Catching up with WordPress

I believe that it’s fairly easy to turn just about any Linux server into a WordPress installation. There is even a port of WordPress for OpenBSD. I thought that I’d try to run Movable Type on OpenBSD, but getting PHP and Perl working with the Web server looks incredibly difficult. If somebody else did this and laid out how they managed it (like How to Forge), I could probably follow along, but the difficulty of dealing with the chroot environment in OpenBSD’s default Apache Web server — which isolates the Web server’s files from the rest of the computer for security purposes — makes it extremely difficult for mortals to set up services in the Web server environment.

For a normal Web server with nothing but HTML pages (and no PHP, Perl/CGI), OpenBSD couldn’t be an easier system to use. It’s when things get more complicated that this that the non-OpenBSD geek is especially challenged.

But as I say, there is a WordPress port for OpenBSD, as well as WordPress packages for GNU/Linux systems such as Debian. I also seem to remember talk about a Movable Type package for Debian Lenny, and if it made the installation and configuration of the blogging system easier, I’d be all for it.

As it is now, between installing and configuring MySQL (or PostgreSQL), making sure PHP and Perl are running and getting all the directory permissions correctly set, putting together one of these blogging systems, even on Linux, is no trivial matter. The last time I set up Movable Type, all the MySQL issues I was having prompted me to dump it and use SQLite as my database software. At least MT gives you some options in this regard.

BSD — it’s better with books

After my less-than-successful forays into BSD, I’ve come to the conclusion that before installing, configuring and working with a BSD distro — whether it be FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, and even DesktopBSD and PC-BSD — it pays to read up on in.

With Linux, you can fake it easier. Most Linux distros ship with everything you need, and even setting up a server can be as easy as clicking the right boxes during an install.

But BSD is a different animal. The hardware support is nowhere near as comprehensive as it is for Linux, but it is possible to get it working with the hardware you have (wireless notwithstanding — BSD and wireless is something I know very little about but want to know much more).

One thing people say about BSD — it can be faster than Linux for many tasks. I don’t know how that plays out on the desktop, but for servers and other processor-intensive tasks, BSD is an attractive alternative. And the security of OpenBSD especially is legendary. So for a server, I can totally understand it.

And the BSD that went into Apple’s OS X seems to be working very, very well — multimedia is probably better on the Mac than anywhere else, so for BSD and Linux, it can be done and can perform better than Windows by far.

But when rolling your own BSD system, I think a ton of reading is what’s required. And there really isn’t a book out there that focuses on BSD desktop systems, even though there are two distros that focus on just that.

FreeBSD is the most popular BSD, from what I gather, and that’s due in no small part to the excellent FreeBSD Handbook, a free 900+ page manual that is one of the best examples of FOSS documentation I’ve seen.

And new from NoStarch Press is “Absolute FreeBSD, 2nd Edition,” by Michael W. Lucas. Check out the PDF of the table of contents. At $59.95 retail, you better hope for a deep Amazon discount on that one. From No Starch parent company O’Reilly — and for $9.95 each — are two PDF-only books, “The FreeBSD 6.2 Crash Course” and “The OpenBSD 4.0 Crash Course,” both by Jem Matzen. Both of these PDFs promise some guidance on using BSD as a desktop OS.

As I’ve written previously, OpenBSD is the only BSD to install on my Maxspeed Maxterm converted thin client (VIA C3 Samuel processor), and while I was far from getting it set up for the desktop — there was just too much to do with ports and configuration — I now look favorably on OpenBSD as a great system on which to learn BSD. The OpenBSD FAQ is quite good, though not as extensive as FreeBSD’s Handbook . I was able to do the OpenBSD installation with no problems whatsoever by consulting it keystroke by keystroke. It’s also available in text form.

I’ve been warned away from BSD by people who know more than I do. And other way-smarter people swear by the use of BSD, even on the desktop.

From my point of view, having not just one OS alternative (Linux) but many — including the various BSDs — is vitally important to all of us, both on the server and the desktop — as we go forward. I hope the people behind the various BSD distributions keep the desktop user in mind more and more in the near and far future.

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