BSD Investigations, Part One

For lots of reasons, lately I’ve been pretty interested in the various BSD variants, notably FreeBSD. This has a lot to do with my current choice of firewall software (pfSense) being based on it, which thanks to recent changes I’m looking at virtualizing instead of running dedicated hardware for. More on that later, I think.

I’ll admit, I’ve always seen the BSD family as better suited to embedded-type applications, probably largely due to pfSense being my primary exposure to it. I decided to remedy that limited exposure. I found long ago when I moved from Windows to Linux that reading about a new OS can only get you so far; you need to dig in with both hands and touch a thing, feel how it jumps at your touch and bites back, to get a good understanding of it. So off to the web I went, and got a couple of variations:

  1. The base installer for FreeBSD
    • Aimed at the enthusiast or professional that wants total control over what’s on their system, install or compile everything yourself.
    • Like my choice of Linux, Arch, this provides a huge degree of flexibility, but is definitely daunting for neophytes.
  2. The most recent TrueOS iso
    • Aimed at being more of a turn-key corporate-style desktop with a set of pre-installed apps, kindof like RedHat or Oracle did with Linux.
    • Faster initial setup, but takes longer to understand the underpinnings of the system.

VirtualBox handled both of these install setups quite well, and I (not surprisingly) found the TrueOS installer a much simpler way to get things going, especially when it came to configuring X11 and hardware drivers like nVidia or AMD graphics. It also had more of a sense of wonder on first-bootup, whereas the textual installer for FreeBSD was more what I was used to with ArchLinux, a console shell until you can get X to behave…

I’ve not done a lot with them beyond basic testing, really. They both seem to perform quite well at everyday desktop tasks, web browsing and such. After finding out that my favorite window manager AwesomeWM is available for both FreeBSD and TrueOS, I think I’m ready to move past the VirtualBox instance and find some real hardware to get things going on. The separated boot spaces and two different methods of full-disk encryption are particularly intriguing… maybe I can think of / find some good uses for it, besides sating my curiosity for a little while.

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