PC-BSD

As a fan of FreeBSD, I rediscovered PC-BSD at LinuxFest Indiana earlier this year.  When initially installing PC-BSD 9.0 on an economy laptop from 2005, I was quite very impressed the rich features and potential of this operating system.

Pros:

  • The “Push Button Installer” package management system that was designed for PC-BSD is a long time coming for the open source unix community.  Not only does it solve the horrible problems of dependency hell, it neatly consolidates application software.
  • BSD License allows for free modifications and redistribution.  This doesn’t really affect me, but it’s nice to know nonetheless.
  • The large library of free software allowed me to have office productivity with LibreOffice, surf the web with Chromium, and even video chat with (a dated Linux version of) Skype.
  • Full Linux binary compatibility is a feature of FreeBSD, which makes Linux versions of programs (such as the game Dwarf Fortress) usable.
  • Really easy and intuitive dialogues and interfaces make this operating system simple for any typical end-user to just pick up and use.  While I don’t think it’s quite as polished as an iOS device, it’s definitely a giant leap in the right direction for FreeBSD, and open source unices.

And then I found some problems:

  • Wireless was a pain to setup, but still very doable after consulting the wiki.
  • There were a lot of annoying minor issues, such as the “default browser” option didn’t seem to work.
  • Gnome 3 is not supported.  (This is due to Gnome 3 not being supported in FreeBSD and not PC-BSD specific.)  Gnome 2 feels quite dated as a GUI.  In general, PC-BSD’s AppCafe is limited by the FreeBSD Ports tree.
  • The AppCafe is not as complete or current as the FreeBSD ports tree, and the two do not work well together.

As the release of their next version, PC-BSD 9.1, approaches, they appear to be cleaning up 9.0 while providing the new upgrades from FreeBSD 9.1.  When upgrading to RC1, my laptop had a kernel panic on boot.  So I plan on trying again once the final version is released.  The biggest new feature I’m looking forward to:  Gentoo Jails - running a full Gentoo Linux operating system on top of the FreeBSD kernel.

Oh, and they’ve released a video on how to install PC-BSD.  It’s really that easy.