TrueOS is a FreeBSD based desktop-oriented operating system. While the BSD family of operating systems is a quite popular choice for server machines, it is more rarely used as a desktop machine.
Maybe because of its server oriented nature, FreeBSD has a slightly more stepped learning curve than other Unix based operating systems. While the Linux family has produced literally hundreds of distros catering to the whole spectrum of users, from the more technically orientally ones, to those that “just want a system that works”, FreeBSD remains, still, an operating system for tech savvy users.
TrueOS, formerly known as PC-BSD, aims to change that an offers an operating system that combines FreeBSD strong points (security, and stability) and ease of use.
I installed TrueOS and a virtual machine, and spent some days playing with it. The installation process itself was quick, and very simple. Contrary to the installation of FreeBSD the installation process with TrueOS it basically reduces to click “accept”, again and again until the user reaches the end of the installation process.
The negative side of that approach it is that the user is given little choice on how to setup the system; users coming from the Linux world may miss the possibility of easily configure in the graphical installation process things as the desktop to use, software to install, etc.
Of course, easily, is the keyword here: TrueOS remains as powerful as the FreeBSD system it is based on, and a user willing to forgo the “easy” requirement, and willing to spend some time on the task, can customize the system in every way he wishes.
When we launch the TrueOS installer we have the choice to load a configuration file from an USB. This is a very nice feature to have: it means that if we have previously installed TrueOS, and we have saved the configuration settings, we may now load them instead of having to introduce them again manually. This is an useful feature if we want to install TrueOS on various machines, or if we need to reinstall the system.
Before we start the installation process we should give a look to the icons bar at the bottom of the screen: there we can launch an emergency shell, check the help file, display an on screen keyboard, etc
The icon with the wrench will display a Hardware Compatibility check window. Here we can check, before we start the installation process, if TrueOS is compatible with our hardware. As I mentioned before I tested TrueOS on a virtual machine, in a PC without wifi support; in the image below, TrueOS is warning me that it has not detected any wifi card.
I you aren’t using a US keyboard, you can select your keyboard layout by clicking in the icon with the US flag, and the keyboard key “L”.
Next we can choose between two types of installation: server, and desktop. If you choose to do a desktop installation the installer will install a graphical user interface on top of the system. Since this time I did not want to install a server, but a desktop system for daily usage, I went with the “TrueOS Desktop” option.
Next we reach the only part in the installation process that can pose a bit of difficulty to unexperienced users: setting up the disk, and partition scheme.
By default TrueOS will install in the first disk of the system: it will use the whole disk (not checking for free, unused space) and in the process it will obliterate any data existing in that disk.
If you are installing TrueOS on computer that already has an operating system installed, and you intend to dual boot, this option is, obviously, one that you do not want to choose. For such cases, and for users wanting to define their own partition there is a “Customize Disk Settings” option.
By the way, If you come from a Linux environment, you may be a little surprised on the partition layout proposed by TrueOS, as it goes a little beyond having just a separate partition for /home, /var and /boot.
If you aren’t going with the default partition layout you have two choices: basic setup mode, and advance setup mode.
Just notice that the basic setup mode is really basic: you are allowed to choose in which disk you are going to install TrueOS, or select a partition within the disk if you wish to install TrueOS on a free partition instead of use the whole disk . If you want to make changes to the partition scheme, share your disk among different operating systems, set encryption options, etc, you will have to go with the advanced mode.
In the advanced setup mode we can customize the partition scheme to our hearts content, as we will do with any Linux distribution.
Besides the partition schema you can also configure in this setup mode stuff like encryption, specify if you want to add a cache or a log device, add additional disks to the storage pool (that is create a RAID system), etc.
Actually most of the options on this setup mode are more oriented to server machines. So I think most of the users wanting to try TrueOS as a desktop machines will no need to change them.
Still it is nice that TrueOS keeps this options in the installer, to allow the user to set up server oriented machines as quickly, and easily as a desktop one.
Once we are done customizing our installation settings the installation process will start.
Before we reboot our system, we are given the possibility to save our installation settings, so that we can reuse it later in future installations/re installations of the system.
After the system reboot we got still a few things left to configure like the system time zone:
We also need to set a password for the root user:
We must create a non root user. This will be the user we will usually use to log in to work, since we will need to use the root user only for administrative tasks.
We may also check if the audio is working correctly.
A last thing we can do is to install some optional services before we complete the installation process. Most of them like the “enable SSH”, or “Enable Verbose Boot” are mainly useful for server installations where one needs to log in remotely via console, and where all information to troubleshoot system issues comes in handy.
For a desktop-oriented machine I do not need any of this services right now, so I will leave the system as it is.
The installation process is now fully complete and we can now log into our system:
TrueOS has done a nice job both customizing the FreeBSD system to offer a desktop ready to use machine, and setting up an installer that it is easy to use. Installing TrueOS is quick, and easy, and for users with no specific requirements it can be achieved using the default options without having to inquire in the underlying technical details.
Another good point of TrueOS it is that it is a customization of FreeBSD meaning that it is fully compatible with FreeBSD: using TrueOS is the same as using FreeBSD except that you can save time in the initial configuration. TrueOS has already done some basic configuration so that when the user log ins it finds an already ready to use system, with a desktop environment, package manager, etc.
The only thing I’d like to see added in the TrueOS installer are some extra options for software installation (like Debian, Centos, or Antergos) so that the user can also easily choose different IDEs and software packages at installation time.