GhostBSD is a desktop distribution based on FreeBSD. It comes as an installable Live DVD image and is developed by Eric Turgeon and Nahuel Sanchez. The latest edition, GhostBSD 2.5, based on FreeBSD 9, is the project’s fourth release, and was made available for public download on January 24 (2012).
This article provides the first review of this distribution on this website, and it is based on test installations of the 32-bit version. The boot menu is shown below.
Reviews published on this website are normally based on installations on real hardware and in a virtual environment using Virtualbox, but because the login screen did not respond to keyboard inputs, all the contents of this review, including all but the screen shot below and the one above, were derived from test installations on real hardware. Even at that, the installation image I download and burned to a DVD could not boot into the Live desktop on all my test computers. For example, it failed to boot into the Live desktop on an all-in-one, single touch computer with an Intel Atom processor. This appears to be a problem with FreeBSD 9, as I have had the same problem with PC-BSD 9, another desktop distribution based on FreeBSD 9.
When attempting to boot into the Live desktop, you first have to make a brief stop at the login screen, which I find totally unnecessary. As with virtually all Live installation images, the system should just boot into the Live desktop, without the brief stop at the login screen.
Installer and Installation Process: The installation program is a very simple graphical application and the installation process involves just a few steps, if you chose the automated disk partitioning option. Though it is based on FreeBSD 9, which has support for ZFS ( Zettabyte File System), GhostBSD’s installer itself does not have support for ZFS. The default file system is UFS, and a new installation takes up about 3.1 GB of disk space. This screen shot shows the installer’s disk partitioning options
Desktop & Usage: GhostBSD uses the GNOME 2 desktop environment, though installation packages for KDE 3.5.10 and KDE 4.7.3 are available for installation. GNOME 2.32 is the version of the GNOME 2 desktop that ships with GhostBSD 2.5. Packages for GNOME 3 are not in the repository. The default desktop is shown in the image below.
Out of the box, GhostBSD 2.5 comes with the right set of applications that we have come to expect on a modern desktop operating system. That is the good aspect of the system. The bad part is many of the functions or features that should work automatically, do not. For example, setting up a printer is a manual process. Configuring a wireless USB card, which is normally auto-configured on Linux distributions, is another manual process which requires messing with a configuration file. When I attempted to set up a wireless USB card that was not attached to the system at boot time, the following error message was generated.
Mounting external USB drives or USB sticks is another area that requires manual intervention. Overall, this appears to be the norm with GhostBSD 2.5. There is at least one extra step involved, compared to Linux distributions, before must features or functions work.
Installed Applications: Besides the usual cast of system utilities and desktop accessories that you find on any GNOME 2 desktop, some of the major applications installed by default on GhostBSD 2.5 are:
- Firefox 9.0.1
- Evolution Mail and Calendar
- Empathy Internet Messaging
- Pitivi Video Editor
- LibreOffice 3.4
- Transmission BitTorrent Client
- Totem Movie Player
- Rhythmbox Music Player
Aside from Firefox Web browser, Chromium 15 and the development version of Opera 12 are available for installation. Though there are no games installed out of the box, you will find close to 100, if not more, available for installation.
Package Manager: As with all desktop distributions or operating systems, the easiest method of managing application on GhostBSD is via a graphical interface, and GhostBSD’s is very easy to use, though it has a few cosmetic issues. The default view is shown in the image below. You can see that with the “Actions” extended (the default), the Remove Package tab overlaps the Available Package tab.
And when “Actions” is closed, the General Information portion of the package being viewed overlaps the Available Package tab. As a design suggestion, I think it would have been better to have the contents of General Information box in a tab along with the Dependencies, Required by, and Files tab, leaving only the Description section. I think that would solve the overlapping issue.
This is a screen shot of the Jobs Manager showing the progress of the package installation process. It makes it easy to review the list of installed applications and their dependencies, even after the packages have been installed. Plus, it allows you to see any errors associated with package installation.
This screen shot shows reported errors from a package installation. This “MD5 digest comparison failed” message was associated with every installed package and package dependency.
Clicking the Search button on the package manager’s main interface opens a search window that allows you to search for applications. Search results depend on whether the Installed Packages or Available Packages tab is in focus: Search across both tabs is not supported.