[PLUG] Anyone using / can advise on FreeBSD/NetBSD?

Mayuresh mayuresh at acm.org
Fri Jul 15 18:50:40 IST 2011

On Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 06:05:36PM +0530, Mayuresh wrote:
> I happen to have tried out both FreeBSD and NetBSD in the meantime. I will
> post my experiences in a separate mail.

Following is a short summary of my little exposure to installing and using
FreeBSD, NetBSD along side Fedora - which is (still) my default distro.

This is not a very scientific comparison - merely some observations
through some day-to-day use-cases. Also I am not familiar with
tricks/quirks of either of them that could have improved certain aspects
of them that otherwise look inferior in observations below.

Download time:
	NetBSD << FreeBSD (full) << Fedora
    NetBSD is just about 250MB and way too quicker to get going for the

Installation time:
	Both BSDs were much faster to install than Fedora. I have considered a
"minimal" install of Fedora here. NetBSD was a bit more painless I felt.

Booting time:
	Both BSDs were faster than Fedora, though it of course depends on
configuring things. Point is, the defaults on BSD are not bloated i.e. it
starts virtually nothing by default unless you tell it to.

Hardware support:
	My h/w is not very exotic so any good distro is expected to work.
If at all, the difference was with respect to Intel wifi card which worked
out of the box on Fedora and NetBSD (yes!) but not on FreeBSD (of course
there must be a way to get it work).

File system support:
	I wanted home directory to be same on all 3 distros. It was on ext3 to
start with. Neither of the BSDs had an ext3 driver. ext2 driver worked
fine on FreeBSD, though NetBSD showed very strange errors and could not
identify some of the ext3 partitions. Incidentally, Someone from NetBSD
mailing list advised against using ext2 driver for ext3 system as it may
cause problems.

Snappiness of X server operation (switch, scroll etc.):
	Both Fedora and FreeBSD were nearly same. NetBSD lacked slightly in
this. I read somewhere, their X implementation is slightly tailored, while
FreeBSD uses same xorg like most other Linux distros.

File system performance (native FS of each):
	When unzipping large zips or deleting large directories, felt that
ext3 was much much faster than either of the BSDs.

Performance with own programs:
	The test programs were largely CPU bound. Fedora/Linux fared
marginally better than both BSDs.

i386 vs i686 and not sure how much it matters:
	Have entire Fedora system starting from kernel level tuned for i686,
though BSDs were for i386. Just thought this could be a factor why
Fedora/Linux was fairing better in above tests. Recompiled FULL FreeBSD
grounds up using "native" option to produce it for i686, though the
performance did not change much.

Installation of s/w:
	I liked ports on FreeBSD, though that's way too time consuming and I
felt the returns were not worth the time. On both BSDs binary
installations were quick and smooth. Both BSDs seemed to lack a way to
cache downloaded package just in case if required again - which I get on
Fedora through yum.

Adding s/w from CD that was not chosen during installation:
	Way too simple for Fedora. Some tweaks were needed for FreeBSD. On
NetBSD, had to reboot using the CD and making any error when re-choosing
package "sets" may wipe out your configuration options.

Compilation of 3rd party s/w from sources:
	Painless on Fedora and FreeBSD. NetBSD required its own set of quirks
that suit its personality.. Part of the problems is the autoconf specs did
take FreeBSD into a/c though not NetBSD.

	Some how feel /etc/rc.conf to be a good one stop shop on BSDs, though
some Linux flavors may already have adopted this.

	Did not need much on FreeBSD. On NetBSD, tried mailing lists for ext3
issue. They are helpful, though did see some elitist smell. E.g. first
question shot back to me was "what do you mean by logical partition", when
in PC world we kind of take its meaning for granted.


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