Explorations in the World of Linux

I’ve been a FreeBSD admin for the past decade, and during this time have become quite familiar with the *BSD system. It has its quirks, but overall it’s very clean and easy to maintain.

From time to time – usually when I’ve been getting ready to upgrade to the next major revision of FreeBSD – I’ve taken some time to research what the current pros and cons are for FreeBSD vs. some Linux distro. Always, in the end, FreeBSD has won. However, a development project I’m starting to work on will utilize Zend Server, which is only supported on handful of common Linux distros and on Windows (which is, by default, not an option as I strongly maintain that Windows is not suitable as a web server platform). There is, of course, Linux compatibility layer in FreeBSD, but as Zend doesn’t currently support it as a platform for Zend Server, I wouldn’t feel comfortable using it in a production environment.

So even though I find FreeBSD superior to Linux in many ways, I’ve now spent some time getting acquainted with Linux. I first started with Red Hat, then moved to CentOS which is the Linux distribution I’m currently testing. Now it’s not bad, per se, but I frequently come back to the thought: “Why would someone, anyone prefer THIS over a BSD system?!” The package management with yum, rpm, and the GUI overlays is easy enough, but it’s chaotic! Having to enable and disable repos, set their priorities, etc. seems unnecessarily complicated. On the FreeBSD side there is the ports collection which provides most of the software that one can imagine ever needing. The odd few items that either aren’t available in ports, or whose configuration is somehow not complete enough through ports can be easily compiled from the source tarball. Everything’s quite easy to keep track of, and to duplicate if one’s building a new system.

I’m sure some of this feeling stems from the fact that I have been using a BSD system for so long, and from the fact that I probably don’t yet know Linux well enough (say, to build the system from a scratch..). But as far as I can tell, package management is done with yum and rpm (on CentOS, say), by adjusting repository priorities, and enabling/disabling repositories. That is messy!

Well, I now have a functional development server running Zend Server with Apache, Subversion, and MySQL, and as the vendor (Zend) dictates the rules, I must continue development on Linux. Perhaps in six months time I’ll have more favorable comments about it as compared to FreeBSD… but I sort of doubt it. My guess is I’ll just learn to live with it, every now and then wistfully glancing to the direction of the BSD server.

One thought on “Explorations in the World of Linux”

  1. Hello,

    I can spend hours comparing the FreeBSD ports mechanism to the APT/DEB and YUM/RPM combos and, how can one neglect to mention Gentoo and portage and Emerge? 🙂
    Packaging and configuration management is an interesting topic and it is fascinating to review and analyze the various takes OSs have on that.
    In the comparison respect, I enjoy referring to this document:
    It is very educational in general but also makes some interesting comparisons.

    I too, like the .*BSDs, though I am a Linux person by nature and preference. I would not call Linux chaotic but rather, flexible. But that’s an argument as old as time 🙂

    The .*BSDs take the much more classical UNIX approach of perfectly matching the user space [LIBC, utils, etc] to the kernel one, an approach Linux does not really share so religiously. There are, I feel, advantages to each approach in general and kernel in specific..

    Since you mentioned YUM I’d like to recommend yum-merge-conf: Yum plugin to merge configuration changes when installing packages.
    I find it very useful myself.

    Also, in my opinion, Debian’s APT/dpkg is better than YUM/RPM, perhaps you will also like it better, worth a try.

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