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Operating Systems Software BSD IT

24-hour Test Drive of PC-BSD 285

An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica has a concise introduction to PC-BSD, a FreeBSD derivative that emphasizes ease of use and aims to convert Windows users. The review describes the installation process, articulates the advantages of PC-BSD,and reveal some of the challenges that the reviewer faced along the way. From the article: 'In the end, I would suggest this distribution to new users provided they had someone to call in case of a driver malfunction during installation. I would also recommend PC-BSD to seasoned Unix users that have never tried using FreeBSD before and would prefer a shallower learning curve before getting down to business.'"
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24-hour Test Drive of PC-BSD

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  • by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:16PM (#19569885)
    ..who read that as 24hrs of Blue Screen of Death testing? :(
  • But when I did (usually FreeBSD) I always found it a quick and easy and once installed it was very fast. Linux always gave me more problems but to be fair I generally didn't care about getting sound drivers and maxing out the video drivers etc with FreeBSD since it was almost always a server.
    • Yeah, I too think that FreeBSD is itself quite painless and very nice to work with (I use it on my laptop), but that's speaking as someone who likes Unix in all its Unixy glory. However, is there really a need for PC-BSD? If someone wants a user-friendly POSIX system, there are tons of Linux distros out there.

      In my mind, the good thing with BSD is that it hasn't cared about all that, and always tried to stay Unix. If someone wants a user-friendly system, I really don't think they care whether it runs Linu

  • by skeevy ( 926052 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:17PM (#19569915)

    Isn't that a Mac?

    Flame On!

  • by toofast ( 20646 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:18PM (#19569929)
    Seems everyone is in the business of making a user-friendly OS. No one has yet understood that we have tons of user-friendly OSes and that the OS is not the problem?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rm999 ( 775449 )
      I am still waiting for a user-friendly FREE OS.

      I tried to install Ubuntu last week, and it couldn't figure out my monitor's resolution of 1920x1200 (a pretty common one nowadays). After an hour of fiddling with it and reading technical advice on forums, I accidentally crashed the X-server and could no longer log into the GUI.

      That is far from user friendly
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DogDude ( 805747 )
        Yeah, I'm waiting for a user-friendly FREE car. Let's see who gets their wish first, huh?
        • by mike2R ( 721965 )
          Hmm, the hasn't happened yet vs the impossible...

          You wouldn't fancy a little wager would you?
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Actually it has happened...the user friendly free OS, that is. About a year before they were bought out, Be Inc. released a free version of BeOS R5. I can honestly say that was the easiest-to-learn OS I've ever installed or run, and I've been playing with alternative OSes for about 12 years now. Yes, the version they gave away was meant to run from within a Windows virtual drive, but it was trivial -- even, dare I say it? User-friendly -- to install it to a real partition or even as the only OS on the syste
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @05:23PM (#19570963)
        I am still waiting for a user-friendly PROPRIETARY OS.

        I tried to install Windows last week, and it required special drivers to recognize the hard drive. Worse than that, it demanded I enter all kinds of activation keys and jump through various hoops just to get work done. It also didn't include an office suite (a pretty common productivity tool nowadays). After an hour of fiddling with it and reading the useless quickstart guide, I accidentally got infected with malware and could no longer use the computer.

        That is far from user friendly. In fact, I would almost say that it was user-hostile.

        Of course, different people have different definitions of 'friendly.'
      • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
        I've recently run into problems installing debian and ubuntu on a machine at home, and two at work. After the whole process of installation, I got error code 16 when grub loaded( IIRC -- it was some even 'teenage' number, maybe 12 ).

        At home I was frustrated, decided that Linux was *still* not ready for the desktop, and loaded something else ( this was maybe 6 months to a year ago).

        Recently at work, I loaded Debian Etch ( 4.0 ), and got the same problem on two machines with the same hardware specs. The s
      • You have to edit your xorg.conf file--yes, that is not very friendly. Ubuntu's hardware recognition is not the best; in my experience SUSE does a better job with this. I can make the necessary edits in a few minutes, but I have spent lots of time reading the man page for xorg.conf--not friendly at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rakishi ( 759894 )
      Maybe you have a different definition of "user friendly." Lets see what my experiences are:

      -Gentoo: Only took me a combined (installed it maybe 3 times) 3 days, 7 tries and 2 forum searches (for getting around a bug in the install process) to get running. Worked fine but one I wanted to try wouldn't install period.

      -Debian: Worked fine mostly, a lot of manual stuff and the docs downright suck (compared to Gentoo with its forums). That is till I tried getting suspend mode working only to have it keep locking
      • by griffjon ( 14945 )
        Don't forget:

        -Mac OSX - pricey, but seems to just work.
        • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @05:10PM (#19570745)

          Mac OSX - pricey, but seems to just work.

          Not if you're trying to install it on a PC.

      • by JerkBoB ( 7130 )
        Maybe you have a different definition of "user friendly." Lets see what my experiences are:

        I love these kinds of posts. "I have tried 14 different Linux distros and they all suck and why can't stuff just work and oh by the way I have some screwball hardware that maybe 200 other people in the world still use."

        Moral of the story: Shitty hardware == shitty results.
        • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
          They failed to work on a new Via Epia which is used quite extensively by people or the problems were not hardware related. Before that I used an Athlon XP system with linux on once again hardware that was quite popular at the time, linux mostly worked fine on that minus some occasional problems (suse had network and mouse cursor bugs, it only 7 hours of my time to fix that).

          Also anytime windows does not have the same problems it doesn't much matter how unique the hardware is, linux does worse for that h
        • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
          Also since you apparently have trouble reading let me repeat what the last item in the list says: WINDOWS. I mean I never even knew windows was a linux distro, thanks for enlightening me.

          If your fanboy mind can't take criticism of your oh so precious linux then too bad for you.
        • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @06:16PM (#19571697)

          Moral of the story: Shitty hardware == shitty results.
          That's only true if you define "shitty hardware" as "hardware that doesn't work well (or at all) in Linux".

          There's a lot of great hardware that is extremely poorly supported under Linux. Certainly, that's not the fault of Linux or its developers, but it's absurd to pretend it's just "shitty hardware".
      • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @05:03PM (#19570651) Journal
        I think your computer is broken.
        • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
          The computers work fine (yes this was done across 3 different systems), I don't see how any of my problems were due to the hardware. The Gentoo problems were noted by other people as well or are simply part of the nature of the beast. The Ubuntu one is also well known and I can even tell you exactly which kernel option needs to be changed. The debian death was an odd ball and not something I blame on the OS itself but the suspend mode problems seems purely software (getting it to even run was a downright p
          • by hahiss ( 696716 )
            Given your description of what happens when you use your computer, on what grounds exactly can you say that they "work fine"? What evidence do you have?

            It seems to me that the best you can say is that, since other people are having the same OS problems (with different hardware?), it doesn't seem to be the hardware; nevertheless, you don't seem to have any independent evidence that the hardware is fine.
      • by SETIGuy ( 33768 )

        Ubuntu: I had a lot of hope for this one. That is till it failed to start up after installing because the kernel was not compatible with my system (via epia). Of course this has been known for 6 months, no solutions were given anywhere and no notices were given during the install itself. I do not have time to recompile a kernel so I said F it.

        It could be worse. It could have worked. I decided to try Ubuntu on my new home backup server. Setup was easy enough the first time around. I was able to set up

    • It is much easier than creating OS-friendly users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by suv4x4 ( 956391 )
      Seems everyone is in the business of making a user-friendly OS. No one has yet understood that we have tons of user-friendly OSes and that the OS is not the problem?

      How about you shut up, and go do something, versus tell other people what NOT to do.

      I'm a Windows user who runs Linux servers (not very good at the latter, especially without my admin), and when I saw this article advertising shallower learning curve for Windows users, I downloaded it. And I plan to evaluate it and very likely use it.
    • So your argument is "we have a user-friendly OS, now make something else?" I didn't select the OS based on user-friendliness, that was just a nice perk (and no, neither do most people, Ubuntu is arguably more user friendly in the sense that I've installed it for 60 year old women and got fewer questions than for their windows installs, but people still use windows because it's more widespread and more programs run on it). Damn that parenthesised sentence was long.
    • by WED Fan ( 911325 )

      I want apps; Free, $$$, Open, Closed, Install-a-take-over-the-world, I just want fucking apps that I will USE. That means, Windows or Apple. Until I see an aisle at the store or the box says, "CD includes installer for Windows and BSD and Linux" I'm going to stay on my Windows machine and occassionally install a Linux VM to see if anything has improved.

      I want more commercial apps. Screw your socio-economic fanboy crapolla. It may feel good, but if it doesn't do what I want and how I want it to, then I'm no

  • PC-BSD us a pretty friendly name, but I think I would have gone for uBSunDto.
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:25PM (#19570015) Homepage
    I tried this out recently after being given a disc at a linux fest. It's pretty nice. The guy giving out the discs explained that when you install applications, the applications come bundled with all of their dependencies included. This makes the apps use a little bit more disc space, but avoids the issue of two apps requiring two incompatible dependencies. That's pretty nice.

    The downside, at least a couple months ago, was that the disc is an install disc rather than a live one. I think he said it takes over the whole drive as well, but I won't swear to that and it may have changed since then. Anyway, I had it in parallels for a while and although it wasn't enough to convince me to abandon ubuntu, I will say that installing software was brain dead easy -- not that synaptic is hard, but with synaptic you do need to know the name of what you want. With PC-BSD, you just pick from a menu of shiny icons and descriptions.
    • The guy giving out the discs explained that when you install applications, the applications come bundled with all of their dependencies included. This makes the apps use a little bit more disc space, but avoids the issue of two apps requiring two incompatible dependencies. That's pretty nice.

      This is something that's always puzzled me anyway. Unix in general, at least on systems with shared libraries (everyone now) generally specifies version numbers in the libraries. So there's nothing stopping you (in the

      • by Dan Ost ( 415913 )
        Gentoo allows packages to have "slotted" versions. For example, I've got 3 different versions of python installed currently and seven different versions of automake. Many libraries have slots, but the slot resolution depends on the judgment of whomever wrote the ebuilds (I think).
      • The FreeBSD ports system seems not to have this issue, although it does have the opposite problem; that I frequently get into the state where I have several versions of a library installed because I have other ports that depend on them. The only way of cleaning that up is to re-build the apps that depend on the old library and link them to the new one, unless the library authors kept binary compatibility between versions (somewhat uncommon in Free Software).
      • by misleb ( 129952 )
        You still need to maintain all those different versions of the libraries and keep them in a repositories. And if you are not careful, it coudl get out of hand really fast. And what about security updates and such? Do you have to backport security patches to every single minor version of lib X in your repository? It is a lot of work and can really bog down a distribution.

        Might as well just give up an dynamic libraries altogether can go back to static binaries, eh?

        The problem is that the "base" for Linux and
        • This is, in my opinion, the biggest weakness in "free" desktops. Lack of standards, consistency, and backwards compatibility.

          Windows has the same lack of standards and consistency. Windows application developers' solution is to bundle the MFC library with the application in most cases. Same is true of visual basic programs; if you want to be sure your program will run on the user's machine you must bundle the runtimes.

        • It's also one of the greatest strengths, cf. number of viruses on free software vs. "monoculture" systems.
    • Actually, (If I recall correctly) Ubuntu has something similar in it's applications menu. It lists a number of popular applications by type and lets you install them with a single click (and typing in the administrator password, of course).
    • Anyway, I had it in parallels for a while and although it wasn't enough to convince me to abandon ubuntu, I will say that installing software was brain dead easy -- not that synaptic is hard, but with synaptic you do need to know the name of what you want. With PC-BSD, you just pick from a menu of shiny icons and descriptions

      In Ubuntu, go to the Applications Menu to Add/Remove. There is a list, broken down into categories, of many different programs you can install like you describe (although I haven't se

  • Learning curve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:26PM (#19570043) Journal

    I would also recommend PC-BSD to seasoned Unix users that have never tried using FreeBSD before and would prefer a shallower learning curve before getting down to business.

    I don't know... I always thought the learning curve for FreeBSD was pretty shallow. I used GNU/Linux for years before trying FreeBSD, and Linux distributions were all over the board; you never knew what bizarre software configuration you were going to get, or how the system was going to behave or configure. Even after steady use, Linux confused the hell out of me. When I tried FreeBSD, it took a little effort to learn the basics of managing the system: installing, updating, removing software packages. After that it was easy street. Tweaking the base system conf files was obvious... a little too obvious. They say editing text files isn't "intuitive", but this is as close as it gets. For the stuff you can't figure out, the documentation is complete and readily accessible.

    Having a front end that helps you autoconfig stuff doesn't actually lesson the learning curve, but in my opinion steepens it. When the autoconfig goes wrong, you're pretty much stuck without a clue.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bluesman ( 104513 )
      This mirrors my experience. If FreeBSD were a Linux distribution, everyone would be using it. It's just that well put together, and documented.

      • Personally, I think that the docs are the "make or break" point for FreeBSD, as well as BSD in general. Very well laid out and well written top-level stuff, the online man pages are excellent, and the GNU man/info schizophrenia is generally limited to the toolchain.

        Sadly, I think that's the problem with an "easy to use" FreeBSD: The differences that matter for those of us who love the system really aren't going to matter to someone new to *nix. It's just like having an Ubuntu box.
  • by ProppaT ( 557551 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:26PM (#19570051) Homepage

    Go back to the drawing board with the name. Windows users want something simple sounding. Putting BSD, Linux, or some pun based on the names of a Linux distribution in the title isn't going to help. In fact, it's probably going to hurt because Linux and BSD sound difficult and dorky. You use Linux and BSD as a selling point when people don't want Linux or BSD. Don't go out of your way to advertise it as a Linux or BSD project, make it look like something other than BSD or Linux, and go from there. As someone who works with marketing, it just always blows my mind that one of the simplest things the OS community could do, give a project an easy, accessible, and non-dorky name, is never even attempted.
    • Exactly. We should have less dorky and accessible names, like OSX, OS/2, Windows XP, PS/2, and DOS. BSD is just so outrageous!
    • I have to agree with you. I switched my brother to a Linux-based system a while back. He uses his digital camera quite a bit. The first thing that confused him was not needing to install the Windows software from his camera's CD. He got over that. However, in Windows, he used Adobe's Photoshop Elements. He wanted to know what to use to edit his pictures on the new system. I still remember his response, "Gimp? Gimp? You want me to use a program called Gimp? Why would I use a program whose name means crippled
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ant P. ( 974313 )
        Give him krita instead. As a side-benefit from not being able to complain about the name, he won't be able to complain about the window layout either.
    • What, like Windows XP or OSX don't sound as dorky as PC-BSD?
  • by Life700MB ( 930032 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:28PM (#19570073)

    Official PCBSD web [] and download page [].

    The easiest way to earn money with your web [].
  • As always I am baffled by the hardware platform. Clearly cost is not an issue for this test. Which means that any other factor is the driver. Security? Personal preference? Certainly not compatibility. So with this test and with any other, Ubuntu, Linspire, etc etc etc the point is not going to be the cost of the desktop and we can simply ignore the cost of Vista when looking at any head to head to comparison.
  • by athloi ( 1075845 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:47PM (#19570401) Homepage Journal

    I've already got VMs out the nose with different OSs I just had to try. The PC-BSD folks make one readily available at the following location:

    PC-BSD VMWare Image []

    I recommend this method of trying out new OSs, or avoiding corrupting your computer's virtue by installing one is made by whichever large West Coast corporation you dislike.

    • It installed nicely for me under Parallels 3 on my company's MacBook Pro. However, once up and running, the display was set to 1280x1024 and would not change, which means I had to scroll just to see the whole desktop on my 1440x900 screen. I'd go to the control panel, set it to 1024x768, press OK or apply (I tried both) and it would bounce me out to the login screen, and when I logged back in, I was still at 1280x1024. I can't log into the GUI as root (not allowed) to see if that makes a difference, nor cou
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @04:54PM (#19570521) Homepage

    From the article: 'In the end, I would suggest this distribution to new users provided they had someone to call in case of a driver malfunction during installation.
    Just earlier today, I had to replace a failed HD. The replacement drive was empty leaving me to reinstall. I chose not to use the restore method that automatically installs all drivers and crap software that the machine ships with. Instead, I installed only the OS and the minimal apps needed for the job. One problem with that approach.

    If this machine had been acquired without OS and the user, instead, decided to buy WindowsXP separately, this user would have had the same problems I had. In my case, the video device wasn't detected, the sound device wasn't detected and the network device wasn't detected. A beginner would also need to rely on someone with experience to get those issues resolved.

    I have rather become accustomed to the idea of loading the OS and resolving driver and other hardware configuration issues as part of the installation process. It's the same in Windows as it is for Linux. (Not usually the case with Mac, but they control both the hardware AND the software and there's good reason for that.) The exceptions for this are when a hardware maker cobbles his own OS+Apps+Driver installation software to match the hardware or when, by some uncommon scenario, all hardware in the configuration is identified and supported by whatever comes with the OS. (It happens but it's rare.)

    It shouldn't be said about Linux or Windows or *BSD that an expert or experienced user should be available in case of trouble as if this were a problem exclusive to it or to other OSes. It should be said because it's generally true of all.
  • I've heard that what users care about is applications, and that is why even though Ubuntu is clearly ahead of Windows in many categories, it still hasn't crossed over to mass desktop use. I don't think that is true, because most of the applications people use for basic productivity are loaded on to Ubuntu already.
    What seems to be the new stumbling block is peripherals. Its about whether you can hook up a digital camera, an ipod, or an all in one machine, and and have it work out of the box.
    And so, is there
  • by joe 155 ( 937621 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @05:24PM (#19570977) Journal
    I've given this one a go. I'm mainly a linux man myself. I'm no stranger to the command line and often find bash the easiest way to fix problems with linux. This however did not give me any grounding for this BSD. Maybe this is just my fault... I suppose I should have been expecting some troubles. I think the biggest issue I had was with updating software. I wanted to upgrade firefox from the version that came on the DVD I was given (I think that it was or something.

    The first thing I thought of was going to the firefox site and see if they had an installer for BSD but couldn't find one. Then I decided to search online to see if there was an easy way to do it. The thing I looked at suggested cd-ing into the directory /.../www/firefox (that might be wrong, but you get the idea) and then type "make install clean". I tired to do that and just got loads of text output which didn't seem to be going anywhere. After about 15 mins I decided to kill that and look around.

    I found another site which listed the 9 ways he'd tried to update firefox and how in the end none of them work properly. He got flamed in the comments on his blog with comments calling him an ignorant n00b etc. (which would be an image which would put me off going on the forums... or at least make me nervous). In the end I decided that it'd just be a hell of a lot less of a headache to go back to fedora and do "yum update" to update the whole system - there's even a GUI if thats your thing.

    So if you think that I've missed something really obvious about this OS or that I've got it totally wrong, you could be right... it doesn't really matter. It still highlights the fact that it just isn't a "user friendly windows alternative" in the same way that a lot of linuxes are.
    • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @06:12PM (#19571643)
      I think the path you meant was /usr/ports/www/firefox. And the reason the compilation was taking forever was most likely because there were a ton of dependencies.

      You could also try doing "pkg_add -r firefox" which will attempt to fetch the binary packages necessary from a mirror, that way you won't have to wait for everything to be compiled... Of course, this applies to FreeBSD but I assume it's pretty much similar on PC-BSD.


  • by mixenmaxen ( 857917 ) <max AT maximise DOT dk> on Tuesday June 19, 2007 @05:53PM (#19571419) Homepage

    I was able to boot into safe mode, log in as root, remount the filesystem as read-write, and try to edit my xorg.conf file. In safe mode, I found that something was wrong with the line terminations when using vi, so I had to use less to view the files and then construct a sed substitution to change the video driver from "nv" to "vesa." Upon reboot, everything worked swimmingly.

    Sounds terribly userfriendly, even my mother would have no trouble installing this.

  • Having used FreeBSD for a couple months, I'd say the biggest beef I've had is their bug handling (especially reporting) system. It's fantastically slow to submit (several minutes even when no files are attached), submissions are not acknowledged, it can take up to 15 minutes for submissions to show up in the system (making for ~30 minutes in total to verify submission of a single bug), it's hard to search properly (search "Text in single-line fields", WTF?), the default search lists all bugs on one page, se

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