Why do people use FreeBSD?

deathbyfreezeray

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This is just a thread for people to post their experiences and explain why they use FreeBSD.
I will start with me, I was initially a big Ubuntu fan. Slowly but surely, Ubuntu had grown more bloated and less efficient. Plus I grew to distrust Canonical, as my personal paranoia is that given that chance to, they would become exactly what many Ubuntu users think they are avoiding by not using Windows. Especially with a lot of articles like this where it seems like Canonical is bashing their competition http://www.howtogeek.com/176495/ubuntu-developers-say-linux-mint-is-insecure-are-they-right/ .
I then moved on to Arch Linux, which was fast but nothing in it seemed to work as advertised, much of its documentation was too out of date, and i wasting a lot of time figuring senseless things out (like why the Arch Linux implementation of systemd breaks flash player). So after half a year I started testing various Linux distributions. None of the prepackaged distributions really satisfied me. Finally, I was down to a choice of Gentoo vs FreeBSD. The Gentoo installer had issues loading for me, then when it did, it had an error when I was partitioning and managed to break my partition table. So I decided I didn't have the patience and tried FreeBSD instead. It just worked, exactly as it was supposed to, right out of the box. Thus, I am now using FreeBSD. Its documentation continues to impress me.
 

nakal

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I use FreeBSD because of the great work that the FreeBSD porters do. FreeBSD ports is the greatest collection of reasonable pre-configured software that I've ever seen. I've tried many different package management tools (Linux: many distributions, Solaris, other BSDs..) and I always come back to FreeBSD, because it beats everything. It is the most complete collection of up-to-date software and at the same time very good customizable.

By the time now, I know exactly how FreeBSD behaves and know where I can make adjustments, optimizations and comfort settings (from kernel to world and 3rd-party packages). It is increasingly an annoyance to try Linux for me (which I do from time to time). I believe that Linux has a good kernel, but the distributions (of which I favor Debian and Gentoo the most) are an utter catastrophe. Sometimes I figure this out after using a Linux distro for several months, sometimes (like this Wednesday) I find it just after an hour (because it does not want to install on a simple stock PC). This is plainly a horrible situation and I have never encountered so much problems on FreeBSD. FreeBSD is for me a safe thing to install and use. Everything else feels like an experiment.
 
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deathbyfreezeray

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That is much of the problems I have. I have looked at Linux from scratch, but I had decided it isn't really worth the time given many issues such as the lack of documentation for the kernel. I found if I try to compile a Linux kernel from source, sure you can go with defaults and build another generic kernel, but what if you don't want to? Then you realize that most the available features have no documentation (especially in the networking section), anywhere, or even any explanation on the internet. Makes me wonder what it actually does, but of course a lot of these undocumented features will break your kernel if you remove them. Its as if somehow, despite being open source, the Linux kernel needs to be reverse-engineered.
 

CoTones

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To OP - how do you missed the mammoths of the Linux world - Debian and Red Hat Linux ( CentOS )? Without them, you just touched a tip of an iceberg.

To Nakal - obviously you in love with FreeBSD :) I'm just curious, how much time it takes for you to have FULLY updated system ( I am talking about FreeBSD ( stable? release? ) AND all userland ) and how much it takes to upgrade. Because my experience is, politely speak, not so flawless and PC-BSD systems ( honestly, don't know about last releases ), made by real FreeBSD professionals, match my experience.
 

nakal

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CoTones said:
obviously you in love with FreeBSD :) I'm just curious, how much time it takes for you to have FULLY updated system ( I am talking about FreeBSD ( stable? release? ) AND all userland ) and how much it takes to upgrade. Because my experience is, politely speak, not so flawless and PC-BSD systems ( honestly, don't know about last releases ), made by real FreeBSD professionals, match my experience.

First, I want to mention that the upgrade procedure is not very relevant to me and does not matter that much. That said, I also have to say that upgrades of kernel are trivial, of world are relatively easy (depends on the complexity of your system, e.a. how many jails you have) and of ports are mostly easy and sometimes risky (I encounter bugs in upgrades and need to roll back to older versions).

Since I don't use freebsd-update, a simple FreeBSD update takes roughly about 1 hour. Most of it is waiting until world and kernel compile. Merging in configuration changes is the most work-intensive phase which takes about 2 minutes. When the upgrade breaks the ABI (major update), it takes usually a lot more time, because many ports need to be recompiled (on this desktop PC, I've got about 800 packages). But this is basically just unattended compiling. I usually run it over night and when I wake up, it is ready or failed somewhere in the middle (then I need to take a look what happened and decide how to continue). The hardest upgrades are port upgrades that totally change configurations (for example recently apache22 -> apache24)... sometimes I need a day to figure out how to get the same result like with the older version. But this will also happen on any other system.

FreeBSD is not flawless. What matters to me is that the flaws don't confuse me (this is the worst when I cannot even understand what happened) or render my system inoperable. I say about FreeBSD that it is tidy, which matters much to me.
 

Oko

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Because Solaris desktop died circa 1999 and before that DEC (Digital Equipment Coorporation) went out of business 91-92 which killed my favorite desktop MicroVAX 3100 and my first OS (Tru64) :x BSDs were the only free UNIX of that time. At work we used IRIX on Desktops until 2000.
 
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deathbyfreezeray

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CoTones said:
To OP - how do you missed the mammoths of the Linux world - Debian and Red Hat Linux ( CentOS )? Without them, you just touched a tip of an iceberg.
I didn't try CentOS or Red Hat (though i did try Fedora), however I definitely tried Debian somewhere in there. Debian was easy to use but it left me with 3 choices:
1. Have an OS that is hideously out of date.
2. Have an OS that is up to date but unstable.
3. Compile everything I need from source.
Since there are much better distributions out there for option 3, I decided Debian wasn't too satisfying. Although I never tried CentOS, FreeBSD has been pretty satisfying and I don't really feel the need to now.

For what its worth, I prefer distributions that allow me to start from the command line and pick everything I am going to use. I think I will add now that this is all I will say on that subject, since its not the reason I started this thread.
 

ronaldlees

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I use FreeBSD less now because some other very simple hobby OSes have matured to my liking. That said, FreeBSD is still often used around here. I like it because it's possible to use a fairly minimal installation, but it's also possible to add flesh to the system, to make it almost as bloated as a contemporary Linux desktop. It's pretty easy to build up a minimal system with the installer, or just unpack the kernel.txz and base.txz tarballs onto a USB stick.

I need a two tier operating system because security is inversely proportional to the number of bytes/programs/projects/applications on any system, in the same way that household security relates to the number of keys you've handed out. These days it doesn't make sense to connect a fully-bloated system to the internet. I don't accept the risk that I'll be compromised by some port/project/app from some unknown and unvettable entity with much less than my interest at heart.

Yet - I need to use some of those bloated (unvetted) applications on occasion. I end up with a very bare bones setup, which FreeBSD easily provides, for using the internet, and another system with bells, whistles and bloat, but that doesn't connect to the internet.
My internet is kernel+base+ text-browser | netsurf via framebuffer. The framebuffer approach may come with unknown security risks (that I don't know), and there is a root priviledge issue to be worked out (which is why I wouldn't recommend it yet). But - it's a simple approach to things, and I *like* simple. The bloated/bells/whistles machine gets set up with all kinds of arcane/unusual stuff I can use for various things (to give an example - graphics, typesetting and font tools used for my book writing)
 

ronaldlees

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Check that! It's Netsurf + SDL I'm using on FreeBSD, and Netsurf + the Linux framebuffer on Linux (I rarely use the latter). The Netsurf GUI is pretty good, but it'd be nice to jazz it up a little, maybe with SFML + TGUI.

I haven't personally vetted either of Netsurf, SVGAlib, SDL, SFML or TGUI for security. But - might it be easier to evaluate these two or three or four or five ports versus evaluating dozens or hundreds of them? Opinions vary. This idea assumes that FreeBSD itself is *fine* - which is something else I haven't done.

One more thing I haven't done is to find some clean way to perform root priviledge revocations for these types of low level apps (framebuffer, SDL, etc). In the meantime, I wouldn't suggest that others follow my path :)
 

drhowarddrfine

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I don't normally answer these questions but I'm bored waiting for the ball game to start.

Someone approached me with an idea for the web, back in 2003. I had no interest in internet stuff then but this got me excited. I called my wife's sister's daughter's husband, who managed a large Microsoft shop for advice. He supplied me with a bunch of stuff to get going with ASP.NET, C#, IIS and so on. We spent about 10 months working on it until Microsoft upgraded .NET from version 1.5 to 2.5 (don't hold me to the version numbers) and everything came crashing down. The guy who was helping us advised us to dump Microsoft altogether and switch to Linux.

I tinkered with FreeBSD before but had trouble installing it. I tried Linux a bit but I had worked with IRIX over 10 years earlier. I wasn't really a Unix guy but I worked at SGI so I was familiar with it. I tried to buy an IRIX system but was turned off by the sales guy cause I wasn't going to spend a few million dollars. Doing some more research led me back to FreeBSD and was more interested that its roots were in the original Unix where Linux had its roots with a college kid. So, I think verion 5 of FreeBSD had just come out and, for whatever reason, I managed to install it easily. The documentation and understanding just flowed through my veins in a way nothing else ever did.

We rewrote all our code for FreeBSD in three months and have never touched a Microsoft product since.
 
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deathbyfreezeray

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Honestly when it comes to web servers, even Microsoft doesn't use Microsoft products half the time.
 

hitest

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I've run FreeBSD since version 5.x. It is an elegant, mature OS, that is secure, and stable. Also, I like the FreeBSD community. I'm a huge fan of the ample documentation available for FreeBSD users. The Handbook is first rate!
 
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radish

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Originally I never wanted to use anything like UNIX. I just wanted software that was free and open to study. The biggest reasons was so I could just use it when and where I wanted. No key codes or activation. Money was not as much the problem but paying less or nothing of course is great. It encouraged me instead to spend my time contributing rather than playing.

Why I moved from the popular Linux to FreeBSD I am not so clear myself. I was was seeking more reliability and a focus on quality engineering perhaps. Less hype. I guess if I had to claim any reasons why I was so eager to abandon Linux it would be..
  1. Virtual Memory
  2. Pulseaudio
  3. Of course systemd

The first is that Linux virtual memory seems to just work badly for me. A common problem was accidentally opening "one too many" images in Gimp would cause a system lockup until swap filled and then crashed. It would be impossible to close programs or interact with a terminal. I do not have this issue on FreeBSD, on which swap is welcome. While I am away from home the system can swap out my unused desktop programs to increase disk cache.

The last two are related. I am not a violent blind hater of the software (or developer) in question. Both have had many real world practical reasons for me to avoid them, and both seem to be impossible to avoid on Linux. Every distro I like forces Systemd now. I'll leave the reasons for another place and time.
 

CoTones

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nakal said:
First, I want to mention that the upgrade procedure is not very relevant to me and does not matter that much. That said, I also have to say that upgrades of kernel are trivial, of world are relatively easy (depends on the complexity of your system, e.a. how many jails you have) and of ports are mostly easy and sometimes risky (I encounter bugs in upgrades and need to roll back to older versions).

Looks like common way to run FreeBSD. You trully an optimistic person with enough of free time.

Just im amazed by the fact, that all FreeBSD users ( who cares about updates and security ), all of them all around the World, like ants rush doing things that supposed to be standard ( for generic world and userland with common configurations ) and made by developers ( implemented on most of other OS's).

deathbyfreezeray said:
I didn't try CentOS or Red Hat (though i did try Fedora), however I definitely tried Debian somewhere in there. Debian was easy to use but it left me with 3 choices:..

Well, now im sure, you see what you want to see. Use FreeBSD and feel happy.

Though, what I miss, is extensive and frequent FreeBSD comparition against Windows and MacOS. As of linux... linux is free, open, independent OS and dont care about compability with other OS'es. Thats fair, isn't?
 

nakal

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You trully an optimistic person with enough of free time.

Not really. I don't want to sound arrogant towards Linux users, because, as I said, I like Linux and spend time to see how it improves from time to time. But... I am using FreeBSD because I find solutions quicker my system. There are of course situations where I need to sit down for a long time to understand what's going on. Mostly, after learning how something works, I feel like it looks reasonable how it works. And there are also times where such a journey ends in an bug report or an RFE ("request for enhancements").

So actually FreeBSD saves me time and just works. I admit that FreeBSD is hard to configure until you are really satisfied with your setup. But this is the price for having a system that makes my personal setup possible. The most common situation on Linux is (after some time of configuring it): I cannot do A, because a maintainer decided for B which prevents me to do A. And mostly in this case A is something I really need.

Now you can say that sometimes you cannot do C (which would be easy on Linux), because maintainer decided for D on FreeBSD, too. And this is true, but in all cases I have here on FreeBSD, no C is that important as A (above) that I cannot do on Linux. Why is that, you will ask. The answer is easy: because the FreeBSD team has reasonable priorities what needs to work well before other things will work well. And also important: things that already work well are not being changed without careful thinking about it.

And the original cause why it all works is that FreeBSD is managed by people who are pretty good at what they do. I haven't seen a single case where I would not be able to trust their decisions. I have different opinions how to do administration (as I said: I don't use freebsd-update and neither pkgng), but the important thing is: they don't force they ways down my throat. I can still use make buildworld and enjoy ports-mgmt/portmaster and I am sure that they will not destroy my favorite environment for a long time.

All in all, FreeBSD is a free distribution that fits my needs, ... at the moment(!)... and I really know much about it (and this is also something that affects my decision to keep FreeBSD as my main distribution).
 

ronaldlees

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It's like there are two types of people in the world. The changers, and the changeless.

Some folks get started buying Chrylsers when their dads bought them one, and nothing but a Chrysler is any good after that. Or Chevy, or Nissan. I can't believe that Chryslers are Fiats now. Whoda thought that?

Anyway, I used FreeBSD before Linux. So, wow - I have my Chrysler! Maybe I'm a little changeless. But no - I have all sorts of mysterious hobby OSes on my drives.

So - maybe we're all some of both, but lean one way or the other. Then there are the extremes, and they troll.

Linux could be minimally installed in just the same way as I describe a few messages up the page. I just got started doing it the BSD way.
 

segfault

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I use FreeBSD because it just works. It does what I want and stays out of my way, without nagging me about minor package updates etc. I have also become very annoyed lately by Linux (Fedora specifically) making me jump through extra hoops in order to listen to my digital music. When I install FreeBSD and a media player I love the fact that the codecs are installed as well. This amplifies why I love the BSD license. Another thing that has made me irate lately is the selinux hoops I have to jump through at work simply to stand up a test server inside our network. Brutal. I don't have a rabid hate on for systemd yet as I have not been forced to use it at work but my first few brushes with it have not been overly pleasant. I love that FreeBSD allows me to install packages from binary OR source. Then there's the commonly listed features of jails, zfs and dtrace that draw me to using FreeBSD.
-edit-
I should also mention the fact that I partially use FreeBSD because the guys on BSDnow.tv tell me to. Their advocacy efforts really do tend to make me feel more excited about working with/on this already great OS.
 

sossego

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As said before, it is a toolbox.
Take, for example, the PS4.
One could remove the hard drive and put it into another machine with more CPUs and a better graphics card.
Another could remove the Sony hard drive and put one with FreeBSD - open public version, of course, into the console.

What's that? Hardware and software hacking without taking anything from others' pockets and ideas?!?!?

So, you have a system that can be changed around between parts; and, Linux + base is available also. We have the option of choosing the compiler and quite another number of items.
 

EmeraldBot

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For me, I use FreeBSD for a number of reasons. Its stability is a big benefit to those of us who use it for work (like I do). It also lets me set it up the way I want it. In this regard, I'm not too demanding, but ignoring my font preferences (which pretty much all recent Linux distros do) is absolutely not okay. OS X is not an option because the hardware's too expensive with benefits I don't really want or need, and Windows is only used for games and a few applications that will only work with it. Although, to be honest, Windows 7 isn't too bad; it just doesn't have a tiling window manager ;) Lastly is also software compatibility, ironically. Windows has either butchered versions of the programs I use (a TeX environment, vim, the Audacious media player, etc.) or doesn't have the programs at all (the i3 window manager). OS X doesn't fare much better in this regard. Linux distributions have all the software, but I've run into one or two problems with each one, and they're always different. Ubuntu is too bloated and doesn't respect several of my options, Debian's apt breaks spectacularly if you try to use backports with the stable repositories, Slackware has hard coded defaults that I really don't like in several programs, Gentoo was a temperamental beast that I could never get to work properly, Arch has many broken packages and far too little stability, etc. I've considered NetBSD and OpenBSD, but both are missing many of my tools, and frankly, having a working graphics card is nice to have. FreeBSD hits a sweet spot in that it satisfies every single one of my requirements, and to date, is the only OS to do so.
 
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CurlyTheStooge

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Slackware has hard coded defaults that I really don't like in several programs.

Interesting. Slackware ships vanilla packages the way they are released from upstream, with very very little modification, most of the times 0 modfication. Mind naming one hard coded Slackware specific defaults which I may have missed, please?

Regards.
 
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EmeraldBot

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Interesting. Slackware ships vanilla packages the way they are released from upstream, with very very little modification, most of the times 0 modfication. Mind naming one hard coded Slackware specific defaults which I may have missed, please?

Regards.

No problem! One example is with Audacious itself, actually. I don't know if it's changed now (it's been a while), but when I used it, the Slackware developer (Pat) had a certain set of plugins compiled into it. You couldn't add or remove any. I planned to work around it by uninstalling it and compiling my own from source, but after a couple of hours I couldn't get it to compile, so I had to live without one of my favorites. With ports, it works correctly out of the box, and I can add in a plugin that doesn't ship by default. Another example is with rxvt, back when I used it. When combined with bash (I don't use that anymore either), if you tried to enter a command longer the a line, it wouldn't wrap the line. Instead, it would leave a greater than symbol ('>'), and shift the whole screen to the right. You couldn't see what you typed in earlier, and it grew to become annoying rather quickly. It sounds like a really simple problem to solve, but no matter what I tried (editing .bashrc, editing .Xdefaults, editing termcaps) it would refuse to wrap lines. Maybe it's different if one uses Xterm or tcsh (both of which I use now), but it was a pain at the time. The Nvidia drivers were another major hurdle - the slackbuild script was broken, so I had to get them installed on my own, and that took a while. In short, FreeBSD handles all of these just fine, so that's what I went with. Maybe things have changed though, I haven't checked. If they have, it would definitely be the Linux distribution I would go with if I had to jump ship from FreeBSD (for whatever reason, I don't plan on doing so anytime soon).
 

sk8harddiefast

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FreeBSD is an addiction. The reality is that after four years on FreeBSD I still try to learn parts of it but I like so much the way it acts. If something goes wrong on Linux, I don't know how to fix it because everything is automated and I don't like systemd or a different package manager for every distribution and all this is just crap. This FreeBSD that I am running isn't perfect but is built step by step by me and if something crashes I have the possibility to understand why it is crashing and how I am going to handle it.
 

BSDBernd

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If I had that Broadcom WiFi driver, I swear that I would run FreeBSD as my main OS on my Macbook. I like OS X, wondering about where the stability of it came from led me to the BSDs and especially to FreeBSD. I like that FreeBSD is open source (I even prefer its licence over the GPL), I like that you have the same feeling and experience as with OS X that you are somehow safe. Your OS is not a stress-producing something where you cannot predict what is happening next. I like that you have no OS that imported a kernel from somewhere and built something around it. It is great that FreeBSD is the whole thing, a complete OS and this means even no stress for the developers who don't have to fear what is coming next from the outside. I like that the base system is separated from the userland in the way it is, it is quite hard to do damage to the system. It all leads to less stress. I need to get work done with my OS and don't want to fear about what damage my next software update could cause. No wonder that one doesn't want to change after getting to know FreeBSD. I changed in the past when using other OSes. It depends on the OS. I will close with a quote that stems from the FAQ of the OpenBSD site, dealing with the question if your OS can be used as desktop OS:

Can I use OpenBSD as a desktop system?
This question is often asked in exactly this manner -- with no explanation of what the asker means by "desktop". The only person who can answer that question is you, as it depends on what your needs and expectations are.
While OpenBSD has a great reputation as a "server" operating system, it can be and is used on the desktop. Many "desktop" applications are available through packages and ports. As with all operating system decisions, the question is: can it do the job you desire in the way you wish? You must answer this question for yourself.

The same thing is true for FreeBSD. I answer that question with a big YES. I can do my work with FreeBSD and even have fun :).
 

Martillo1

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There are many reasons why I use BSD instead of any Windows wannabe OS (aka systemd's Linux (honourable exceptions still exist, though)). If I want a Windows-like OS, I have Microsoft Windows already for enterprise work (until everything will go through a browser and Google rules Middle Earth and the OS will be irrelevant). So why bother using systemd?

Mac is too expensive and I was an avid gamer until recently, so I did not ride that wave. I would like FreeBSD developers eating their own dog food instead of using OS X, but it is kind of acceptable since it surely helps them to meet dates.

Exotics are too exotic.

BSD: The main reason why I use FreeBSD instead of other BSDs is its support of Nvidia graphics cards. I also like OpenBSD and NetBSD, but I have just one graphics subsystem available and no integrated Intel on-board, so I have no choice. Why BSD? In one word: design.
 
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