All of our FreeBSD VPS services come with the ports tree pre-installed. These are third-party applications that have been adapted to be used in FreeBSD. They cover an extremely diverse range of functions including accessibility, graphics, multimedia, networking operations, browsing, science and engineering and more.
This means that if you want to do something specific in FreeBSD you probably won’t need to do much work in order to get those functions and features. Depending on your level of familiarity with programming and FreeBSD you can choose how to install these programs. If you’re more tech-savvy and know your way around major programming languages then you might be interested in installing the source code for the programs, either from the ports tree or by installing it on your own separate from the ports tree.
When you install a port from the ports tree, you are basically running an ‘autorun’ type script that will download the source code of the program, compile, and install it locally. If you’re not familiar with a Makefile and compiling source code into binaries then you may be more interested in the Packages collection which allows you to directly install the binaries (executables) and not worry about doing the compiling and installation process. The collections allow you to directly install the applications from local media or directly from the network so you don’t need to worry about storing everything locally if you don’t need it.
The major benefits to installing from Packages include: smaller download, faster installation, no need to compile. The major benefits for installing from the Ports collections include: ability to tweak the performance and options of the applications and able to build-in specific functions that might not be activated in a pre-compiled binary.
Finally, both Ports and Packages are dependency aware which means they know what they need to function properly and can tell you or install the libraries as they need. This means that you should almost always be able to get up and running with the new applications in no time flat. Good Luck!
For more information see the FreeBSD Handbook:
- Chapter 4 Installing Applications: Packages and Ports