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       If you are new to open source software, then some fine sites to visit are here, here, here, here, and here. Tons of open source apps at links two and three, for Mac and Windows respectively.

       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).

       After reading a very not-nice review of DesktopBSD a couple of weeks ago, and in light of the fact that I just adore PC-BSD, it's a bit strange that I would be reviewing it here.

       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.

Originally posted to fareast on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 03:37 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips/Desktop/BSD (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for reading!

    Don't fear the Tux. Use Ubuntu

    by fareast on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 03:33:29 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the BSD coverage! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fareast, possum

    I've always been a fan of FreeBSD, but have stuck with Linux because I was afraid that I'd miss it's larger support community. Thanks to your coverage on PC-BSD, I'm now seriously considering giving it a try.

    Btw, what do you mean that FreeBSD doesn't have a "modern day window manager running on it"? Does it have one at all, and if it does, which one? IIRC, it used to come with Gnome, but I may be wrong.

    Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

    by rogun on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 04:10:53 AM PDT

    •  well, I mostly meant that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rogun, rapala, possum

      traditionally FreeBSD has been used as a server, and not a desktop solution; certainly you can get a window manager running no problem, but my understanding was that most server gurus ran their systems headless, i.e., which I take to mean without a monitor. FreeBSD is nice, and if I had the time, I would compile KDE from source (or GNOME); this setup allows you to skip that. PC-BSD is sweet, and when they sync it with the current iteration of FreeBSD (6.2), I may make it my full time system. This will happen sometime this summer, when they release the installable version of 1.4 (currently Alpha liveCD only w/o option to install).

      Don't fear the Tux. Use Ubuntu

      by fareast on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 04:16:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My Only Complaint About FreeBSD (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rogun, fareast

        Is that it's a pain in the neck to get OpenOffice working under BSD 6.*.  That one defect made me give up FreeBSD, which is such a nice distribution otherwise...good driver support, autoinstall works great, easy (although slightly idiosyncratic) disk setup...

      •  I see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Looking at the documentation confirms what you said; that FreeBSD comes with no DE/WM by default. But it does come with xorg, and KDE and/or Gnome can be installed over the network by running "pkg_add -r Gnome2/KDE", so it's not required that they're compiled from source. This is a bit more trouble, but it doesn't sound like it's very difficult.

        Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

        by rogun on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 10:11:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  right; (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and after reading farmergiles comment, I have amended the diary--seems easy, if you are comfortable downloading stuff from the command line--I'm not quite there yet, though it is certainly very doable, as you point out.

          Don't fear the Tux. Use Ubuntu

          by fareast on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 10:18:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sorry (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I logged on and responded before checking out the updates. I noticed farmergiles comment immediately after posting and then realized that this had already been covered.

            Btw, you mention down below that you're near Asia? The way you often end your comments with "Cheers" has me wondering if you're in Australia?

            Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

            by rogun on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 10:52:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I can install... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rogun, fareast

    FreeBSD on an old Dell laptop and have a GUI working in about 2 hrs, counting download time. Probably quicker if I have CDs in hand, since I typically install over the Internet. A total of about 45 minutes actual work, including installing and configuring X and fvwm2 instead of Gnome.

    I've been using FreeBSD since about '97. It used to be a true chore just to install the OS, nevermind X. It's gotten much better over the years. Both the BSD group and xorg group have done a lot of great work in making it easier.

    I seldom compile from source unless there's problem with a package.

    I had not run a BSD desktop for 3 or 4 years but needed one for work. I was very surprised at how easy it was to get 6.2 up and running. I was a bit rusty and did have to consult the excellent Handbook a few times. All in all it was a painless experience. Sorry you have/had such trouble with it.

    I always have a couple of BSD servers around running Samba and other network services. I usually find it easier to work on a Unixized Windows desktop.

    I'm interested in trying one of these Desktop versions.

    Interesting point, though -- Neither Unbuntu nor Gentoo would load on this particular laptop. FreeBSD loaded without a hitch.

    •  thanks for the story! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Interesting that you could get it going so fast. The walkthrough I read said that you needed to compile the window manager from source, my bad--I'm a total and complete newb when it comes to FreeBSD.
      I was able to get as far as installing everything up to X, and as you said, through the internet. PC-BSD is the way to go, especially once they release 1.4 (with the FreeBSD 6.2 undercarriage) sometime this summer; great for being able to use the full power, simplicity and flexibility of a full-fledged FreeBSD, but a bunch of packages easily installed for stuff that you might otherwise might not want to compile from source.

      Don't fear the Tux. Use Ubuntu

      by fareast on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 09:34:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just a suggestion: I have a feeling that you... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rogun, fareast

    may live on the East Coast, judging by the times you usually post your Linux themed diaries, either that, or you are an really early riser.

    Problem is, many of us live on the West Coast (and in between). and by the time we rise, get our coffee, and log on to d-Kos, your posts are usually already well down the list (someday, you be a regular on the Red List, but until then.....), and depending on how one has their page pre-sets configured, it may have already fallen off completely.

    As a suggestion, perhaps you might post your diaries later in the day, so more could enjoy your posts, and in an effort to let as many as possible see your diaries.

    I know many could change their page set-ups so it shows more diaries when they log on to the FP, but many won't do this. I WANT as many people as possible to see your great diaries, and to convert to Linux, hence my suggestion.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

    NO MORE DYNASTIES! No more triangulation! No more lies! No more war! No more corporatists! ELECT PROGRESSIVES NOW!

    by Hornito on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 08:19:07 AM PDT

  •  Sometimes, there can be TOO many choices.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rogun, fareast

    Then again, some say there are never enough.

    I sometimes think that the sheer volume of open source/Linux distros, updates, etc. these days, is leading to confusion for the majority "non-geek" computer user. This has the effect of scaring some people away from the idea of entertaining an alternative OS completely, as they throw up their hands in confused disgust, and log onto Windows once again.

    Despite the fact many like the idea of being a "pioneer" of sorts, and trying new things, when faced with bumps in the road, many instead will revert to the path of least resistance, and go crawling back to Bill Gates.

    Hopefully, the distro ranks will thin over time (I know this is contrary to the open source community's thinking, but there can sometimes be too much of a good thing), with the winners being those systems that are free, easy to install, complete (with all needed applications and drivers), and delivered with common sense, easy to understand (ie: non-geek speak) instructions.

    Until that day happens, and it's getting closer every day, Linux et al is destined to remain the province of geekers, and those with the time on their hands to learn all these new things.

    In the meantime, thanks for your efforts to enlighten everyone, and encouraging them to think "outside the box". It's healthy!

    NO MORE DYNASTIES! No more triangulation! No more lies! No more war! No more corporatists! ELECT PROGRESSIVES NOW!

    by Hornito on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 08:38:55 AM PDT

    •  you make a valid point again; (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hornito, rogun

      and I think that I agree in spirit with what you are saying, but I feel that the diversity is a strength, in that there's no way to exterminate that many pests if there always new ones springing up! At least that's the way that MS and co see Linux, and I feel that Ubuntu will become the standard bearer for simple to use/come on in for those who are overwhelmed with choice--founder Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu) has asked KDE GNOME and Open Office to try to synchronize their releases in a six month cycle, just as Ubuntu does, to make it easier for the major distros to include them in their latest releases more easily.
      As for the rec list (per comment above); well, while that would be nice, and It'd be fun to see it--got real close one time--it always just seems to elude these little diaries; that's fine, as I do this not for the recognition, but in the spirit of sharing with and hoping that the community (DKos, that is) can benefit from them at some point if they wish.

      Don't fear the Tux. Use Ubuntu

      by fareast on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 09:44:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree that diversity is strength (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hornito, fareast

        Hornito does make a good point, but when you think about it, one distro or another has always risen above all others as the popular choice for a desktop. Redhat, and then Mandrake, seemed to dominate for several years, and now Ubuntu seems to have taken over that throne. On the other hand, there are more choices then ever today, and perhaps even more important, these choices offer a more viable alternative for an easy-to-install linux desktop.

        Now seems like a good time for one distro to rise above all others, to set itself apart like never seen before, but I wonder if the open-source framework makes this more difficult. Because, if a particular distro comes out with some great improvements, then they're either shared with others or boycotted by those who resent it for not doing so. The way I see it, Linux benefits either way, so I see this as an advantage.

        Democrats -- Progress for the Working Class

        by rogun on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 10:42:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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