compiling the kernel or system, in which NetBSD will feel different.

    It really depends on what the BSD is destined to do. For learning any one of those three will do really. The effective differences between their CLI, commands, toolbox, kernel interface and compilations, networking etc are negligible. In networking, well, OpenBSD has the excellent pf instead of the ipf, but for learning will feel the same nevertheless.

    If used for anything beside learning, well, FreeBSD is featureful, and can make excellent use of your hardware, OpenBSD is extremely secure and simple, and makes for great firewalls and VPN servers, NetBSD is also real simple, and porting it around is easier than Linux, easiest among all OSes.

    But even those differences are negligible. FreeBSD and NetBSD are also very secure, FreeBSD and OpenBSD are also portable etc. FreeBSD has the largest base and some apps will run natively on it but not the other BSDs. I think FreeBSD alone has nVidia drivers available for it among all BSDs. If you plan to encrypt the filesystem, encrypt data structures in the ram, keep code and data seperate in the ram enforced by the OS, use encryptions of many more bits, do fancy VPNNing, use OpenBSD. I personally have difficulty in choosing a BSD for any specific task because they are so similar despite what the developers say. So I just use OpenBSD because I'm Canadian.

    Choosing a Linux distro is usually a better conversation with more reasons to choose one over the other. Please dont bring up Linux vs BSD, just search that term on google and read for the rest of your days.
  • However FreeBSD has a much better maintained ports tree.

    Oh yeah - if you are going to go into BSD, learn the ports update mechanisms. This is the way FOSS should be handled - I love ports - my understanding is it is much like Gentoo (Never used it, but I like the idea of compiling the whole distribution from scratch - takes a while, but many things are much easier that way)

    • I love ports - my understanding is it is much like Gentoo

      Actually, Gentoo borrowed the ports system from BSD. We've already had ports since FreeBSD 2.0 (perhaps even earlier). Gentoo didn't even exist back then :)

      (Never used it, but I like the idea of compiling the whole distribution from scratch - takes a while, but many things are much easier that way)

      One other reason is that it is always a good idea to have the sources to the system AND ports handy, just in case you want to security-audit somet

      • Actually, Gentoo borrowed the ports system from BSD. We've already had ports since FreeBSD 2.0 (perhaps even earlier). Gentoo didn't even exist back then :)

        I know - I was giving a Linux reference for the unwashed masses that don't realize that BSD has been around for a little more than a decade more than Linux. I have never successfully been able to upgrade a significant subsystem with RPM (as in update X) without reinstalling the next RH distro... With ports - VERY easy... all though I must admit I ha

  • More details here [].
  • by QuietRiot ( 16908 ) <cyrus@ 8 0> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:39PM (#11474120) Homepage Journal
    I'd suggest *starting* with OpenBSD (or NetBSD though I've got no personal experience myself) and later trying a FreeBSD install. If you've been on Linux for 6 years and have run HP/UX I'd have to say you're qualified to run one of the less candy coated BSD's to get yourself integrated into the "whole BSD 'thang." DragonFly will be cool (someday) but I can't suggest it for someone new to BSD. Same with Darwin.

    OpenBSD would be great to learn on as it will definately push you into the documentation and get you used to some of the conventions used (slices v. partitions, startup scripts, etc.). I'd suggest you use an older or spare computer if you've got extra or can pick one up cheap. You could also just set aside space on those 80 gigs you've got. READ UP ON PARTITIONING, USE OF LARGE DRIVES, ETC. BEFORE YOU START ANYTHING!

    Once you get some OpenBSD under your belt, put a box in service at your network connection (right behind you cable/DSL connection?) and learn to setup pf (packet filter - built in). Experiment with AltQ and get yourself a good firewall/NAT in place (junk the Linksys). Not too much trouble and the docs at OpenBSD - pf [] are quite good. Here you could experiment with adding a web server or MTA (if you don't have tons of boxen to keep your "real" services in some kind of dedicated DMZ). My home OpenBSD box forwards BitTorrent, Freenet, VNC and SSH to a variety of machines in my house. I also prioitize packets in the following order: 1st to tcp_ack_out, Vonage telephone, ssh_interactive, everything else, freenet, and finally ssh_bulk. Keeps my phone line crisp and prevents freenet from destroying my ssh sessions' latency. You can do this with other products but I've had a good time (and have learned quite a bit) constructing my /etc/pf.conf file. (Yes. I've got a life otherwise :)

    Then build youself a FreeBSD box. This should be cake. 5.x should install without a problem for you and you've got access to all the ports you could ever imagine. Your experience with OpenBSD will help you understand some of the differences you'll encounter. Makes a great desktop. OpenBSD will work fine as a desktop machine but I've never done it. Same for NetBSD I suppose. Give it a whirl. I'm sure you'll learn a ton and be quite happy with whatever you decide.

    Don't short yourself on learning OpenBSD. It is awesome, security aware and has some wonderful features (need encrypted swap case the feds might knock down your door at any minute? check.). It may just serve all your needs and knowing it is surely going to be useful to either yourself or others in the future. Use it for utility and the ability to sleep at night with your data behind it. (still better go with RSA keys on sshd though). Check out []

    Don't short yourself either on checking out FreeBSD. I moved from Linux to "the beast" some 5 years ago and haven't looked back since. The 4.10 machine I use everyday has been up 168 days as of today. I had at shutdown the machine previous to that due to a scheduled power outage. It sits fully exposed on an unprotected IP and runs user apps, a web server and mail. Not a single problem in years. FreeBSD has certainly served me (and some clients of mine) well.

    If you're a system developer or like playing with things at the driver level or experimenting with new code, new systems or want to put your toaster on the network, don't deny yourself a NetBSD 2.x install. Wonderful features at the leading edge. Very capable and I hope to get some more experience with it myself one day.

    Learn OpenBSD. You won't regret it.
  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:59PM (#11474326) Journal
    NetBSD usually has pretty good hardware support. It usualy recgonizes most network cards. Especially wireless support in NetBSD is better IMHO. FreeBSD used to lock up my laptop with my netgear ma301 wifi nic, while NetBSD runs pretty nicely.

    Configuring things to start up on the BSD's is all done in the /etc/rc.conf file, so once they are installed they are all very similar. Kernel is in /usr/src/sys and they have no GUI kernel config like Linux does (AFAIK). So if you have ever manually edited a .config for Linux you'll be right at home.

    FreeBSD seems to have more software in the ports than netbsd does. I'm not sure about OpenBSD. OpenBSD never like my hardware. NetBSD actually recgonized my sound card better than Linux or FreeBSD on my laptop so that makes is more desirable.

    If you need to use framebuffer programs that use svgalib or want to use them, and not run X windows, then FreeBSD is the choice. FreeBSD has a framebuffer that does graphics, fairly easily, while NetBSD does not.

    NetBSD's SMP support is newer than FreeBSD, but it did no sound like that was an issue.

    My suggestion is number them 1(NetBSD), 2(FreeBSD), 3(OpenBSD) and create a random number generator that picks it for you. Pretty much once you install one of them, the others are pretty close and easy to learn where things are.

  • I notice that you consider yourself an old-time HP/UX user. If that was a preference of yours, you will probably get adjusted to the BSD's very easily: IIRC, HP/UX up until and including 10.x was very heavily BSD. I still get a kick out of firing up my Apollo 710 and seeing how different that environment is from Solaris.

    Net/Open/Free all have great install programs, though Free is a little more in-depth about everything that you can do during the install process. Net and Open make it very easy to flopp

  • If you're mostly looking for new experiences, you might also give something like Plan 9 [] a try. And if you're really looking for adventure, there is alway the Hurd [].
  • All of FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD are good distributions, IMHO, based around a solid kernel. However, the best bang for your buck (in this case, your time) is FreeBSD, I think.

    FreeBSD is pretty easy to install and comes with an extensive collection of "ports" -- packages that you can download and install or build for your system. I think it supports a larger range of applications than the other BSD's which are targeted more towards server and headless situations.

    Check our the FreeBSD website for lots of
  • Try all of them, they are free.. what do you have to loose?

    A lot depends on your needs too:

    FreeBSD = Most common, most ports, most support..
    OpenBSD = Most secure.. fewest ports..
    NetBSD = Most universal runs anywhere.. lots of ports.. most rustic
    • NetBSD = Most universal runs anywhere..

      Hmmm... I tried to boot NetBSD 2.0 on my EPIA 5000 (Eden) mini-ITX board, to no avail (FreeBSD 5.3 ran just fine). But in general terms it's absolutely true. NetBSD is the most portable OS in the world.

  • ...but did you consider buying a Mac?
  • In contrast to the common myth, NetBSD's fine on common hardware like the one posted, and it doesn't add lots of complexity to appear user friendly, but also doesn't leave out things to be too small. It's a fairly small & robust OS that you can tune to your wants by adding random applications from the pkgsrc collection, and get whatever you want - desktop system with GNOME/KDE/XFce/whatever, database server, DNS, firewall, etc.

    In the end it's probably best if you install all of them and make your perso
  • I haven't tried OpenBSD or NetBSD yet, but I've run FreeBSD and am thoroughly a fan. It remains my favorite open-source OS overall.

    The only reason I don't run it on my laptop is because my university uses a closed-source VPN client from Cisco, with binaries available only for Win9x/NT/2k/XP, OSX, x86 Linux (no ARM binary for my Zaurus, sadly :( ), and PocketPC -- no FBSD. That, and I remember getting Linux-binary Flash and Java plugins to work in Firefox under FBSD is a PITA. And native builds of Firefo
  • Try NetBSD first. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jeff Rizzo ( 639099 )
    The developers on NetBSD are a great bunch (not that the other BSDs don't have great developers), and for any sort of a server or desktop it's my first choice - for embedded platforms it's my only choice. 2.0 has some really great features that have, in typical NetBSD fashion, been a long time coming, but now that they're here, they're REALLY well designed.

    FreeBSD is also a good one to try. I don't like it as much, but that's mostly just personal preference. DragonFly looks interesting, but I haven't b

  • by Sentry21 ( 8183 )
    I would suggest OS X. It's UNIX, it's BSD, and it's lickably-good. You get an operating system that can run all your POSIX-compliant goodies, X server, the whole two bits, but you also get an easy, modern, flexible operating system as well.

    Of course, it won't run on your Celeron, so it doesn't really matter, but if you ever have $500 sitting around and want to learn another BSD and get a machine for the wife/kids/pets/sheep/plants, then there you go.
  • My view of the BSD's (Score:2, Informative)

    by br00tus ( 528477 )
    The three major BSD's are FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD. OpenBSD is known as the secure BSD, NetBSD is known as the architecture portable BSD, and FreeBSD is known for many things. I've run servers using FreeBSD that I've been happy with.

    A lot of people I know are impressed with OpenBSD's security and architecture. OpenBSD is also a major force behind some security things that Linux borrows, for example, my "apt-get install ssh" installed an SSH written by OpenSSH, which is associated with OpenBSD. If I

  • Requiem for the FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by ulib ( 816651 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2005 @10:09AM (#11479401) Homepage
    I know this stuff has [] been [] posted [] before. []
    But since I've seen that a 3-year-old post [] spreading FUD over BSD was modded up from "-1 Troll" to "+1 Funny", I thought that - at the risk of burning my karma - it was right to make available to the +1 readers an even funnier collection of *facts*. ;)

    FreeBSD, Stealth-Growth Open Source Project (Jun 2004) []
    "FreeBSD has dramatically increased its market penetration over the last year."
    Nearly 2.5 Million Active Sites running FreeBSD (Jun 2004) []
    "[FreeBSD] has secured a strong foothold with the hosting community and continues to grow, gaining over a million hostnames and half a million active sites since July 2003."
    What's New in the FreeBSD Network Stack (Sep 2004) []
    "FreeBSD can now route 1Mpps on a 2.8GHz Xeon whilst Linux can't do much more than 100kpps."

    NetBSD sets Internet2 Land Speed World Record (May 2004) []
    NetBSD again sets Internet2 Land Speed World Record (30 Sep 2004) []

    OpenBSD Widens Its Scope (Nov 2004) []
    Review: OpenBSD 3.6 shows steady improvement (Nov 2004) []

    *BSD in general:
    Deep study: The world's safest computing environment (Nov 2004) []
    "The world's safest and most secure 24/7 online computing environment - operating system plus applications - is proving to be the Open Source platform of BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) and the Mac OS X based on Darwin."
    ..and last but not least, we have the cutest mascot as well - undisputedly. ;) []

    Being able to read *other people's* source code is a nice thing, not a 'fundamental freedom'.

  • disclaimer: I write for a FreeBSD wiki (see link below).

    That said, I still think FreeBSD is a better choice for starting out on he BSDs -- a larger community base is available to you, which for a newbie to a particular OS is not something to be lightly discounted. Larger support for the OS (hardware as well as software,) is generally available to FreeBSD users than other BSD users, although the other BSDs aren't without their merits (you'll likely hear about them in other posts, so I won't even bother.) L

Disks travel in packs.