A fortnight ago I wrote in I'm a BSD about my initial adventures installing FreeBSD and trying to get it configured as a desktop system.
After a few days, I had come to a halt. As one reader put it:
The bad news: You picked a bad time to install FBSD due to perl and a gettext update. ... basically you will have to update everything that depends on gettext, sadly that is all most everything from kde to xorg. Lets say you have a lot of compile time in-front of you.
You would be better to grab FreeBSD-8.1-RC-1 from the mirrors.
A bad time indeed! So now for the good news!
Tonight I am writing this from a fresh install of PC-BSD, which is a distro of FreeBSD aimed at desktop users. Within an hour of inserting the DVD I had previously burned with the downloaded ISO image, the operating system was loaded and configured, Internet connected, audio working, recent versions of Opera, Thunderbird, Firefox installed, Open Office 3.2, SAMBA talking to the SMB servers: all with absolutely no drama. Did I mention it took less than an hour! Brilliant!
(The only problem I had was probably my fault: I needed to open my PC up to see what graphics card I had, since the default VESA did not accept 1440*900. Rebooting, there is a special number you can select which runs the X Configurator before starting: very handy for allowing you to swap your video card without grief, I am sure. )
PC-BSD comes with its own packaging system, on top of the BSD ports system: a clickable format .pki. These get put in a /Programs directory, and are limited to the big kinds of packages. The most recent Java was Sun's JDK1.6.0, which installed fine. I am currently installing Eclipse, again not a version from 2010 but plenty close enough. PC-BSD comes with good GUI-based utilities for system administration, set-up and package installation as well.
[UPDATE:] Flash and YouTube work fine. I had to select the jre/bin/javaws program in Firefox to get Java WebStart to work, but it works. And similarly I had to register the Firefox executable with Thunderbird, but it is quickly done.[/UPDATE]
I would have no hesitation in recommending PC-BSD for desktop use. It has definitely been the best install experience for a desktop system I have had. It seems exactly tailored for someone like me, a developer in an office where we have tried to be operating-system-neutral as much as possible: most of our programmers do run PCs but we have weaned ourselves off any PC-only applications long ago (apart from specialist applications). As I mentioned in the previous blog, it is a smooth and pretty OS, and feels solid.
I will update this if anything else interesting comes up to temper my current enthusiasm.