Initial Setup

If you are unfamiliar with Unix/Linux commands, work through this Unix tutorial. For general information about FreeBSD, The FreeBSD Handbook is usually the best place to look. For information about a specific command, man is often the most informative.

It's generally considered good form to log in from a user account, and sudo (or at least su) into root. Here, we're essentially setting up a single-user system that is only running tasks that need to be configured by root, so the value of an additional user account is questionable. It's probably best to work from a user account, if only to develop good habits, but you will be working as root user almost exclusively. If you want sudo, it has to be installed separately.

Getting Started

The first thing is to get all the available security patches and apply them:

# freebsd-update fetch

A list of the patches that have been downloaded will be returned. To install them, run:

# freebsd-update install

Now that the system is up to date, install the package management tool by typing

# /usr/sbin/pkg

We'll need to build some of our packages from source, so update your ports tree, too.

Install A Web Server

I really like nginx (pronounced 'engine-x'), and use it whenever possible as my web server. Apache is more popular and has lots of bells and whistles, but I've always found nginx to be a lot more intuitive to configure. It's known to be lightweight and excel at high loads, so if any pages were to do well on Reddit, they would likely stay up longer than if I was running Apache. The primary reason I like nginx, though, is that I have found it to be the easiest of the two to get configured.

That being said, if you'd rather run Apache, it's the most common server, so you should have no trouble finding advice or support. I'm only covering nginx for now:

# pkg install nginx

Install Python

Python 3 is the recommended language for new Python projects, but FreeBSD doesn't have apython3 binary package available yet, so we'll need to compile it ourselves. If you prefer, you can install Python 3 with pkg, but you won't get the python3 executable, so you'll have to link it yourself. Building from source is frequently required, though, so this seems like as good a time as any to get started:

# cd /usr/ports/lang/python3
# make all install clean

Virtual Environments and FreeBSD

If we were using Linux, you might want to install a Python Virtual Environment. pip for Python 3 doesn't work on FreeBSD, though, so setting up a virtual environment is kind of pointless since you have to use the system libraries anyway. I haven't had any problems when copying virtual environments from Linux to FreeBSD, but I usually prefer to use Virtual Machines where possible.

If you do want to run a virtual environment in spite of those limitations, there are a few caveats for FreeBSD:

There's no pyvenv command, so you'll have to use

$ python3 -m venv ~/project-name

When you try to activate your environment in csh, you'll get an error. source bin/activate needs to be run from bash, so you'll have to install it:

# pkg install bash

Now run bash as your user:

$ bash

You should now see your working directory before your cursor, indicating you're in bash. You should be able to activate your virtual environment now:

$ cd ~/project-name
$ source bin/activate

Install A Database Server

It seems like PostgreSQL is the cool database to use these days, since MySQL was bought by Oracle.

psycopg2 is the most popular interface to Postgres for Python. Since FreeBSD uses Python 2.7 by default, you can't just use pkg to install any Python 3 modules.

In order to get a module that will work with Python 3, it has to be built from source using make. make will also build for 2.7 by default, but by adding the PYTHON_VERSION variable, the right module will be built. The python3 port that was installed in the last section used Python 3.3 in my case:

# cd /usr/ports/databases/py-psycopg2
# make PYTHON_VERSION=3.3 all install clean

Psycopg will install a postgres-client package. You should install the -server of that version. You can tell what's installed using #pkg info | grep postgresql

I see that my system returns


so I install postgresql90-server:

# pkg install postgresql90-server

Install Django

Django is a "web framework". Web frameworks usually contain at least three components:

A URL handler takes the information that is typed into the address bar of your computer and routes it to the right place. Sometimes there might be data to be extracted from URL parameters. YouTube is a good example. In the URL, everything after is being processed by an application on YouTube's servers. watch is the name of the command it's sending the server, ? signifies the barrier between command and data, and v=hRubq5D-3kM specifies the video. Different URL parameters are usually separated by an ampersand (&).

A templating engine lets you build parts of your website separately, so you only have one copy of the header or sidebar of your site to edit if you want to change something. It also means there is only one place for a bug to occur, so it's a lot safer, too.

A database interface makes it so you only have to learn Python, and don't have to worry about writing SQL.

Other Nice Things

Django also has an admin interface, so you can edit your web app from your browser instead of your text editor.

It's also used for some of the largest scale sites around: Pinterest, Instagram, and Disqus all use Django, so if you ever hit the big time and write a billion dollar app, it will be easy (easier) to scale.

Django is also a Python package, so it will have to be built from source:

# cd /usr/ports/www/py-django
# make PYTHON_VERSION=3.3 all install clean

Install uWSGI

uWSGI is my preferred WSGI, which basically interprets Python programs for your web server. Another good option, if you don't like uWSGI for some reason, is Gunicorn.

# cd /usr/ports/www/uwsgi
# make PYTHON_VERSION=3.3 all install clean

Installing Git

Git helps you keep track of where you broke your code, and lets you go back to a point where it was working. Install it:

# pkg install git

Create a new directory to house your project and initialize a git repository there:

$ cd
$ mkdir project-name
$ cd project-name
$ git init