Open Source is so inexpensive February 2, 2008
Keeping with my 'money' theme from the last few posts, here we have something on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Not including donations, I've paid $0 for all of the software on my other laptop, and it does everything.
Now, I've been thinking about doing something drastic. Since I installed Ubuntu Linux, my development time on that laptop has actually diminished about 100%. I haven't done any development on it. This is because it's so f@#$@#ing slow. I do a lot of ANT builds and they just take forever. The drastic thing I've been thinking of is upgrading my laptop to a new one. Preferably a Lenovo ThinkPad or something. Customizing one of those for a Linux installation (everything except picking Linux, since they only offer Vista Home Basic) is a lot cheaper than configuring it for even Vista Home Basic. All I need is 2GHz Core 2 Duo (the minimum CPU option), 1GB RAM (although I've been bumping it up to 2GB in the "Customize" section), 1Gbps LAN, and integrated graphics. I could opt to have Wireless, but that's extra. It's not that expensive, although I can't afford it now.
So, instead of getting a beefier laptop to run a slow operating system (Gentoo ran super fast on the same exact old crappy laptop), I was looking into some other operating system that's just as powerful and fast as Gentoo, but not the hardest thing to set up. In my search, I decided to go with something that I've been eyeing ever since I got into free software. FreeBSD.
Having this Mac, and having nothing to work on when I got a side job doing .NET with SQL Server for one of the local schools (Episcopal Academy, which isn't exactly 'one of the local schools'), and the Mac being Intel, I found out about that program called "Parallels", which can run virtual machines of multiple operating systems. I have a Windows one installed for all of that development I did for EA, and I have an Ubuntu Linux one for when I tried it out (much like now) before I installed it on my laptop. So, I did the same thing with FreeBSD. I think I'm going to give it a shot on the laptop.
It's a lot easier than Gentoo, that's a plus. It's as well documented as Gentoo (just visit freebsd.org and see for yourself), it's *almost* as fast as Gentoo, and it runs Gnome. The only thing that I was wondering was "Will it run everything?" Yes it will.
FreeBSD is Unix, not Linux. While they are similar in some areas, there's others where they are just very very different. Like, FreeBSD and Linux use different threading models, which Sun depends on in its Linux implementation of Java and Sun does not provide a native implementation of Java for FreeBSD, yet. However, you can get "Linux compatibility mode" running on FreeBSD which will make the Linux implementation work on FreeBSD. The down side of that is that FreeBSD has to build the source for Java to install it, and the source is released under an incompatible license. So, when you install it, it fails, and asks you to download certain files before it can continue. And still, after you do that, you're contractually obligated (through the license) to NOT distribute the resulting built Java binaries. It's weird. There is hope, though, as most believe that Java 7 (it's at 6 right now) will be released under the GPL, since Sun completely open sourced Java recently.
So, I'll give FreeBSD a shot, and if it doesn't work out, then I'll download and try out another one!
Interesting side story. FreeBSD offers its ISOs in "torrent" format. I've known what BitTorrent was since about 7 years ago, but never got into it. It's a giant legal mess since it's also used to distribute "pirated" material. But there are very legal, morally good ways of using BitTorrent. Anyway, I downloaded it through that (a BitTorrent client called "Transmission" for Mac, also free open source software), and it's just neat seeing all the people you're downloading the same file from simultaneously. It's really brilliant software, BitTorrent is.