PC-BSD 1.4 LiveCD

If you are interested in BSD live CDs, here is another interesting option: PC-BSD LiveCD. This CD is probably one of the best live desktop BSD products built to-date. Based on FreeBSD 6.2, it includes KDE 3.5.6, X.Org 7.2, Kaffeine media player with support for MP3, OGG, DIVX and MPEG formats, Konversation IRC cleint, Smb4k samba client, Fusefs file system, Midnight Commander, and a total of 503 pre-compiled FreeBSD ports. The PC-BSD live CD is not fully automatic though; it boots into a terminal and it requires running “X -configure” before launching the KDE desktop with “startx”. Download it from here: pcbsdlive240607.iso. LiveCD ISOs will soon be available on the snapshots page at devs.pcbsd.org

PC-BSD LiveCD

PC-BSD, a 24 hour test drive

About a week ago, Ars Technica wrote a 2 page review of PC-BSD.

PC-BSD is not a Linux distribution, but rather it could be considered among the first major FreeBSD-based distributions to live outside of the official FreeBSD. Like most distributions, it has implemented certain features in a way that attempts to distinguish it from the competition, and I will focus mostly on these differences. This test drive is intended to give an overview of what PC-BSD is and why one would consider using it.

First and foremost, PC-BSD is an attempt to make a user-friendly Unix. Many Linux distributions have a similar focus and attempt to achieve it in different ways, and PC-BSD should be considered alongside these distributions. Additionally, PC-BSD’s developers went to great efforts to make users who are transitioning from Windows more comfortable—more on that later.

The article concludes with:

In the end, I would suggest this distribution to new users provided they had someone to call in case of a driver malfunction during installation. I would also recommend PC-BSD to seasoned Unix users that have never tried using FreeBSD before and would prefer a shallower learning curve before getting down to business.

Read the whole article or the dicsussion of it on the PC-BSD forums.

Setting up a FreeBSD Multimedia Desktop

Of all the many and free operating systems out there, few can begin to meet or surpass the quality, stability, and structured operation of FreeBSD. But out of the box, FreeBSD is and always will be a server OS. That’s the reason why some groups have created desktop versions of FreeBSD (such as PC-BSD and DesktopBSD) to provide users with a viable FreeBSD desktop.

Despite both of these really good alternatives to the stock FreeBSD install, some people believe that nothing beats setting up their own FreeBSD desktop right from scratch, and in this tutorial you’re shown how to do just that. What you’ll end up with is a desktop environment that is top notch and tailored right to your liking that is pure and uncustomized by anyone else, except you. So it’s a system you can have exactly your way to your liking.

For those who are new or unfamiliar with FreeBSD, this will also be a great way for you to learn how to use and troubleshoot the OS, because by going this way, while it is not the easiest and you’ll likely run into at least one snag or problem not listed in this tutorial that you’ll have to troubleshoot and solve, you’ll learn so much about the OS that you’ll either come to love it or hate it.

Remember, this tutorial is not for the faint-hearted. There are easier ways to set up a FreeBSD (based) multimedia system than shown in this tutorial; mostly via the previously two named desktop oriented FreeBSD distributions.

BSDStats numbers (May 2007)

BSDStats.org is a website that records the numbers of PCs/servers running a particular BSD system. This is broken down per country, releases, drivers/HW stats, CPU stats, and port stats.

Though these figures are interesting enough, they cannot be used for any benchmarking or market analysis or so, since the software that anonymously updates (pings) the bsdstats server is not (yet) installed on a lot of/most servers (e.g. FreeBSD) or it’s not mandatory to use when pre-installed (e.g. PC-BSD). The numbers are likely to be much higher. The counters reset at the first day of each month (servers that are on 24/7/365) or when the computer is first switched on.

The numbers, that we’re interested in as far as this blog is concerned, for May 2007 are:

  • FreeBSD – 5,131 systems – 53.0 %
  • PC-BSD – 4,265 systems – 44.1 %
  • DesktopBSD – 28 systems – 0.3 %

Please note, that the number for DesktopBSD (28) is not correct this month. There are likely to be many more users but the update script contacted the BSDStats server on 1 May at half 5 in the morning only. All PCs that were off at that time aren’t included in this number. This problem will be fixed in the upcoming RC3.

What is FreeBSD?

This website deals with the FreeBSD Operating System, but what is FreeBSD?

FreeBSD (FBSD) is an advanced Unix-like operating system developed by the FreeBSD Project. FBSD is one of the most reliable, robust and secure operating systems in the world. It is free, open source and powers some of the internet’s largest web servers, including Yahoo’s and Sony’s (more companies). Rock-solid stability and the ability to perform extremely well under heavy workloads makes this operating system a popular choice among Internet Service Providers and Web hosting companies. A cohesive userland and kernel, the ports system and regular OS upgrades are the strengths of this OS.

FreeBSD is derived from the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), the version of UNIX developed at the University of California at Berkeley between 1975 and 1993. FreeBSD is not a UNIX clone. Historically and technically, it has greater rights than UNIX System V to be called UNIX. Legally, it may not be called UNIX, since UNIX is now a registered trade mark of The Open Group.

FreeBSD runs on Intel processors as well as on DEC Alpha, Sun UltraSPARC processors, Itanium (IA-64) and AMD64 processors and soon on Suns Niagara servers (FreeBSD 7).

FreeBSD is an operating system that is very flexible and can therefore be used for various purposes:

  • FreeBSD – (web)servers
  • FreeNAS – Network Attached Storage servers
  • DragonFly BSD – Powering cluster computing
  • PC-BSD and DesktopBSD – Desktop
  • M0n0wall and pfSense – Firewall
  • Frenzy – portable system administrator toolkit
  • FreeSBIE and RoFreeSBIE- Live CDs

Stability, flexibility and security are what is needed for a good operating system, and FreeBSD has them all, whether you use it on your desktop or as server. There’s an interesting article on IBM’s website “Why FreeBSD” dealing with the strong points of FreeBSD.

Flash/Youtube videos on FreeBSD

To be able to watch Adobe Flash animations and videos on BSD systems, has been not too easy so far. This is caused by Adobe not releasing a (Free)BSD version of Flash, but only a (closed source) version for Windows and Linux. In order to watch Flash content on BSD one has to install the Linux Flash version along with the Linux Compatibility layer and tweak the system (sym-links).

However, there’s a Flash PBI available for PC-BSD users that installs Flash with a few mouse-clicks. Installing this manually is not necessary anymore as version 1.4 will come with Flash pre-installed, thanks to a redistribution agreement between iXsystems, the company behind the PC-BSD project, and Adobe.

There are a few open-source Flash players in development currently, of which Gnash and swfdec are the most promising projects, but they’re not perfect yet. Gnash for example is quite good at playing Flash animations (though a bit “grainy”), but it can’t play YouTube videos, whereas swfdec is better at playing YouTube videos, but it’s not very good with animations.

Matteo from the FreeSBIE project has now found a way to watch YouTube videos with Gnash on FreeBSD, but without using the Linux compatibility layer. Please note, that the steps he’s taken are the same for PC-BSD and DesktopBSD. Matteo installed the following ports:

  • graphics/gnash
  • www/firefox (uncheck “GSTREAMER” on the ncurses window)
  • multimedia/mplayer [MAKE WITH_GUI]
  • www/mplayer-plugin

He then installed the Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox and this Greasemonkey script. Note: select the “mini” GUI for mplayer because it is needed for the plugin.

If you have followed these steps and installed the port successfully, surf now to YouTube.com and give it a whirl.