Giving FreeBSD another shot

I fell in love with FreeBSD for the first time around the early part of 1998. Although I'd heard of FreeBSD before, my roommate, Xeroline, introduced me to it formally. I'd been tinkering with Red Hat Linux and had grown tired of both the wild-goose-chase of RPM dependencies as well as the patchwork of software compiles that often had their own dependency problems. FreeBSD seemed, at the time, to be the answer to my prayers.

FreeBSD 2.2.8 was lean, mean, and very basic. It also brought with it the concept of the Ports system: a skeletal tree of software directories where one could simply utter the words "make install" and then sit back -- often for a very long time -- and watch software compile automatically and usually error-free. Initially, that's all I wanted. It was FreeBSD that pried me away from my Linux addiction, and I'd say that it's also FreeBSD that shaped much of what I've come to expect from a UNIX desktop OS. In short, I didn't want an easy, graphical install. I wanted an OS that would get up and running quickly, be quick on its toes, and give me as clean of a slate as possible from which to begin my adventures. I wanted a system that could be wrought from bare metal.

As time passed, FreeBSD got better, then worse. I had been using OpenBSD for servers since early 1999, and Shortly after the 5.x series came out, I got sick of FreeBSD and switched to OpenBSD 3.2 on the desktop and some of my laptops. That was more than 5 years ago. I seriously haven't touched FreeBSD since February of 2003. Until now.

I almost messed with FreeBSD 6.2 a few months ago. I downloaded the ISO images but never got around to burning them. The target install environment was going to be my Pentium 3 lab box, but at the time I was using it to do research for my Linux LVM2 article. The very same machine, in fact, kept getting re-purposed for various HiR research projects. The time has come, though, for me to square off against my quondam favorite desktop OS.

I've only been tinkering with it for about a day now, so I still have a way to go before I'm ready to give this a full review. All I can say is to stay on the lookout for some more FreeBSD love. I can immediately tell that they've worked out some of the major kinks in their package installation tools. The installation doesn't seem like it's changed much since the 4.x releases. For that, I'm thankful. It's just friendly enough for almost anyone to figure out, but not made of bloated graphics like the Ubuntu installer that takes forever to load.

I have a feeling I might start really liking FreeBSD again. Did anyone else feel alienated by the 5.x series, only to come back and try 6.2 or 6.3 and really like it?

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