Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Setting up FreeBSD

I've played around just a little with FreeBSD in the past but never really got seriously into it.
However, I just recently installed FreeBSD 8.1 on my newly refurbished Dell E520 in a multiboot system with Ubuntu, Windows XP, Haiku R1A2. In addition, I have another partition on which I regularly install the latest version of Haiku Nightly as this potentially great OS edges it's way towards the beta stage.
The first thing you should always do after installing FreeBSD is to update the ports.
Actually, the ports system is truly one of the great features of FreeBSD as it provides you with an astonishing array of source codes which you can use to install the majority of whatever you want.
A drawback with the ports is that it can take a long time to build the app you're interested in. For me, to install the browsers Opera and Arora took nearly three hours for each one.
Interestingly, almost all of the stuff that I subsequently built from ports (Gedit, VLC, Last.Fm, Dillo, Transmission and Midori) took less than 15 minutes each. I don't understand why there is this huge difference in build times.
In any event, it's surprisingly difficult to find out how to update the ports. Here's what's in the FreeBSD manual about ports but I found this thread which describes a little more succinctly how it's done.
As there are some errors in the thread, here's exactly what I did (this is after I had installed ports along with the install of the OS):

portsnap fetch extract update
pkgdb -F
portsdb -Uu
portupgrade -a

Of course, there are some apps available as binaries which can be installed very quickly with the
pkg_add -r "package name"
command although the number of available apps is much more limited.

Incidentally, I was easily able to get compiz-fusion, emerald and AWN installed in FreeBSD from ports. All work very well although I was disappointed to find that no FreeBSD version of Fusion-Icon is available in ports.
Talking about compiz-fusion, I had an interesting experience today. After fiddling around a long time yesterday trying to install Google-Gadgets from ports (which didn't work as I got exactly the same error as in this unanswered thread -- but I've posted to the guy who ported Google Gadgets to FreeBSD and am waiting for a reply) when I booted into FreeBSD this morning, it seems the WM was no longer compiz but metacity which meant AWN didn't launch and I had no wobbly windows.
Poking around in Google brought up this thread. First I tried replacing Metacity for Compiz-Manager in the Gconf editor but, just like the guy in the thread, this didn't work for me.
What did work, as suggested in the final post to this thread, was installing mesa-demos from ports. Indeed, it worked flawlessly. However, why it worked and what went wrong to require its installation is a mystery to me.

Now, after getting the ports updated, the next most important item for me is to find and configure a suitable browser for the OS, after all, in my case, 99% of what I do is through a browser.
As I've said before, I want a browser that's fast, very fast and that lets me flick quickly though my preferred webpages preferably with just one click.
I do NOT need thousands of extensions. Indeed, generally, I neither need nor use any.
I should mention here that the Stainless browser I'm currently using on the Mac is a wonderful browser. I particularly like its small bookmark shelf that contains only favicons which leaves a lot of room for many quickly available webpage favicons. I really haven't found anything I don't like about Stainless up to this and I'm wondering why it's not better known.
In FreeBSD, I looked at Opera, Arora, Dillo and W3M and all fell short of what I wanted. Anyway, I finally found Midori (once again, available from ports) in FreeBSD.
While, I wouldn't quite rate Midori in the same excellent category as Stainless, it's not far behind. It has a bookmark bar which includes favicons in the bookmark name. Strangely, not all bookmarks included the favicon in the bookmark for reasons I don't understand. Some, didn't at first, but after a few clicks on the bookmarklet, the favicon showed up.
In Stainless, however, I was able to drag and drop downloaded favicons to the bookmarklet whenever no favicon was included but this option is not available in Midori.
On the other hand, Midori does have a speeddial and a small collection of extensions (one of which I'm using (colored tabs which make picking out what you want much easier).
All in all, Midori is an impressive, lite and very fast browser that I would recommend.

Of course, one big problem with FreeBSD is that no version of Flash is available for it. However, there is a means to get flash working by using some linux-power. See the explanation in the FreeBSD manual. A further useful post on the same topic is here.
Another possibility is to try the Chromium browser which is not yet available in ports. However, how to try it out is outlined here.
My interest in Chromium is that, as I understand it, it has embedded flash although the fact that this post doesn't mention it is not encouraging.
In any event, I'm going to try both Chromium and using what's outlined here to get flash working in Midori (I'm not going to use FireFox)

No comments:

Post a Comment