PCBSD 9.0 Review


I’ve been a big fan of FreeBSD. I got acquainted to it when I was reading a wiki article on Mac OS X. Then I came to know that it is based on something called FreeBSD. I started searching for it and I downloaded a release. I tried to install it on my system & was successful. But the problem was that it was a command line installation & there were no graphics after installation. That wasn’t a problem for me but the thing was that it required a fast internet connection to install a graphical environment such as GNOME or KDE. So, here I am giving another try to PC-BSD 9.0.

Installation

I downloaded the image from the internet, 64-bit to be precise. It was around 3.59 GB in size but most importantly it contained KDE, GNOME, Openbox, XBMC (which I can’t live without) and some more. I burned it to a DVD & started the installation. The first thing that you have to keep in mind is that it only installs on a primary partition. Secondly, there was an option for installing it on a ZFS filesystem but 4 GB RAM was recommended. That wasn’t a problem for me, so I selected the option. Interestingly, it did everything on its own when I assigned a primary 100 GB partition to it. All the swap, /usr etc were inside that partition. I selected KDE as a graphical desktop manager. I also selected the system source code & ports collection (more on that later).The installation started but it took very long time, about 40 minutes to install on my system (see the specifications in the my rig section).

The Desktop

After the long but very, very easy installation I logged in to my desktop. But before that it asked me to select the resolution of my monitor. It also auto-detected my graphics card (NVIDIA GTX 260) & installed the necessary drivers for it. Once I selected the correct resolution, it wrote the necessary configuration to the Xorg.conf file & voila, everything was butter smooth. KDE looked good. But the fonts weren’t upto my expectation but they were not bad either. I use the infinality package on Arch Linux so I expected a bit more. Here’s the screenshot of the desktop..

Installation of applications

PC-BSD has a pretty good way of installing the applications. It’s packages are in the format of .pbi which stand for PCBSD Installer. The PBI files can be double clicked and installed. That’s it. But, there’s a app store as well. It is called app-cafe. Here you can select the various applications that you want to install on your system. But some of them are pretty large in size. For eg. Mozilla Firefox 9.0 was around 80 MB & Chromium was whopping 100+. There’s another way to install the apps that is called ports. If you’ve build the packages on Gentoo Linux via portage then you’ll feel right at home. Ports collection contain hunderds of packages which you can navigate & install. They are located in /usr/ports. If you want to search for a package then issue whereis packagename. Compiling packages takes time. If you’re not comfortable with that but still want to install via ports then please issue pkg_add -r packagename in the terminal as a root user, it will install the required package. That’s it. I’m also posting a screenshot of AppCafe in action.

General Usage

PCBSD feels right at home if you’re familiar to GNU/Linux. You can’t tell if you’re running PCBSD or GNU/Linux. KDE is at version 4.7.3 which is pretty much the bleeding edge. But never did I manage a single crash or freeze. Moreover, I was watching HD clips along with compilation of packages & surfing the web at the same time & the system was doing very,very well. It automatically mounted my NTFS Windows partition but to mount the existing ext4 from Arch Linux, I had to fiddle around a bit. But there are some problems too. For e.g., Konqueror is the default & the only browser that ships with the OS Update:- There are other browsers such as Epiphany, Midori etc for GNOME & LXDE (Thanks to Ken Moore for pointing that out). Considering the size of the DVD, they should’ve included either Firefox or Chromium. Moreover, Konqueror uses KHTML as the rendering engine instead of WebKit which I found more usable than the former. Secondly, the office suite KOffice that ships with KDE doesn’t open ODF files. That is a huge, huge drawback for me. I love LibreOffice & save my files in ODF whenever possible. But it wouldn’t open them. Shockingly, it did open .docx files.

Verdict

PCBSD is very, very robust operating system built on the ultra-powerful but unknown-giant FreeBSD. I found it sufficient for my daily needs barring the office suite.

Pros :-

  • Very, very stable.
  • Uses very little resources (even when using KDE).
  • Very Secure.
  • Very easy installation.
  • NVIDIA Drivers bulit-in.

Cons :-

  • Poor office suite (KOffice) but you can install LibreOffce via the ports or AppCafe.
  • No browser other than Konqueror in the default KDE installation. (You can install Firefox, Opera or Chromium later).
  • Some sound cards not supported.
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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Ken Moore says:

    I have PCBSD 9.0 installed on my computers, and I noticed a couple discrepancies about your descriptions of KOffice and Konqueror as “the default” office and web browser for PCBSD.
    First, Konqueror is the the default web browser for the KDE desktop ONLY. If you choose to install the GNOME desktop you will end up with the Epiphany browser, with LXDE I think you get Midori as your browser. Basically the “default” web browser for PCBSD is actually the default web browser for the desktop environment(s) you decided to install. As you mentioned however, you can download/install your favorite web browser from the AppCafe without ever using the “default” browser.
    Second. KOffice is only an optional part of the KDE system package. You can easily de-select it when deciding whether to install the “Full” KDE, or to leave out some of the optional KDE packages (such as KDE-games, KOffice, KDE-toys, etc..)

    As for me, I enjoy using KDE without all the extra packages (or sometimes LXDE), Firefox as my browser, and either LibreOffice or OpenOffice as my office collection. Since I do end up trying out other desktop environments (DE’s) fairly often, it is also really nice that I can add/remove all the different DE’s from the system manager without having to risk losing my installed programs/data.

    1. Tarun Brari says:

      Thank you for pointing that out. As you can see that I haven’t installed GNOME on this OS because PC-BSD was basically a KDE based product. And regarding Konqueror, yeah I know that it is the default browser of KDE (as I’ve been using Linux since last 6 years). Regarding KOffice, you can’t deny the fact that it is still not good enough for serious office work, moreover, it won’t even open the ODT files by default. But thanks for reminding me about Konqueror 🙂

  2. bandla says:

    here comes long list of question:

    1. How easy is it to configure VPN?
    2. Does it recognize all Wireless cards?
    3. my list of apps: firefox, chrome, vlc, vnc, hotot, adobe air apps, pidgin, libreoffic, thunderbird, bittorrent, rhythmbox etc. how good is the support for these on PCBSD?

    and thanks for nice review.

    1. Tarun Brari says:

      Sorry mate.. your comment was spammed by WordPress :P. Regarding your questions, here are the answers :-

      1. No idea about VPN. I’m new to the OS as well :).
      2. Most of them are supported. Broadcom has good support. Atheros should be there too.
      3. Firefox, Chromium, VLC, Pidgin, LibreOffice, Thunderbird, Ktorrent/Transmission, Banshee/Rhythmbox are supported but you need to install them via ports or via AppCafe. No idea about Adobe Air apps because frankly I don’t use them. But if you could tell me specific Adobe Air app, I’ll search.

  3. Robert J. Bosak says:

    I love PC BSD 9.0 and would definitely stay with it if I could only connect to the Internet. Unfortunately is the only task this system lacks is connecting us wireless folks to the internet! I guess the inventor or maker of the systems only planned on using it on wired connections! Even though the PDF does make reference to wireless, I am in total disbelief! I tried for 2 days straight and had no luck even getting the system to recognize 2 seperate USB devices (CISCO AM10, Belkin). Since these are common wifi adapters I am in total disbelief that this system can ever connect to the internet and CHALLENGE someone to get me connected! I DARE YOU TO GET ME CONNECTED using PCBSD 9.0!!!!

    1. Tarun Brari says:

      Unfortunately, I can’t help you. I’m also new to PC-BSD, besides that I’m on a desktop. I use ethernet too.

  4. Shannon says:

    If memory serves, .PBI stands for “Push Button Installer”.

    1. Robert J. Bosak says:

      Yes it sure does mean Push Button Installer and is a great concept, provided you can connect to the internet. If you do not have a connection AppCafe (PBI) is absolutely useless. I even bought another wireless USB connector and tried for another few weeks(in vain). So I am at the conclusion that unless it is Windows or Linux, you can forget having a connection!(if you don’t have the exact hardware the OS wants!) I just can’t afford this OS as I can’t keep buying USB connectors that just don’t work with it! Even though there is a built in driver converter, it is also useless unless you are connected! Too many catch 22’s with the system so have gone on to look at other up and coming OS’s and am also finding out wireless USB is close to impossible on those too! So unless you have a wireless PCI or PCI-E you are out of luck unless as listed above! Also take note if you have the hardware to use this OS that the zfs filing system is one of the greatest options out there with is ability to repair itself. Haiku also has a similar system, while others do not. While Haiku is very impressive, PCBSD comes with much needed programs for beginners and advanced users.

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