New to FreeBSD - Some questions

Robert Huff roberthuff at
Thu Jun 21 12:15:51 UTC 2012

Fred Morcos writes:

>  q) Is it possible to run a FreeBSD system without much building?
>  In other words, can I survive by depending on packages and only
>  resorting to ports when really needed?

	Mostly, yes.  There are down-sides, but if you're building a
client where specific functionality is not needed and performance is
not crucial - yes.

>  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.

	To work in FreeBSD-land, you're going to need to understand the
difference between the system and the ports.  Also, the difference
between CURRENT and STABLE releases.  See the Handbook for more

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

	Not much of this.

>     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).
>  Those are dbus, hal, udev, udisks, upower, pulseaudio, systemd,
>  consolekit and policykit.

	Hal and dbus are used by a fair number of programs; many can be
compiled not to used them, with varying consequences.
	As for the others: on a system with 882 ports installed, 44 use
pulseaudio, 61 use consolekit and 62 use policykit.  (Porbably a
high degree of overlap there.) 

>  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.

	Everything is a work in progress.  :-)

>  q) Does ZFS make sense on a laptop? Any advantages of using it over
>  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.

	I am given to understand ZFS can do some wonderful things
... but uses a _lot_ of memory, which may be unacceptable.

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

	Yes, assuming you're willing to live with the default options
for each.
	Note: there may be ports whose packages are - for various
reasons - not of the most recent version.

>  q) I noticed all file/data-sizes are in bytes (ls, dd, etc), is
>  there a way to change that system-wide to be in human-readable
>  format?

	Check out the BLOCKSIZE environment variable, and the -H/-h
setting to individual programs.

>  q) Is there a tool that can test a set of mirrors for connection time
>  and speed (for packages and ports)? Analogous to Archlinux's
>  rankmirrors?


>  q) I noticed in the ports collection that there were some outdated
>  packages (skype-2.2, gimp-2.6), should I report that and where? (A
>  PR?)

	Generally - the right people know.  What they don't know is
when they will have the time (and in some cases, motivation) to import
(and test) the latest version.
	Anyone can submit patches.  The default person in charge of
dealing with patches is the "maintainer", who can be identified by
going to the port directory and doing "make MAINTAINER".  Talking to
the maintainer about new versions and trouble with old versions is
both polite and (usually) more efficient.  (For some large projects
- Gnome, KDE, Mozilla, Java, etc. - the maintainer is a team.) 

					Robert Huff

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