ned Productions Consulting

Technology musings by Niall Douglas
ned Productions Consulting
(an expert advice and services company based in Ireland)

Sunday 9th March 2014 1.39am

Unfortunately the one and only Irish company I was interviewing with rejected me on Friday. Still, first time I have ever made it to final stage interviews with any Irish employer - I guess Irish tech employers are finally waking up to the idea that open source developers actually might be comparable to corporate permies rather than being mere eccentric hobbyists with "no real experience", though they're not quite there yet obviously. I'm still taking it as a win!

During the week I received my "new" laptop from eBay imported from the US for a silly low price, that ex-corporate Dell E6410 I was talking about before, and I've been trying out system configs to see what I'll settle on as a system install for the next few years. I had really, really wanted my main install to be a dual boot Windows 8 and FreeBSD 10, mainly because FreeBSD 10 is the first really exciting FreeBSD in at least three years. Why? It's entirely built with clang 3.3 and so a bleeding edge C++11 compiler and STL come bundled without any faffing around, and you generally use ZFS as the root filing system nowadays, two key factors which are significant advantages over Kubuntu LTS which is my normal POSIX work system, especially as AFIO's eventual end goal is a transactional graph database which is particularly optimised for COW filing systems like ZFS or BTRFS. Even better, PC-BSD (PC-BSD is to FreeBSD as Kubuntu is to Linux) is now on FreeBSD 10, comes with latest KDE and a full binary package manager all on ZFS, and is remarkably competitive in features with Kubuntu 14.04 LTS which is scheduled for release in a few months. Some would even say that PC-BSD 10 is actually superior in features to Kubuntu 14.04 LTS!

I am in fact typing this from within PC-BSD 10, and I have to admit it was an absolute cinch to install and incredibly, everything just worked like NVidia graphics drivers or desktop effects or audio without hacking at it for hours like you normally have to with FreeBSD. Thanks to the ZFS and hardware graphics acceleration, the system just absolutely flies on this 2010 era laptop with its clunky old spinning hard drive - it probably won't quite match Kubuntu, but it's closer than any FreeBSD to a Linux than I've seen for many, many years (since before Ubuntu turned up actually).

The only real showstopper is the damn Wifi: FreeBSD has famously partial driver support, and really only what is installed on corporate servers is really well supported. Because corporate servers lag a few generations of technology behind, so generally does FreeBSD driver support - though, this 2010 Westmere era laptop is very well supported, but its peripherals are not so much. I can live without the 3G data card, but the lack of a working Wifi card is a problem. Mine is a Broadcom BCM4313, and getting it working without randomly hanging the system is sadly not possible.

Luckily, I have a latest generation 802.11ac wifi card on the way - mainly because I need the 5Ghz 11n support rather than 11ac itself, and that Broadcom card can't do 5Ghz. It's an Intel 7260 card which is surprisingly affordable for what it is, but being less than six months old FreeBSD support is non-existent. That said, the two main chipsets of Wifi card usually supported on FreeBSD are Atheros and Intel, so Intel 7xxx series wifi card support will turn up eventually, in fact one of the main BSD kernel developers is already on it.

The problem is, can I make do without Wifi until then?