10 juli 2007

Evaluation of FreeBSD 6.2

Last week, I tried out Parallels Desktop for Mac OS X to give FreeBSD 6 a try in the virtual hardware world which sounded like a challenge suitable for someone who have had nothing but headache experiences with FreeBSD installations in the past. Being a former Linux software enthusiast I was used to doing things the GNU/Linux Way™ as opposed to doing it the traditional UNIX way. The main shell is configured with /bin/sh in mind instead of Bash. As a result the common Linux user gets ticked off who normally think pressing the TAB button for command completion is something to take for granted. Naturally it's always one of the very first priorities to take on. So I tried to fix that annoyance, but it wasn't easy to know where to start. I noticed the possibility to set things up during the initial setup process - however, I had forgot to install Bash before creating the user account and that was certainly a big mistake. If someone else reading this does the same mistake as I did, I think the easiest way to fix things is to launch vi and edit /etc/passwd as superuser or when logged in as root. Look for the /bin/sh section on the line that says your user account. For instance, it can look something like this:

jdoe:*:1002:3:John Doe:/usr/home/jdoe:/bin/sh

Changing that last piece to say /bin/bash, when you know for sure bash is in fact installed, will do the trick. Remember to try this piece of advice with some care: first be sure what you write in there actually is verified as correct, since it's a highly sensitive system file that might just as well lock you out completely from the system if you put in even the smallest typo in there. Also, don't forget to logout and re-login to confirm your system changes.

Moving on to the actual operating system itself, I must say the installation actually went on much smoother than I had expected, even with the virtual hardware that FreeBSD had to accept. The only thing that went crazy was the X server which is forgiving when you account for the poor graphics driver that VESA is in a window inside another OS (in this case as you hopefully recall, Mac OS X). There were a lot of packages to post-install, but once I had run xorgconfig and grasped which resolution and depth to use for the mysterious virtualized Cirrus graphics card, everything was up and running without any terrible issues. It did work, after all, and the colors looked alright. It was however acting slow which I blame the lack of Parallels Tools for.

Conclusion
Easier than you can imagine to install if you go for the Standard Install option (found on sysinstall's ncurses menu). With the auto-configuration alternative things went well for me. I must recommend that you never run FreeBSD with an X server if you virtualize that OS, because it won't exactly be the best experience you've had in your life. If that's what you're after, why not install Linux instead? For command-line server usage, though, FreeBSD is one of the smoothest and quickest operating systems I've tried virtualize. Go FreeBSD 6.2!

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