Exist more advantage in doing design using open source or operating system of closed source?

Bigby James bigby.james at dimthoughts.com
Mon Mar 23 23:09:14 UTC 2015

On 03/21, John Holland wrote:
> why the switch to freebsd and what virtualization solution are you using?

I just use VirtualBox, with a virtual disk just large enough to hold Windows 7
Pro and Adobe Creative Suite 6, plus some room for updates. I'm using an SSD and
quad-core CPU, and dedicate half my (usually unused) RAM to it, so it starts up
in ten seconds or so and runs perfectly fine.

As for why I switched from Linux to FreeBSD, that's a little involved; I'll try
and keep this short. Up to a few months before making the switch I'd been using
Arch Linux for several years (still do on my Raspberry Pi), and 90% of the time
that worked extremely well. But minor inconveniences due to frequent, untested
updates had started to annoy me, and I'd recently gotten on a real kick about
system stability and preserving my data. So I started looking at other distros.

The problem was that, due to the way GNU/Linux systems are built, there's no way
to get a system that offers both a high degree of relatively certain stability,
and a high degree of low-level control over the system structure. No distro I
tried could be "Arch, but without the risk of breaking something every day." The
list of distributions I considered worth my time and effort ended up being
pretty small (four, in fact). I'd been interested in FreeBSD for a while because
its design philosophy jibed with me---I'd read Matt Fuller's "BSD for Linux
Users"[1] some years ago---but since I exclusively use laptops I had to wait 18
months or so for the integrated GPU driver to catch up before giving it a proper
try on my present machines. In the meantime I'd grab a snapshot every so often
and see how it ran. Through sheer serendipity FreeBSD-RELEASE 10.1 came out
while I was on my new OS hunt, and all the important stuff worked out of the
box, so I installed FreeBSD to a second disk and figured I'd give it two weeks
or so to see how it might work as a primary OS.

It only took about four or five days for me to fall in love with FreeBSD. Most
of my Linux knowledge translated just fine. The outstanding documentation, the
"rolling-release you update anytime you feel like it with substantially lower
risk of breaking something" nature of the ports tree and -STABLE branches, the
layout of the filesystem, the similarities between Arch and FreeBSD software
management (thanks to pkg(8) integration), the quality and features of UFS and
ZFS, the astonishing simplicity of building a custom kernel and setting custom
build-time options for ports and the base system, the easy manner of configuring
and automating system services, the fact that there are conventions of style and
organization for the code and documentation, and the careful consideration that
clearly goes into choosing components of the base system, and the obvious
determination to focus on getting one thing right instead of reinventing the
wheel every couple years---it's all just too awesome. Hell, I think one of the
most impressive features that helped lure me in was the simple fact that the man
pages in FreeBSD are complete, coherent *and* are width-constrained. I'd gotten
used to reading poorly written man pages that were 600 characters long and
contained little more than "This man page is incomplete. I'll get around to
finishing it later. (Dated July 2009)." And the man pages that did it were
sound(4) and build(7)---even *concepts* behind the system are documented here.
That's some commendably insane attention to detail.

As a comparison to Linux, FreeBSD basically takes the best features of Debian,
Gentoo and Arch, combines them, and improves upon all of them. Which makes
sense, considering that comparison is backwards and all three distributions were
in fact inspired in varying degrees by FreeBSD. ;)

[1]: http://www.over-yonder.net/~fullermd/rants/bsd4linux/01

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely
foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." - Douglas Adams

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