Monday, April 21, 2014

Using PC-BSD - First Thoughts

PC-BSD logo, Copyright iXsystems, Inc.
A couple weeks back, I decided it would be a good idea to dual-boot my work desktop with some sort of non-Windows operating system so that I had an additional tool for debugging, virus scans, and so on. At the very least, I wanted to be able to scan removable media or USB-attached desktop hard drives for viruses without potentially infecting my Windows system since it has various administrative tools for managing Active Directory installed. I also wanted to use the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone - I knew Windows and I knew Ubuntu, so those were out. Initially, I dual-booted with openSUSE, which wasn't bad - I had some experience with openSUSE in the past on a web server I used to manage and I found YaST's discoverability especially useful since I'm not the strongest Linux sysadmin in the world. However, I found that, while YaST makes an excellent tool for managing servers, it wasn't quite as user friendly as I preferred; perhaps I was a little too spoiled from Ubuntu's desktop package management system. 
That's when it hit me - I was aware of another KDE-centered system that used a more Ubuntu-style package management system and it would expand my horizons a bit: PC-BSD. Last Friday, I downloaded the ISO, wiped out my openSUSE partition, and got to work. So far, I've been using it for a couple of work days, and I've come up with a few quick impressions.

First, I love PBIs. Unlike YaST, which reminds me a bit too much of using Synaptic for manual package management, it's much easier to use PC-BSD's AppCafe to grab a PBI and know that I'm getting all of the libraries, binaries, and so forth that I need to have a running application. This makes AppCafe very similar, conceptually, to Ubuntu's Software Center, or even downloading software for Windows. There's also access to FreeBSD ports, though I haven't played with them yet.

KDE on PC-BSD is pretty straightforward - frankly, I found PC-BSD's default settings easier to work with than openSUSE for some reason, though I can't really put my finger on it. That said, there are a few catches - Dolphin can't mount NTFS volumes on its own because it's hard-coded to use Linux mount options; instead, I had to use the mount tray. This wasn't all bad; instead of mounting my Windows partition in /var/run/media/somerandomstringofnumbers, it instead mounted my drive in /media/drivename. This also corresponds nicely with where the file manager in Ubuntu's Unity mounts partitions by default. That said, this behavior wasn't particularly intuitive.

Another sign that I wasn't in Kansas anymore was when I went to nslookup a web address and got this as a result:

nslookup: Command not found.

Eh? I faintly remember dealing with this on Mac OS X, which is sort of BSD-based, where I would receive the "nslookup on unix-like systems is deprecated; use dig instead." message, so I tried dig and got the exact same result. Turns out FreeBSD 10.0 has deprecated dig, replacing it with host and drill. Okay.

Based on my experience thus far, am I inclined to ditch Ubuntu on my personal laptop and replace it with PC-BSD? Not yet, but it also hasn't frustrated me to the point where I feel compelled to wipe it off my work PC, either. All in all, I'm reasonably happy with it so far - I haven't had this much fun learning a new operating system in years.

No comments:

Post a Comment