After a short hiatus from UNIX systems when I focused on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 / IIS 6.0 / ASP.NET, I returned to the open-source scene where I installled two different Unix-like systems on my new laptop.
One of the most popular Linux distro out there is known as Debian 3.0 which purports to be an Linux system that is easy to install and upgrade as new and updated packages are checked into the system.
I got a very cool software called VMWare Workstation
which is nothing short of a miracle. VMWare allows you to virtualize operating systems on top of the operating system that you primarily use for your daily stuff. It allows you to run entire operating system inside a window. You are also able take a snapshot of the operating system and mess around with it and then revert back to where it was before you made the modifications!
I was able to get Debian
installed and even the X Window System up and running with ease (if you follow the instructions carefully!) under VMWare! After playing with it for several weeks and experimenting with updating packages among other tasks, I wasn't too enlightened by how it all was supposed to click together. While it was easier to do stuff compared to my days with Slackware 0.9 back in 1993, there were some limitations and dependencies problems with package installation/upgrading. Once, i went as far as completely destroying the system when the wrong version of kernel was installed.
Debian agrees with those who are extremely conservative and are willing to stick with older packages. There are several releases
that happen at the same time with Debian called stable, testing, unstable. There were versions of several packages I wanted in the testing release but they make sure you know that there is no guarantee that everything in the testing release has been fully tested yet. This caused a bit of disillusion for me, since it was not a easy thing to do to mix in different applications from different releases.
However, in recent days, Doug Sampson at Dawn Sign Press, where I also work, brought up the idea of using FreeBSD
. I've heard of this operating system which has experienced many forks in the years past and the cabal
of super-developers who have the final say about anything that enters or exits the BSD operating systems.
I decided to give it a whirl (under VMWare of course!) and all I can say is WOW! I now believe that FreeBSD is what Linux aspires to be. FreeBSD is different from Linux in that it is one entire coherent system, rather than having applications slapped on with the kernel and hope it all works together. (...I can hear the hordes of rabid Debian users descending on me now)
It is a normal thing for a BSD administrator to compile the ENTIRE system or upgrade many applications by recursively compiling everything to resolve any dependencies problems. At the first breath, this seems dangerous to the new-comer... "what if there is one teensy-bitsy bug that causes the system compilation to fail?" The only way you will learn is to jump feet first into the water and get wet. It's only through the process of working through problems that you will gain the skills necessary to be able to handle these kind of systems when the inevitable comes sooner or later.
I was apprehensive at first when I faced the necessity of upgrading
many applications at one go to fix various security holes that were discovered. You can imagine my relief after 12 hours of compiling when it was successful with zero errors and I was running a system that had all known holes patched up. It was a very good feeling afterwards.
The philosophy of FreeBSD being one entire system is in fact one of its strengths since you can be very confident that whatever the developers introduce into the system is guaranteed to work with the system and will not cause any conflicts. This is why I highly, highly, HIGHLY
recommend that you use what is known as the ports collection
You will be able to easily keep the ports
up to date and ensure that you install applications that will be compatible with your system and at the same time be able to ensure that discovered security holes are rapidly closed. This is a cool thing because after the developers implement a recent version of an application that you highly desire, they can check it into the system to be rigorously tested. After the tests are passed, it is approved to be entered into the ports. Once it's available, you can go ahead and install it on your system and be fairly confident it will not break anything.
If you are curious and want to know more about the different design philosophies between FreeBSD and Linux, read this excellent link
I have set up a nice FreeBSD configuration with several must-have applications. I look forward to using this system and getting more comfortable with it. I'm going off now to install my favorite open source database called PostgreSQL!