I know, I know. FreeBSD is a Unix-like OS, and not a Linux distribution (commonly called a distro); just so used to titling all these diaries as Linux, so pardon me (or at least commute my sentence).
Still the hunger to try out some new and untried open source system got the better of me, and I downloaded the latest release (using Transmission, an excellent torrent client), 1.6, just to see what the deal really was. I installed the system under vmware-server, allotting 256M ram, and a bit over 2G hard drive space, just to make things more interesting.
The idea behind DesktopBSD is the same as that of PC-BSD; to make an easily installable version of the FreeBSD open source operating system through a graphical interface, coupled with a nice shiny front end to run it all on. This is significant because FreeBSD, while not that difficult to get up and running, is a considerable time hog when you want to get a modern day window manager running on it, i.e., downloading and compiling KDE from source (a huge package), with a conservative estimate being anywhere from fifteen to twenty hours just for that alone.
I have to admit that by setting up the specs so tough, that I kind of wanted DesktopBSD to choke; I'm really into the way that PC-BSD has their pbi directory set up with the install wizards, plus the ability to use the traditional ports method of FreeBSD to update your system, that I didn't want to see anything endangering that crown.
Sadly, I was let down. If anything, DesktopBSD is easier and faster to setup than PC-BSD, and the speed that it showed with so little ram was nothing less than astonishing. I pulled up Firefox, surfed over to youtube and Flash was working out of the box; opened up a BBC news story and scrolled around, and it was very smooth.
One thing sorely lacking in the install were any office suite apps of note--no open office, no abiword or gnumeric or really anything; considering that DesktopBSD is just FreeBSD with the nice desktop, and no pbi directory like PC-BSD, means that if you want open office you need to compile it from source, just like in a normal,vanilla FreeBSD.
Just to be clear: it's not some huge nightmare to compile apps from the ports; it's simply time-consuming, and if you want to get that system up and running for a friend, granny, yourself, or whoever, then half a day is not acceptable for some of the larger packages. That is, many hours for each and every package that you want to install. It's a relatively simple set of commands to issue in the command line, and both PC-BSD and DesktopBSD have a nice graphical interface for using the ports tree to download and compile packages, as both systems are FreeBSD (6.1 for PC-BSD 1.3x, 6.2 for DesktopBSD); you can do it, I can do it, granny likely could do it, but who has the time?
This is not some 'FreeBSD will be ready for the desktop when..' type of observations; I have FreeBSD 6.2 install CDs, and if I wanted to take the time, I am certain I could get them up and running. It's a bit like the argument that adherents of Gentoo make when they say how they can compile a system that fits their machines exactly--Gentoo using a similar package handler called the portage system; while that is without a doubt correct, getting to that lean, mean machine takes a heck of a lot of time, time better spent (at least in my case) trying out new distros and writing about them, from the perspective of a new and still relatively inexperienced person in the open source world.
Update: apparently, you can install a pre-compiled package of a window manager for just straight up vanilla FreeBSD, but then I am as newb as newb can be when it comes to FreeBSD or any of the BSDs. My mistake, and thanks to commentator farmergiles below. You folks always save me from my worst mistakes, and I usually learn more from the comments than I do from installing (or trying to install) these various projects. Cheers!
Does the system have the ability to do what I want it to do without a huge amount of effort, those things being: playing music, surfing the web (Flash included), using email, watching vids, and a bit of eye-candy thrown in, or at least some of the shiny on a slower machine? If the answer is yes to those simple requirements, then we have a winner, and a system that I want to install to my machine. Joe Sixpack/Average User can use Windows Vista if that is what is best for him, and I'm none the worse for wear.
And PC-BSD, with the ability to do both the traditional compile from source, as well as offering the packages through their nifty pbi directory has DesktopBSD beat in this category. Make no mistake, DesktopBSD is an excellent system that offers all the strength and flexibility of a vanilla FreeBSD setup with a huge time savings, it's just that PC-BSD is that brilliant, and in comparison, there simply is none.
Well, this is just too good to pass up: it seems that the MPAA set up a site (actually their proxy MediaSentry did so) to nab copyright infringers; the insult of insults--no Linux client. The 'client' you download installs some spyware that scans your hard drive for copyrighted material, then phones home, all without telling you. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.