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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