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Distro reviews

REVIEW: GhostBSD 2.0 (LiveCD)

I would expect it’s a welcome release for established GhostBSD users but new users may find that it’s neither polished or packaged as fully as they would like.

Its been a while since I wrote a review and it was GhostBSD that caught my eye over on Distro Watch.  It’s nice to look at BSD for a change and its also nice to spend a little time reviewing something that is not derived from Ubuntu – thats no insult to Ubuntu or its derivatives, but I think its long been established that a distro derived from Ubuntu is a winning formula for an OS that works out of the box.

So on to GhostBSD and BSD is something which I have shamefully spent little time.  My distro hopping days are rare occurence now since Ive settled on what I consider to be a solid Sabayon and my other machines have a selection of more “exotic” distro’s to fit a specific task.

The site (whilst currently incomplete and with typo’s) does much to introduce Ghost and I have to say from the outset I was looking forward to my run of it.

LiveCD

The LiveCD booted in reasonable time, not the fastest Ive ever experienced but certainly not the slowest and after its finished you are presented with a plain but aesthetically pleasing Gnome 2 DE.

The first issue I encountered when clicking on Firefox 3.6 was that my router had not been detected and setup automatically and whilst a very simple issue to fix, is it too unreasonable to expect a liveCD to have this sorted? Nearly every other distro I tried in the last year provides this small (but relevant) feature and I think its important that little things like this are considered. I see the LiveCD as being the medium which many users will either decide to install or not.  Its the first chance you get to “sell” your product and if you fail to deliver on the LiveCD the chances of install are slim.

I digress, after a few clicks I was up and running and I certainly don’t need to go into any detail on page rendering for FF3.6 and the surfing experience in general.

Installation

GhostBSD offers a Python script as its installer.  There’s nothing difficult to it and its very straight forward, again though if you were trying to sell the idea of GhostBSD to a new user (especially an ex-Windows one) I don’t think the script really endears itself to them.  For everyone else though its functional and does its job fine.

Some have commented on very quick installation times, I didn’t really notice and since its been such a while since I did a real install (no VM fakery for me!) so  I can’t really comment.  My distro of choice (Sabayon) is a rolling release (and Ive been very happy with all its releases) so maybe Ive been spoiled by that feature for too long to appreciate a complete fresh install.

Packages

Here’s a section I found myself a little disappointed with. GhostBSD doesn’t claim to be stuffed with every package under the sun, but then I expected a little more than what I found. We have the usual (or expected) AbiWord 2.8.4 , Python 2.6.6 , Thunderbird 3.1.7 , Firefox 3.6.13 et al, but I would dare to describe my first impressions as bare.

The limited amount of software packaged with GhostBSD I suppose is a good thing.  I have often complained that I found many distro’s being far too bloated with multiple packages doing  the same thing, however I would have hoped for a little more.  Of course you can install software until your heart is content but in an age where most Linux distro’s offer stability (the BSD selling point IMO) and out of the box functionality, GhostBSD is in a far more competitive world to get users attention.

Proprietary codecs/drivers/software are not present in the initial install.  Whilst this may be great news to the FSF, its not for me.  Yes, I know its easy to install but again I find myself comparing install time experience to that of Sabayon, where if you wish, proprietary software can be installed (and agreements digitally signed on mass) with a click of a button.  I don’t intend for a debate to ensue over proprietary but suffice to say at the present moment in time it does play an integral part of my desktop choice.  If its not in yours then great, I think you will be more than satisfied.

Conclusions

It’s been said by others that GhostBSD is designed with the new BSD user in mind. On that level it performs its job adequately however the Python install script is far from friendly looking for the person who is moving away from a computing life with Windows. I don’t think it would hurt for future releases to jazz up the install script and there are plenty of python bindings to help them do just that.

There is no doubt that GhostBSD is rock solid in the stability stakes however over in Linux land this stability is in the majority of cases (in my experience) the norm anyway. Debian for example prides itself on such stability although I’ve always found myself staying away for the sole reason that packages wise its hardly runs with bleeding edge (and rightfully so – its stable!)

As I find myself migrating towards a KDE DE and with amongst other things the review copy of Ghost being a Gnome DE, I see it as a step back for me.   It’s not bad, but there’s not enough here for me to justify a migration.

Looking at GhostBSD from the view of a migrating Windows user, again there is nothing wrong with what’s on offer here but I think for someone who has led a Windows lifestyle, they are going to want more “bells and whistles”.  I say that though with a little reservation since I have seen nothing from the developers which suggests its specifically aimed at such a user.

For established Linux users, again, I cannot see anything which would tempt them over.  I say that not to create flame as I would really love to say that GhostBSD offers something really special, much hard work has obviously gone into this but as it stands I can best sum up the distro as: stable, solid and “does what it says on the tin”.

The homepage for GhostBSD is certainly starting to look the part. I say starting because it has typos and incomplete sections to it. I would stress that this is not a harsh criticism because a lot of hard work has gone into the distro and its very generous of the GhostBSD devs to spend their time working on this great project. With that in mind I think new users will not be filled with confidence in a project where the site intended to promote it has so many obvious errors and omissions. This is a shame because GhostBSD is in no way lacking functionality or stability and I think errors on its homepage will undersell GhostBSD.

In closing, I would expect it’s a welcome release for established GhostBSD users but new users may find that it’s neither polished or packaged as fully as they would like.

Goblin

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Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturalism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

16 thoughts on “REVIEW: GhostBSD 2.0 (LiveCD)

  1. I think some of your comments though accurate are a bit harsh this is a fledgeling Distro one mans dream. I have followed this project for the last year and it has achieved the almost impossible, The project leader almost threw in the towel after relentless pressure from the hard line BSD flavour its based on saying it would kill sales of that BSD, It was featured in Distrowatch lots of people gave the live DVD a spin and his site was bombarded with Emails and the project was alive again. It goes from strength to strength and Could be in the mainstream with a bit more development.

    Posted by mandog | March 29, 2011, 6:40 am
  2. Hi there. thanks for the comment. I appologize for it being put into moderation. AKISMET sometimes gets a little overzealous. I’ll try to sort it.

    “…a bit harsh this is a fledgeling Distro one mans dream.”

    I really tried to avoid coming across as harsh. Like I say theres alot of hard work in GhostBSD. It does do what it says on the tin and there is nothing wrong with it at all.

    I think GhostBSD is more a victim of todays level of expectation. With so much on offer (and many distro’s having large teams working on their projects) GhostBSD finds itself competing in a market with much on offer.

    I am quite sure GhostBSD will go from strength to strength, but when I make a review I look at it from the point of my needs mainly, with those needs being it presents itself in a state that I require now, not at some point in the future. That being said, my needs are not everyones but when presented with multiple options I find myself spoilt for choice. I cannot recommend every Linux/BSD I come across as that would send a rather confusing message for anyone reading my views so I have to make some kind preference to put my views across.

    I have looked at many distro’s that have been absolutely awful. These did not even get my time for a review. The fact that Ive spent time writing about GhostBSD I would hope shows that I think its certainly a worthwhile package. I will certainly be keeping up to date with GhostBSD and writing about future releases as I definately think the product which has been produced is a productive use of my time to write about.

    Whilst at present I would not consider it for a migration, I cannot say I would never and I sincerely hope that as work progresses I find myself tempted.

    Of course it should be also noted that there are many users of GhostBSD who are very happy with it, thats clear from your comment here. I am pleased I would not not like to see the developer of GhostBSD “throwing in the towel”.

    I would wish the dev of GhostBSD all the best and urge people to support this project (as I do with all projects which I find worth the time to write about)

    Kindest regards
    Goblin.

    Posted by openbytes | March 29, 2011, 10:13 am
  3. Thanks for the reply and don’t get me wrong I’m not criticising your review in any way.
    just pointing out it has not been around that long. If this was a Ubuntu based I would expect it to just work as respins can be made in a day. just tried PCB9 snapshot can’t get it to even load the live image so in comparison Ghost is OK. it also does install using the script in a matter of minutes although rather crude the install script does work. Also gnome is here for a long time yet Gnome 3 is only a shell on top of Gnome so development will carry on in the background and this is BSD not linux.
    any good luck with your reviews and remember be honest as in the end people will respect you even more.

    Posted by mandog | March 29, 2011, 12:12 pm
  4. People who don’t know how to review distros on basis for their creation should stop doing distro reviews….. This is utterly useless and will only hurt them, great job for trying to put a nail their coffin :/
    But don’t feel bad as most reviewers these days do horrible jobs at reviewers being unable to not only configure the system how they want it for relative comparisons of ease of configurability, but don’t even use the distro for it’s purpose of inception and review its performance with its purpose in life as the primary determination factor for its viability to exist and continue on.
    No need to worry your not yet a good reviewer since you’ll have plenty of company in the bad reviewers flock :D

    Posted by Heavensrevenge | March 29, 2011, 1:26 pm
    • Thanks for your feedback, I review distros as to my needs and make it very clear. I wonder, maybe you would like to link as to your reviewer of choice, maybe we can all learn something.

      In the meantime I hope you will be around in the future to offer further “pearls of wisdom”

      All the best,

      Goblin.

      **EDIT NOW THAT IVE RETURNED HOME**

      “but don’t even use the distro for it’s purpose of inception and review its performance with its purpose in life as the primary determination factor for its viability to exist and continue on.”

      Wow, what a mouthful. In answer to the barrage of wordage I would say that I make it very clear I have expectations and like anyone who forms an opinion on software there is usually an element of personal preference in there. Why would I continue to run software that did not meet my requirements? As I say in my review thats not the same for everyone and in other cases useage would be very different. Viability to carry on? Ive already said that GhostBSD had alot of hard work in it, that I’m sure it would go from strength to strength and that it did “exactly what it said on the tin”. I don’t know how much clearer it could be and I also said that I certainly wouldn’t want the dev “throwing in the towel”

      I can’t give every platform I cover the “recommended install it now” I have to put some form of preference otherwise all my reviews would say the same thing “Get it now install it”. Thats not very helpful to anyone and a cop out on my part if I was to say “they are all great” because I was scared of coming into conflict with someone over my views.

      Posted by openbytes | March 29, 2011, 1:45 pm
  5. i sort of agree that this review is not the best. It certainly works for you, but i wonder why publish such a thing?

    First off, BSD is not linux. GhostBSD, according to your review, works very well in my mind at introducing new people to BSD, where we differ i think is what “new people” means. Understand, BSD doesnt have the incessant need to compete with windows that some Linux’s tend to have. I have tried desktop BSD’s in the past, and havent really been impressed, mainly due to just how much work it is to get a working desktop going. If BSD’s simplifies this process, then i consider that to be a huge success. i would be a “new user” to BSD.

    Also, a note to people who do reviews for various distros (even tho BSD’s dont have “distros”), stop simply installing a distro and then call it a review. actually USE it for awhile….you didnt mention ANYTHING about hardware compatibility, did wifi work out of the box, did you have to tweak it, what about 3d acceleration, what about packages available? how about the package manager? any bugs? any really cool features? you simply installed it and it didn’t look like sabayon (with so much bloatware its the windows of the linux world) no wonder you thought GhostBSD looked spartan

    these reviews get old…yes the installation is important, but you only do it once. what sets distros apart is their package management system, and their use over time. lets see some reviews that are actually useful

    Posted by Ariakkas | March 29, 2011, 4:11 pm
    • Thanks for the comment and very nice to have criticism, I will certainly be replying to this shortly (im currently at work on an HTC desire)

      Thanks again for taking the time to write and I hope you check back to see my response ill reply as soon as I can (later today)

      Posted by openbytes | March 29, 2011, 4:23 pm
      • Ok, I find myself in a position to comment.

        Firstly I am asked why did I publish this and apart from it being a review/opinion, I hope this further details my views. I believe I made it clear what my measuring stick and intentions were for whatever platform I review.

        I hope by the fact of you commenting on what I describe as a new user it is clear how I define “new user”. I will cover that again though shortly.

        Firstly you say BSD is not linux which of course is correct, but then I make reference to linuxland and had hoped that the distinction was clear. I don’t though look at it as any BSD v linux rivalry or indeed do I place myself on “either side of the fence”. If a platform fits my needs I use it, I use the best tools for me.

        As a hobby I have introduced many new users to alternatives to Windows. These deployments come as a result of despair by Windows users who are seeking a better computing experience. In the vast majority of cases these users are non-tech interested folk, who regard the pc as a tool to get a job done with no care on how it does it. I often say the phrase “they use the pc like a toaster” meaning that they have no interest in what’s happening underneath.

        With that in mind when I’m covering bsd, linux or anything else, one of the facets of my review is considering if the product is suitable for those people. Whilst some may not agree that’s a valid measure of a product, I do make it clear what I mean by new user. It’s up to the reader to decide if its relevant to them.

        As for me, I have requirements that I want out of the box and expectations and as I say I don’t look at BSD as the other side of the fence. I try to make that clear too. I will always use whats best for me, that could be AROS, BSD or ParisHilton Linux. ;)

        In regards to time spent with BSD and reviews you make an excellent point. I believe I had this on my machine for just over a week before completing the review. Obviously I would like to spend more time, but writing here is a hobby and I have limited time. That being said, if you would like to mention an advantage for specifically going for GhostBSD when I sit on neither side of the fence in regards to what I run, then I would welcome the feedback.

        You ask about out of the box and bugs, which I’ve already stated the issue I had. I also mentioned that it was solid and stable and does what it says on the tin. I think its clear that I didn’t have hardware issues.

        You make comment that I ran it and it didn’t look like sabayon….aesthetically not quite true. My Sabayon has a Gnome 2 DE and except for default packages and the Sabayon logo wallpaper, theres little difference aesthetically. My DSL rig or AROS doesn’t look like Sabayon and I fail to see any point there since for a long time I was Slack (Wolvix) which didn’t look like Sabayon either. Aesthetically I could care less, but it does play a role to some of the people I deploy a replacement to Windows and as I detail in the “added bells and whistles” for Sababyon (proprietary licence signing being one) little things can make a big difference, thats not saying it must have, more of an added bonus.

        As for Sabayon bloated, I would probably say yes, slightly but then there’s far more bloated examples in linuxland and intact I even say that the slimmer Ghost is a good thing after experiences of linux Distros stuffed with dupes.

        You make an excellent point about, using a product over time for a review, unfortunately that is a luxury I don’t have. I am sure I made that clear in the review and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

        In the meantime like I say, if you have advantages to Ghost that you feel I’ve missed and are not something that can be achieved already in another mature and established platform, then please let me know. I would be very happy to champion it.

        Kind regards.

        Posted by openbytes | March 29, 2011, 9:22 pm
  6. Hi, I have downled Ghostbsd. I have to say that my first impression is that its dissappointing. and you are right the site needs much work doing to it.

    Posted by Denbi-Dawg | March 29, 2011, 10:50 pm
    • Disappointing? I would disagree.

      As I say above for me I gave my opinions on what I thought of it, to do otherwise simply would have been a list a features which are pretty sterile. If people are interested in only reading about features then that is when they should visit the official pages what reviewers should hopefully do it put their own opinions and preferences down…..readers may relate or they may not but I would hope that all reviews of GhostBSD and any other product would have some personal opinion in them otherwise what is the point of having a review at all?

      Whenever I look at a platform, one of the things I consider is “Is this making me want to switch” If the answer is yes then I will. I did it on my main rig about a year ago when I moved from Slack. If the answer is no, then fine – its my view, others views can and will vary.

      I’ll leave it there since I think Ive been repeating myself a few times, but I do welcome others views.

      Kind regards
      Goblin.

      Posted by openbytes | March 29, 2011, 11:15 pm
  7. Thanks for your reply, and it does clarify some misconceptions i had regarding your review.

    i did read your disclaimer regarding your reviews being your opinions and such, but they all say that. There are a dozen reviews everyday where someone pops a live cd into a VM and then lists off whatever packages come installed with the system, which versions, and call it a review. I realize you did not do this, as i noticed in your review that you did in fact install it on a harddrive.

    i came to your review from tuxmachines, a site which i read several times a day to keep up with all things linux, and of course BSD pops in from time to time, and i like that. When i read your review, i was hoping for some info regarding typical problems BSD has with desktop operations, and how GhostBSD fares in this regard, and i was disappointed. But i now realize i wasnt the target audience for your review, so i guess i cant fault you for it.

    it was not apparent in your review how long you ran GhostBSD, and if it was in there i apologize for not catching it. I commend you for running it a week, which i feel should be more than enough to get a “feel” for the system, so my apologies for the asumption, and it certainly lends more weight to your review.

    im still curious about how GhostBSD manages packages, and how “user friendly” it is…so i guess ill give it a spin and see how it goes. If nothing else, your review has encouraged me to see for myself, thanks

    Posted by Ariakkas | March 30, 2011, 1:31 am
  8. BTW the misspellings on the website, looks to me like English isnt their native language, im sure they are publishing in english to read a wider audience.

    Posted by Ariakkas | March 30, 2011, 1:35 am
    • Thanks again for taking the time to comment. It is appreciated to hear feedback. Your points for what you wanted to see will definitely be taken on board as I am making a point on keeping a closer eye on BSD in the future.

      Kindest regards
      Tim (Goblin)

      Posted by openbytes | March 30, 2011, 1:45 am
  9. just look at that beautiful Gnome 2.32 desktop! Oh the possibilities!
    cheers to the GhostBSD [team] for their hard work and exquisite results.
    will we be seeing a MateBSD or CinnamonBSD once our dear, dear, friend reaches the end of its days?
    …or will it be g3bsd? :'(

    Posted by anthony mason | January 25, 2012, 2:15 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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about.me

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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