FreeBSD vs. Linux => New User

At the risk of starting a holy war…

Today I upgraded my computer from Windows XP home to Windows XP Pro. I did it, but I hated it. I’ve had it with Bill Gates and want to move onto a *nix environment.

I had heard great things about RedHat 9.0, but I found out that it is no longer available. Red Hat now has Enterprise and some other versions. So now I’m left with the question, what is the best *nix environment for a new user?

I’ve used unix and am very comfortable in the environment. At least I know how to do things like ls -l, vi, etc. I’ve installed cygwin on a previous computer. That is to say I’m not a complete newbie to *nix.

I don’t need a server. I use my home PC for various home stuff, such as budgeting, some programming and general web surfing and e-mail.

I found several sites describing the major differences between FreeBSD and Linux, but it doesn’t answer the biggest question for me (beyond “it depends”): Which is best for me, the casual user?

What are the biggest and most significant differences between FreeBSD and Linux for a new, casual user?

From this page comes a good explanation of the difference. In the section titled Integration:

I read a good summation once: With Linux, you are given all the pieces needed to build a fine model. With BSD, you are given the built model.

It comes down to preference, though, and that is the beauty of *nix flavors. I’ve tried FeeBSD and OpenBSD, but the structure takes me back to Solaris 4.1.3 (naturally), and that just makes me shudder.

There are other differences. BSD flavors partition disks differently, for one.

Do what most people do: keep trying distributions until you find the one that makes you giggle. One size does not fit all.

And if we are voting on good distributions for casual beginners, then let me put in for FreeBSD on the BSD side and Mandrake on the Linux side.

I’m a Slackware fan, now, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Mandrake because it made the introduction to Linux so damned easy. Mandrake (and Suse and Red Hat/Fedora) are good for beginner and intermediate users because they have the strongest centralized system administration packages (Mandrake Control Center, Suse’s YAST and whatever Fedora uses).

I recommend the latest SuSE release. The hardware detection is great.

I can second SUSE. Even when I tried it 4 years ago on an old PowerPC Mac, hardware detection was superb. Based on what I’d read, I would have liked to have used FreeBSD but I it wasn’t available for my processor unlike NetBSD or OpenBSD. However, I do wonder why it doesn’t have anywhere near the penetration of Linux on the desktop for the x86 architecture.

For the home user, even the non-casual one, Windows XP is best (and I say this has someone who does Solaris and Linux for a living and whose computer room contains Linux, OpenBSD, VMS on both an Alpha and a Vax, and Genera on a MacIvory II).

If you must play with Unix at home, I recommend Linux, for the following reasons:
[li]It has a larger user base.[/li][li]It’s seeing more commercial use, so familiarity with a Linux distro (especially one of the RedHat ones) might help you professionally someday.[/li][li]There’s more commercial software for it (the FreeBSD Linux binary emulation isn’t very convenient, IMHO).[/li][li]Some vendors are now providing their own Linux drivers, but not FreeBSD drivers.[/li][li]There’s more open-source software being developed on it.[/li][/ul]
That said, the BSDs have a special place in my heart. Overall, the BSD’s strike me as being more coherently put together at every level–more professional, in a way–, I prefer the ports system to pre-compiled binary packages, and ideologically I prefer the BSD license to the GPL.

My favorite Linux distro is Debian, but I haven’t tried them all.

You can’t really go wrong with either…

Nice flame bait. As someone who also does Solaris and Linux for a living in data centers that include hardware/operating systems from several vendors, I disagree.

Windows XP is not the best. Not the worst, either. It’s simply the easiest for novice users to pick up and ubiquitous in the market place.

For new users and users and even advanced users who don’t have a lot of time to hack, SuSE and Mandrake are definately the way to go. I also use FreeBSD, but I would not recommend it to someone switching from Windows.

The name of this particular forum is “In My Humble Opinion.” I would hope that it was obvious that what I stated was, in fact, my opinion. Hopefully people are rational enough to understand that different people can hold different opinions without flaming each other.

May I ask why you went from WinXP Home to Pro?? The only differences between the two, IIRC, is that Pro supports dual processors, has some advanced networking features most home user wouldn’t need, and can send out Remote Assistance thingys.

As for the Linux vs BSD thing, a couple months ago I decided to try out Linux by downloading Mandrake. And it worked wonderfully on my computer; the install took about 20 minutes, everything just worked right straight out of the burned disks. Now, I only boot into Windows to play games.

I’ve been using Fedora Core 2 at work for C++ network development, and it’s worked well. But, I’m pretty much only doing command-line compilations with gcc, so I’m not really using much of it I suppose.

I play with Mandrake 10 at home, dual boot with Win XP, and I like it fine.

Thanks to everyone who has responded!

It sounds like most people are recommending a Linux flavor if for no other reason than they seem to be stable.

In answer to your question, RandomLetters, I upgraded because some software I need won’t run under XP Home. I just started doing some contract work and apparently the VPN software for this company won’t run on XP Home. Rather than argue about it, I just decided to upgrade and bill the company for the upgrade (they were the ones that told me I need Pro to get connected.)