Linux too vanilla? Try this

Yesterday we wrote about a review of PC-BSD by LinuxHelp, but a week ago (15/07/2007) The Inquirer also reviewed this Desktop OS: “Linux too vanilla? Try this – PC-BSD 1.3: Basic, simple, does the job

It went on first time, no hesitation. Even booting from the install CD, it found the Cardbus slot, found my old Xircom RealPort Ethernet card, connected and went online – which is a **** sight more than Ubuntu could do until I’d apt-getted it into submission. It cheerfully ran the setup program in 1024×768, the native resolution of the LCD. Sound, PCMCIA, USB, networking – everything just works. It knows it’s on a laptop and displays a battery meter in the taskbar tray – but that’s about it. No processor-throttling or anything: it’s flat out, all the time. I had to manually tell it to blank the screen when idle.

I was straight online after a very easy, graphical install. One reboot and it was ready to go, with only 2GB of my 20GB disk used – and that’s with browser, email, chat, media players, some games and basic productivity apps all pre-installed. It updated itself with some half a dozen fixpacks until it’s now at v1.3.6 or so – only one of which required a reboot. It now sports KDE 3.5.5. I don’t like KDE much – I used to, but I think it’s horribly bloated these days: complex, slow, fiddly, ugly and a bit flaky. Bits of it keep on passing out – but that may be normal for KDE.

However, it does the job, and it’s instantly familiar if you’ve been around the Linux block once or twice.

Aside from KDE, everything is quite responsive and it was dead easy to add Firefox, Flash, Java, OpenOffice, Skype and suchlike from their online package-download site, a link to which is handily left on the desktop. No fiddling about with repositories or restricted components – you download what you want then double-click it.

There’s a basic but fairly complete suite of admin tools, all integrated into the KDE control centre.

With no additional mucking around, I was able to get online from in bed then watch a DivX movie off a USB key. The only thing it didn’t do is mount the USB key for me – I had to go to a terminal, SU to root, make my own mountpoint, inspect the kernel messages for the device name and then mount it myself by hand. That’s a bit 1997 for my tastes, but I can cope.

USB key mounting does work in PC-BSD, so I can’t explain why it wasn’t working for Liam Proven.

Other luxuries which it doesn’t offer but which one might expect in a modern Linux are suspend/resume, power management and maybe support for the onboard Winmodem – but I don’t actually /need/ any of them.

Unfortunately, laptop power management (suspend/resume) is not working in FBSD at the moment. As the word “Winmodem” suggests, these work (only) on Windows.

Read the full article or the discussion on the PC-BSD forums

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