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Where's the commentary on FreeBSD? It certainly seems like the right idea (to replace OS X), but I want to know their experience.



I've used FreeBSD as a desktop OS, briefly. I've also used a number of Linux distributions as desktop OSes since the late 1990s.

The bottom line is that Linux tends to have better hardware support, especially for laptop hardware and power management.

When you run into problems, you'll usually have a much easier time finding vendor support or online community help for a Linux distribution than for FreeBSD.

Under the hood, FreeBSD is a lot simpler than Linux, and a lot of people like it for that reason. But if you want a generic Gnome/KDE/tiling WM/etc. desktop experience, and you don't need any BSD-specific features, I think Linux is the way to go. After all, we are talking about a replacement for MacOS here, which is pretty well integrated with the hardware and does not require a lot of tinkering to get working.


> The bottom line is that Linux tends to have better hardware support, especially for laptop hardware and power management.

I've been playing around with various BSDs over the past couple of years, and I really want to like any of them enough to keep installed, but this is exactly the issue I've run into with freebsd and it's derivatives. On both my last laptop and the current one, I can get everything working to a fairly reasonable state, but there are minor but annoying hardware issues I just don't have to deal with in Linux.

In my most recent attempt (installing TrueOS on my spare SSD), some apps occasionally crash when I use the Intel video driver, so I'm forced to use scfb, which is a bit slower and doesn't render fonts as nicely. Additionally, the wifi tends to be a bit slower; I average around 4-5 MB (not Mb) down on Linux, but top out around 2 MB on TrueOS. I also have to use Firefox instead of Chromium on FreeBSD and its derivatives, as there always seem to be some bugs in the FreeBSD port; right now, it renders some bizarrely-shaped section of the window in a deep shade of yellow covering part of the URL bar and the top of the page, and signing in to Google to sync my extensions and history hasn't worked for like 10 major versions of Chromium.

I really like DragonflyBSD; it works a bit better for me out of the box than FreeBSD (I don't need to configure to not have the fan running at full blast all the time, and I've strangely had fewer issues with Chromium despite it using the same ports tree as FreeBSD with some custom patches), but I've had issues running any display manager other than Slim, and even that hasn't worked that well for me, as I've never been able to get the numlock and auto-login settings working (yes, I know, autologin is "insecure", but I always have FDE on my machines, so if someone can get past that, I don't think the login screen will stop them). Unfortunately I haven't been able to try it out lately; on my current laptop, BSDs weirdly seem to think that my screen resolution is 1024x768, and the only way I've found to fix that is by setting the GOP in EFI, which is not an option for DragonflyBSD currently. I've spent more time than I'm willing to admit trying to follow the manual EFI installation inductions I found on the DragonflyBSD mailing list; I think I got it to boot once, but apparently the snapshot I was using panicked when trying to load the specific wifi driver during startup (although I found out later it could load it fine after it was fully booted), and I've never gotten it to boot since, so I'm not convinced I wasn't mildly hallucinating or something. Every now and then the Dragonfly Digest will have some post talking about some new small step towards EFI support though, so I'm optimistic that someday soon I'll be able to boot it on my current laptop and discover a whole new set of reasons why I can't use it.

OpenBSD, on the other hand, works pretty great for me out of the box in terms of the GUI and hardware, but I'm not fond of the packaging system; I tend to like to have fairly recent versions of apps, so updates come a bit slowly compared to what I'm used to. Even worse, pkg_add is kind of horrifying to me compared to what you get on FreeBSD-based systems; for reasons I can't comprehend, it seems to query for updates individually for each package you have installed rather than first just getting a list of updated packages and then downloading the updates for the packages (if there are any). I'm unfortunately too spoiled to wait several minutes just to find out that there aren't actually any updates for my system.

I've never been able to get far into setting up NetBSD. A couple of years ago I got it installed but couldn't get Xorg to start up, and I've been unable to get the installer to boot on the most recent release; it prompts me to select the boot device from a number of options, and I've tried all of them, and none of them work. The issue seems to be fixed in the more recent snapshots, but I haven't been able to figure out how to install with FDE (I found the option to encrypt the disk, but it seems to be independent from the installation itself, and neither encrypting the disk before or after the installation seems to result in a bootable encrypted system), and I'm too stubborn to install it without.


I tried NetBSD on my Acer Aspire One netbook from like six years ago. Most things worked out of the box. One thing that did not was the keyboard did not wake after suspend, which was manual (typing apm -z). I decided that was a deal-breaker and switched to Ubuntu, which worked perfectly out of the box, including lid-shut suspend.

NetBSD also gave me a bizarre halt-the-world problem on installation the first few times ("Old BPB too big") until I skipped the first sector.

I figure this laptop is old enough if it isn't supported by now it won't ever be.


I use FreeBSD as a desktop/laptop/workstation since years and it works great for me. Total control over the system You work on is priceless.

Everything on my hardware works (ThinkPad W530). The WWAN(3g) connection, Wifi, SD Card Reader, Power Management, multi monitor setup, external disk in the Modular Bay ...

Also having ZFS and ZFS Boot Environments on a system is great for updates/changes. You are literally bulletproof.

Some screens: http://vermaden.deviantart.com/art/CorporateBSD-FreeBSD-at-W... http://vermaden.deviantart.com/art/FreeBSD-10-3-Openbox-6356...

Regards, vermaden


How is a non-tangible filesystem making you "literally" bulletproof?

The BSDs are great for very specific tasks, but I find more general use users will prefer Linux with GNU userland. It has wider hardware support and a larger community for resources such as documentation and troubleshooting.


Please read about ZFS Boot Environments, no matter if from Oracle documentation or Illumos one, You will get the idea what it provides. There is beadm command same as in Solaris/Illumos and You can select BE at boot in the FreeBSD bootloader.

In short the idea is that You create snapshot (BE) of the current system state (filesystems), then make changes/upgrades. If something went wrong, then You reboot to that snapshot (BE) like nothing had happened.

About GNU userland, I also use SOME GNU tools like 'gls' (GNU ls) or 'gawk' (GNU awk). They are provided by the FreeBSD sysutils/coreutils package/port, I also use sysutils/moreutils like 'vipe' or 'vidir'.

The documentation part on FreeBSD is much better then on Linux, check the Handbook, or Wiki, or FAQ, or plain old MAN PAGES with useful examples. I sometimes read/use ARCH Linux wiki or Gentoo WIKI but for most of the time FreeBSD documentation is second to none. Even with a lot less people then Linux has.

BTW, while there are a lot more Linux people out there then BSD people, remember that Linux people are fragmented over about thousand Linux distributions while there are only several BSD distributions.

I do not want to sound 'bad' here but I also found many times that 'BSD people' known more about Linux then 'Linux people' if You know that I mean.

Regards, vermaden


... and yet, despite that, the doco for the BSDs is often better quality than the Linux doco. It hasn't actually turned out in practice that the larger community results in the better doco.


New post about GNOME on FreeBSD is up: http://bitcannon.net/post/gnome3-on-freebsd/


It's coming in a follow up post. I should publish it in the next few days.


Since you're looking for a desktop OS, you should test PC-BSD instead of pure FreeBSD.




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