The differences between Freebsd and Debian Gnu/Linux

Since I have used both Debian and  Freebsd I thought I should make a list about the things I consider to be the key differences between the two.

The following differences may, and do, apply to some extent to other BSDs and Linux distributions. My purpose is to highlight differences to give a better view of things and by no means I am suggesting that you SHOULD or SHOULD NOT use the distribution of your choice.

1. Debian has a much better driver support. Wifi cards and display drivers do have drivers in Linux kernel or they come as easy to add solutions from non-free repository. On Freebsd things are generally ok if you do not use Nvidia display cards or some newer wireless cards. The two mentioned were the ones I had most problems with. Interestingly, Ati display cards, which still remain partially problematic under Debian, worked out of the box with Freebsd.

2. Freebsd is more easier to custom build than Debian. With Freebsd you could install portmaster and rebuild your entire system from source with customizations. Debian has its own similar tools but they do not quite measure up, yet, when it comes to the level of controlling the customizations.

3. Debian is more about being a general purpose os. You can shape Debian to be almost whatever you want it to be. Debian also gives you a great way to experiment with things. You can also shape Freebsd but you need to know what you want and, generally, you need study more to achieve your goals.

4. Freebsd has a better documentation. One of the things that is irritating at times is finding an answer to a Linux related issue. With Freebsd you have a very good guidebook, which has almost all you could imagine. And if you occasionally would stumble upon an issue where  you need extra help with then there is always Freebsd forums.

5. Debian has a more clearer licenses. With Debian you can be sure that your program is GPL if you only use the main repository. With Freebsd the usage of “only free software or similar” is sometimes confusing since Freebsd comes with a different kind of licensing structure. Occasionally this leads to the scenario where it may be hard to figure out the specific licensing of a given program – if needed.

6. Freebsd can be fresher than Debian. If you build everything from souce code using ports then your Freebsd is probably a lot more up-to-date with packages than Debian. If you use recompiled packages then your Freebsd might on the same level with Debian’s stable release. Freebsd with ports is like Debian Sid: always on the move and can end up broken if something goes wrong with ports.

The differences listed above are not intended to slam either one of the systems: I do enjoy ,both, Debian and Freebsd a lot. If you have any doubts whether or not you should try Freebsd then I would say you should.

However, Do remember that Freebsd does not use Ext2/3/4 partitioning. So, before you go and install your Freebsd make sure you backup everything first.
For easier access to your data I would also recommend that you use a Fat32 formatted usb devices since Freebsd is very good at mounting those.