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First Look: FreeBSD 9.0 On Intel Sandy Bridge

Michael Larabel

Published on 18 November 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 11 Comments

When recently having a ZaReason notebook in the office for Linux testing, the release candidate of PC-BSD/FreeBSD 9.0 was tested on this Intel Core i7 "Sandy Bridge" notebook and its performance compared to Ubuntu 11.10.

While lots of Sandy Bridge hardware has been around at Phoronix, getting FreeBSD to work on the latest-generation Intel platform has been a nuisance. For systems with Intel HD 2000/3000 Sandy Bridge graphics, there is not any mainline support. There has been the effort to port the Intel KMS/DRM Linux driver to the FreeBSD kernel along with providing user-space xf86-video-intel support, with targeting Sandy Bridge BSD enablement, but that is still a work in progress. The Intel KMS support probably will not land until FreeBSD 10.0. Even loading the VESA driver with Sandy Bridge can be troublesome. As I reported in August, Sandy Bridge on BSD is largely a mess. When ignoring the graphics, I have had Intel SNB systems that would hang on booting the FreeBSD kernel due to the Firewire controller. There have also been UEFI issues with booting FreeBSD 9.0 development installations.

Fortunately, the ZaReason notebook (a rebranded Compal PBL21) with its Intel Core i7 2630QM "Sandy Bridge" mobile processor there is NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M graphics. With NVIDIA graphics, which are well supported under FreeBSD thanks to the binary NVIDIA driver, and this system not having any other FreeBSD compatibility issues, it was a relatively pleasant experience installing PC-BSD 9.0 RC1.

This notebook also had a 128GB Super Talent SSD and 8GB of RAM. The FreeBSD 9.0-RC1 64-bit kernel with KDE SC 4.6.5, X.Org Server 1.7.7, GCC 4.2.2, Clang 3.0, the NVIDIA 285.05.09 binary driver, and a ZFS file-system comprised the PC-BSD 9.0-RC1 stack on this ZaReason notebook. Its performance was compared to Ubuntu 11.10.

On the following pages are these initial Intel Sandy Bridge results on PC-BSD/FreeBSD 9.0. More benchmarks will come once FreeBSD 9.0 is officially released. There are also new releases of DragonflyBSD and OpenBSD to check out too.

While not "open", Oracle Solaris 11 does have better Sandy Bridge support and Oracle did port the Intel KMS/DRI2 driver to the SunOS 5.11 kernel, complete with HD 3000 graphics support. The other OpenSolaris-derived operating systems struggle with their hardware support and graphics similar to the BSDs.

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