Tip of the Trade: PC-BSD

By Carla Schroder (Send Email)
Posted Sep 10, 2007


FreeBSD users sometimes gaze quizzically at Linux users and wonder why they do everything the hard way. Although FreeBSD and Linux are close cousins with a considerable number of similarities under the hood, some major differences separate them. FreeBSD is tidy, self-contained, and well-organized. All the pieces form a harmonious whole — a place for everything, everything in its place, and pretty much just one way to do anything.

If you're considering running FreeBSD on your servers, or just want to familiarize yourself with a new operating system, PC-BSD is an easy and pain-free way to do so.

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Linux is more like a barrel of monkeys — loud, messy, chaotic and very busy. Every monkey thinks she knows the best way to accomplish a particular task, so there are always several ways to do any one thing. The Linux world is faster-paced and more diverse, but sometimes a person just wants a nice calm computer on which to do work without all the drama.

FreeBSD is the most popular of the open source Unix operating systems. It's a top-of-the-line genuine Unix, and it powers many of the world's most demanding Web servers. Because it is secure, stable and easily manageable via its Ports system of package management, FreeBSD is a popular platform for servers of all kinds. FreeBSD also runs Linux binaries, so you can run pretty much any applications you want. Its hardware support is not as robust as Linux, however, so you do have to shop a little more carefully.

While PC-BSD targets desktop users with a friendly graphical installer and a set of productivity applications, it's also a great introduction to FreeBSD for network and server administrators. It supports the usual FreeBSD package management tools, and it provides a more Windows-style option to make migrating Windows admins comfortable. Just get installation files that have a .pbi extension. To install one of these, double-click on it, and it brings up an installation wizard program.

Installing PC-BSD is very fast. If it takes more than 15 minutes, you're doing something wrong. It includes KDE and does a nice job of creating menu icons for all installed programs. An additional benefit is the included commercial support from iXsystems, PC-BSD's parent company. Visit PCBSD.org for downloads and more information.

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