What we learned about PacBSD

Adam Jimerson PacBSD presentation

 

Well we had another great presentation last meeting. If you missed it, Adam Jimerson gave us an enlightening presentation about PacBSD. PacBSD (formerly known as ArchBSD) is an operating system that is basically an Arch like approach to FreeBSD. It has a small but effective community of contributors and is a really interesting hybrid between Arch and FreeBSD. The most notable features and differences are listed below.

 

  • PacBSD is a rolling release
  • Uses the Arch Build System instead of Ports
  • Uses Pacman instead of Pkg
  • The project offers the PUR (PacBSD equivalent of the AUR Arch User Repository)
  • Users can choose between the FreeBSD or OpenRC init systems (which you can change on the fly)
  • It has a flattened file system (no separate base system like in FreeBSD)
  • Base and world are managed by the Pacman package manager
  • At install time, users can choose between gnu and BSD core utils.
  • Shell based installer similar to Arch Linux
  • It supports any file systems that are supported by FreeBSD or Fuse

Package Management

While FreeBSD uses Ports and pkg, PacBSD offers it's own alternatives Pacman and the Arch Build System. The Arch Build System is organized differently than Ports. It consists mainly of bash scripts instead of make files which increases readability. The ABS is exposed to end users if you want it but using the official binary packages is encouraged. Upstream signatures are verified multiple times. It also has version parity with FreeBSD ports, but only amd64 packages. Everything is open sourced and available on github.

Pacman offers it's own advantages as well. For starters, it can install to alternative directories like chroots and jails. It features a light weight simple cli. Pacman is also very good about cleaning up after itself, to the point that package upgrades can even result in freeing space. Don't worry though, config files are never touched. For the security consious, PacBSD also makes use of package and repo level gpg.  

Why FreeBSD?

PacBSD developers chose FreeBSD for good reason. They feel that FreeBSD has better memory management, code quality and standards, network stack performance, and is generally more stable and secure. They also like that it's a traditional Unix. 

Summary

If you are a fan of Arch Linux and wish you had some of the niceties of FreeBSD like first class ZFS support and jails, PacBSD seems like a great solution. It is a small project, but it stands on the shoulders of a giant with FreeBSD. The design choices put it a couple of steps away from Unix and closer to Linux, but those choices seem to have solid reasoning behind it and offer clear advantages. If you're into distro hopping, this is a scrappy little project you should keep an eye on. If nothing else, it can be a nice little BSD gateway drug for your Arch Linux using friends.

For more information, visit the project's official web site http://pacbsd.org