Date: 12-01-03 18:49
My BSD world begain on 12/16/2003. I'm coming from the other side of the tech planet. I've been a windows admin for over 5 years + with a hobby of running an website dedicated the Active Server Pages, ASP.NET (http://www.aspfree.com) for 3 1/2 years. This was satisfying sharing my experiences about ASP/ASP.NET. Over 300,000 people visit my website monthly. But in the persuit of wanting to learn more, that is what led me to open source, plus its free *kindof*! I've coined the phrase "there is an RTFM cost"!
The one thing that convinced me to try open source was able to bring up a backup mail server without any licensing costs. I had never pursued what Open Source offered before this. The one thing that led me to FreeBSD over linux was the .NET rotor project would run on BSD. Also many of the internet/DMZ type projects I've been involved with, the underlying os was based on BSD. Not to say BSD is newbie friendly and coming from a Windows Server background didn't help.
The one thing that helped doing admin type work for years "if you don't know the answer go look for it". One thing I also liked about the BSD community is its technology, not a religion per say. there are a few zealots in every technology including M$. Without starting a flame war, the RTFM perception tends to prevent people from getting started. I struggled at first but found places like FreeBSD.org/handbook, freebsddiary.org, www.google.com, groups.google.com, http://lantech.geekvenue.net/chucktips/ and yes, even IRC useful. IRC tends to be a bit useful but useless at the same time, make sure you ask your questions appropriately and they tend to pound you if don't understand the concept of what your doing. Make sure you have thick skin! :)
Its a bit overwhelming at first how to get started. No assumption is too small like the fact if you expect a person to drink out of a fountain yet never even seen one, they have no idea what to do. Getting started was the hardest part for me, like when I first needed to do an ASP project in windows. I wanted to learn how to setup Windows NT 4.0/IIS 4.0. I grabbed a totally newbie book and got started. Once you have a basic conception of how the internet works, getting things to work lead to some confidence to venture further in. I bought a couple of books (Absolute BSD), FreeBSD Unleashed to help me with my BSD experience. The books were very helpful for getting started in setting up my server. The text based installer used in FreeBSD is terse, you HAVE to know your hardware also especially your NIC and video card. The one way I learned was just to do it over and over. One weekend and now i'm comfortable using the installer. the worst part about install BSD is getting X-Windows to work. (Probably 20 times installing is a bit excessive but that is how it worked for me!) Now I know how to install stuff from /stand/sysinstall, using packages, ports or downloading and compiling. The one thing that i've still not grasped but getting is totally controlling how packages, ports get installed on the filesystem. the ports are dropdead simple to install items and get working. I rebuilt my server in less than an hour from scratch installing Apache2, qmail, webmin, php, mysql. Become one with the command line and webmin doesn't hurt either (Just lock it down and use SSL)!
IPFILTER firewall setup is still overwhelming. I spent a one whole week just searching for information and examples. I understand what firewalls perform but the rules are another story. Many of the examples i ran accross assume you have a real in-depth knowledge of layer 2, layer 3 along with how network packets work. That is my perception. the basic design of the firewall I settled on is have all your allow rules first then at the end block all. This hasn't totally been a 100% perfect when testing applications, the firewall was preventing things. But when i scan the box it shows what ports i'd expect to be open. The greatest thing is BSD is setup closed.
After I got my backup mail server going, I ventured into installing PHP, mySQL, phpBB2 forums to have me a hobby site dedicated to share my experiences (http://bgeek.com). This isn't intended to compete with any of the established sites nor would I expect it. Its just plain fun to setup up a website not involving MS technology for once. I still use XP/Win2k for my desktop. My experience using *nix on the desktop is it has a ways to go (its not far off though). For a business using task based workers, *nix could be a viable solution but for now i'm sticking with MS on the desktop.
I supposed I could go with OS/X but I have XP.. Anyway before I put anyone to sleep babbling about my BSD experience, to those readying this and still feel a bit overwhelmed. Your not alone, the best thing an impatient person can have is persistance! Keep it up, look and really try before asking for help. If your looking for someone to hold your hand, that won't happen but the information is available. Visit the vendor's website, search google.com and above all try things a few times before asking. Don't be afraid to fail and deal with the errors as you go along. You'll know when you its time to venture out and ask for help. Document during your travels of looking for information, never know when it will come in handy! Keep geekin!
Bgeek'in since 1996