You might have heard about BSD which is ultimately derived from UNIX back in the workstation days. It is not Linux even though it is similar in many ways because Linux was designed to follow UNIX principles.
Nowadays if you want some of that BSD on your personal desktop how to go about? There is a distro called GhostBSD which is now based on TrueOS which itself is derived from FreeBSD. Seeing is believing, so check out the video of the install and some apps as well!
I did install and test both TrueOS and GhostBSD before on my older ThinkPad T410. GhostBSD was the winner because it had much improved driver support so I wonder how well this merged version will work.
Let’s give it a try on my Lenovo ThinkPad T430s with an Intel Core i5 3320M and 4 GB RAM and an old HDD. You can download the latest version from ghostbsd.org. Burn the 2.6 GB iso file to a USB drive using Rufus software (Windows) and boot from it (this worked without problems for me unlike the previous versions). You will be able to start a live session and use the onboard installer to bring GhostBSD unto your disk.
GhostBSD 18.10 comes exclusively with the MATE desktop unlike earlier version that offered XFCE as an alternative. It does include some useful apps like Firefox 63, LibreOffice 6, Gnome player, etc.
I did encounter some bugs or quirks along the way:
- The installer failed the first time with some chicken scratch error message because I left the hostname empty (at least I believe that was the reason).
- The Ethernet connection will hang if you remove the cable for a moment and you have to restart the system to get your Internet back.
- There is a subtle but persistent screen tearing throughout the lower third of the desktop.
- Some games like GZDoom had to be run as root (admin) to enable OpenGL acceleration.
- Mouse sensitivity for my TrackPoint was too high even in the lowest setting.
Some of these bugs and quirks can be addressed with workarounds. The screen tearing is the most annoying bug and might be fixed with a driver update. That being said there are a lot of upsides to be found:
- Free and open source BSD distro ready to go for anyone with a USB drive
- Mate desktop comes preconfigured and feels snappy
- Drivers worked fine including Ethernet, WiFi, video 2D & 3D, audio, etc
- ZFS advanced file systems is used by default
Some general downsides:
- Less driver and direct app support than Linux
- The XFCE desktop option was removed, so you better like MATE with its dual task bars clogging up your precious screen
- The included app-manager Octopkg is cumbersome and inferior to TrueOS’s AppCafe
Overall, GhostBSD is the beginner-friendly BSD distro that nearly anyone can use as a live session or as full installation. BSD was never easier.
Thanks for reading! You can check out more of this blog or my YouTube channel.
When TrueOS decided to focus on servers instead of desktops, the desktop version of it became Project Trident (https://project-trident.org). It uses it’s own “Lumina” desktop, very light and fast, according to some reviews, and likely rivals GhostBSD for “user friendliness.” I’ve never tried a BSD before so just for grins and giggles I’m going to play with Trident this weekend. I wonder how it compares with GhostBSD.