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PC-BSD

I tried out PC-BSD 7.0.1 under VMware Fusion on my MacBook.

From the guide:
PC-BSD is basically FreeBSD with [a modern version of KDE,] a nice installer, some pre-configuration, kernel tweaks, PBI package management, a couple pre-selected packages and some handy (GUI) utilities to make PC-BSD suitable for desktop use.
I worked on FreeBSD GUIs (both desktop and Web user interfaces) for five years. Let me tell you, I'm thankful that PC-BSD finally happened! For some reason, FreeBSD developers tend to either despise GUIs or own a Mac. Hence, it seemed to me that FreeBSD's GUI support actually got worse over the years. It's about time someone finally came along and "pulled an Ubuntu"!

Overall, I was pretty impressed. It reminds me of the early days of Ubuntu where you could see the potential, but you could also see some places that needed some polish. Here are some things I found worthy of note:

KDE looks really nice these days! It seemed a little unstable, but that could just be my setup.

I wasn't able to get the same resolution I can get in Linux under VMware, i.e. 1280x800. VMware has a ton of kernel modules for Linux that I'm guessing simply aren't available for FreeBSD. Hence, I was stuck at 1024x768.

The fonts don't look so hot on my laptop. The anti-aliasing looks wrong. There is some discussion about why this is the case here.

PC-BSD supports FreeBSD's normal packaging system and the ports system, but it also has a packaging system called PBI (Push Button Installer or PC-BSD Installer). These packages work a lot like installing a Windows application. You can find them by going to pbidir.com. You download them and then double click to install them. Uninstalling them is a lot like uninstalling a program on Windows. They even get installed into a /Programs directory instead of integrated into the normal hierarchy.

The installer gives you the opportunity to install a bunch of these PBIs. They all tend to be large applications like Firefox and OpenOffice.org. I even noticed Opera in the list. I installed pretty much everything except for Opera. I was surprised to see that it took 5.7 gigs of disk space.

In general, looking at / is a bit strange. Aside from /Programs, there's also /PCBSD and a few other surprises.

By default, the system comes with sshd installed and running, but a firewall blocking access to it (Packet Filter from OpenBSD). This is actually the opposite of Ubuntu which does not come with sshd installed, nor does it autoconfigure a firewall.

I don't use FreeBSD much these days, but if you're one of the hand full of people besides me who actually care about FreeBSD on the desktop, this is a really cool development :)

Comments

I'm trying PC-BSD 7.0.2 under VMware Fusion. While applying system updates, the system updater went away. I'm not sure how to restart it, so I figured I'd log out and back in again. As soon as I logged out, I got a gray screen in my VMware window, and it's been that way ever since. I'm not sure if this is related to VMware.

A couple days ago, when I was trying to install PC-BSD under VMware, I lost my net connectivity when it was 99% done installing software. It just froze. The advertisements shown during the installation kept showing new pictures, but no additional progress was ever made even though I had a new net connection. Unfortunately, there weren't any errors shown on any of the virtual consoles. In fact, there was no way to log into any virtual consoles to read /var/log/messages.