DesktopBSD - Unix for the masses
Currently I'm playing around with DesktopBSD. This actually is because I'm anyway playing with Xen, so I decided to use the time I spend on Xen to try out a few more systems. One of those is DesktopBSD, a version of FreeBSD customized for desktop-use. Thus it offers what we are used to from many Linux-distros today, ease of use and installation, automatic hardware-detection and -setup, KDE, a nice package-manager etc.
By the way, I'm not using the latest version, which is 1.6. The version I use is 1.6RC2, just because I had the image on DVD anyway. But I guess it's recent enough for this.
As said, DesktopBSD is based on FreeBSD, which becomes quite obvious when updating packages, because those come directly from the FreeBSD-mirrors.
One thing I personally really like is the function to check the installed software for security-holes. This is simply done by comparing the list of installed software with one (or more, I don't know the internals of those function yet) of those websites where they keep track of that kind of information. The gathered information then can be seen in the package-manager, which I think is a really nice function.
The default installation contains around 240 packages (right now it reports that I have 234 packets installed), and according to the package-manager there are over 18000 packages available for installation. As said, these come right-away from the FreeBSD-repository.
Another nice option is being able to choose how software should be installed. By default only binary-packages (Packages) are used, but you can select to either use binary-packets or source-packages (Ports) if no package is available, or to install everything from source. Of course the more you install from source the more time an update will need, but you get more recent stuff by doing so.
One thing I don't like is that it seems that you can't see if the latest version is available as package or only as port. So it can happen that lots of stuff will be skipped when updating and you have not selected to use any ports for installation. This is a point where I think improvement is necessary.
It's okay the all the hot new stuff is not yet packed as binary-packages, but then it shouldn't be shown as update if I didn't select to use source-packages.
Overall DesktopBSD leaves a good impression after the first few tests. For those who always wanted to try BSD this might be an option worth considering.
By the way, FreeBSD 7 is about to hit the ground quite soon. I'll be having an eye into that one too.