Over at Webmasters by Design there was a very interesting article by Scott Spear about Why FreeBSD is My Favorite *nix OS. Like him, I find FreeBSD to be wonderful and like it a lot. However, I find that I don’t want to use it for everything.
Why I Like BSD: Small Footprint
FreeBSD works in many, many, many more places than Linux – and even more places than Solaris. There just isn’t a lot of overloaded kernel involved. As kernels grow faster and faster, it is refreshing to be able to use something not so bloated.
Why I Like BSD: History
Unlike Linux, BSD goes back a very long ways (longer than Solaris even) and is UNIX. It is possible that with the exception of Unixware and NetBSD, no other UNIX system has as much of a history. Some of the original developers are still involved in FreeBSD (Marshall McKusick comes to mind).
Why I Like BSD: Cohesiveness
No matter how hard they try, a Linux distribution can’t match the overall cohesiveness of one of the BSD systems (such as FreeBSD). Some Linux distributions are very well done, but they still have “missing parts” – usually documentation.
Why I Like BSD: Documentation
There is nothing that matches FreeBSD documentation in the Linux world. Once, I ran a test: I wrote a script to test for the existance of man pages for every binary in the usual locations on the system (/bin /sbin /usr/bin /usr/sbin). Red Hat Linux come up with a number of programs that were undocumented; FreeBSD did not have a single missing man page.
All of the kernel tunables can also be found in man pages, and more.
The FreeBSD Handbook is phenomenal, and a valuable resource. Linux environments don’t have anything like it.
Why I Don’t Like BSD: Linux (In)Compatibility
Linux compatibility fails as often as it succeeds, and it is more of a simulated environment than it is just a compatibility layer. It doesn’t work, it’s bloated and it’s wrong to rely on it in any case.
Why I Don’t Like BSD: Flash et al
Getting to use Flash in FreeBSD is a nightmare. Even following the directions is no guarantee that it will work. Distributions such as OpenSUSE and Ubuntu come ready to plug in Flash support, and Adobe has specified that they will support Linux. That leaves out FreeBSD.
This may be better in PCBSD; I aim to try it soon.
Why I Don’t Like BSD: Installation
Sysinstall is not the easy install process that installation of distributions like Ubuntu and OpenSUSE is. There are way too many technical details to comprehend.
This probably has improved with FreeBSD 7; I’ve not yet tried FreeBSD 7.