New to FreeBSD - Some questions

Wojciech Puchar wojtek at
Thu Jun 21 12:10:21 UTC 2012

>> _______________________________________________
>> freebsd-questions at mailing list
>> To unsubscribe, send any mail to "freebsd-questions-unsubscribe at"
> I will go with a single thread. I will also try to keep it as short as
> possible. Please note that it is not my intention to start a flame-war
> against anyone or any project. I am stating my experiences, the goals

i - in reply - just told you my experiences with linux which was actually 
my first unix-like OS.

> I learned over the years that (re-)compilation of packages is not
> something I want to do regularly, but something I would like to do
> only when I need and want to (ie, to strip out or add a certain
> compile-time feature from/to a package). I also learned that the
> performance gains of tuning compiler flags for a certain CPU are not
> that drastic for a desktop/laptop/workstation machine workflow and
> that this category of computing is mostly bound by IO speed
> (especially with HDDs).

true.  anyway if you want anything else that default compile options you 
have to rebuild.

> q) Is it possible to run a FreeBSD system without much building? In

you may use all binary packages. You may even do


and it works, and will fetch dependencies too if needed.

you may use source builds, or mix of both.

you just do

portsnap fetch
portsnap update

to get ports tree up to date.

> other words, can I survive by depending on packages and only resorting
> to ports when really needed?

it depends on ports. Some are easy to deal with some are not.

> 1. Too often, core system components break (especially with every
>   Linux kernel release).
>   1. Yesterday I spent 30 minutes until my webcam worked, dealing with
>      v4l, gstreamer and cheese.
>   2. The USB3 port in my laptop used to work as USB2 (never as USB3),
>      not anymore, it's now completely useless and doesn't react to
>      anything.

This programs are not part of FreeBSD, just as they are not part of linux 
(linux is kernel).

webcamd, gstreamer etc.. are still the same programs no matter if you 
compile then under linux and freebsd.

as for point 2 it would probably be better with FreeBSD :)

> 2. Sudden drastic changes that are deviating from simplicity.

In that respect FreeBSD is 100 times better.

But still - PORTS are not FreeBSD. There are tens of thousands of them.
Most are the same programs that run on linux, just packaging differ.
And nobody can be sure something will not get f...d up.

>   1. The sudden flood of daemons that are designed to do everything
>      for me, without giving me much say in the matter. My computer is
>      supposed to help me, not decide for me or replace me.

FreeBSD starts only inetd and cron by default.
As for me it is already too much in /etc/crontab :)

>   2. Those daemons are hard to get rid of and are tightly integrated
>      into higher-level components in the stack (ie, into the desktop
>      environment).

No such a problem under FreeBSD.

But when compiling xorg-server from ports i recommend turning off SUID and 
HAL options.

>   3. Those daemons are increasingly hard and obscure to configure
>      (ie, huge XML files, complex hierarchies, etc).

FreeBSD base system is not like that. But still - if you use the same 
thing that in linux it would be the same.

Anyway human have brain and can use it. So prepare your environment that 
would fit your needs and nothing else.

> 3. Due to having to run and interact with each other all the time,
>   those daemons are sucking the life out of my laptop battery
>   (according to powertop).

No such problem on my laptop. It runs 1.5 hours longer than official 
specs. enable powerd in /etc/rc.conf - powerd is a part of base system, 
not addon. Works great.

> 4. Probably other frustrations that I have forgotten about.

You should not forgot them so you will not ever want to go back to linux.

> 5. I think many of the developers of those components are trying to
>   reach a Mac-like experience? I am not against that in any way, but
>   it needs to be working well.

I don't really know what linux community want to achieve. For my 
observation they wanted to compete with microsoft windows. And they 
exceeded the target - it's even more messy and uncontrollable.

> Those are dbus, hal, udev, udisks, upower, pulseaudio, systemd,
> consolekit and policykit.
You do not need any of them under FreeBSD.

It is useful to have dbus daemon running for whole machine in many use 
cases but not really needed.

> I am aware that those solutions are there to solve complex problems

which was first created.

> I have two laptops (Asus N73JQ, Asus U36S) which I use as work
> machines. Power efficiency is very important, efficient disk access
> too. Suspend to ram and hiberation would be nice to have but are not
> utterly important.
> q) I would assume UFS with J+SU is "fast enough" for a laptop?

If you have magnetic disk - yes. Anyway with journalling+soft updates 
perform full fsck now and then anyway.
> q) Does ZFS make sense on a laptop? Any advantages of using it over

You are bright man. So use UFS first. Then after getting general 
experience with FreeBSD do perform tests with ZFS. Check general speed 
under load, CPU usage, RAM usage.

I think it will be enough to decide.

> USF with J+SU? I am not interested in any striping or mirroring on
> the laptops, but the compression features is very attractive for the
> HDDs in the first laptop.

Hard disks are large.
> q) The second laptop has an SSD, would UFS with/without J and
> with/without SU or ZFS make more sense for it?

UFS+softupdates, no journalling.

fsck takes few seconds on SSD.

turn on noatime option on any kind of disk!

> q) Can I live with a desktop environment (Gnome or KDE) and desktop
> applications (Firefox, Libreoffice, etc) by relying only on packages?

Yes. But i recommend you to just run needed programs and not desktop 
environment that doesn't add value.

Use some simple windows manager. I recommend icewm at first (but edit your 
own menu, it isn't built automatically).

I personally use fvwm2 with very "unusual" config which removes everything 
> q) Does ntfs-3g from ports work reliably with external HDDs or USB
> flash drives with read and write support? I would like to hear
> personal experiences with that.

use ntfsprogs from ports. ntfsmount works fine. But do not depend on NTFS 
support too much anyway.

> q) Does the NVIDIA binary driver work reliably? I would like to hear

I avoid nvidia as far as i can. It WILL run under Xorg, but it is messy.

As i always prefered to just not have that hardware from that company i 
will not help you.

> ready-built one or by simply building a PC and using it as a server),
> questions about that will come later. The main use of it would be
> hosting my multimedia, streaming music and making backups of the
> laptops on it (cron + rsync). Also, maybe some web/ftp and git
> servers.

More information about the freebsd-questions mailing list