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The goal of this project was to determine which is better as a… - Equiraptor's Journal
The goal of this project was to determine which is better as a desktop - FreeBSD or Gentoo Linux...

Before I go much further, I need to define a few things. This is for my personal usage. I'm a computer geek, of a few years, and have preferences for how my systems should work. I will run Enlightenment. I just love the way it handles multiple desktops. I absolutely must have a web browser with Flash, and shells. I run my IRC, IM, and mail sessions in screen on my server, so I don't need individual applications for each on the desktop. I want my browser to be FireFox, and I want Enlightenment to use a particular setup - the Shiny Purple theme and my few backgrounds. I also have my preferred Eterm settings. The computer also has a Windows XP Pro install, and an unused Windows 2000 Server install. Grub is installed in the MBR of my boot disk.

A Gentoo install has been present on my desktop for over two years, but it was recently reinstalled. This is an imprecise examination, so I'm just using that install as my Gentoo install. I had very few issues with it. I had a problem getting my kernel to boot, but it was purely my error - I hadn't properly researched drivers for my IDE hard drives. I solved my problem by just compiling in nearly all of the IDE drivers, and narrowing down the list once I had the patience. Gentoo installs take time, especially if installed form Stage 1, so I allowed a weekend for this install. I finished within my predicted time, even with the problems. This Gentoo install is on an 80G Western Digital drive. I believe it's a 7200 RPM drive, though I haven't checked recently. Gentoo is behind a 40G Windows partition. The Gentoo system uses ReiserFS on all partitions except /boot, which is ext2.

I also recently compiled a 2.6 kernel for the desktop. I haven't used it for very long, and this trial brought out an issue I hadn't dealt with before. Sound wasn't working. I had no idea why, but a google search and checking the Gentoo web site told me what was wrong. Not only did I have the wrong drivers for my sound card (doh!), I needed a few other tools to get things working properly. I compiled the needed modules and ebuilds, and got everything working. This is yet another time when Gentoo's wonderful documentation has walked me through an issue with ease. Also, thanks to the Linux kernel's modular design, I did not need to reboot to use my new modules.

The FreeBSD system is a fresh install, done this past weekend, on an old-ish disk. I had used the disk while in school, and it's now free for me to use as I see fit. There was a Windows 2000 install in the first 4G of the drive... I forget if it was Server or Advanced Server, but I thought I'd try to preserve that partition. So, FreeBSD was used on the rest of the disk. I initially tried to do a 5.2.1 install. I felt FreeBSD-Current would be a better comparison to Gentoo, given Gentoo's essentially "current" package releases. I had installed various 5.x releases on my laptop, and they had worked well, so I was expecting similar performance. I was severely disappointed.

I first attempted to install FreeBSD 5.2.1 from disk, using an ftp install. I had selected a few options I didn't want, and went back a few times. I find the FreeBSD installer a bit confusing. But, I installed the system, and rebooted. Grub passed off to FreeBSD well, but FreeBSD consistently errored with "Fatal Error 12: page fault while in kernel mode." I figured my mistakes in the install were part of the cause, so I re-installed. Things seemed to be working well. I booted, and attempted to start X. I typically do this using "startx" and "enlightenment" was the lone contents of my .xinitrc. Every time I'd issue "startx," the computer would lock up. I'd re-set the box, and try again. After a few tries, I decided it could be my XF86Config. So, I copied the one from Gentoo and made the few modifications necessary to work with FreeBSD. This worked with xdm, at least to an extent... I could start and run GNOME, but if I tried to exit, the computer would lock. I tried to build gdm from ports, and received the Fatal Error 12 again. I decided 5.x was just to current for me, and tried to install 4.10-release. That was a trial. I kept trying to do the ftp installs, like before, but the connection would slow, until the device (fxp0) would be stopped. I never saw any error. I finally did a "kern-developer" install from the minidisk I had used to boot. It worked well, and booted fine. I installed X from ports, along with Enlightenment, Eterm, and various other programs I use on a regular basis. I updated the sources for the kernel and "world." I created a custom kernel config, and built world, a generic kernel, and my custom kernel. At first, I had a few issues compiling the kernel, but it was more because of my ignorance than anything else. Once that was worked out, the new kernels and world were installed and worked well. Enlightenment and Eterm both accepted my configs, and things ran well. Then, I hit a Flash site. Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. So, I find what looks like an appropriate port, and build it. After restarting FireFox, flash seemed to be working. But, if I left the desktop with FireFox, and returned after a time, FireFox would have frozen. I'm not sure what caused it, but this isn't acceptable behavior for my desktop. So I thought I'd try Mozilla. That would crash as soon as the window was drawn. Ok, fine. Here comes Netscape, another Gecko based browser. This works well, and has become my "default" browser on FreeBSD. I'd rather be running FireFox, but my desire for Flash outweighs that.

So far, I see only minimal differences in the usability of each install. The installs are using similar versions of XFree86 and Enlightenment. Both enlightenment sessions have accepted my preferred configurations. Certain activities will cause more slowdown in Linux, and others cause slowdown in FreeBSD. Neither strongly affect the usability of the system. I have not yet tried to use dhcp with FreeBSD on this install, however, things work well with the static IP assigned. One of the major differences between the desktops is the browser I am able to run. My preferred FireFox does not work acceptably with Flash in FreeBSD. However, since installing FireFox 0.9 on the Linux desktop, my biggest reason for preferring FireFox is temporarily gone (the tabbrowser extension needs updating for the new version). My current overall decision is that Gentoo Linux is better for me as a desktop system. I'm more familiar with Gentoo and the Linux kernel, especially on this hardware, and Linux tends to get desktop software updates a little faster than FreeBSD. I will continue to use both systems in an attempt to find additional similarities and differences between the two.

And in case anyone was wondering, I did this for fun in a week in between jobs. :D

Current Mood: geeky geeky

8 comments | Leave a comment
odd97 From: odd97 Date: June 18th, 2004 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
You refer to the FreeBSD installer as "Confusing", yet your other installation was Gentoo?

equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: June 18th, 2004 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
The FreeBSD installer had unexpected behavior when I'd select "cancel." It would remember different amounts of what I had done at different times. I could never be sure what exactly the installer thought I had done. Sometimes, after I hit "cancel" once in an install, I would no longer be prompted for information I had not yet given it. It once never asked me what packages I wanted installed. I find a CLI, do it yourself, follow the clear, if long, instructions installer much less confusing than one that has unexpected behavior.
chrisj04 From: chrisj04 Date: June 19th, 2004 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
i must admit, the fbsd installer isnt particularly friendly.

so far, my unix-y os of choice for desktop use is Fedora, but i havent really tried any of the others. Might give frebsd a go this weekend...
quelrod From: quelrod Date: June 19th, 2004 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)
firefox .9 just made freebsd ports, perhaps give it a shot? I run 5.2.1-RELEASEp7 (whatever the latest security patchset is) on my laptop which i use for work and coffee shops and so on. Firefox .8 is very unstable on openbsd (I assume it's due to memory mishandling in firefox causing crashes when it hits various RO limits thanks to obsd security) and somewhat wonky on freebsd. Though most of the problems result from acrobat or flash. Though, to be fair firebird on windows, linux, freebsd, and openbsd was really stable. I have hopes for .9 Being more familiar isn't a reason to choose. My laptop and it's new acpi over a year ago forced me into running freebsd. (Openbsd is my os of choice.) Freebsd tends to lag a few days compared to gentoo but i'd prefer not to have things completely untested and screw my system over ;) Oh and that silly laptop of mine, I plan to try netbsd when 2.0 is released.
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: June 19th, 2004 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
When there's as little usability difference as I've seen between the two systems so far, being more familiar is a reason to choose. What other reason would I have? The GPL is a viral license, so I can't use Gentoo!!! Or maybe, I like emerge better than portupgrade, so I'll choose Gentoo (oh, wait, I do, but that's because I'm more familiar with emerge). My desktop is not a system I consider "production," but it is a system I want to work pretty well, so I'd like to use a system I know better, and therefore will be able to repair better should something go wrong. I should probably cannibalize some of the hardware sitting around in the server room and build a test box - there, being familiar with a system would be a reason not to choose it. :-)
ionno From: ionno Date: June 19th, 2004 12:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ignore this rant. I'm in the computer lab.

I started out my un-unix experiment with Linux 1.2.2 kernel on Debian, I believe. At that time, debian had the D-select ritual, which was more of a ritual of summoning than an install method, because much like most rituals of summoning I wasted a weekend, two goats and much sanity only for no provable result.
So I said f'it to linux, believeing it was too immature, and jumped ship. At the time I had a little bit of obscure video hardware (I can't remember it, but It was when the Pentium MMX 200mhz was brand new), and some happy and nice people out of Sandia Nat'l labs were running near identicle hardware for testing of IPv6 and NetBSD. So I followed their instructions, and got NetBSD running. In a week or so, I got X11R6.4 (not Xfree, X11), to work. kindof. It was horrible and crashed a lot. Finally, I got Xfree86, and that was an absolute breeze to go through the scanlines and such (because Nothing could have been worse to configure at that time than X11). I got used to the nuiances of NetBSD.
Now, keep in mind, I was using netBSD exclusively from '96 until '99, when I was convinced to try RedHat... FreeBSD always confuses me. Always. NetBSD has a really nice packages system, called the Ports (which is about the most confusing part, seeing that I normally associate "port" with either a bound network socket, or a modification to an operating system to carry it over to another architecture.) Anyways, I still love NetBSD, even though it's a pretty worthless desktop. the OpenBSD people really piss me off. I wish I could be more open to the operating system, but after having been belittled by the main guys in person no less than twice, I can't even look at the boot-up screen without seeing their incredibly elitist attitudes. (which is a crap reason to abandon an OS)...
But yeah. I've installed all Windows from 3.8 to win2k3 server. Was a beta tester for Win2k3 server and win2k server, I've ran NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Tru64, openVMS, VMS, Irix, Linux, Winnies, OS/2 Warp, Palm, QNX, and a calculator...

And ya know, I really am tired of all sorts of wierd stuff... and I just can't tell the differences anymore. I'd prefer Linux on the desktop because it's got more compatibility, I use Win2k3 server a bunch because of binary compatibility (unless I'm drunk, then I'll run anything under emulation and Wine). VMWare is probably a product you should look into, If you're still excited about operating systems, get a VMware shell running, and start throwing multiple installs together around each other, so you can use all the functionality of all the OS's without compromise. I'd suggest a Linux base system, with a modified SGI JFS partition (I freakin' hate reiserFS and it's wonderful ability to frag drives, even though they've fixed most of that, I'm still leery). Actually, I take that back. Reiser for /, XFS for /home and /usr and /archive (long term storage for me). Reiser is more efficient for smaller files.

Be patient with FreeBSD, though. The devil is cute, and nice. But then again, you're never going to be able to do anything about incompatibility and lack of application support.
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: June 19th, 2004 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ignore this rant. I'm in the computer lab.

I am a freak. I do not like the way the Windows GUI works. I love Enlightenment. I just... love it. It's as if someone looked into the future and saw how I would want a desktop to behave, and then came back and wrote Enlightenment for me. Since most of what I want to do on the desktop can be done with shells and a browser with flash, Linux is sufficent, and I can run Enlightenment on it without any weird hacks, so I prefer it, at least for non-gaming use.

Always. NetBSD has a really nice packages system, called the Ports
FreeBSD has the Ports system as well, and Gentoo has a package system derived from Ports, which they call Portage (which you very well might know, I just felt like saying so). :D

Be patient with FreeBSD, though. The devil is cute, and nice.
The devil is running on my server, and was running on my laptop for a while. I don't know why it disliked my desktop so much, but it did. The server is -stable, and the laptop was 5.0-release, the last time I had something working halfway decently on it. The laptop started erroring in the oddest ways, and is now running with knoppix. See past posts for a more thorough description.

And if I seem out of it, send me to bed. I need some sleep.
decibel45 From: decibel45 Date: June 21st, 2004 02:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
The errors you were seeing installing FBSD make me wonder if you've got some bit of hardware that's flakey. From what I've read, FBSD has always been very picky about running on bad hardware, and I think page 12 faults are one of the symptoms. You might try posting on freebsd-questions or -current.
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