New to FreeBSD - Some questions

Erich Dollansky erich at
Thu Jun 21 13:08:10 UTC 2012


On Thursday 21 June 2012 18:24:26 Fred Morcos wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 9:58 PM, Wojciech Puchar
> 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?

you can run both the operating system and the ports from prebuilt binaries.
> What set me off, and got me tired of dealing with Linux-based systems
> is a set of patterns that have been repeating over for some years
> now. Generally:
> 1. Too often, core system components break (especially with every
>    Linux kernel release).

You will not find this kind of chaos here.

Maybe a hint. I leave always one big release out. With other words. If you 
start now with 9, you do not have to move to 10 but you can stick with 9 until 
11 comes out. You do not even have to upgrade at the spot.

>    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.

Things like this happened in the past too. But it is very, very rare and 
happens most likely with older hardware and not new one.

> 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.

Welcome to Linux.

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

This was avoided here.

> 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).

I do not wonder. On the other side, power management is not the best on 

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

FreeBSD has here one simple advantage. It is not integrated by any means into 
a GUI.
> Those are dbus, hal, udev, udisks, upower, pulseaudio, systemd,
> consolekit and policykit.

Said to say but these friends are also available here. They are not part of 
FreeBSD and some can be avoided.
> I am aware that those solutions are there to solve complex problems
> (thus their inherent complexity) and that many bright people with a
> lot of experience have thought about them and worked on those
> projects. My frustration is that those solutions are:
> 1. At the cost of making simple tasks more complex.
> 2. Replacing or conflicting with the previously existing solution.
> 3. Sometimes very unstable and unusable.
I think you see here Linux as a distribution. Things like this are avoided 
with FreeBSD itself but not wit the ports. The ports have nothing much to do 
with FreeBSD except that they work on FreeBSD.

> q) Where does the FreeBSD project stand on this matter? From what I
> noticed is that the base system seems to adhere to the tranditional
> flat text files for configuration and simple tools that do a good job,
> leaving it up to the user to combine those small tools to create
> larger, more complex ones (a UNIX inheritance).
I read sometime comments that people want to make it more complex.

> q) Is a FreeBSD stable base system with "current" high-level
> components possible? Will it avoid the issues I experienced on
> Linux-based systems?

Yes and no.

As an example. I have had to run Fedora 16 on my x220 for some reasons. I was 
surprised how fast it is when I moved yesterday to FreeBSD. Some of the 
differences have to do with the deamons as you described above.

> 			       My goal
> 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?

I use UFS since 2004/5 on laptops.
> 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.

It did not make sense for me.
> q) The second laptop has an SSD, would UFS with/without J and
> with/without SU or ZFS make more sense for it?
> q) Can I live with a desktop environment (Gnome or KDE) and desktop
> applications (Firefox, Libreoffice, etc) by relying only on packages?
It should work when you start off from the release versions.

> 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.

I used it for some time and never faced problems. I stopped using it when I 
moved my last disk to UFS.
> q) Does the NVIDIA binary driver work reliably? I would like to hear
> personal experiences with that.

I have one machine with the nVidia driver from ports running. I never 
installed the driver from nVidia. It runs for me since 2010 without any 
> I am also planning to setup a micro-server for home use (either a
> 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.

FreeBSD will do this job.
> 			 Initial impressions
> I installed the base system into Virtualbox and everything works quite
> well. Everything is so... clean, and tidy, and consistent, and
> simple. Very well thought out. I am also very impressed with the
> amount of properly written man pages and with the handbook. I would
> like to thank and congratulate all of the people who work on the
> FreeBSD base system, a true masterpiece.

Yes, felt that the man pages of the Fedora installation I have had have been 
so often useless.
> 		     Setting up and installation
> q) Does the bsdinstall align partitions to device blocks by default
> for optimal speed? If not, I have found that I can use gpart with -a
> and -b which will require me to calculate the start and end offsets of
> each partition manually. Is there a tool that can automatically do
> that for me?
I do not know.

> q) Is it possible to get native resolution on the console? I played
> with vesa and vidcontrol but could never get what I wanted. Native
> resolution would require KMS?

It depends on the graphic card? Do you notebooks use the Intel GPU?

If it is so, be ready for some smaller issues. Be also ready for 10.
> q) How can I set proxy settings system-wide? Same for PACKAGESITE (for
> the pkg_* tools), how can I set a mirror system-wide? /etc/profile?
I use environment variables. Check man ports for all options.

> 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?

Yes, again man ls etc are your friends.

> 				System
> To assess my understanding, the system is split into kernel, base,
> documentation, games, lib32 (on 64-bit systems) and ports. There is
> another split between base and ports where base includes everything
> previously mentioned minus ports. Now, there are 3 "branches" of the
> base system: RELEASE, STABLE and CURRENT. RELEASE means 9.0 and stays
> that way until 10.0 is released. STABLE means 9.0, 9.1, 9.2,
> etc. CURRENT means "trunk" in SVN terms. Is all that correct? Also,
> when somewhere is mentioned `make world', this means to rebuild all
> installed ports which doesn't include base, I assume?
Make world compiles on the world of the base system. Never forget, that the 
ports have nothing to do with FreeBSD in that sense.

> q) The files in /etc/rc.d are all executable, from my understanding,
> those files will get executed and it is their duty to check the
> variable `<rc-script-name>_enable' for whether they should start or
> not. Wouldn't it be more efficient to chmod -x or +x them to
> disable/enable?

To let the chaos rule? No, it is some much more flexible to control the 
behaviour in a single file.

> q) What is analogous to /etc/rc.local from Linux-based systems?
> q) Is there something analogous to the Linux magic sysrq key?
> 			  Ports and packages
> I must say, the ports collection being built on makefiles was a
> welcome enlightenment, it just, naturally, made sense. The *-recursive
> make targets are a blessing, especially for configs.
> 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) Is it possible for the pkg_* tools (especially pkg_add -r) to
> display progress?
> 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?)
> q) Is it possible to have the ports system compile into an mfs (to
> avoid disk access)?
> q) Is it possible to have the user asked to change their password the
> first time they log in (using an OTP) in a simple way? I looked at
> OPIE but it seems to be much more complex than what I need.
> 			 GEOM and filesystems
> >From what I could understand, the GEOM layer only supports read-only
> compression. Which makes (to me) ZFS an attractive filesystem for slow
> HDDs (on the first laptop).

Do not forget the overhead.

I hope that other are able to answer the questions I could not.


More information about the freebsd-questions mailing list