PC-BSD 8 is a FreeBSD distribution whose installation process can safely be described as thorough. Whilst usable, as is increasingly the norm, as a live operating system (thus allowing you to boot it up from a disc and check it out without installing a single file on your hard drive), we opted for the full graphical installation, which is one of the selling points of the distro.
That, as it turned out, wasn’t a fast process, in contrast to most distros based on Linux we’ve tested. For starters, it took a long time to test the integrity of its files before committing to allow us near the install screen itself. Then we were offered the choice of a server or desktop iteration of the operating system and, as is fairly common, the installation also insisted on us making a user account and setting a root password.
What we liked was the option to choose which components we wanted to install, though. The list included the likes of OpenOffice, Opera, Firefox, Thunderbird, k3b, Pidgin and a few others. For those who grow frustrated of installing Linux distros and finding them packed with more programs than they need, the level of thought from this FreeBSD package will be welcome. That goes for the whole installation though, which is as painless as you could hope.
Once we’d made our choice, it was still the best part of half an hour before we had a desktop screen we could work from. Tied to the KDE manager, PC-BSD was a breeze to use from that point on. The hardware in our testbed machine was instantly and effortlessly detected for a change, and even accepting the prolonged installation routine, we had to concede that PC-BSD 8.0 worked from the moment it loaded up for the first time. Even our assorted drives were picked up, present and correct.
Furthermore, it’s true to its word about being easy to use. You perhaps wouldn’t equate it to Windows or Ubuntu in that department, but it’s hard to see people getting particularly puzzled by it. We actually appreciated the comparably light collection of software that was ultimately included with it, and thanks to a solid package manager, it’s easy to locate and install new applications anyway.
It’s an operating system that’s quite light on gimmicks, and for those who like their distros somewhere near the cutting edge of new software, then clearly PC-BSD 8.0 isn’t going to cut the mustard. But this is still a fast-in-operation, thoughtful piece of work, that’s the basis for a sound PC system. It’s some way removed from distributions based on the bleeding edge of Linux, but it is a good operating system that’s simple to get going with, and to use. In that respect, it’s likely to have widespread appeal.