Personal Computing - BSD Style
A milestone was reached on April 29 and I couldn't let it pass without a look. I'm speaking of the release of PC-BSD 1.0, their very first stable release. Almost a year ago Tuxmachines tested 0.6 of PC-BSD, considered a beta release, and was quite impressed then as I recall. I saw .7, .8, .9 and increments get released, but I just had to revisit the user-friendly bsd again on this wonderful occasion. How did PC-BSD stack up on this their "new era of stability and simplicity?"
It all starts with a boot of the cd. The first image is a boot screen giving several choices for booting the system with extras of Escape to bootloader prompt, boot FreeBSD with usb keyboard, or Reboot. I just went with the default and hit <enter>. Next, one sees a beautiful silent splash screen featuring a close-up of pretty yellow flowers. It states one could Press Any Key to view startup details, but escape seems to be the only one that worked for me - or perhaps it was a question of timing. In any case, eventually one is brought to another screen with choices. They are: Start graphical install, Reset X to default VESA driver, Change Resolution to 800x600, System Utilities, and Reboot.
Choosing to start the graphical install ...you guessed it, starts the graphical install. Here begins a great looking professional quality install process. It looks nice, but it is also really easy. It asks where to install and then begins. My choices were limited to the primary partitions on my disk, but I had two blank ones at the beginning of this newest harddrive in the Master position. I simply chose hda1 (in linux speak) and let it install. The actuall system install was quite fast, taking about 15 minutes and then one is asked for a root password, to setup a user, and where to install the bootloader. You can choose to skip installing a boot loader with PC-BSD, and I did. Instead, I took a lesson learned from FreeBSD and edited my everyday lilo.conf as follows:
When setting up an user account, you are given the opportunity to select auto-login and X start if desired. I did and upon boot I was taken straight to a 1024x768 KDE 3.5.2 desktop. Sound was auto detected and setup as I was greeted by the default kde login sound as well as a really beautiful wallpaper. The wallpaper is a landscape of a lush green valley with a field of those same pretty yellow flowers all in front of a majestic mountain range. Other than a slightly customized panel and menu, the rest seems your basic default KDE.
On the desktop are two icons other than Trash. One opens the PC-BSD wiki in the default browser, Konqueror. This is an online documentation site with links to some other handy tools such as an user forum. The other icon is even more exciting. Again it opens up a browser, but where it takes you is an online repository of software. From this varying list, one can download software, and easily install onto their system. Installing is as easy as clicking the file. It reminded me of my windows days actually. Click the pbi file downloaded, an installation wizard opens and installs the software. Some of the applications available are kmplayer, firefox, opera, OpenOffice, java, and a coupla kde themes. I tested several packages and all went really well.
There is also an update application. Although at this time, there were no updates, so testing was limited.
My final thoughts: I found PC-BSD to be even better than the last time. It's prettier, easier, and more complete. Installation was smooth, hardware detection was good and performance was great. The system was stable and all applications tested worked fine. The only probably I had was finding the Flash browser plugin in their repository. If you've been wanting to try a BSD clone, you couldn't go wrong with PC-BSD. Again this time as with the last, I'm very impressed with all the work that has obviously gone into this system to make it so easy for anyone to have a BSD. I believe they have met their goals and then some.