Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – Trying on PC-BSD…not quite a worn pair of jeans…but close

After a wildly successful install last week I thought I would step out of my comfort zone and dive into the world of BSD.  This is a realm that I have actually stayed clear of, not because I was afraid or didn’t understand the subtle and not so subtle differences between BSD and Linux but because I was happy with what I had found in Linux.  The leap over to PC-BSD this week is more about gaining an understanding of where the “other UNIX like OS has gone” in the years since I first made the leap over to Open Source.

As always I start off with my trusted Oracle VirtualBox which needed an update today and the building of a Virtual Machine that has my standard 4GB of RAM and 20GB of HDD space.  Downloading the image was surprisingly fast for a 2.1GB DVD (there were several options but I figured that the 64Bit DVD would give me the best chance to test drive a complete OS rather than having to do much work with a compiler or anything else beyond the baseline install a few extras.

The Install went smoothly (except for a few small formatting hiccups) and reminded me of the installer from Mepis a few years ago that asks all the information up front and then goes through the install process.  One thing that I did really enjoy from the LiveDVD was that I was given the choice of starting with KDE, Gnome, LXDE or XFCE which is one of the biggest reasons why I like Linux and other Open Operating systems because I have choices to customize the OS for me and that is key to keeping me happy.

I chose the Gnome Desktop Manager because personally it fits with my typical computing experience that I enjoy and keeps everything exactly where I think it should be (which is important when testing out new Operating Systems that each have their unique spin on how to put the pieces  together).

The formatting issue that I mentioned did prove to be more than a little frustrating as I attempted several installs using both the “Use Full Disk” and the “Advanced Mode” but it would not adjust to the Virtual Environment that I built and format using the ZFS or UFS file system.  I jumped onto the PC-BSD site for some assistance and found their “Handbook” and Forums to be very helpful, in fact the Handbook had a screen shot guided install process that walked me through all that I would need to know for the install and use of the base system which was a truly welcome change to many Distros having either no real documentation or limited to an active Forum.

I backed out and restarted the system with KDE and was surprised to find that the installer was missing from the desktop and from the Application Menu so I did a third restart and tried the light Desktop LXDE and while the installer was there…it would not start.  Left wondering what was actually happening I jumped back to the PC-BSD site and downloaded the 690MB CD with LXDE included and gave it a quick (luckily with a fast connection this only took a few minutes).  It would appear that I had a “slice of bad media” because first shot and everything started install just as expected and directed in the Handbook (thank goodness for fast internet connections).

The initial boot required the screen to be configured (which was a nice change than the perpetual 800X600 that I was stuck on with the LiveDVD.  Restarting to the first full initial boot took just 32 seconds and I was finally into some BSD goodness.

The OS itself took some getting used to as I am not a real big fan of the LXDE desktop experience but there was the familiar “Start Button” and included on the CD was most of the software needed to have a light production machine but there was not much beyond the basics that came pre-installed.  There was no Browser, no Office Suite and no music or Graphics Utilities.

In the initial “Welcome to PC-BSD” there was a good instruction for making use of the App Cafe but I think there is a point to be made that too much choice is not necessarily a good thing.  The basics need to be there…expecting additional installation after the commitment of the OS Install is a bit much…at least let us get online, check email and maybe build a document or two before expecting us to dive into the Install realm.  That being said though, I found the App Cafe pretty easy to use.  Some sort of rating system would help make the selection process a little easier but after about 15 minutes I had the system tweaked and ready to do what I wanted it to do…which for me…is nice as there is absolutely no bloatware that I didn’t knowingly install on the system.

Could I replace my Ubuntu Linux with PC-BSD…possibly…but without a real option for a full featured desktop like Gnome or KDE available from the App Cafe…I am not sure that I could recommend it to a beginning Linux User.  Choice is good…I am all for that…but at a balance.  Overall I would say that for an intermediate user, PC-BSD is a fine VM…but as a daily driver…I am not sure if I could endorse it fully.  As for how close to the magical Dozen Donuts…well we took a step backwards this week and I can only give it:

What is on the agenda for the coming week…well there are radical changes coming to all things Krispy…where it will go…I still don’t know but the future does look brighter than it has in a long long time.  The design changes to the site are coming along nicely and my work with Toastmasters is really starting to take shape…I look forward to what tomorrow holds…and each day after that.


Chris J Powell


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