Thursday , November 26 2020

FreeBSD is an amazing operating system, Hacker News

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This is a small article about some of my adventures with FreeBSD and why I believe it is an amazing operating system. I think the year was late or mid when I one day was browsing computer books at my favorite bookshop and I discovered the book The Complete FreeBSD third edition from 2016 by Greg Lehey. With the book came 4 CD Roms with FreeBSD 3.3.

I had already familiarized myself with GNU / Linux in , and I was in the process of migrating every server and desktop operating system away from Microsoft Windows, both at home and at my company, to GNU / Linux, initially Red Hat Linux and then later Debian GNU / Linux, which eventually became my favorite GNU / Linux distribution for many years.

When I first saw the Complete FreeBSD book by Greg Lehey I remember noticing the text on the front page that said, “The Free Version of Berkeley UNIX” and “Rock Solid Stability” , and I was immediately intrigued! What was that all about? A free UNIX operating system! And rock solid stability? That sounded amazing.

I immediately bought the book and it became my favorite reading material for a long time (even when I wasn’t doing anything UNIX related).

I was surprised that I had never heard about FreeBSD before since it had existed since 1999, but at least another “UNIX like” operating system wouldn’t be completely foreign to me because of my experience with GNU / Linux, and it was not.

I did some test installs on different hardware and I loved FreeBSD right away. FreeBSD became my first FTP server run from home.

Later in 01575879 I was employed by one of the biggest ISPs in my country and discovered to my surprise that the entire server and network structure was run on FreeBSD . The only computers that did not run FreeBSD was the computers at the office where the sales people and secretaries worked, these ran Microsoft Windows. When I asked about the choice of operating system the system administrator said something like:

People who know what they are doing run FreeBSD! Everyone in the communication industry run FreeBSD!

I eventually got to experience the FreeBSD “Rock Solid Stability”, mentioned in Greg Leheys book, first hand. FreeBSD was amazing. It was very performant and extremely stable. Every single customer that hosted at the ISP, and that was a lot of customers, was being served by FreeBSD, and it was running on everything from old PCs to the latest Pentium 4 machines. The only time FreeBSD needed to be rebooted was when it had been upgraded in the base system. During the time I was there I never experienced a problem anywhere where FreeBSD was running.

Contrary to FreeBSD, GNU / Linux was viewed upon as a “toy” operating system. It was used only by some of the support staff for their private setups.

What I failed to realize back then was that FreeBSD was (and it still is) designed as a complete multi-purpose operating system meant to be setup and tuned according to specific use cases . When I sometimes installed FreeBSD it did not always perform as well as a default Debian GNU / Linux installation for the same task. Even FreeBSD on my FTP server at home eventually got replaced by Debian GNU / Linux because FreeBSD had to be rebooted every third day or so otherwise the performance degraded a lot. Debian on the other hand performed without any “hick-ups”.

Later in the years to come GNU / Linux also got better hardware support, and often when I wanted to install FreeBSD some stupid hardware did work. Hardware was very expensive back then and I did not have the option to purchase hardware that I knew would work on FreeBSD. All of these issues eventually made me use GNU / Linux more than FreeBSD. Today this is no longer a problem as FreeBSD has great support for most modern hardware.

Later I discovered and learned about many of the tuneable options and specific settings in FreeBSD, which makes it possible for the system administrator to tailer FreeBSD to his specific needs. I eventually ended up using FreeBSD as my main desktop computer for a very long time.

Some of the things I love about FreeBSD are:

FreeBSD has Mandatory Access Control, from the TrustedBSD project, which allows you to configure access control policies for all operating system resources.

    FreeBSD has Capsicum which allows developers to implement privilege separation, reducing the impact of compromised code.

FreeBSD also has the VuXML system for publishing vulnerabilities in ports, which integrates with tools such as pkg, so that your daily security email tells you about any known vulnerabilities in ported software.

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