Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mostly successful FreeBSD implementation

Decided to go back to FreeBSD on an old PC I was given.  I've always enjoyed FreeBSD and this would be a chance to get reacquainted.

I also thought that this would be a great blog post for my work blog; setting up a Java development environment on a older PC using FreeBSD.  It would be a great alternative to Linux for those that don't appreciate Windows or OSX, or have an older PC they want to use for development.

After a couple of frustrating days, I've decided not to write that blog entry.

Don't get the wrong idea. I still very much like FreeBSD, and am writing this post on that very machine, which is finally running FreeBSD.  I always remember that it takes a few days to get a Desktop environment up and running on FreeBSD.  This was no different.  It took about 4 installs of FreeBSD to get desktop that worked.

Since I knew this would likely be the case, I tried both PC-BSD and GhostBSD.  Both had graphically installers and claimed they would install a desktop version of FreeBSD.  PC-BSD also had a few features I wanted to try out, especially the support for jails (more on jails later).

I wish someone would develop a good configuration tool for XOrg and not force the user to plod through the configuration.

Neither would install to this computer.  PC-BSD and GhostBSD both failed during the first install with errors that were not helpful at all. I got PC-BSD to finally install, but then on reboot, the system simply went to a black screen.  If you are interested in FreeBSD for the first time, I still highly suggest these projects to get your started.  Unfortunately, they did not work for me.

Finally, I got the standard install to work with the Mate desktop.   I had intended on getting Gnome 3 to work, and a couple of others for when I wanted a more spartan environment. I'll work with this for a while until I can gradually get other desktops to work.

Why FreeBSD, especially since it seem to be giving me trouble?  I've always like it once I get it running.  I believe it's well laid out and as stable as it can be.

I also wanted to work with two new features.  ZFS, which is a fantastic file system, and Jails.  Jails allows you to partition off part of the system so it does not have access to the rest of the system.  You can run a test app server in a jail and not worry about changing the configurations on your development server, for instance.  With ZFS, you can template the jails so that they can be created and destroyed quickly.

Since I finally have a (somewhat) working system, I will still work on doing those things.  And I hope others do to, but until the base system is easier to configure for a graphical environment, I'll keep that suggests to those who are experienced, or want to experience another operating system.