OS Reviews: PC-BSD 10.0 Joule

As you may or may not know, I’m a pretty avid OS tester myself. Though I normally do this “OS testing” privately with virtual machines, I’ve decided to try doing some semi-formal OS reviews here. (BECAUSE YOU KNOW, WHY NOT)

Today I’m going to try out PC-BSD 10 Joule, which is basically an OS built on FreeBSD, but aimed towards general desktop users (it has a GUI and stuff)! I’m not too familiar with BSD systems myself, so let’s just see what happens.

The OS install disk is a relatively large ISO of 3.6 GB. I’ve decided to go with a 20GB disk and 1GB of RAM for now.

Installation

As we boot up, we are presented with a nice menu with option. I’m going to choose the default Graphical Installation.
pcbsd2

Voila, the installer.
pcbsd3

The buttons at the bottom left provide a few interesting utilities, such as hardware diagnostics and a virtual keyboard. There’s also a nice Load config from USB option (not that it’d be useful here), though moving windows seems to cause some ugly drawing glitches.
pcbsd4

The next screen allows you to pick what desktop environment(s) you want to install (through meta-packages).
pcbsd5

The Customize button lets you select anything from Desktop environments to proprietary hardware drivers, to guest drivers for both VMWare and Virtualbox. The default desktop is KDE.
pcbsd5a

After clicking next, the installer gives me an alert saying that I don’t have 50GB of disk space. This part is interesting: according to the user handbook, PC-BSD’s minimum desktop requirements are 1GB RAM & 20GB disk space. The recommended value is a whopping 4GB RAM and 50GB disk space.

Also, notice the Windows 2000-ish error icons/dialog buttons!
pcbsd6

The disk is automatically partitioned. I’m not sure how well manual partitioning works, because I didn’t need to touch that since I was running everything inside Virtualbox.
pcbsd7

Installing…
pcbsd8

Finished. The installation took a little under 10 minutes, with all packages installed from the ISO.
Again, there’s a Save Config to USB option.
pcbsd9

Then there’s a configuration wizard. I’ll skip this in the screenshots, all it does is set up time zones, hostname, root password, a user account…
pcbsd11

The desktop

The desktop. As you can see, it’s a pretty basic KDE setup. On the desktop you have AppCafe, PC-BSD Control Panel, and the PC-BSD Handbook.
pcbsd14

As soon as we log on, there are a few updates available. The update manager takes a minute to fetch updates, and there’s nothing too amazing about it. It works.
pcbsd15

PC-BSD’s Control Panel with the About dialog.
pcbsd16

AppCafe, PC-BSD’s software manager. As you can see by the status bar, there are only 819 packages available (which isn’t a lot if you compare it with other systems with package managers). Also, notice the old icons used for Firefox, Opera, and Chromium (actually used is the old Chrome icon, which IIRC is incorrect).

One of the things I find unusual about this OS is the strange software selection. PC-BSD, by default, doesn’t install a web browser (other than one supplied by your desktop environment, in this case KDE’s Konqueror). This means that if the DE doesn’t include a web browser (e.g. MATE), you won’t have a web browser available. However, other applications like GIMP and even Virtualbox are pre-installed.

No office suite/word processing software is installed by default. Most of the applications in KDE’s suite work.

pcbsd17

MPlayer is pre-installed as a media player, though its GUI really doesn’t seem to fit the one of KDE. Playing an MP3 file works fine, though Amarok (the default music player) would complain about not being able to download some music chart thing and not do anything at all–I’m not sure if this is PC-BSD’s fault, Amarok’s fault, or just my sheer confusion with its UI.
pcbsd18

The default terminal appears to be csh, though bash is installed too.
pcbsd19

Firefox (or FireFox according to the desktop shortcut) installed on PC-BSD. The download was pretty big (199MB), so I’m guessing the package manager distributes binaries. The first start took about two minutes and two tries, which is slow by my standards. Then I notice that AppCafe gave me an old version of Firefox; OH WELL!

Trying to go to youtube.com completely freezes the browser. Konqueror too was also extremely laggy with it.
pcbsd20

Other apps, like GIMP and KDE’s KSysGuard work fine.
pcbsd21

Conclusion

To conclude, my first impressions of PC-BSD are meh. Software selection, as far as software selection goes is decent. I haven’t tried installing most of the applications available, due to large download sizes+my horrible Internet. My experience with web-browsing was pretty mediocre though; again, Firefox takes way too long to start up and freezes up when I go to youtube.com. Other than the built-in KDE Apps and the few that are preinstalled, there’s really not that much to test.

As for the system requirements, 4 Gigabytes of RAM and 50 Gigabytes of disk space is absolutely ridiculous! Upon checking my virtual machine disk file, I found that the entire VM was only using 10.9GB of space. RAM+Swap usage was altogether near a gig according to KSysGuard, but nowhere near 4.

No complaints about the user interface in general; it’s really just generic KDE with some added applications. However, that doesn’t make it any more appealing than a simple Linux distro with KDE installed. In fact, I really see little advantage of using PC-BSD–ridiculous hardware requirements and buggy, laggy software make it simply not worthwhile at the end of the day. At least for the average home user.

If you’re looking for a decent KDE desktop, go with Linux. 6/10

P.S. The virtual machine also froze on shutdown. Boo!

3 comments

  1. PC-BSD had one good release. One (I think it was code-named Fibonacci). After that release they basically lost the plot. Today, if you go to the blog, you will read about “ZFS” and “Servers” and other geeky stuff that has nothing to do with the original intention of PC-BSD which was to create a Free-BSD based desktop system that while powerful with it’s BSD kernel was also easy to use. So… you would think design and UI enhancement would be the focus but, no, most packages are stock. Except for the PC-BSD branding… It’s nothing more than Free-BSD with stock packages. PBI’s have pretty much been abandoned even though that was one of the most interesting parts of PC-BSD and what made it unique. And, servers? Who cares??? Free-BSD already does that job extremely well. Furthermore, systems administrators are not the kind of people that are going to use PBI’s anyways, or the Desktop for that matter… As I said… they totally lost the plot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *