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More thoughts on FreeBSD
Software and Technology by
Posted on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 12:07 IST (last updated: Mon, May 10, 2010 @ 12:11 IST)
/etc/rc.confinterface to system initialization, the kernel module loading through
/boot/loader.confetc. are very convenient and easy to use. Having said that I strongly suspect that Linux users will find a few gotchas in FreeBSD. Here I will document some of the problems that a "power" desktop user will face in FreeBSD as compared to Linux. Gnome and KDE issues Though the common desktop environments, Gnome and KDE work well, it is to be realized that they require some integration with the base hardware for some functionality. 90% of this will work on FreeBSD through HAL and DBus, but there will be quirks. Some Gnome tools do not work as expected or work with reduced functionality: in particular third-party Gnome components which assume a Linux installation. Without getting too much into detail, if all you want is a desktop with the basic productivity tools, things will work reasonably as expected. However some system configuration GUI tools will not work properly or at all. Bluetooth support might also be tricky in FreeBSD; at least it will not work through the Gnome bluetooth interface. 3D acceleration for display drivers FreeBSD does have 3D drivers from NVIDIA (not sure about AMD) but until recently there was no support for x86-64 (commonly known as amd64). But in any case this is not so big an issue if all you play is low-intensive SDL games and don't rely on OpenGL applications. The sound system - this is my biggest gotcha Most likely your sound card will work and be supported by FreeBSD, but where the problem lies is in using some common sound and multimedia applications which absolutely rely on ALSA. Now it is well known that FreeBSD and other BSDs continue to use the Open Sound System, while modern Linux kernels prefer ALSA. This means that if you are used to certain multimedia applications that rely on ALSA you're on your own. 90% of sound-related apps work on both OSS and ALSA, but MIDI and music composition tools like Rosegarden and NoteEdit aren't available on FreeBSD as they use ALSA MIDI interface, not OSS. Having said that JACK is available in FreeBSD and applications that use JACK audio toolkit will work nicely. Hardware and peripherals This article, which seems to appear on google search results for "FreeBSD for Linux users" is a bit outdated and does not take into account the increasing number and variety of hardware and peripheral devices especially for mobile computing. He says "most common hardware that is supported in Linux should be supported in FreeBSD" and you will be affected only if you *own* that piece of hardware which is not supported. Now for desktop systems this might hold true, but as many of us use laptops, I can confidently say that Linux support for laptop hardware would definitely be on a higher level because of the sheer number of people who use a variety of hardware on Linux and the fact that some of them have the technical capability to write device drivers. The FreeBSD community is simply not large enough to care about certain uncommonly used peripheral devices while Linux has a much better and wider support for uncommon peripherals like webcams and certain USB input devices like WizardPen-based pen tablets. While input devices like pen tablets require an Xorg driver which might be available on Linux, not all of them are easily portable to FreeBSD as some of them rely on Linux kernel calls. Webcams are a different issue and you won't be able to use most internal or external webcams which Linux supports using the uvc (USB video class) drivers. Again, some wireless cards might not be supported, but this is becoming less and less of an issue these days. Conclusion On the whole this is not a discussion on pros and cons of FreeBSD but merely issues which Linux desktop users have to be aware of before they think of using FreeBSD full time.