Daniel Bye freebsd-questions at
Wed Mar 12 20:28:57 UTC 2008

On Wed, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:09:12AM +0000, Mike Clarke wrote:
> On Wednesday 12 March 2008, Daniel Bye wrote:
> > I think it fair to say that most people will use ports to compile and
> > install software, rather than relying on the packages on the release
> > ISOs, for the simple reason that the ports tree is a moving target -
> > the packages included with any particular release are out of date
> > (as a set, if not individually) quite quickly, because the porters
> > do a fantastic job of adding new software and updating existing ports.
> >
> > So, my suggestion (as an old hack who's been around for almost a
> > decade ;-) would be to familiarise yourself with the ports tree
> > and all its magic - you'll probably find yourself using it in
> > preference to precompiled packages. The handbook is the best place
> > to start, as ever.
> I agree that there are advantages in using ports to ensure things are kept up 
> to date but using the packages supplied with the release can be an advantage 
> for a newcomer to FreeBSD.

Of course, a point I realised I missed in my original reply.

> The ports system can be quite daunting until one has become familiar with the 
> system especially if even just one of the ports fails to build. A new user 
> probably won't have the expertise to recognise and fix the cause of the 
> problem. Installing packages from the CD's pretty well ensures that the new 
> user can get a new system up and running without complication. Many new users 
> would prefer a slightly out of date system that works instead of struggling 
> to fix problems in a totally unfamiliar system. When I first started to use 
> FreeBSD I relied on the packages on the CDs, as I gained more familiarity I 
> was much more confident in using ports for the applications that weren't 
> available as precompiled packages.

Yes, of course; you make several good points, Mike. I hope my suggestion
didn't come over as sounding like ports is the only way - as you point
out below, packages are the sane option for most of us mortals for huge
collections of software like KDE.

Speaking for myself (it's all I'm qualified to do, after all), I will
say that I found the learning process in FreeBSD to be on the whole
straight forward and very enjoyable - I emigrated from Linuxland after
a particularly frustrating problem for which I got nothing but scorn for
being a n00b on the newsgroups (I know most Linux communities these days
are not like that - but back then, the one I went to for help most
certainly was). All I wanted to do was learn about something other than
Windows. So at the recommendation of a couple of colleagues, I tried
4.0-RELEASE, joined this mailing list, and never looked back. From the
first day, I can remember being blown away by how easy it was to install
from the ports - it resolves dependencies for you? Yeah, right... wait,
it's resolving dependencies for me! After wrestling with RPMs, who
wouldn't love that? (Again, I know a hell of a lot of work has gone
into the various software management tools available for Linuxes, but
I still haven't found one I like as much as our own ports.)

I could bang on for hours about how much I enjoy using FreeBSD (it has
been my primary desktop OS since 4.2, my business is based on FreeBSD
VPS services, I supply FreeBSD Internet appliances to my clients, blah
blah blah) and about how elegant and well thought out it is. It has
its glitches, sure, but it's a huge evolving system.  Such an immense
amount of intelligence and talent has gone into making FreeBSD what it 
is, and a good proportion of that intelligence and talent is available 
at first hand for free on the lists - in my experience, you just don't
get that very often.

Anyway - to the OP - my apologies for hijacking your thread, and welcome
aboard. Keep at it, you'll love it, I'm sure. Keep asking questions - 
this list is a fantastic resource for newcomers and more experienced
users alike.

> Although I'm now quite comfortable building from ports I still use precompiled 
> packages where they are available because I've got a relatively low powered 
> PC which makes very heavy going with the bigger ports (e.g. gcc, firefox, 
> KDE)

Indeed. I'll never get back those days waiting for KDE and OO.o to

Right, that's me done ;-)


Daniel Bye
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