First, a bit of perspective. I’ve been a long time Windows user. Long – from the time of Windows 3.0, then 3.1, and then 3.11 which ran only on a 386 and above. I dabbled a bit in Linux when it first became the craze but I was put off by its hardware incompatibility, and when Windows XP came to the scene, cries of “Unstable OS” became a moot point (for me anyways) so I was reluctant to switch. Not that I’ve done that now… FreeBSD is installed on my ageing P-3, I’ve got XP still running on my main box. /Intro
Having said that, I must also say that I’m a fairly decent Windows tweaker. I know quite a bit about how to extract performance out of a fresh Windows install, and how to generally get everything working on Windows. I’m also very productive in that environment. Lately though, I’ve found that most of the tools I’ve been running are Opensource, and some of them were clones of their Unix counterparts (and some direct ports). Everything I do regularly on my box, from browsing (firefox), to a bit of coding (gcc, apache, php), web-designing (bluefish), writing (open-office, abiword), reading (gpdf), et. al. I can do well (or better) on Unix. So why not try it out? /Rationale
My verdict? Installation is tougher. I suppose if I had tried out a friendly Linux distro like Fedora Core 3, I wouldn’t be saying this, but I do not consider that to be an authentic Unix experience (though, its a bit hard to pull off that statement when I’m complaining about ease). But I expected that, and got it to work by reading em man pages (sufficiently detailed, but devoid of ‘examples’ which are so common in the Windows documentation world) and our friendly neighbourhood search-engine, Google. After I became familiar with the Ports system though, installing new applications was a breeze. Ports could be improved much further imho, but unlike other package-mangement systems I tried before (gentoo, arch), it seems more stable. Compiling from source is still a pain though (Firefox took 10 hours), though it’s alleviated because Ports often provide updated binaries. Most compilations do not take that long though – I compiled Fluxbox in less than 5 minutes… and immediately made it my window manager; I’ve used BB4Win and its clones on Windows for so long that the interface is sublimally imbibed in my brain.
The good things I’ve found about FreeBSD are its package management system (afaik, no equivalent exists in the Windows world), the stability (hasn’t crashed once), and the way most things just work. Installing FreeBSD also requires you to learn a bit more about hardware, and that is often nice, though sometimes a bit dry. I have to say though, as a personal opinion, configuring a Windows install from the ground up to a usable form is much faster than doing the same to FreeBSD. I’ll give you the verdict on maintaining it after a week. 🙂 /Content
For the technically minded, I’ll have a series on how I went about the install process on Sig9 soon. /Closing
Incidentally, this article is also a tutorial on how to write cohesively. Note the section markers above. /Intro /Purpose and so on. As a rule of a thumb, try to organize your articles in this fashion, and never forget the purpose. People have to know why you write the things that you do 😉
Oh, and this blog got chunked out of a FreeBSD box… rejoice! 😀