Experimenting with mind-altering BSD

July 11, 2008

I know that I just finished building a new computer for my super fancy Vista x64 installation, but I was thinking of trying an OS-swapping experiment.

Awhile ago, a friend of mine gave me his old eMachine desktop system that has a 2GHz Celeron, a small amount of RAM and not much else.  I’ve played around with the system from time to time and found it to be a capable little Windows XP machine.  The 2.0GHz Celeron is surprisingly snappy and I found the whole machine to be responsive and oddly fun to use.

Of course, I have since built a much more powerful desktop/server system which has become my main system, and the Celeron has been boxed away for awhile now.

Recently however, I’ve had the itch to start tinkering with other operating systems again.  Every once in awhile this itch hits me.  I like to keep tabs on the current state of affairs with the OS world.  I like to see how far Linux has progressed (and how much further they have to go).  I like to see if anyone else has entered the market to challenge Windows dominance.  In my many tests, I’ve played with pretty much every major OS released in the last 15 years.  I’ve played with all versions of MS-DOS since 2.0, every version of Windows (even Windows 1.0, which is a kick in the pants!), Mac OS X (10.2-10.5), older versions of the Mac OS, Commodore 64s, Apple IIe, most major flavors of Linux (Red Hat, Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE, Mandriva, etc.), BeOS, QNX RTOS, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, PC-BSD, and many others that I can’t even remember.

Obviously the majority of those operating systems are outdated and mostly useless on modern hardware.  I wouldn’t really waste my time with any version of DOS except for boot disk purposes.  Any version of Windows prior to XP SP2 is not worth the effort.  OS/2 Warp whatever is gone.  Mac OS X only runs on Macs (well, legally speaking…).  BeOS is dead.  QNX is too specialized.  Which mostly leaves Linux and the BSDs.  While I like Linux and wish it all the best, every time I use it I realize just how much catching up they have to do to really compete.

The one operating system that has always intrigued me, however, is PC-BSD.  It’s an incredibly powerful, secure, and well thought out operating system.  Not only does it have binary compatibility, which basically allows it to run most any Linux application, but it has these great little things called PBIs.  PBIs are the PC-BSD version of RPM packages or DEB packages in Linux.  Except PBIs are much much better.  My last time playing with PC-BSD, I found the task of installing an app that came in a pbi format to be infinitely easier than ANY package management system I’ve ever used on any version of Linux.  PBIs function essentially the same as any InstallShield wizard that Windows throws at you.  It walks you through the installation and everything is very easy.

So, now that this blog entry has stretched into these great lengths, I’ll finally come to the point.  I’m thinking of experimenting with my eMachine system.  I want to install the latest PC-BSD (version 1.5.1 as of this writing) and work exclusively with that machine for as long as is possible.  Most times when I play with a new OS, I end up ditching it within a few days to go back to Windows because the learning curve on the new OS is simply too great to allow me to do my work in a timely manner, or the new OS is not very well thought out or very refined.

So I’m thinking of forcing myself to use PC-BSD.  Maybe for a certain time period.  Like a month.  I’ll document my experiences learning the new OS, and then after the time period is up, I’ll do a run down of the whole thing and see what conclusions I could draw.

Unfortunately, I can’t start this experiment anytime soon.  For one thing, I need an adapter for the hard drive I have in the machine (it’s a small 40GB laptop drive that needs a 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch adapter).  I have no idea where to find one around here, so I’d probably have to order it from NewEgg or something.  And I’m leaving for Las Vegas in the near future, so I may have to put this project on hold for a few weeks.  When I get back from Vegas, I can get the adapter and start my journey.  Of all the “alternative” operating systems I’ve ever used, I think PC-BSD comes the closest to matching my needs.  So we’ll see if I’m right at the end of the month.


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