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Feb
9

PC-BSD 9 review – to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian

by Koen Vervloesem

PC-BSD offers you a fully functional desktop environment based on rock solid FreeBSD technology, which makes it the perfect operating system for your first steps with BSD…

If you’d like to use FreeBSD as a desktop system, you’ll have to invest a lot of time in setting up the operating system and installing all the right packages. Obviously, this is a serious barrier for a lot of Linux users who are interested in trying out FreeBSD. PC-BSD fills in this gap by offering a completely usable and user-friendly FreeBSD desktop install with all kinds of stuff pre-configured. In a way, PC-BSD is to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian.

PC-BSD 9 is based on FreeBSD 9.0 and hence inherits its new features, such as ZFS version 28, which has a lot of new functionality compared to ZFS version 13 from FreeBSD 8, including triple-parity RAIDZ, improved snapshot creation and deletion performance and deduplication. But PC-BSD has a lot of its own improvements too. For instance, it now supports installation to BootCamp partitions on a Mac.

PC-BSD 9 review - to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian
You can install PC-BSD on a UFS or ZFS filesystem

In previous editions, PC-BSD was KDE-only. Beginning from the new PC-BSD 9 release, the Ubuntu of the BSDs doesn’t lock you into KDE anymore but allows you to choose your desktop environment among KDE 4.7, GNOME 2 (GNOME 3 hasn’t been ported yet), Xfce 4 and LXDE. The DVD version comes with all these desktop environments, but we downloaded the CD version which installs a minimal LXDE environment. In the installer, you can choose the default UFS filesystem or the ZFS filesystem. The latter is  more advanced, with features like snapshots, transparent compression and deduplication, but it’s only recommended if you have a 64-bit system with at least 4GB of RAM.

When you log into your installed PC-BSD system, three icons appear on your desktop: the AppCafe, the Control Panel and the Handbook. You are also greeted by a welcome window that gives you a crash course about some PC-BSD tools, such as the wireless tray icon, the AppCafe and the Control Panel. As its name says, the AppCafe is the program where you search for and install applications. It’s rather basic (it doesn’t even show how many applications are available for installation, nor how big an application download will be), but it gets the job done.

PC-BSD 9 review - to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian
PC-BSD 9 is not KDE-only anymore, but also offers the lightweight LXDE desktop environment

The Control Panel is the one-stop shop for managing your system. For instance, this is where you configure your firewall (which has a default configuration that allows SMB and NFS) or your network connection and where you enable and disable system services, add a printer or a new user etc..

An interesting application installed by default is Life-Preserver, which makes it easy to automate backups of your home directory and synchronize your data to a remote FreeNAS system or another backup server. Life-Preserver uses rsync and SSH for this, and PC-BSD installs a tray icon to configure your backup schedule, such as daily or weekly. It’s a quite basic tool, but it ‘just works’ and even restoring a backup is very easy to do.

PC-BSD 9 review - to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian
Life-Preserver is one of the easiest backup tools we have ever seen

Working with PC-BSD feels a lot like working with a Linux distribution. Of course that’s because almost all the software you can install from AppCafe is the same you’ll find in Linux. There is, though, one big issue: even more than in the Linux world, graphics hardware support can be a challenge. If you want 3D support, having an Nvidia card is the best option, as there’s a proprietary driver for FreeBSD/PC-BSD. But if you’re having an ATI or Intel chip, you’re out of luck for now.

One of the strong points of PC-BSD is its documentation: the PC-BSD Handbook on your desktop has 247 pages explaining all major tasks, including pre-installation, installation, the various desktop environments, installing applications, using the control panel, some common tasks and finding help. For more low-level help, the FreeBSD Handbook is also an excellent resource.

Verdict: 4/5
If you love 3D games and don’t have an Nvidia graphics card, PC-BSD obviously isn’t the choice for you, but if you want to try out a BSD system instead of a Linux distribution, PC-BSD is definitely the way to go. It offers a nice graphical installer and a fully functional desktop environment, with powerful FreeBSD technology under the hood, not to mention the the ZFS filesystem.

You can find out more about PC-BSD 9 on the project homepage

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    • Pingback: PC-BSD 9.0 Review | FreeBSD News

    • TiPaul

      Title should have been :

      PC-BSD 9 review – to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Linux

      Because PC-BSD is a distribution and FreeBSD is the kernel…
      Ubuntu is a distribution and Linux is the kernel.

      Debian is simply another distribution no which Ubuntu is based on.

      I personnally use Debian instead of Ubuntu because it’s leaner and cleaner.

    • YourName

      @TiPaul: no, Freebsd is a complete OS (not just a kernel) and PC-BSD is a preconfigured FreeBSD system with a couple of add-ons aimed at desktop users (like the graphical installer).

    • Pingback: LXer: PC-BSD 9 review – to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian | Coders & Admins

    • http://www.microsoft.com SteveJ

      To both of you: Why not stick with Windows?

      You won’t be happy with FreeBSD or Linux until it looks like Windows.

      Have a nice day.

    • books

      To SteveJ
      You want be happy… ever

    • Kj

      @TiPaul , Ubunutu is base off of (debian unstable).

      @SteveJ , Having a Gui is not having it look like windows.

    • WBriggs

      Linux, so much better than Windows in so many ways. If we wouldn’t be happy w/ Linux or FreeBSD til it looks like Windows, why is it that windows tries to copy so many thing that linux has built it in to begin with?!?

      The ONLY time I boot Windows, is when I can’t find a linux equivalent…..period!

    • ikisham

      I agree it’s a shame to comment without even reading beyond the first paragraph but it should be ‘what Mint is to Ubuntu’.
      While Ubuntu is based on Debian, it actually twists enough stuff as to make it worse and it’s not more ‘user friendly’ regarding the default apps, unlike Mint.

    • indure

      well done!

    • Mr Sniff

      Once I had started using Linux I found myself using Windows less and less. Since I started using *BSD I find myself using Linux less and less.

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    • Eunuchs

      yep, there’ll always be a *BSD/Unix.

    • Eddie

      @ikisham, what are you talking about? Maybe you should keep your comments on topic and stop trolling.

      As far as PC-BSD goes, they do have a little work to do in regards to playing well with others but they do have a lot going for them. The pbi system is really cool.

      @SteveJ, usually I don’t feed trolls but in regards to Windows and looks, have you played with Windows 8 any? Now it is MS that is trying to catch up to the rest of the world. :)

    • rong1611

      PCBSD9.0 is the best version yet. I have been “playing” with PCBSD since version 6. Kris and the gang have made fantastic strides forward. Right now PCBSD may not be for everyone, but the more I play the more I like. The best feature for me is PCBSD’s use of jails. I now have a dedicated workstation configured with PCBSD for Python and Java development.

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    • Prince

      I agree with ikisham. Ubuntu is way overated! We live in a world where one the most unpolished GNU/Linux is the name that is mentioned first as a sublime example of the unix/linux operating sytems.
      It must be one of the few or first *nix system they ever tried. Coming from the Windows world it must be refreshing experience, but by far Ubuntu doesn’t come close.

      Trolling awards should go to the ones who can’t wait to regurgitate the dreaded mentions of Ubuntu or MS Windows, when this review is about PC-BSD. I didn’t see any citations when Ubuntu and Windows hurds crossed the line. Windows is like gambling with your time before the nutcracker in the blue suit come to get you.

      Naturally, corruption and politics have twisted the arms of these spiritless hardware manufacturers.

      Coming from the Window’s boat that was programmed to crash your entire operating system, with a blue screen, if it detected a better software such as Word Perfect or anything more competent.

      Also, coming from another boat where I just couldn’t get my sister, who loves computers, to like GNU/Linux, because she’s apprehensive about working in vain when a simple stroke of the keyboard on Linux caused a kernel panic, and all that work wasted.

      Now, comes a battleship, that despite taking so many hits, it sails forward with the solid core origins of unix. Ok, compared to other BSDs, PC-BSD ought to boot much faster, but hey, not bad topic for review.

    • Prince

      I agree with ikisham. Ubuntu is way overated! We live in a world where one the most unpolished GNU/Linux is the name that is mentioned first as a sublime example of the unix/linux operating sytems.

      It must be one of the few or first *nix system they ever tried. Coming from the Windows world it must be a refreshing experience, however, by far Ubuntu doesn’t come close.

      Trolling awards should go to the ones who can’t wait to regurgitate the dreaded mentions of Ubuntu or MS Windows, when this review is about PC-BSD. I didn’t see any citations when Ubuntu and Windows hurds crossed the line. Windows is like gambling with your time before the nutcracker in the blue suit come to get you.

      Naturally, corruption and politics have twisted the arms of these spiritless hardware manufacturers.

      Coming from the Window’s boat that was programmed to crash your entire operating system, with a blue screen, if it detected a better software such as Word Perfect or anything more competent.

      Also, coming from another boat where I just couldn’t get my sister, who loves computers, to like GNU/Linux, because she’s apprehensive about working in vain when a simple stroke of the keyboard on Linux caused a kernel panic, and all that work wasted.

      Now, comes a battleship, that despite taking so many hits, it sails forward with the solid core origins of unix. Ok, compared to other BSDs, PC-BSD ought to boot much faster, but hey, not bad topic for review.

    • atheologian

      PC-BSD doesn’t support USB mobile broadband.

      Ubuntu has supported USB mobile broadband since at least 9.04.

      PC-BSD requires loads of configuration to install a printer.

      Ubuntu installs a printer automatically.

      In other words, PC-BSD is about 3 years behind Ubuntu.

      PC-BSD is SLOW: in the time it takes to boot to login, Ubuntu would already be flying, miles ahead.

      There’s NO comparison.

    • SiegHeil

      @atheologian
      BSD is UNIX, a SERVER OS, brought to desktop by PC-BSD distribution.
      Linux is Unix clone made by hackers for desktop and small servers, nowadays used also in big servers

    • atheologian

      @SiegHeil

      Actually, PC-BSD is marketed primarily as an everyday desktop system, not as a server, & has been assessed to be one of the most user-friendly desktop operating systems available.

      UNIX is proprietary & closed-source.

      BSD is ‘UNIX-like’ because that’s where it was forked from (round about SVR4, if I recall), with several subsequent forks, but cannot actually be called ‘UNIX’ for legal reasons. Not all BSDs are strictly open-source.

      Linux was written from scratch, using a certain amount of Minix code, because there wasn’t a free version of UNIX or BSD available. Linux is open-source, although closed-source software is available (e.g. Ubuntu Restricted Extras).

      A clone, by definition, is a replicant made from source code; therefore Linux is NOT a UNIX-clone, although it IS UNIX-like, because it uses many of the same commands, etc. An individual ‘installation’ is actually ‘cloned’ to the hard-drive, & then manipulated by the user.

      Furthermore, UNIX & BSD tend to be complete operating systems, that can often use the same software; whereas Linux is a kernel, upon which several trillion distros have been built.

    • RFD

      @SiegHeil

      http://www.zdnet.com/blog/open-source/the-best-fastest-computers-are-linux-computers/9121

      Try to know before talking nonsense. From what I know FreeBSD is not used in any of them … For that will be??

    • Coszmin

      Linux is just a kernel what ever you say. GNU/Linux is an OS. FreeBSD – is a complete OS. PC-BSD= FreeBSD+X Window+apps.

      PS: Unix isn’t (precisely) an operating system. In specific usage, Unix is an operating system originally developed in the late 60′s at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. Over the years since then it’s been developed and distributed as a commercial operating system, and a research operating system, by Bell Labs and USG and USDL and ATTIS and USL and Novell and SCO and anybody else who could come up with an acronym.

      When we use the word ‘Unix’, then, we far more often mean the general form, than the specific OS that carries the name Unix™. The general form means “Any operating system which, in design and execution and interface and general taste, is substantially similar to the Unix system.” That means all the BSDs, Linuxen, SunOS, Tru64, SCO, Irix, AIX, HP/UX, etc.

    • atheologian

      @RFD:
      Point made, lay it on!

      @Coszmin:
      That’s more pedantic than my post: thanks for the further elucidation.

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    • Just Me

      But does it WORK? Geek stuff aside, this is the question users are interested in!

      Can I run BlankOffice on it? Will I have to keep defragging my BSD hard drive? Will BSD suddenly decide I don’t have a printer hooked up, even when I can look over and SEE my printer didn’t go out to lunch? Will I have to buy a new machine because the *nix Gods suddenly decide to make a new distro that won’t run in less than 2 TB of RAM? Can I play my videos, Yahoo games, or pron? Can I plug in a camera and have it work without downloading a DVD’s worth of useless and badly-written software?

    • John

      Just Me said:

      –> But does it WORK? Geek stuff aside, this is the question users are interested in!Can I run BlankOffice on it? Will I have to keep defragging my BSD hard drive? Will BSD suddenly decide I don’t have a printer hooked up, even when I can look over and SEE my printer didn’t go out to lunch? Will I have to buy a new machine because the *nix Gods suddenly decide to make a new distro that won’t run in less than 2 TB of RAM? Can I play my videos, Yahoo games, or pron? Can I plug in a camera and have it work without downloading a DVD’s worth of useless and badly-written software? <–

      Yes, it works. You can run OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice, KOffice and others. BSD filesystems don't require defragging. Once it's installed and set up, BSD will always know you have a printer hooked up. No, the "*NIX Gods" don't require even a gigabyte of RAM. You can play your videos, Yahoo games and pr0n. Camera — I've used mine (Canon 5D-Mk II) for years with DigiKam.

      Remember, you're not dealing with Windows here, although I understand if you have PTSD from doing so in the past. ;)

    • Don Vito Corleone

      I use an old Commodore C64 and it serves terabytes of web pages without any bsd or linux or windows,

      it is easy if you program in optimized assembly.

    • Mark

      Well I never…a linux fanboy site bashing FreeBSD XD
      Funny how FreeBSD users never bash linux…or windows…or anything else.
      Maybe they are just happy using their OS for something productive.

    • Bob COllins

      @atheologian, you write, “Linux was written from scratch, using a certain amount of Minix code, because there wasn’t a free version of UNIX or BSD available.”

      Almost right. Linux was written with some Minix code, but Linus has said he would not have written it if he knew of FreeBSD or the BSDs. BSD has been around for a very long time. Indeed there were free versions available.

    • Richard Crowley

      I think there a few misconceptions brought up in the article which could do with a little correction

      1. Ubuntu is not and never has been compatible with Debian/GNU. Mark Shuttleworth has no intention to make Ubuntu compatible with Debian in the future.
      2. Ubuntu’s use of encrypted sudoers accounts makes it a vastly different OS than those that use a more vanilla kernel or sudoer accounts that are simply stored with the rest of the users’ data.
      Ubuntu distributions are bound to their particular desktop environment and can only be changed with extensive configuration (i.e. kubuntu, xubuntu, lubuntu, edubuntu).

      By contrast, the following is true of PC-BSD:

      3. PC-BSD is 100% compatible with vanilla FreeBSD (same ports tree, same jails/ warden, same command-line arguments to get things done).
      4. PC-BSD is desktop agnostic and can operate with any desktop manager.
      Even with the BSD license, PC-BSD lacks many of the drivers that have been present in ubuntu for years

      5. PC-BSD’s graphical ports management applications are no more revolutionary than those used in midnightBSD or DesktopBSD/FreeSBIE

      PC-BSD is not a ubuntified BSD

      After noting this, I think it is not logical to compare PC-BSD to FreeBSD (since they are almost identical) or any version of ubuntu because PC-BSD provides just an automated configuration of the typical FreeBSD install. Ubuntu is seperate from (and perhaps more practical) than Debian/GNU, but the two OS’s are not analogous to the relationship between PC- and FreeBSD. A failure to understand this concept might cause an unnecessary headache to someone not familiar with BSD or the BSD kernel.

    • Dejan

      “If you love 3D games and don’t have an Nvidia graphics card, PC-BSD obviously isn’t the choice for you, ”

      What is opposite of that?

      3D games and have Nvidia card

      OR

      not 3D games but have Nvidia card?

    • tux.

      @Bob Collins: When Linux was started in 1991, there was no free BSD available yet. FreeBSD and NetBSD evolved two years later, 386BSD was “free” in 1992 or something.

    • Arturo Borquez

      I’ve played with Linux distros and FreeBSD from 2001, today I am on FreeBSD (server and desktop). Yes FreeBSD need’s tweaking de knobs for a desktop experience, at least 1 day of work (installing Xorg, desktop stuff, flash, audio, firewall UFS tweaks, jails etc … recompile the OS, loader and sysctl’s). Ubuntu 10.04 LTS was fine but as many Linux distros, it was difficult to configure by hand (the are a lot of differences and weird stuff and places to do it) … on the other hand FreeBSD lacks the bleeding edge stuff, but it is a way more simple and consistent to configure it. PCBSD (as most Linux distros does) do all this for you, but it will not compete with a FreeBSD desktop (with nvidia) optimized OS cofiguring your wired-memory,TCP stack for high bandwidth, hardware int’s, buffers … all critical limits that bring you a REALLY COOL and SMOOTH experience, btw Linux emulation (video, audio) runs better now in my tweaked FreeBSD than in Ubuntu … believe it or not !!!

    • boggart ackerley

      PC-BSD 9 The most better OS i use! i have 49 years old, i use XP Vista Wndows 7 then OSX Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion Ubuntu 10.4 Kabuntu, because my job (Deejay). i need a strong and reliable very fast OS to support mi job needs, on graphics Sound and connections blue toot print phone fax cam mic and compatible app to share files with all OS in the market etc.
      Well only with PC-BSD i have all i need.
      One thing i edited a single line on system on. conf. file to get all sound work. “in Ubuntu/Kabuntu never can”
      My harware 7 years old HP slim line s5000 series
      Amd Atholon x2 1900mhtz
      Nvidia 6150se 3D now 520mb
      Realtek digital sound card
      Atheros 510gs wireless
      Nvidia etheret 10/100 wired
      Kingston ram x2 4gigs series
      Hp w1907 monitor
      Phoenix Award bios on a Asus motherboard for HP slim line series.
      All hadware works flawless. day at day. no virus no malware no crashes no freese and always works like the first day.
      Most easy to install and set. is just a satisfaction to work with it.
      And i updated from 9 to 9.1rc2 with no a glitch, and its work bether and bether
      Never in 15 months i need touch a Mac or Wndows
      Hope trust me because i am a simple human been
      to like share happyness.

    • boggart ackerley

      note: i install on my Mac Pro to
      and sorry for miss tipe letter and propper English

    • Shinko

      Get off your elitism.

      #1 Why even compare or talk down to any versions of Linux? All of them have their strengths and weaknesses.

      #2 Ok, Ubuntu was made for the Masses. More People use it, more things are noticed. They also have a fantastic community base.

      #3 Pitting different distro’s to fight against each other is almost as lame as Apple Products. Leave that Smug garbage to apple. Linux is about Self-Empowerment, Freedom as in Free Speech, and contributing back to the community, and regardless of what you think about canonical, they have given way more than any of you high horsed bastards. /rant

      and before you start talking trash about me (I know it’s coming anyway :) )
      •I’ve been with linux since the early stages of Fedora Core,
      •BackTrack wasn’t even a thought,
      •My security Emblem was a Spartan.
      •I’ve played with F.I.R.E. Re-Compiled Kernels for Atheros Chipsets to allow Packet Injection.
      •Been a Pyrit with some Northern Islands Action.

    • fortytwo

      I dual boot Windows Vista (pre-installed) and Ubuntu 12.10 (latter installed).

      I lost Linux…I cried

      I lost Vista…I laughed

    • adam

      The statement “In a way, PC-BSD is to FreeBSD what Ubuntu is to Debian” is completely incorrect and inaccurate.

      I use Debian as my main distribution. Installation of Debian is definately ALOT easier than FreeBSD which pretty much only installs the kernel and then you have to manually fetch and install all the packages needed to create a functioning desktop. It was an absolute nightmare getting freeBSD working.

      In other words, FreeBSD by itself is only a kernel. It is not a desktop environment by itself. But Debian GNU/Linux is a complete system.

      Therefore, the sentence should be:
      PC-BSD is to FreeBSD what Debian is to Linux.

      Ubuntu is for monkeys, so it shouldn’t even be mentioned…

    • rayyu

      “In other words, FreeBSD by itself is only a kernel. It is not a desktop environment by itself. But Debian GNU/Linux is a complete system.”

      FreeBSD is a complete operating system. It’s kernel + userland, Linux is just the kernel.

      Surprisingly, X or any other graphical environment isn’t needed for it to become a ‘complete’ operating system; in the BSD world, that is a separate component from the complete operating system.

    • serz152

      Personally I have used a lot of the linux operating systems and I was real excited about using PC-BSD which turned out to be a real disappointment quite boring and terrible interface too difficult for any novice users and a waste of time in my opinion just because you have so many other well developed operating systems that offer more this system seemed more like a school project and needs a lot more input in it that really can waste a lot of time when your trying to get some work done. I’ll say its a good learning project if your educating yourself but if you have a deadline to meet and other functions you need too attend then I wouldn’t recommend this system to anyone that need to just get the job done in a timely manner, This is actually the first system I used by linux that I can say I was disappointed on.

    • SouthernCross

      I only read this post and comments to understand whetehr it was worthwhile giving PC-BSD a try.
      I can honestly say, that I found a wealth of information on this page – more than I expected (and, in some cases, wanted).
      I usually only read the top 3 comments on pages like this, but I found the series of comments infromative and very funny.

      Thank you – for the info and the chuckles.

      Please feel free to criticise this comment as much as you like. I probably won’t return this page, so ‘tuck in’.

    • laciport

      @serz152 PC-BSD- BSD in general- is by definition not Linux.

    • Forge Of Empires Cheats

      You made some decent points there. I checked on the web for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views
      on this website.

    • PreachJohn

      The way we say in the Motorcycle World when we talk about “In The Wind” : “If I have to explain It, you wouldn’t understand.”
      It’s not elitist, it’s exasperation. One scarcely knows where to begin with the likes of your overwhelming ignorance of matters cyberspace so akin to your close relative or mentor at minimum, L. D..
      This coming from an inveterate and appreciative Microsoft User. I’ve made good money and friends from the plethora of software repairs and issues continually generated. And frankly I’ve learned to work with Windows quite well personally, despite my very real concerns. Presently learning Mint 15, which definitely has its own issues. What OS is possibly even remotely perfect? Firestorm coming from that statement? lol
      Over a decade later, major Security Updates are yet being issued
      regularly for XP. And, and, and…. Ciao For Now!