BSD v Linux – Battle for My Desktop

Debian installed on the home setup

Well Apple has done it to me; they are making me look elsewhere for my OS needs. I have been with Apple since an Apple Plus and have used Apple products my whole career. Come thick or thin I was backing my fruit company team. Even when I moved from my Mac administrator role to network engineer my MacBook Pro and MacPro came with me. With Catalina and the T2 chip they have grabbed a little more control over my computing environment then I will allow. Plus Catalina seems like a buggy mess. It was installed by accident on a family member’s iMac and it was torture getting it downgraded. I will keep my current hardware as long as I can as it works just great for my needs. Now pick an OS as the hardware to run it on will be another story.

With that being said I am in search of a new OS. The needs that must be met are the following:

  • Security and privacy
  • Web browsing – easy peasy bullet point
  • Email – replacing Mail.app
  • Writing –
  • Illustration – replacing Adobe Illustrator
  • Photos – hobby for me, professional for my wife, replacing Llightroom.
  • Music – iTunes
  • KiCAD
  • AutoCAD
  • Arduino IDE, can also use Atom editor for sed purposes.
  • Light Python development
  • BONUS – NeXTstep looking, acting interface

My test machine at work, for now, is an older HP i7, with 12GB of RAM, Intel motherboard graphics, and 2 Seagate 320GB hard disks. The test machine at home is an older AMD with 8GB of RAM and a 120GB SSD. Both systems, all the drives are SATA3. I will have to include the VM as well. It is on my MacBook Pro i7, 10.12, Virtualbox 6.x.

While yes I have always been an Apple Mac Fanboy (Guy Kawasaki was my hero), I enjoy playing with other OSes. Back in the day when the cheesey monochrome, DOS PCs, I would head over to the Sun computer lab. There was no one in there. That is when I got a taste of SunOS and the ‘nix world. When I started working here at the university one of our main systems was a DEC VAX box. Toss in the Amiga 2000 and AmigaOS. That is still just a crazy cool OS. And as was BeOS which is still around as Hiku. Last but not least is the NeXT. I still have my working Cube. To say I have a soft spot for this box and software would be quite right. When Linux first came out I downloaded a stack of floppies to install on my PC. Which wasn’t too bad really because I just started working at the university and for the time we had some killer bandwidth. Slackware was the flavor of the office at that time and I had a linux box I kept along side my Macs for awhile. I even tried Mklinux, the PowerPC version of the tux, on one of them.

NeXT Cube with NeXTstep 3.3

Linux

Debian. Picking a Linux distro can be a real pain in the arse. Everyone has a distro on how they think it should run or “this one” is the simple version. Do you want that looking like MacOS or Windoze? I have been downloading and installing various distros on a VM for the past couple of months to trying to find a linux distro to work with. Solus was the distro in second place, but I have a few Raspberry Pi’s in the house. Since Debian is already on them, I figured it was a good choice. Plus I was tried of wading through this distro and that. It is one of the foundation distros of Linux as well. Debian was a breeze to install. There were a couple of items such a sudo and git that I had to install after, but nothing that was show stopping. I first installed it with XFCE as a window manager as I have used it in the past. This is installed on the home setup. I picked XFCE because the home hardware is a little older and could use a lighter windowing system. I then took a second stab with it and installed it with Gnome on the machine at work.

BSD

FreeBSD. The BSD flavor was little easier to pick, but I still waded through the waters to see what is new out there. Ghost was interesting. It worked on the hardware as a live disc, but if it did install it would hang. Hammer is a bit too much for my needs and much more of a server OS. I have used FreeBSD in the past and the MacOS is based on Free, so FreeBSD it is. To be honest it was a pain in the butt to get it installed, but I have a serious soft spot for BSD ‘nix and was going to get it installed. I have learned a lot and will be sharing it in another post. I was not able to get FreeBSD 12.1 to install on the HP hardware. I removed RAM, added it back, changed drives, and downloaded and made 3 discs on 3 machines. I kept on getting the error below.

I couldn’t find a definitive answer out across the web, so I moved it to a Virtualbox VM on my MacBook Pro. The installation was much smoother. FreeBSD doesn’t come with windowing system by default. After some thought and checking I decided to go with the Mate environment. There is a script out in the wild for installing Mate and the related parts. It didn’t work for me. It would install, reboot the system, and then I couldn’t login with any user. Even after booting into single user mode and changing the password it was having fits.

FreeBSD running Mate.

Bah, humbug, scripts be damned. I’ll do it the old fashion way, the proper way, by hand. The guide is going to be how I installed it two ways. The first being FreeBSD 12.1, with Mate and SLIM. That is the image above. I might do a second install with FreeBSD 12.1, with lightDM and Openbox. update: the second will be FreeBSD 12.1 with xfce the same setup as Debian so it will be a little easier to compare.

Now that the 2 contenders are picked and installed let the real games begin! Check back for updates.

Here are some of the sites mentioned in this article. FreeBSD as the BSD pick. Debian as the Linux pick. Virtualbox used for VM services.

© 2020, wrightmac. All rights reserved.

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