FreeBSD and hardware??

Matthew Seaman m.seaman at
Mon Nov 17 23:45:13 PST 2008

stephen jackson wrote:
> I have read briefly on FreeBSD and it seems to be the winner on speed and
> stability versus Linux and of course MS Windows.
> I have just experienced 2 days of never ending problems with a Sony laptop
> and Windows XP, which cannot run Norton 360 virus nor AVG.
> They need an XP 2.0 update which I downloaded, but it then refused to
> install. Even the Symantec CHAT and remote control of my PC couldn't get it
> working. I am about ready to wish unimaginable woe upon Microsoft...

If you're thinking of trying out FreeBSD, then this is the right place to
come.  A word of warning though: it's not at all like Windows, or even
MacOSX.  You will be expected to learn quite a bit about the low level
nitty-gritty of the OS in order to achieve the best results.  Of course,
the "best results" are very good indeed, and in my humble opinion, well
worth the effort required.

Installing on laptop type hardware is a tricky proposition: it's very much
luck of the draw whether your particular model has sufficient driver support
to satisfy your requirements.  You should check out this site to see what
other people's experiences are with your laptop or similar models:

> Anyway, how about you plus Google cash, and others (?), putting a simple
> easy partition of MS hard  disks and FreeBSD install with a nice GUI. And
> getting Google to distribute it to the World. My question is, how much
> hardware can you produce drivers for. Presumbably Apple Mac OSX have most of
> the hardware drivers, so can you??

Distribution is not the difficult part.  No need to involve Google -- the
FreeBSD project already has a very good world-wide on-line distribution

If you want a pre-packaged desktop oriented version of FreeBSD, then check
out the PC-BSD project:

Driver support really is the kicker in all of this.  Apple MacOSX doesn't
have this problem, since it only runs on Apple proprietary hardware.  If 
the hardware side of Apple wants to, say, change to a new graphics card,
then the OS development team will be involved at an early stage and there
will be a simultaneous release of the new hardware and of system updates
so that hardware is supported.  That's a very different problem than trying
to provide support for all (or even a large fraction) of the readily available
devices on the market at the moment, which is what FreeBSD faces.

Even if Apple does have a driver for a piece of kit not already supported in
FreeBSD, it cannot be assumed that Apple will automatically donate the code
to the FreeBSD project.  Apple is frequently constrained by proprietary
agreements with equipment manufacturers. They simply can't reveal the low
level information necessary to be able to write an effective driver.  The Mach
kernel and driver architecture in MacOSX are also significantly different to
the FreeBSD equivalents, and it's not possible to just lift code from one and
drop it into the other with minimal effort.



Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil.                   7 Priory Courtyard
                                                  Flat 3
PGP:     Ramsgate
                                                  Kent, CT11 9PW

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